Anthony Lobello, Ariana Fontana

Anthony Lobello’s country switch a Winter Olympic first

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SOCHI, Russia — One U.S. short track speed skater from the 2006 Olympics made it back for 2014. He’s not wearing the red, white and blue this time, though.

In Sochi, Anthony Lobello will become the first athlete to compete in a Winter Olympics for the U.S. and then a later Winter Olympics for another nation, according to OlympStats.com.

As an American, Lobello finished 23rd in the 500m at the 2006 Olympics and then failed to make the 2010 U.S. Olympic Team.

In 2012, he began dating Italian Arianna Fontana, the 2010 Olympic 500m bronze medalist. Also that year, Lobello saw an opportunity to compete for Italy as a dual citizen since his paternal grandfather is Italian.

“I never looked into engaging my birthright, but I knew it existed,” Lobello, 29, told the Olympic News Service (ONS) in Sochi. “I never took it on as something I really wanted to do. But I met a girl, saw a different course for my life and took a chance.”

Lobello’s move also came as result of the “wild ride” relationship he had with US Speedskating that included suspensions, according to a blog post on his website.

Lobello’s surely much happier now, having proposed to Fontana at his family’s Alabama home last year.

“It was a little bit crazy, because that day I was cooking for the whole family,” Fontana told ONS. “So, I was nervous because I wanted to do great for them. While I was cooking, he was talking to me and said, ‘You know, when you find the right person, you don’t want to wait to spend the rest of your life with her.’

“I turned to listen to him, and he was on his knee with a ring. I didn’t know what to say, and the whole family started to yell and clap their hands. It was very exciting.”

Lobello’s love story is similar to that of snowboarder Vic Wild, who left the U.S. for Russia. Wild, though, did not reach the Olympics as an American before switching to Russia.

The three U.S. Winter Olympians who competed for other countries in previous Winter Games were, according to OlympStats:

Rena Inoue, figure skating (1992, 94-Japan, 2006-U.S.)
Clay Ives, luge (1994, 98-Canada, 02-U.S.)
Bengt Walden
, luge (1994, 98, 02-Sweden, 2010-U.S.)

On and off the ice, Jason Brown can put on a show

Yevgenia Medvedeva wins season opener in rout

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Olympic figure skating favorite Yevgenia Medvedeva, imperfect by her standards, still won her first international competition of the season by a whopping 36.74 points on Saturday.

The Russian tallied 146.72 points in her free skate at Nepela Trophy in Slovakia — lower than her median score over her two-year winning streak — and 226.72 points overall. 

Video is here. Full scores are here.

Medvedeva had a wrong edge call on her triple Lutz, stepping out of the landing. 

Judges gave her a negative grade of execution for it, snapping a streak of more than 60 straight jumps with positive grades dating to December.

No matter, the 17-year-old still had the highest free skate by 23.23 points.

It was 13.72 points shy of her world record set at the last competition of the 2016-17 season.

She distanced Japanese Rika Hongo and countrywoman Yelena Radionova, the only woman to beat Medvedeva in senior international competition in November 2015.

Medvedeva entered the free skate with a 13.51-point lead in the low-level event. That was via recording the second-highest short program tally under a 13-year-old judging system on Thursday.

Her flawed free skate still earned more points than any of her rivals racked up last season. 

All of her jumps except a double Axel were in the second half of her program to earn bonus points.

However, another Russian posted a higher free skate score last week.

That’s 15-year-old training partner Alina Zagitova, who was .45 better at a low-level event in Italy. 

It’s not entirely fair to compare scores from different judging panels at these early season competitions, though.

The first of six Grand Prix series events is Rostelecom Cup in Moscow in four weeks, featuring Medvedeva and Radionova.

Medvedeva and Zagitova could go head-to-head at the Grand Prix Final in December and should definitely both be at the Russian Championships later that month.

The figure skating season continues next week with Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, the final Olympic qualifying competition. 

North Korea could clinch its first spots in any sport for the Olympics in the pairs event.

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VIDEO: Nathan Chen makes more history at season opener

Yuzuru Hanyu opens Olympic season with record score

Yuzuru Hanyu
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A sore knee didn’t hold Yuzuru Hanyu back. A record score to open his Olympic season.

The Olympic and world champion from Japan hit a pair of quadruple jumps in his short program at the Autumn Classic, a lower-level event in Montreal.

He was rewarded with 112.72 points, the highest short program score recorded under the 13-year-old judging system. Video is here.

It looked like a home competition for Hanyu.

Upon finishing, he bowed toward one set of bleachers (maybe a dozen rows) at the Sportsplexe Pierrefonds. More than two dozen Japanese flags made it hard to see most of the faces.

He bettered Javier Fernández, a two-time world champion and training partner, by 11.52 points. Fernández also landed two quadruple jumps to tally 101.2.

Full scores will be here upon the conclusion of the short program. The free skate is Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. A live stream is here.

Hanyu now owns the three highest short program scores under the 13-year-old system. The other two were set in the 2015-16 season.

Showdowns like Hanyu-Fernández are usually reserved for, at the earliest, the Grand Prix series in late October and November.

Hanyu and Fernández are very familiar with each other, having shared a coach in Canadian Brian Orser, the 1988 Olympic silver medalist, since 2012. They train in Toronto.

In that time, Hanyu became the first Japanese man to win an Olympic title (and the second teen from any nation to do it). He followed it up with world titles later in 2014 and this year.

Fernández achieved unfathomable success for a Spanish skater — world titles in 2015 and 2016, overtaking Hanyu in the free skate both times.

In PyeongChang, Hanyu can become the first man to repeat as Olympic champion since Dick Button in 1952. Fernández can become the third Spaniard to earn a Winter Olympic medal of any color in any sport, and the first since 1992.

The figure skating season continues next week with Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, the final Olympic qualifying competition. North Korea could clinch its first spots in any sport for the Olympics in the pairs event.

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