Sochi Olympics Figure Skating

U.S. in medal position after Day 2 of team figure skating


Team USA started Day 2 of the inaugural Olympic team figure skating competition facing elimination. But by the end of the day, the Americans had clawed their way back into the medal picture.

Going into tomorrow’s final day (men’s/women’s free skate and free dance), they sit third in the overall standings with 34 points, looking up at leaders Russia (47 points) and Canada (41 points).

Meryl Davis and Charlie White kick-started the American comeback by topping the short program in ice dancing with a score of 75.98, beating out defending Olympic ice dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada to earn a full 10 points.

That pushed the U.S. to third in the standings, and that’s where they’d stay for the rest of the afternoon. Ashley Wagner finished fourth in the ladies’ short program with a score of 63.10, while the Russian crowd was brought to their feet by Julia Lipnitskaia, who finished first with a score of 72.90 ahead of Italy’s Carolina Kostner and Japan’s Mao Asada.

MORE: Canada’s Justine Dufour-Lapointe wins women’s moguls gold

With all the short programs completed, Russia, Canada, the U.S., Japan, and Italy all moved on into the free program portion of the competition, which began with the pairs.

Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir, who did the pairs’ short program on Thursday, got the call again for the U.S. in free skate and wound up finishing fourth with a score of 117.94 (7 points).

WATCH: Japanese skater Asada falls, but still hopeful

Russia once again showed its strength as Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, the final pair to skate this afternoon, took home 10 points for the host nation after posting a score of 135.09. Canada’s Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch were second (129.74, 9 points) and Italy’s Stefania Berton and Ondrej Hotarek were third (120.82, 8 points).

(After five events)
1. Russia – 47
2. Canada – 41
3. United States – 34
4. Italy – 31
5. Japan – 30
Eliminated after short programs
6. France – 22
7. China – 20
8. Germany – 17
9. Ukraine – 10
10. Great Britain – 8

Kayla Harrison begins MMA career

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 12:  (BROADCAST - OUT) Judoka Kayla Harrison of the United States poses for a photo with her gold medal on the Today show set on Copacabana Beach on August 12, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Two-time Olympic judo champion Kayla Harrison has joined mixed martial arts promotion World Series of Fighting as a commentator, brand ambassador and potentially a fighter, but she isn’t 100 percent committed to competing and won’t set a first bout for at least one year.

“All signs point to a yes, but everything has to work out,” Harrison said. “I haven’t booked a fight.”

Harrison, 26 and all but retired from judo, has been asked time and again for years about her interest in pursuing MMA. That’s in part because of former training partner Ronda Rousey‘s overwhelming success after she switched from Olympic judo.

Harrison will serve as a commentator and brand ambassador before potentially getting into MMA competition. Her commentating debut will be at WSOF 34 in New York on Dec. 31 on NBC.

Harrison has taken boxing and jiu-jitsu lessons as far back as 2013, which should boost her MMA potential.

To compete in MMA, Harrison will require a weight cut from her Olympic judo class of 172 pounds.

Rousey competes at 135 pounds, the heaviest women’s weight class in UFC. WSOF, which has no women’s weight classes, plans to develop a women’s program as Harrison readies for a potential debut.

Harrison expects that if she fights, it will be at 145 pounds.

Harrison laughed about people tweeting at her to fight Brazilian Cristiane Justino, a former 145-pound title holder who is set to face Rousey, should Rousey win her comeback fight.

“I’ve never fought MMA before, so my first fight is not going to be for a belt,” Harrison cautioned. “I’m going to MMA 0-0, not as a two-time Olympic champion. People need to remember that.”

Harrison said she last conversed with Rousey one or two months ago. Rousey, a 2008 Olympic bronze medalist, congratulated Harrison on her second gold medal and told Harrison she was available if she needed anything.

Harrison said she might reach out to her former training partner early next year, after Rousey’s comeback fight, to pick her brain about MMA.

“And be like, hey, what do you got for me? Tell me everything,” Harrison joked.

MORE: Ronda Rousey sets comeback fight

U.S. men’s gymnastics program undergoes changes

ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 25: Members of the U.S. Men's National Gymnastics Team gather before day two of the 2016 Men's Gymnastics Olympic Trials at Chafitz Arena on June 25, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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U.S. men’s national team coordinator Kevin Mazeika‘s contract will not be renewed at the end of the year as USA Gymnastics makes changes after missing the men’s team podium at a second straight Olympics.

Mazeika was the U.S. men’s head coach at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, where the U.S. men earned team medals at a non-home Games for the first time. He then served as national team coordinator from 2009 through this year.

The U.S. men finished fifth at the last two Olympics.

USA Gymnastics will replace the national team coordinator role with a high-performance director “focused on sustained international success.”

“The coaches, committee members and staff did a thorough review of the existing structure and results, and then took a hard look at what is needed to prepare our athletes for success heading toward Tokyo and beyond,” USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny said in a press release.

MORE: U.S. women’s national team coordinator named