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.

MORE: Slopestyle skiers not fazed by falling pants

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

Blake Griffin will miss Olympics, report says

Blake Griffin
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For the second straight Olympics, Blake Griffin will not be able to join Team USA due to injury, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Los Angeles Clippers power forward will be out several months due to his left quad injury, according to the newspaper.

Griffin was originally chosen for the 2012 U.S. Olympic team but withdrew due to a torn meniscus, opening a spot for Anthony Davis.

Davis is also expected to miss the Rio Games due to injury.

Other power forwards on the U.S. finalist list released in January include LaMarcus Aldridge, Kenneth Faried, Draymond Green and Kevin Love.

Rio Olympic cauldron likely to be located near Plaza Maua

Candelaria Church
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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Mayor Eduardo Paes says he wants the Olympic cauldron to burn in Rio de Janeiro’s revitalized port area.

The cauldron will be lit at Maracana Stadium during the Opening Ceremony on Aug. 5, and will spend the night there before traveling to a permanent home.

Mario Andrada, spokesman for the Rio organizing committee, told The Associated Press on Thursday that the cauldron will be placed in the port area, but not in the heart of the renovated port area known as Plaza Maua.

“It will be close to Plaza Maua, but not exactly in Plaza Maua,” Andrada said. He said it was likely to be located near the Candelaria Church, which is near the plaza.

“Don’t get me into a fight with the mayor,” Andrada added.

Paes said he hoped the new plaza would be a center for outdoor entertainment during the Games, including performance stages, musical attractions, and large-screen televisions.

“It seems that the Maracana Stadium has limitations,” Paes said, adding that moving out of the Maracana “is good because it democratizes the access to the cauldron.”

The new plaza and downtown Rio are far from the heart of the Games in suburban Barra da Tijuca. It is also an area not usually visited by tourists.

The Olympic flame arrives from Greece and Switzerland on Tuesday in the capital Brasilia, to be carried off the plane by IOC member Carlos Nuzman, the head of the Rio organizing committee.

The flame then goes to the Planalto presidential palace where it is expected to be greeted by President Dilma Rousseff.

Andrada said IOC President Thomas Bach and other top IOC officials would not be at the ceremony.

Rousseff is facing impeachment charges and could be suspended from office as early as May 11, turning over authority to Vice President Michel Temer.

Temer, himself, could also face impeachment proceedings and has a scandal-tainted career.

PHOTOS: Olympic flame visits Acropolis, 1896 Olympic Stadium