Mao Asada, Julia Lipnitskaia, Carolina Kostner

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

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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

Simone Biles says Larry Nassar sexually abused her

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Simone Biles watched as friends and Olympic teammates came forward to detail abuse at the hands of a now-imprisoned former USA Gymnastics team doctor.

Drawing in part from their strength, the four-time gold medalist acknowledged Monday she is among the athletes who were sexually abused by Larry Nassar.

Biles, who won five medals overall at the Rio Olympics, released a statement via social media outlining that abuse.

Nassar, who spent more than two decades as a physician at USA Gymnastics while also working at Michigan State University, has admitted sexually assaulting gymnasts, possessing child pornography and molesting girls who sought medical treatment.

He was sentenced in December to 60 years in federal prison for possessing child pornography and is facing another 40 to 125 years in prison after pleading guilty to assaulting seven girls.

Biles, now 20, called Nassar’s behavior “completely unacceptable, disgusting, and abusive, especially from someone whom I was told to trust.”

She joined a list of high-profile gymnasts who came out against Nassar, including six-time Olympic medalist Aly Raisman, 2012 all-around champion Gabby Douglas and two-time Olympic medalist McKayla Maroney.

Like her Olympic teammates, Biles detailed abuse by Nassar that he disguised as treatment.

“It is not normal to receive any type of treatment from a trusted team physician and refer to it horrifyingly as the ‘special’ treatment,” Biles wrote.

Biles is in the beginning stages of a return to competition, a journey that includes visits to the national team’s training center at the Karolyi Ranch north of Houston, where she said the abuse occurred.

“It is impossibly difficult to relive these experiences and it breaks my heart even more to think that as I work towards my dream of competing in Tokyo 2020, I will have to continually return to the same training facility where I was abused,” Biles wrote.

USA Gymnastics initially agreed to buy the Karolyi Ranch in the summer of August 2016, following the retirement of longtime national team coordinator Martha Karolyi but then backed out of the deal, though the national team continues to use the facility while options for a replacement are explored.

Biles says she initially wondered if she was to blame.

“For too long I’ve asked myself, ‘Was I too naive? Was it may fault?’” Biles wrote. “I now know the answer to those questions. No. No. It was not my fault. No, I will not and should not carry the guilt that belongs to Larry Nassar, USAG, and others.”

USA Gymnastics did not initially respond to a request for comment.

The organization has taken several steps in recent months. President and CEO Steve Penny resigned under pressure last March and was replaced by Kerry Perry, who took over on Dec. 1.

The organization hired Toby Stark, a child welfare advocate, as its director of SafeSport last summer.

Part of Stark’s mandate is educating members on rules, educational programs and reporting.

The federation also adopted over 70 recommendations by Deborah Daniels, a former federal prosecutor who oversaw an extensive independent review.

That’s not far enough for some.

Raisman has urged the organization to remove chairman of the board Paul Parilla among others. Biles, like Raisman, wants USA Gymnastics to take a deeper look at the conditions that allowed Nassar’s behavior to run unchecked for so long.

“We need to know why this was able to take place for so long and to so many of us,” Biles said. “We need to make sure something like this never happens again.”

Jamaica qualifies first Olympic women’s bobsled team

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Jamaica, we have a women’s Olympic bobsled team.

Jamaica qualified an Olympic women’s bobsled team for the first time, earning the last quota spot in the PyeongChang field by a slim margin over Romania.

This season, Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian (a 2014 U.S. Olympian) drove the first Jamaican women’s sled in World Cup competition since 2001.

She and brakewoman Carrie Russell debuted in seventh place in December, which put them into Olympic qualifying position. Russell won a 2013 World title in track and field as part of Jamaica’s 4x100m relay.

Fenlator-Victorian and Russell competed in a sled named “Mr. Cool Bolt” after “Cool Runnings” and Usain Bolt, according to International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation announcers.

Eleven Jamaicans have competed at the Winter Olympics — all men. All bobsledders, too, save ski cross racer Errol Kerr in 2010, according to Olympic historians.

Fenlator-Victorian, 32, announced her plan to switch representation to Jamaica (where her father is from) in 2015.

The year before, she finished 11th in her Olympic debut in Sochi with two-time Olympic track and field athlete Lolo Jones.

Jamaica just missed qualifying a two-man bobsled outright for PyeongChang. It is the first alternate if one of the qualified nations returns a quota spot.

The Olympic women’s bobsled medal contenders are American, Canadian and German sleds.

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MORE: Would Usain Bolt make a good bobsledder?

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