Michel Mulder takes 500m, leads another 1-2-3 Dutch sweep in speedskating

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For the second time in these Sochi Olympics, the Netherlands have pulled off a sweep in speedskating.

Michel Mulder (pictured) earned the men’s 500m gold medal by one one-hundredth of a second over teammate Jan Smeekens, with Michel’s twin brother, Ronald, claiming the bronze (+0.15 seconds). 2010 Olympic champion Mo Tae-Bum finished off the podium in fourth (+0.38 of a second).

The first Olympic win for the Dutch in the men’s 500m comes two days after the men blitzed the 5000m event, with Sven Kramer, Jan Blokhuijsen, and Jorrit Bergsma taking first, second and third. Additionally, Ireen Wust contributed her own gold in the women’s 3000m yesterday.

MORE: NBCOlympics.com Slideshow of today’s men’s 500m speedskating event

In a precursor to his bid for Winter Olympic history later this week, U.S. speedskater Shani Davis got started in Sochi with a 24th-place finish.

That was enough to lead the American trio that competed in the event, with Tucker Fredricks and Mitchell Whitmore winding up 26th and 27th respectively.

Davis used the 500m to prepare himself for Wednesday’s 1000m, in which he’ll attempt to become the first American man to claim three Winter Olympic golds in the same individual event (snowboarder Shaun White has a chance to do the same one day before on Tuesday in the halfpipe competition).

MEN’S SPEED SKATING – 500m
FINAL STANDINGS
1. Michel Mulder (NED), 69.31
2. Jan Smeekens (NED), 69.32
3. Ronald Mulder (NED), 69.46

24. Shani Davis (USA), 70.98
26. Tucker Fredricks (USA), 70.999
27. Mitchell Whitmore (USA), 71.06

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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MORE: What to watch every day of PyeongChang Olympics