USA’s Randall finishes 5th in final race before Olympics; Bjoergen wins

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U.S. cross-country gold medal threat Kikkan Randall and her teammates have completed their final FIS World Cup sprint race before the Olympics.

Randall picked up a fifth-place finish to lead the Americans in today’s free technique event at Toblach, Italy, a race that was won by one of her main rivals in Sochi, Norway’s Marit Bjoergen – who also won the ladies 10km event yesterday at Toblach.

Bjoergen topped today’s podium, finishing ahead of German runner-up and overall World Cup sprint standings leader Denise Herrmann, and her Norwegian teammate in third, Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg.

“I think my legs were a little bit tired after yesterday and the training camp in Seiser Alm [Italy],” Bjoergen said in an FIS release. “I didn’t feel very fast in the qualification.

“But each heat I felt a little bit better and was able to advance each time.  I was able to get myself into good position off the downhill in the final to be able to get the win today.”

For highlights of Bjoergen’s win, check out this clip from Universal Sports.

It was a banner day for Norway all around, as in addition to Bjoergen’s victory in the women’s sprint, the men’s sprint was won by a Norwegian, Ola Vigen Hattestad. His teammate, Eirik Brandsdal, was second, followed by another German, Jozef Wenzl, in third.

Despite losing out to the Norway duo, Wenzl did manage to take the overall World Cup sprint lead over Italy’s Federico Pellegrino, who finished 16th today on home ground. Simi Hamilton, entering his second Olympics, finished 14th to lead the American men.

As for Randall, it would appear that all systems are indeed a go on her end as she now turns her attention to Sochi:

A second American woman cracked the Top 20, with Sophie Caldwell finishing 19th. Jessie Diggins, who won the 2013 World Championship in the team sprint with Randall, was 28th.

FIS World Cup – Women’s Free Sprint at Toblach
1. Marit Bjoergen (NOR)
2. Denise Herrmann (GER)
3. Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg (NOR)
4. Maiken Caspersen Falla (NOR)
5. Kikkan Randall (USA)
19. Sophie Caldwell (USA)
28. Jessie Diggins (USA)
29. Holly Brooks (USA)
33. Ida Sargent (USA)
37. Sadie Bjornsen (USA)
41. Caitlin Gregg (USA)

FIS World Cup – Men’s Free Sprint at Toblach
1. Ola Vigen Hallestad (NOR)
2. Eirik Brandsdal (NOR)
3. Jozef Wenzl (GER)
4. Paal Golberg (NOR)
5. Teodor Peterson (SWE)
14. Simeon Hamilton (USA)
17. Andrew Newell (USA)
35. Torin Koos (USA)

Paralympic track star Tatyana McFadden named to Sochi Nordic skiing team

Nathan Chen holds off Yuzuru Hanyu to win first Grand Prix

AP
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U.S. champion Nathan Chen opened the Grand Prix season by beating Olympic gold-medal favorite Yuzuru Hanyu.

Chen, 18, held off Hanyu at Rostelecom Cup in Moscow, totaling 293.79 points to win by 3.02 over the Japanese megastar.

Full scores are here.

Chen landed four quadruple jumps in a strong but imperfect free skate for his first Grand Prix title in his second senior international season.

“I got a little tired halfway through the program and started faltering a little bit on the second quad toe – that was a big mistake,” Chen said, according to the International Skating Union .”I can’t let things like that happen in the future. But this is my first Grand Prix win, and I’m very happy with that.”

Hanyu outscored Chen in the free skate, but the American benefited from his 5.69-point lead from Friday’s short program.

Hanyu, the reigning Olympic and world champion, has never won his opening Grand Prix start in eight tries.

He did three quadruple jumps in Saturday’s free skate rather than the planned five, but did not fall as he did in the short program.

Chen has now outscored Hanyu in three of their last four head-to-head events dating to February. Hanyu got the better of Chen at the most important event — winning the world championships, where the American was sixth.

Also Saturday, two-time world medalists Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani won the ice dance with 189.24 points, sweeping both the short and free programs.

The siblings and U.S. champions have now won four straight Grand Prix titles (not counting the Grand Prix Final).

They won by 4.5 points over Russians Yekaterina Bobrova and Dmitry Soloviyev.

The world’s top two couples were not in the field — Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron.

Russia swept the pairs podium, led by world bronze medalists Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov.

The top pairs teams from the rest of the world — including world champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong — were not in the field.

The Rostelecom Cup women’s free skate is later Saturday.

The Grand Prix season continues next weekend with Skate Canada, headlined by three-time U.S. champion Ashley Wagner and three-time world champion Patrick Chan.

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Rostelecom Cup
Men
1. Nathan Chen (USA) — 293.79
2. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 290.77
3. Mikhail Kolyada (RUS) — 271.06
11. Grant Hochstein (USA) — 206.09

Ice Dance
1. Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA) — 189.24
2. Yekaterina Bobrova/Dmitry Soloviyev (RUS) — 184.74
3. Alexandra Stepanova/Ivan Bukin (RUS) — 179.35
7. Rachel Parsons/Michael Parsons (USA) — 148.75

Pairs
1. Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 224.25
2. Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov (RUS) — 204.43
3. Kristina Astakhova/Aleksey Rogonov (RUS) — 199.11
7. Marissa Castelli/Mervin Tran (USA) — 170.53

Olympic ski cross champion suffers serious knee injury

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Canadian Marielle Thompson, the reigning Olympic and World Cup ski cross champion, ruptured an ACL and MCL in a training crash in Switzerland.

Alpine Canada did not say when the accident happened or what Thompson’s chances are of returning to defend her Olympic title in PyeongChang.

Thompson flew from Switzerland to Vancouver for an MRI that confirmed the injury.

“I’ll be making a plan with my team moving forward and when the time is right getting back on the ski cross course stronger than ever,” Thompson said in a press release.

Thompson, 25, tore a meniscus in January 2015 and returned to competition 11 months later. She won seven of the 13 World Cup races last season.

Other Olympic medal contenders include Swede Sandra Näslund and Swiss Fanny Smith.

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