Javier Fernandez

Spain’s Javier Fernandez skates to second straight European Championships gold

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In the corner of the arena in Budapest, Brian Orser jumped for joy as another one of his pupils soared to first place at a major competition.

Saturday it was Spain’s Javier Fernandez at the European Championships, the defending champion winning for the second straight year, this time just weeks ahead of the Sochi Olympic Games.

Fernandez, skating to “Peter Gunn” and “Harlem Nocturne,” held on to his first quadruple toeloop and then landed a quad Salchow later in his program, delivering a nearly clean free skate in a final group that was riddled with errors.

Orser, the 1988 Olympic silver medalist who helped coach Yuna Kim to her gold medal in Vancouver, also works with Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu, who won both the Grand Prix Final and the Japan National Championships last month to add his name to a growing list of gold medal contenders at the Olympics.

Fernandez, who struggled through the Grand Prix season, penciled his name back onto that list with two solid skates in Budapest. The 22-year-old trains alongside Hanyu in Toronto with Orser, oftentimes riding his bike to and from the rink for practice.

Yulia Lipnitskaya, 15, skates past veterans for Euros win

Fernandez built on the lead that he had gained in the short program, where he scored a 91.56. His 267.11 overall score was a safe 15 points ahead of Russia’s Sergei Voronov who was second (252.55). Konstantin Menshov, also of Russia, was third with a 237.24.

Russia’s top skater coming into the European Championships, 18-year-old Maksim Kovtun, could not deliver in his free skate, dropping from fourth to fifth with a series of errors on jumps. The performance will likely impact his chance of being selected for the Russian Olympic team over veteran Yevgeny Plushenko, who sat out the Euros.

Plushenko backtracks, wants to skate singles in Sochi

Russia is allotted just one spot for the Sochi Games after no man finished in the top 15 at the World Championships in 2013 (Kovtun was 17th). Neither Voronov nor Menshov were considered in the race to take the spot, which was seen as a back and forth between Kovtun and the veteran Plushenko, a three-time Olympic medalist and 2006 champion.

Michal Brezina of the Czech Republic, coached by Viktor Petrenko, finished fourth while 29-year-old Frenchman Brian Joubert, who has three European Championships to his name, finished eighth in a valiant comeback effort after not skating for most of the season.

But it was a second Euros win for Fernandez, who has plenty of momentum leading into Sochi.

“It was a great year for me last year,” Fernandez told the crowd after his win. “I was so scared because to get the title here again was not easy. It was a great day for me to skate well and give a reason for all these people with Spanish flags to be here.”

Fernandez, who won the Spanish National Championships for the third consecutive year last month, joins Hanyu, reigning and three-time world champion Canada’s Patrick Chan, Vancouver bronze medalist Daisuke Takahashi and American Jeremy Abbott – after his Nationals win last week – as contenders for the top spot in Sochi.

“I don’t want to expect anything,” said the Madrid native. “I want to go there and try my best and I hope that I can fight to be on the podium. I don’t know if [how I skated here] will be enough. I had a couple of mistakes that I have to fix before the Olympics. I think if I give a little bit more I have the chance to be on the podium.”

Russia is expected to announce its Olympic team by January 27th.

NBC will air a package show of the European Championships on Sunday from 4-6pm. It will also be livestreamed on NBCOlympics.com.

Results
1. Javier Fernandez (ESP) – 267.11
2. Sergei Voronov (RUS) – 252.55
3. Konstantin Menshov (RUS) – 237.54
4. Michal Brezina (CZE) – 236.98
5. Maksim Kovtun (RUS) – 232.37
8. Brian Joubert (FRA) 221.95

Elaine Thompson runs 200 meters to win 100m in Lausanne

Elaine Thompson
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Elaine Thompson won a 100m at her first meet since sweeping the Olympic sprints, but she actually raced about 200 meters in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Thursday.

Thompson, who won the 100m and 200m in her Olympic debut in Rio, was one of seven runners in an eight-woman 100m field in Lausanne who did not react to a second gun indicating a false start.

So Thompson and others had to trudge back from the finish line to the start in order to re-run the race.

About nine minutes after the false start, Thompson won the 100m in 10.78 seconds (video here), a bit slower than her national record-matching 10.70 from the Jamaican Olympic Trials and her 10.71 from the Rio Games.

“There was a mix up at the start,” Thompson said, according to the IAAF. “To be able to produce 10.79 [sic] on second attempt, it’s a great time.”

Neither of the other Rio Olympic 100m medalists — Tori Bowie or Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce — was in the Lausanne field.

Untested, Thompson won by one-third of a second over American Jenna Prandini.

Full Lausanne results are here.

In other events Thursday, former world-record holder Asafa Powell won the 100m in 9.96 seconds against a field that didn’t include Rio medalists Usain BoltJustin Gatlin or Andre De Grasse. Powell, 33, broke 10 seconds for a record 97th time, according to the IAAF.

Rio bronze medalist LaShawn Merritt won a 400m in 44.50 against a field that did not include the Olympic gold and silver medalists Wayde van Niekerk and Kirani James. Van Niekerk won the Olympic title in a world record 43.03.

Keni Harrison, who missed the U.S. Olympic team but broke the 100m hurdles world record July 22, won the Lausanne 100m hurdles in 12.42 seconds. The field did not include the Americans who swept the Olympic podium — Brianna RollinsNia Ali and Kristi Castlin.

Harrison’s time Thursday would have won the Rio Olympics and was well short of her world record of 12.20.

“I’m a bit rusty because I haven’t competed for a few weeks with not being in Rio,” Harrison said.

American Dalilah Muhammad followed her Olympic 400m hurdles title with her second straight Diamond League race victory, clocking 53.78 in Lausanne.

Cuban-born Spaniard Orlando Ortega upset Olympic champion Omar McLeod of Jamaica in the 110m hurdles, winning by one hundredth of a second in 13.11. Ortega took silver behind McLeod in Rio.

In the shot put, New Zealand’s Valerie Adams topped Michelle Carter, also a reversal of their Rio Olympic one-two. Adams, the 2012 Olympic champion, threw 19.94 meters in Lausanne, while Carter recorded 19.49 meters.

Olympic bronze medalist Sam Kendricks equaled his personal best with a 5.92-meter clearance to win the pole vault over world-record holder Renaud Lavillenie. Surprise Olympic champion Thiago Braz da Silva of Brazil wasn’t in the Lausanne field.

The Diamond League continues in Paris on Saturday.

VIDEO: Top track and field moments of Rio Olympics

Ryan Lochte to be summoned to criminal hearing in Rio, NBC News reports

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Ryan Lochte will be summoned to attend a criminal hearing in Brazil regarding his Rio de Janeiro gas station incident from Aug. 14, according to NBC News.

“A formal summons is expected to be sent to the U.S. asking for help in bringing Lochte to Brazil. If Lochte does not show up, the process, we’re told, will continue, where he could be charged by the public prosecutor and likely convicted in Brazil,” was reported on MSNBC on Thursday.

Lochte has said he “over-exaggerated” his original story that a gun was pointed at his head during a robbery at a gas station.

Lochte’s full interview with Matt Lauer that aired during NBC’s Olympic coverage last weekend is here.

MORE: Lochte loses sponsors after gas station incident