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


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.

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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

Katie Ledecky beaten in NCAA Championships individual medley

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Katie Ledecky lost an NCAA Championships race for the first time in eight career finals, taking second in the 400-yard individual medley on Friday.

Stanford teammate Ella Eastin easily beat Ledecky by 3.69 seconds and grabbed the American and NCAA records from Ledecky, too. Eastin’s 3:54.60 is 1.93 seconds faster than Ledecky’s time from the Pac-12 Championships last month.

How did she do it?

“Honestly, I don’t know,” Eastin said on ESPNU. “I’ve built a lot of endurance this year, and it really showed.”

Eastin is decorated in her own right. She three-peated as NCAA 400-yard IM champion and held the American record in the event before Ledecky lowered it last month.

Eastin would have made the 2017 World Championships team had she not been disqualified for an illegal turn after finishing in second place at nationals.

Ledecky, a sophomore, has never contested the 400m IM at a U.S. Championships, Olympics or world championships, nor did she race the 400-yard IM at 2017 NCAAs. She raced the 400 IM instead of the 200 freestyle on Friday.

All of Ledecky’s races at major meets before Friday were in freestyle events. Her only defeat in a major international meet individual final was the 200m freestyle at 2017 Worlds.

Ledecky won five NCAA titles last year and the last two nights anchored the 800-yard freestyle relay and captured the 500-yard freestyle by eight seconds.

Meet results are here.

Later Friday, Lilly King of Indiana three-peated in the 100-yard breaststroke, breaking her American and NCAA records and winning in 56.25 seconds. King is also the Olympic and world champion in the 100m breast, plus the world-record holder.

“Always excited to get the record, but was really hoping to break 56 today,” King said.

Louisville’s Mallory Comerford became the second woman after Missy Franklin to break 1:40 in the 200-yard freestyle, winning in 1:39.80. Co-Olympic 100m free champ Simone Manuel of Stanford was third. Comerford and Ledecky tied for the 2017 NCAA 200 free title.

Stanford’s Ally Howe won the 100-yard backstroke in 49.70, one hundredth shy of her NCAA and American records. Olympic 100m backstroke silver medalist Kathleen Baker of Cal-Berkeley was third.

NCAAs conclude Saturday. Ledecky swims the 1,650-yard freestyle. She is the overwhelming favorite, having gone 35 seconds faster than anyone this season.

Ledecky hasn’t discussed with Stanford whether she will return for her junior season or turn pro, according to the school.

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World vault champion out for all of 2018

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Maria Paseka, a two-time world vault champion and four-time Olympic medalist, said she is out for the rest of the year after December back surgery, according to Russian news agency TASS.

Paseka, 22, earned the lone Russian title at worlds in October, repeating as champion on vault by edging American Jade Carey by .084. She handed Simone Biles her only defeat in a 2015 Worlds final, also on vault.

Paseka also took vault silver and bronze medals at the last two Olympics, as well as helping Russia to team silvers in London and Rio.

As Paseka is sidelined, Russia’s two other recent headliners are on the comeback trail.

Viktoria Komova, the all-around silver medalist at the 2011 Worlds and 2012 Olympics who missed Rio due to a back injury, competed in December for the first time since 2015.

Aliya Mustafina, a seven-time Olympic medalist with two uneven bars golds, is expected to return to competition this spring from June childbirth.

The world championships are in Doha in October.

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