Mao Asada, Julia Lipnitskaia, Carolina Kostner

Mao Asada wins World Championship; U.S. finishes with no medals


Mao Asada might retire, but her fans weren’t ready to leave.

Asada won her third World Championship on Saturday. Few adoring Japanese flag-waving spectators appeared to exit the packed Saitama Super Arena near Tokyo until after her in-house interview, a medal ceremony, a lap of honor for all three medalists and more photo opps before she departed the ice.

Asada totaled 216.69 points, outlasting Russian Yulia Lipnitskaya (207.50) and Italian Carolina Kostner (203.83) for gold. She added to her collection that includes 2008 and 2010 World Championships and the 2010 Olympic silver medal.

Americans Gracie GoldAshley Wagner and Polina Edmunds were fifth, seventh and eighth.

No Americans won medals in any discipline at the World Championships for the first time since 1994. But the U.S. earned three spots for women’s, men’s and ice dance at the 2015 World Championships, a feat it hadn’t accomplished since 2008, and put three women in the top eight for the first time since 2006, the last time a U.S. woman won an Olympic or World Championships medal.

Asada, 23, said after a disappointing sixth-place finish at the Sochi Olympics that she was reconsidering plans to retire after the World Championships. She looked at the top of her game in the short program Thursday, recording the highest score in history.

Asada didn’t mention her future in her arena interview before receiving her gold medal.

“After finishing the season I could truly say figure skating is wonderful,” Asada said in Japanese, generating heavy applause after a slightly flawed free skate that included an under-rotated triple Axel and a step out on a double Axel landing.

MORE: Surprise ice dance winners | Hanyu comes back for gold | Germans take pairs

Asada’s place as one of the all-time greats is secure, despite what went wrong in Sochi or whether she skates competitively again.

She joined Michelle Kwan and Katarina Witt as the only women to win at least three World Championships in the last 45 years.

She’s been among her sport’s elite for nearly a decade and was considered talented enough to challenge for the gold medal at the 2006 Olympics despite not being old enough to compete. She also spent much of her career squaring off against 2010 Olympic champion Yuna Kim, who retired after winning silver in Sochi and is considered by some the greatest ever.

On the ice, Asada was best known for being one of few women to consistently attempt and land the triple Axel, drawing praise from critics and peers alike.

The Russian Lipnitskaya, 15 and the sensation of the Olympic team event, jumped past Kostner for silver.

Lipnitskaya was fifth at the Olympics, overshadowed by countrywoman Adelina Sotnikova, who in Sochi became the first woman to win Olympic gold without having won a medal at a previous World Championships. Sotnikova, ninth at last year’s World Championships, did not compete in Saitama.

The Italian Kostner, 27, held on for her sixth career World Championships medal, matching the color of her first in 2005 and of her only Olympic medal last month.

The women’s landscape is changing, as it usually does after an Olympics. Asada and Kostner may both retire, and Kim is definitely done. Lipnitskaya and Sotnikova are the leaders heading into the next Olympic cycle.

But the U.S. is not far behind and joins Russia and Japan with three women’s spots at next year’s World Championships.

Gold, 18, followed her fourth in Sochi with a fifth in Saitama, falling one spot from after the short program. The Frank Carroll student was disappointed with popping a jump and falling during her free skate Saturday.

“I don’t really know what happened,” Gold said. “I’m sorry I wasn’t able to put out my best performance.

“I need to train harder. I need to complete the whole package. One competition it’s lovely skating, one competition is lovely jumps. I have to work on putting the package together and getting better programs.”

Wagner, 22, maintained her seventh-place standing from the short program.

She posted the fourth highest free skate score, better than Gold, finishing a tumultuous season on a high. Wagner was put on the three-woman U.S. Olympic Team after finishing fourth at the U.S. Championships in January and then reverted her long program three weeks before the Olympics.

It finally felt right again Saturday.

“I feel like I was back as a competitor,” said Wagner, who was fourth at 2012 worlds, fifth at 2013 worlds and seventh in Sochi. “The past season has been very tough for me. Full of ups and downs and highs and lows. Everything that could have gone wrong this season went wrong.”

Edmunds, at just 15, may have the greatest potential.

She scored 4.7 points higher in her free skate than at the Olympics, finishing eighth, one spot higher than she was in Sochi. Lipnitskaya was the only woman in the top 10 at the Olympics or World Championships who was younger than the San Jose native.

The Olympics and World Championships were Edmunds’ first two senior international competitions. The goal for the U.S. women next year? Win the first U.S. women’s medal at the World Championships since 2006. Worlds are in Shanghai in March 2015.

“One of my best performances ever,” Edmunds said of her worlds debut. “I feel really comfortable here.”

Final Results
1. Mao Asada (JPN) 216.69
2. Yulia Lipnitskaya (RUS) 207.50
3. Carolina Kostner (ITA) 203.83
4. Anna Pogorilaya (RUS) 197.50
5. Gracie Gold (USA) 194.58
6. Akiko Suzuki (JPN) 193.72
7. Ashley Wagner (USA) 193.16
8. Polina Edmunds (USA) 187.50

Theme for Yuna Kim’s farewell ice shows announced

Scott Hamilton diagnosed with brain tumor for third time

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 03:  Former figure skater and Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton onstage during A Capitol Fourth - Rehearsals at U.S. Capitol, West Lawn, on July 3, 2016 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Capital Concerts)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Olympic figure skating champion Scott Hamilton said he was diagnosed with a benign pituitary brain tumor for a third time.

Hamilton, who took gold in Sarajevo in 1984, underwent chemotherapy to treat testicular cancer in 1997 and was twice previously diagnosed with brain tumors and had surgery, in 2004 and 2010.

“I didn’t have any symptoms, I just went in for my normal check-up, and they found the beginnings of the brain tumor coming back,” the 58-year-old Hamilton said. “I have a unique hobby of collecting life-threatening illness. … It’s six years later, and it decided that it wanted an encore.”

From People magazine:

Hamilton learned of the tumor at a routine check-up and is currently exploring all his treatment options before symptoms begin presenting.

“I’ll tell anybody that will listen: If you’re ever facing anything, get as many diagnoses as you possibly can,” he says. “The more you truly understand what you’re up against, the better decision you’re going to make.”

Hamilton was in New York on Friday to promote U.S. Figure Skating’s “Get Up” campaign.

“It’s all about shrugging it off, whatever’s going on, whether it be bullying at school, whether it be a setback in health, you just get up,” Hamilton said. “Not only to bring the young people that love skating together, but to bring the broader population into the fold.”

Hamilton said that surviving cancer was the moment in his life that he most associated with the “Get Up” campaign.

“Chemotherapy for months was devastating, but it’s endurable,” Hamilton said. “I don’t want to scare anybody from being treated for cancer, because I’m here, 20 years later, but the surgery afterwards was 38 staples, and I’m a little person. Getting up, getting back on the ice and performing again, quickly, was kind of my ‘Get Up’ moment.”

MORE: 2016-17 figure skating season broadcast schedule

Michelle Kwan works long hours for Hillary Clinton campaign

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 02:  Michelle Kwan presents the award for Female Athlete of the Paraylmpic Games at the USOC Olympic Committee Best of U.S. Awards Show at the Warner Theatre on April 2, 2014 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images for the USOC)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Michelle Kwan says the first time she met Hillary Clinton was April 29, 1998, visiting the White House with the U.S. Olympic team, two months after the Nagano Winter Games.

Now, more than 18 years later, the two-time Olympic figure skating medalist is in the final days of trying to help get Clinton back to the White House.

She joined the campaign 16 months ago as a surrogate outreach coordinator, working with celebrity and politician endorsers. The list includes Katy Perry, Barbra Streisand, John Legend and Magic Johnson. If Kwan hasn’t spoken to them personally, she’s been in touch with their managers.

“Long hours,” Kwan said while rushing through the red carpet of the Women’s Sports Foundation awards in New York City on Wednesday.

Kwan, 36, appeared at the awards with other female sports stars such as Billie Jean King, Laila Ali and a host of Olympic champions. She had to jet early, however, to attend a watch party for the third and final presidential debate between Clinton and Donald Trump.

Clinton has a unique relationship with the Olympics.

She sat next to Florence Griffith-Joyner in the frozen stands in Kvitfjell, Norway, at the Lillehammer 1994 men’s downhill. Clinton attended the start of the 1996 Olympic torch relay in Olympia, Greece. And she gave a speech for the failed New York City 2012 Olympic bid at an International Olympic Committee session in Singapore in 2005.

In 2006, Kwan was appointed the first U.S. public diplomacy envoy by then-Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.

Kwan continued in that role when Clinton succeeded Rice and then got what she called her “first real job” with the State Department, senior adviser for public diplomacy and public affairs, after earning her master’s degree in 2011.

She helped her husband, Clay Pell, in his 2014 Democratic bid for the Governor of Rhode Island. Pell finished third in his primary.

In the last year-plus, Kwan stumped for Clinton in at least 18 states, according to her social media logs. In speeches at universities or forums, she breaks the ice by remembering her experiences performing at nearby arenas. She knocks on doors and works the phones.

“Super fun,” Kwan has said, “and nerve-racking.”

Kwan hosted the Periscope of Clinton’s first campaign rally on Roosevelt Island just off Manhattan, not far from Kwan’s campaign headquarters desk in Brooklyn, on June 13, 2015.

“It really comes into play the skills that you learn in figure skating about determination, hard work, perseverance,” Kwan said on The Skating Lesson. “I think the schedule itself is kind of what was like training for the Olympic Games, the world championships. You wake up in the morning, determined, you have a set of goals, you organize, you’re just at it and you’re taking one day at a time. And then, before you know, it’s 7 o’clock at night.”

Kwan is documenting the last 100 days of the campaign on her Instagram. Where will she be posting from on Nov. 8?

“I can’t tell you that,” she said, smiling, on the red carpet Wednesday night.

MORE: 2016-17 figure skating season broadcast schedule