Daisuke Takahashi

Daisuke Takahashi makes Japan’s Olympic team; Mao Asada stunned

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Daisuke Takahashi was named to Japan’s three-man Olympic figure skating team Monday, one day after a fifth-place finish at the National Championships left him with a bloody hand, in tears and in doubt of going to Sochi.

Also Monday, Mao Asada was third at Japan’s National Championships, though she still safely made her second Olympic team.

Takahashi, the 2010 Olympic bronze medalist and world champion, was selected over the third- and fourth-place finishers at Japan’s National Championships, Takahiko Kozuka and Nobunari Oda.

Here’s video of the team announcement, with Takahashi’s name being read at the three-minute mark and a full crowd going wild.

Both Kozuka and Oda are veterans with Olympic and World Championships experience. But neither has excelled on the major international stage like Takahashi.

Grand Prix Final champion Yuzuru Hanyu locked up the first of three spots by winning the National Championships. Hanyu is seen as, at least, a co-favorite for Sochi gold with Canada’s Patrick Chan.

The second and third berths would go to skaters based not only their finishes at nationals, but also on how they’ve performed at international events. One berth went to Tatsuki Machida, the Skate America champion who took second to Hanyu on Sunday.

The other went to Takahashi, who was better than Kozuka and Oda during the Grand Prix season in the fall. Takahashi, the 2012-13 Grand Prix Final champion, pulled out of this year’s Grand Prix Final with a leg injury.

He said Saturday that the injury no longer caused him pain, but it did affect his confidence in the short program.

Takahashi fell on his opening jump in his free skate Sunday, badly two-footed another jump and put his hand down on another (video here). He appeared to skate most of his program with a bloody hand, perhaps from the opening fall. He briefly walked out of a post-skate interview in tears (video here).

2010 Olympic silver medalist Mao Asada leads Japan’s three-woman team to Sochi. Though Asada shockingly finished third at the National Championships, behind her Sochi Olympic teammates Akiko Suzuki and Kanako Murakami.

Photos: Meet Japan’s Olympic team

Here’s video of Asada’s free skate Monday. Asada has won six of the last eight Japanese National Championships. It was her lowest finish at nationals in 10 years.

Miki Ando, a two-time world champion, finished seventh at nationals and did not make the team. She gave birth to a girl in April.

Sochi Olympic hockey pucks unveiled

Francesco Friedrich wins historic fourth straight bobsled world title

German bob team, Francesco Friedrich, right, and Thorsten Margis, celebrate their victory  after the men's  two-man bob race at the  Bobsleigh and Skeleton World Championships at Lake Koenigssee, Germany, Sunday Feb. 19. 2017. (Angelika Warmuth/dpa via AP)
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KOENIGSSEE, Germany (AP) — Germany’s Francesco Friedrich was again fastest in both runs to extend his lead and beat Justin Kripps of Canada for his fourth straight world championship in two-man bobsled on Sunday.

Friedrich, who held a 0.52-lead from Saturday’s opening heats, clocked 49.17 seconds and then 48.94 with his brakeman Thorsten Margis for a combined time of 3 minutes, 16.71 seconds after four runs — 1.20 ahead of Kripps and Jesse Lumsden.

The 26-year-old Friedrich says “We were simply unbeatable this week.”

Germany’s Johannes Lochner was 1.25 back in third with Joshua Bluhm, ahead of Oskars Kibermanis and Matiss Miknis of Latvia, Nick Poloniato and Neville Wright of Canada, and Oskars Melbardis and Janis Strenga of Latvia.

American pilot Steven Holcomb was seventh with Carlo Valdes, 1.68 back.

A skeleton and bobsled team competition was scheduled later Sunday.

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Marcel Hirscher reclaims slalom title, wraps up ‘perfect worlds’

ST MORITZ, SWITZERLAND - FEBRUARY 17:  Gold medalist Marcel Hirscher of Austria celebrates on the podium following the Men's Giant Slalom during the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships on February 17, 2017 in St Moritz, Switzerland.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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Austrian Marcel Hirscher reclaimed the slalom world title, wrapping up what he called “the perfect world championships” with two golds and one silver in St. Moritz, Switzerland, on Sunday.

Hirscher, the five-time reigning World Cup overall champion, prevailed by .68 of a second combining two runs. Fellow Austrian Manuel Feller earned silver, followed by German Felix Neureuther, .93 behind.

Hirscher’s biggest slalom rival, Henrik Kristoffersen, was a disappointing fourth, giving Norway fourth-place finishers in all five men’s events at worlds.

The top American was David Chodounsky in 12th.

Full Results | Race Replay

Hirscher led by .43 after the morning run and had the third-fastest second run. He finished worlds with golds in the giant slalom and slalom and silver in the super combined, missing gold by .01. All that despite entering worlds sick, reportedly spending days ill in bed.

He said that super combined silver, and especially his maiden GS title, took the pressure off Sunday.

“It was super easy for me, mentally, to [go] into this race,” Hirscher said. “It doesn’t matter if I straddle at the first gate. The only thing that wouldn’t be fine is skiing slow.”

Hirscher is en route to his sixth straight World Cup overall title this season. No other man has won that many, consecutive or not. He previously won the slalom world title in 2013, then was upset at the Sochi Olympics, taking silver behind countryman Mario Matt, who at 34 became the oldest Olympic Alpine champion.

Hirscher led the 2015 Worlds slalom by .88 after the first run, then straddled a gate near the end of the second run while his lead was evaporating.

Hirscher has already proven his excellence on the World Cup and world championships stages. It’s PyeongChang where he must deliver, since he lacks Olympic gold. Hirscher is only 27 years old, but he has cast doubt on going all the way to the 2022 Winter Games.

Feller, 24, took surprise silver without a World Cup podium to his name.

Neureuther earned his third straight world slalom medal, but none have been gold.

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