Yulia Lipnitskaya, 15, wins European Championships

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Fifteen-year-old Russian Yulia Lipnitskaya got the skate she wanted ahead of the Sochi Games at the European Championships Friday, earning her first-ever title there just weeks ahead of the Olympics.

Lipnitskaya cruised by defending champion Carolina Kostner, the Italian, who finished in third. Lipnitskaya’s teammate, 17-year-old Adelina Sotnikova was second, scoring a 202.36 to the winner’s 209.72.

Lipnitskaya’s score was the highest of the international season leading into the Sochi Olympics by over two points. Mao Asada, who won three Grand Prix golds, had previously held that mark with her 207.59 at the NHK Trophy in November. Only Lipnitskaya and Asada topped the 200-point mark on the international stage this year.

“I’m very, very happy right now, I don’t even know what to say,” Lipnitskaya told the crowd through a translator. “I hope that I will be able to go to the Olympics now. But as European champion I think I should make the team. I hope for the Olympics my emotions and my skating comes together, and I’ll just show clean skating.”

Skating to “Schindler’s List,” the teenager has found the right balance of elegance and seriousness in a challenging free skate that involves eight triple jumps. She landed all of them Friday evening in Budapest, sending the crowd to its feet when she finished.

Lipnitskaya won two Grand Prix gold medals on the circuit in 2013, bettering the results of teammate Sotnikova. They are both expected to be picked for the Russian Olympic team when that announcement is made shortly after the European Championships.

The pressure may have been higher on Sotnikova, who was seen to be battling for the second Olympic spot with veteran Alena Leonova. But the 23-year-old Leonova stumbled on a triple-double combination and looked tired in the middle of her “Carmen” free skate. She shrugged at the finish, knowing that her effort perhaps was not good enough for a trip to the Olympics. Leonova finished fourth overall.

Kostner, in a backless black dress that she was debuting in Budapest, was a crowd favorite but couldn’t deliver a third title in a row at this competition, falling on a triple toe that she was also called for under-rotating. Kostner won the European Championships in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2013.

France’s Mae-Berenice Meite was fifth and Kostner’s teammate Valentina Marchei ended in sixth.

Lipnitskaya becomes the youngest European winner ever. Fellow Russian Irina Slutskaya was 16 when she won the first of her seven European Championships in 1996.

The men’s and pairs free skates are Saturday in Budapest. NBC will air a packaged show of the competition Sunday from 4 to 6 pm ET, which will also be streamed on NBCOlympics.com.

Results
1. Yulia Lipnitskaya (RUS) – 209.72
2. Adelina Sotnikova (RUS) – 202.36
3. Carolina Kostner (ITA) – 191.39
4. Alena Leonova (RUS) – 178.15
5. Mae Berenice Meite (FRA) 173.37
6. Valentina Marchei (ITA) 165.25

Young U.S. relay team can’t match Great Britain, Russia (video)

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It’s no coincidence that the U.S. men’s 4x200m freestyle relay team had its worst finish since 2001, a bronze in Budapest on Friday.

From 2002 through 2016, either Michael Phelps or Ryan Lochte was part of the quartet (and usually both of them were).

But with Phelps retired and Lochte suspended, a much younger foursome swam at worlds, including three men who had no Olympic final experience.

The U.S. led after three of four legs, but Great Britain anchor James Guy (2015 World 200m free champion) had the fastest split of all 32 swimmers by .78.

Guy zoomed past American Zane Grothe as the Brits repeated as world champs in the relay by .98 over Russia, which was a half-second ahead of the U.S. for silver.

Grothe, who is better in the 400m and 800m frees, split three seconds slower than Guy. He was the slowest American by nearly a second (when accounting for slower leadoff legs due to flat starts).

One swimmer the U.S. left off the final quartet was Conor Dwyer, a relay finalist member at every Olympics worlds since 2011. But Dwyer, the Rio 200m free bronze medalist, was fourth in the 200m free at nationals and even slower leading off the U.S. 4x200m in the morning heats.

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Simone Biles gets biopic

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Simone Biles is executive producing her own biopic, “The Simone Biles Story” (working title) set to premiere in early 2018 on Lifetime.

The film is based on her biography, “Courage to Soar,” and will reveal “the sacrifices and dedication it took her to become one of the greatest and most celebrated athletes in the world,” according to a press release.

Biles is a co-executive producer with three others, including her agent.

Biles follows Gabby Douglas, whose biopic, “The Gabby Douglas Story,” premiered on Lifetime in early 2014 after her 2012 Olympic all-around title.

Biles is expected to return to gymnastics training late this year or early next year.

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