Sochi Olympics Figure Skating

Hanyu leads short program, Plushenko retires; Jason Brown of U.S. in sixth

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Yuzuru Hanyu earned a world-record short program score to take the lead in the men’s figure skating competition going into tomorrow’s free skate – an event that will also begin with Jason Brown of the U.S. in contention to win a medal in his first Olympics.

Hanyu became the first man to ever score more than 100 points in a short program and also eclipsed the previous top mark that he himself set in December, a 99.84 in the Grand Prix Final that took place on his home ground.

In that event, Hanyu was able to defeat three-time reigning world champion Patrick Chan, who finds himself looking up at the 19-year-old Japanese phenom in second place.

VIDEO: “Fireworks” for Hanyu’s skate

However, with a short program score of 97.52, Chan is well within striking distance for tomorrow’s free skate.

Third-place Javier Fernandez of Spain is farther back after a score of 86.98 and finds himself in a dogfight for bronze that has Brown right in the middle of it.

MORE: NBCOlympics.com photo gallery of today’s short program

The Highland Park, Illinois skater and YouTube star is one of three skaters within a single point of Fernandez going into the free skate, and one of five skaters within two points of the Spaniard.

Brown’s strong short program, set to Prince’s “The Question Of U”, netted a new personal-best score of 86.00 that eventually put him sixth.

The night got off to a dramatic start when Russian star Yevgeny Plushenko was forced to withdraw after an apparent injury in warmups.

Shortly afterwards, the 2006 Olympic men’s champion announced his retirement after helping Russia gain the gold last week in the inaugural team competition.

VIDEO: Misha Ge plays air guitar while waiting his turn

More drama unfolded when Jeremy Abbott of the U.S. fell hard on his opening jump, staying on the ice for several seconds.

Spurred on by the crowd inside the Iceberg Skating Palace, Abbott got back up holding his side but then went on to finish out his program cleanly and with vigor.

The gritty display triggered waves of applause from the fans, who were seemingly revitalized after having gone into silence following the announcement of Plushenko’s withdrawal.

Abbott sits 15th going into the free skate.

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FIGURE SKATING – MEN’S SHORT PROGRAM (TOP 10)
1. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN), 101.45
2. Patrick Chan (CAN), 97.52
3. Javier Fernandez (ESP), 86.98
4. Daisuke Takahashi (JPN), 86.40
5. Peter Liebers (GER), 86.04
6. Jason Brown (USA), 86.00
7. Brian Joubert (FRA), 85.84
8. Han Yan (CHN), 85.66
9. Denis Tan (KAZ), 84.06
10. Alexander Majorov (SWE), 83.81

15. Jeremy Abbott (USA), 72.58

U.S. adds another medal at cross-country skiing worlds

LAHTI, FINLAND - FEBRUARY 26:  Jessica Diggins (L) of USA celebrate with team mate Sadie Bjornsen winning 3rd place in the Men's and Women's Cross Country Team Sprint Final during the FIS Nordic World Ski Championship on February 26, 2017 in Lahti, Finland.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
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Cross-country skiers Jessie Diggins and Sadie Bjornsen made it three medals for the U.S. at the world championships on Sunday.

Diggins and Bjornsen earned bronze in the team sprint event, 18.38 seconds behind winner Norway and 12.8 seconds behind silver medalist Russia. Diggins and Kikkan Randall previously earned silver and bronze in the individual sprint on Thursday.

It’s the first worlds where the U.S. has earned medals in multiple cross-country events.

On Sunday, Diggins lunged at the line to beat Sweden to third place by a fifth of a second.

“I was double poling like a maniac,” Diggins said, according to the U.S. Ski Team. “I skied the downhill the best I knew how and was able to draft her and get into my own lane with the best line — I took the inside lane so I knew I would be able to pick my track going into the final 100 meters. Then I just double poled my heart out.”

Bjornsen fell after completing the second exchange and was struck in the face by Russian Yulia Belorukova‘s ski, but was able to continue.

The team sprint is a 6×1.3km relay, with each country’s skiers alternating to race three legs each. It will be contested at the 2018 Olympics in the freestyle technique. Sunday’s event was classic skiing, marking the first American medal in worlds in the classic technique since the two disciplines were established.

Russia won the men’s team sprint after a dramatic last-lap crash wrecked the chances of the two leading teams.

Norway’s Emil Iversen was fighting for the lead with Finland’s Iivo Niskanen but they collided as the Finn moved to overtake on the inside of the final bend.

Sergei Ustyugov took the win for Russia, overtaking Italian Federico Pellegrino on the final stretch to win by 2.2 seconds. Niskanen recovered to take third, 6.5 seconds further back.

It was the second win in two days for Ustyugov, who also won Saturday’s skiathlon, and his third medal of the championships.

Ustyugov’s teammate for Sunday’s race, Nikita Kryukov, said the win was “revenge for Sochi,” a reference to the 2014 Winter Olympics, when Finland beat Russia to gold in the men’s team sprint in front of a Russian home crowd.

Also Sunday, Germany won the men’s team Nordic combined normal hill event. The Germans dominated the ski jumping to take a 44-second advantage into the 4x5km cross-country ski stage, and preserved that margin to win by 41.7 seconds from Norway.

Austria won a close battle with Japan to take third, 22 seconds behind the Norwegians.

It was Germany’s second gold medal in Nordic combined at the world championships after Johannes Rydzeck led a 1-2-3 finish in the men’s individual normal hill event Friday.

The Germans added another gold medal with a dominant victory in the mixed team ski jumping.

They led after each of the eight rounds and racked up a winning score of 1035.5 points, with strong jumps from Markus Eisenbichler, who set the longest jump at 99.5 meters, and the newly crowned women’s world champion Carina Vogt.

Austria was second on 999.3 and Japan third on 979.7.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Germany, with tie for gold, sweeps four-man bobsled medals to close worlds

INNSBRUCK, AUSTRIA - FEBRUARY 05:  Francesco Friedrich, Candy Bauer, Martin Grothkopp and Thorsten Margis of Germany compete during the final run of the 4-man Bobsleigh BMW IBSF World Cup at Olympiabobbahn Igls on February 5, 2017 in Innsbruck, Austria.  (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images For IBSF)
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With a tie for four-man gold, Germany notched the first-ever men’s bobsled medal sweep at an Olympics or world championships on Sunday.

Francesco Friedrich and Johannes Lochner tied for the four-man world title with identical times after four runs of 3:14.10 in Koenigssee, Germany. Countryman Nico Walther took bronze, .16 behind.

The top American was 2010 Olympic champion Steven Holcomb in fifth. Holcomb was .01 out of bronze going into the fourth and final run but ended up. 18 behind Walther.

“This is really hard to swallow for these guys,” U.S. coach Brian Shimer said, according to U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton. “Holcomb’s team is starting to show signs of greatness, and they’ve come a long way for such a young push crew, and Holcomb continues to get back to his old self after a couple of years of injuries. I know he’s got to be really disappointed, but this race showed we’re taking a big step in the right direction.”

Germany completed a dominant world bobsled and skeleton championships by taking eight of the 15 medals in Olympic-program events. Last weekend, Friedrich earned his fourth straight world title in two-man bobsled.

Earlier Sunday, Latvian Martins Dukurs won his fifth skeleton world title in the last six editions. Dukurs, who settled for silver at the 2010 and 2014 Olympics, beat German Axel Jungk by .37 after four runs in Koenigssee.

“I was really lucky, especially my fourth run was awful,” said Dukurs, who held on despite having the fourth-fastest third and fourth runs. “But that’s the past, luckily for me also the other guys made mistakes.”

Russian Olympian Nikita Tregybov took bronze. Olympic bronze medalist Matthew Antoine was the top American in seventh.

“I’m disappointed, seventh isn’t what I came here to achieve,” Antoine said, according to U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton. “I don’t think I slid all that poorly, but I didn’t push very well, and on a track like this, you can’t give up that much at the start and expect to have a good result. The reality is that I’m an Olympic medalist and results like this don’t mean anything to me.”

The race lacked one of the PyeongChang Olympic favorites, South Korean Yun Sung-bin, who skipped worlds to get more training time in South Korea.

The rest of the top bobsledders and skeleton sliders will join Yun in South Korea in March for training and the final World Cup stop at the 2018 Olympic venue.

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