Sochi Olympics Figure Skating

Yuna Kim leads after ladies’ short program; Gracie Gold 4th

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As some expected, a Russian skater has emerged as the top challenger to Olympic gold medalist Yuna Kim in the ladies’ competition.

But that Russian skater isn’t the one most were expecting.

Adelina Sotnikova appears to have emerged from the shadow of Yulia Lipnitskaia after earning a personal-best 74.64 in her short program – putting her less than three-tenths of a single point behind the Queen after the first day.

Lipnitskaia, the reigning European champion at just 15 years old, had been having a superb Sochi Olympics. But tonight, she finally made a mistake with a fall on her triple flip.

VIDEO: Kerrigan says Yuna Kim in a league of her own

She now sits fifth after the short program, down more than three points to U.S. Nationals champion Gracie Gold, who should be pleased with a fourth-place performance and a berth in the final group for tomorrow’s free skate.

Ditto for Gold’s compatriot, Ashley Wagner, who also will be in the final group even though she was scored less than Lipnitskaia for her solid – and clean – program.

VIDEO: Watch Yuna Kim’s short program routine

Wagner runs sixth, one spot ahead of the third American in the field, Polina Edmunds, who went to the top of the scoreboard after her skate and stayed there until Kim’s arrival and subsequent score of 74.92.

U.S. men’s skater Jason Brown, who was live-tweeting the proceedings at the Iceberg, was happy with his teammates’ results:

Suffering perhaps the worst night of all was Japan’s Mao Asada, who won the silver behind Kim four years ago in Vancouver.

VIDEO: Comparing Yuna Kim’s performance to Gracie Gold’s

Asada fell on a triple axel and also doubled a planned triple loop. The mistakes were major, and they were reflected in her score: 55.51, good for 16th place among the 24 skaters remaining.

MORE: Canada defends Olympic women’s bobsled title; U.S. gets silver, bronze

FIGURE SKATING – LADIES’ SHORT PROGRAM (TOP 10)
1. Yuna Kim (KOR), 74.92
2. Adelina Sotnikova (RUS), 74.64
3. Carolina Kostner (ITA), 74.12
4. Gracie Gold (USA), 68.63
5. Yulia Lipnitskaia (RUS), 65.23
6. Ashley Wagner (USA), 65.21
7. Polina Edmunds (USA), 61.04

8. Akiko Suzuki (JPN), 60.97
9. Mae Berenice Meite (FRA), 58.63
10. Nathalie Weinzierl (GER), 57.63

Francesco Friedrich wins historic fourth straight bobsled world title

German bob team, Francesco Friedrich, right, and Thorsten Margis, celebrate their victory  after the men's  two-man bob race at the  Bobsleigh and Skeleton World Championships at Lake Koenigssee, Germany, Sunday Feb. 19. 2017. (Angelika Warmuth/dpa via AP)
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KOENIGSSEE, Germany (AP) — Germany’s Francesco Friedrich was again fastest in both runs to extend his lead and beat Justin Kripps of Canada for his fourth straight world championship in two-man bobsled on Sunday.

Friedrich, who held a 0.52-lead from Saturday’s opening heats, clocked 49.17 seconds and then 48.94 with his brakeman Thorsten Margis for a combined time of 3 minutes, 16.71 seconds after four runs — 1.20 ahead of Kripps and Jesse Lumsden.

The 26-year-old Friedrich says “We were simply unbeatable this week.”

Germany’s Johannes Lochner was 1.25 back in third with Joshua Bluhm, ahead of Oskars Kibermanis and Matiss Miknis of Latvia, Nick Poloniato and Neville Wright of Canada, and Oskars Melbardis and Janis Strenga of Latvia.

American pilot Steven Holcomb was seventh with Carlo Valdes, 1.68 back.

A skeleton and bobsled team competition was scheduled later Sunday.

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Marcel Hirscher reclaims slalom title, wraps up ‘perfect worlds’

ST MORITZ, SWITZERLAND - FEBRUARY 17:  Gold medalist Marcel Hirscher of Austria celebrates on the podium following the Men's Giant Slalom during the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships on February 17, 2017 in St Moritz, Switzerland.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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Austrian Marcel Hirscher reclaimed the slalom world title, wrapping up what he called “the perfect world championships” with two golds and one silver in St. Moritz, Switzerland, on Sunday.

Hirscher, the five-time reigning World Cup overall champion, prevailed by .68 of a second combining two runs. Fellow Austrian Manuel Feller earned silver, followed by German Felix Neureuther, .93 behind.

Hirscher’s biggest slalom rival, Henrik Kristoffersen, was a disappointing fourth, giving Norway fourth-place finishers in all five men’s events at worlds.

The top American was David Chodounsky in 12th.

Full Results | Race Replay

Hirscher led by .43 after the morning run and had the third-fastest second run. He finished worlds with golds in the giant slalom and slalom and silver in the super combined, missing gold by .01. All that despite entering worlds sick, reportedly spending days ill in bed.

He said that super combined silver, and especially his maiden GS title, took the pressure off Sunday.

“It was super easy for me, mentally, to [go] into this race,” Hirscher said. “It doesn’t matter if I straddle at the first gate. The only thing that wouldn’t be fine is skiing slow.”

Hirscher is en route to his sixth straight World Cup overall title this season. No other man has won that many, consecutive or not. He previously won the slalom world title in 2013, then was upset at the Sochi Olympics, taking silver behind countryman Mario Matt, who at 34 became the oldest Olympic Alpine champion.

Hirscher led the 2015 Worlds slalom by .88 after the first run, then straddled a gate near the end of the second run while his lead was evaporating.

Hirscher has already proven his excellence on the World Cup and world championships stages. It’s PyeongChang where he must deliver, since he lacks Olympic gold. Hirscher is only 27 years old, but he has cast doubt on going all the way to the 2022 Winter Games.

Feller, 24, took surprise silver without a World Cup podium to his name.

Neureuther earned his third straight world slalom medal, but none have been gold.

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