Figure skating

Olympic figure skating judging complaints rejected by ISU

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Two Korea Skating Union complaints over the women’s figure skating judging at the Sochi Olympics were separately deemed inadmissible and dismissed by the International Skating Union, which found no bias from a Russian judge.

The KSU’s first complaint called for an investigation of “the wrongful constitution of the panel of judges and the unjust outcome” of the Olympic women’s figure skating event, according to the ISU. Russian Adelina Sotnikova controversially won gold over 2010 South Korean Olympic champion Yuna Kim.

The first complaint demanded that “corrective actions” take place based on the outcome of the requested investigation.

It specifically mentioned Sochi Olympic judge Alla Shekhovtseva, who made headlines in the aftermath of the women’s free skate as being married to a top Russian figure skating federation official and was seen hugging Sotnikova shortly after she won gold.

“The complainants admonished the appointment of Alla Shekovtseva as a violation of the rule against conflict of interest and the code of ethics,” the ISU wrote.

A three-member ISU Disciplinary Committee panel ruled that Shekhovtseva was “neither biased nor partial to the Russian skater Sotnikova.”

Further, the complaint was deemed inadmissible because the ISU said it was not directed at an individual or a federation.

The second complaint, “dismissed” by the ISU, similarly called for an immediate investigation of “the judging composition and whether it was biased toward Sotnikova.” Again, Shekhovtseva’s husband and her mixed-zone embrace with Sotnikokva were cited, with this YouTube URL. The KSU wanted any and all available sanctions against the judge.

The judge’s marriage “may be reasonably viewed as suggesting allegiance to Shekhovtseva’s national federation and Russian athletes such as Sotnikova,” the KSU complaint read, according to the ISU.

Shekhovtseva described her embrace with Sotnikova in the ISU’s decision to dismiss the complaint:

“After the end of the Event I walked in the arena and had to stop at the mixed zone because the flower ceremony was going to start and the hall way was blocked by TV crews, ceremony stuff, skaters, and a lot of other people. Adelina Sotnikova was there. She was very excited and she was hugging everybody around whom she knew. This can be seen on the mentioned YouTube piece- that she ran to several people whom she knew. But this YouTube piece shows only 3-4 persons. In reality there were much more. For example, she was whipping of happiness on the shoulder of the Russian Assistant Team 5 leader for more than a minute before she approached me and this episode was shown a lot on TV including the closing ceremony video but was not shown on the mentioned YouTube piece. And as I said the skater was so excited that she was running to everybody whom she knew. She also approached me and embraced me. Of course, I congratulated her with her performance.”

The ISU said the second complaint was dismissed because it was submitted too late, more than 60 days after the women’s free skate in Sochi.

The ISU panel also said Shekhovtseva’s presence was not a conflict of interest because she and her husband were not on the same judging panel and pointed out that Sotnikova initiated the hug and that the embrace came while the judge was off duty.

WADA satisfied with Tyson Gay’s suspension

Maia, Alex Shibutani repeat as U.S. champions, just miss record

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KANSAS CITY — Maia and Alex Shibutani proved again they are the best in the U.S. The task will be much tougher in two months at the world championships.

The siblings totaled 200.05 points to repeat as national champions on Saturday.

They missed the U.S. Championships overall record score, set by Olympic champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White, by .14 of a point, after setting the short dance record Friday.

“A year out from the Olympics, this is exactly where we want to be,” Maia Shibutani told Andrea Joyce on NBC. “I know we’ve improved so much.”

Madison Chock and Evan Bates, the 2015 U.S. champions, were second, 1.01 points behind the Shibutanis. Chock and Bates actually outscored the Shibutanis in the free dance.

Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue were third after Hubbell shockingly fell during their free dance.

Full results are here.

The Shibutanis are riding a tidal wave of momentum. They earned their first U.S. title in 2016, then took silver at the world championships last March and bronze at the Grand Prix Final last month.

“The past year and a half, we’ve built so much momentum,” Alex Shibutani said. “We’re really coming into our own.”

The world’s two best couples are two-time reigning world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France and Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.

Virtue and Moir took Olympic gold in 2010 and silver in 2014, then took two seasons off and returned this year to post the highest scores under the current system implemented in 2010.

The U.S., though, is unquestionably the deepest ice dance nation. The Shibutanis, Chock and Bates and Hubbell and Donohue made up half of the top six at the 2016 World Championships. All three couples qualified for each of the last two Grand Prix Finals, which take only six couples.

Meanwhile, Davis and White have watched the ascension while taking a three-year break from competition. They are running out of time to decide if they will attempt to defend their Olympic title in PyeongChang. A nation can send no more than three couples to the Olympics.

The U.S. Championships continue Saturday night with the women’s free skate (8 p.m. ET, NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

Check out NBCsports.com/USFIGS for all-access coverage all weekend.

VIDEO: Tara Lipinski reflects on winning 1997 U.S. title at age 14

U.S. Championships Ice Dance
GOLD: Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani — 200.05

SILVER: Madison Chock/Evan Bates — 199.04
BRONZE: Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue — 191.42
4. Elliana Pogrebinsky/Alex Benoit — 170.29
5. Kaitlin Hawayek/Jean-Luc Baker — 160.06

Haven Denney, Brandon Frazier win U.S. pairs title after year off

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KANSAS CITY — Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier returned from a year off to win their first U.S. pairs title on Saturday, despite an error-prone free skate and against a field lacking any previous U.S. champion teams.

Denney and Frazier jumped from second after the short program to total 188.32 points and win by 2.04 over Sochi Olympian Marissa Castelli and Mervin Tran. Denney and Frazier’s total score was 23.33 points fewer than last year’s winning score.

Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc, who led by 3.96 after the short program, had a strong free skate going until a fall on their throw triple Lutz and finished third Saturday.

Full results are here.

Denney and Frazier were the top U.S. pair in the fall international season by 16 points, taking a silver medal at Skate America.

But Denney struggled on landings in the short program, her right leg wrapped after blowing out her right knee in spring 2015 that caused them to miss the entire 2015-16 season. They also had multiple jumping errors in their free skate, but, unlike the rest of the top five, stayed on their feet Saturday.

“We’re trying harder elements, harder jumps, bigger throws, bigger twists,” Frazier said. “What you see is a couple of ups and downs. This is all building for the next season.”

The U.S. will send two pairs to the world championships in Helsinki in two months, but not definitively the top two finishers from Saturday. The world championships pairs teams will be named Sunday.

Denney and Frazier finished 12th at the 2015 Worlds, after placing second at that year’s U.S. Championships. Castelli and Tran, in their second year as a pair, have no worlds experience together and are ineligible for the 2018 Olympics. Tran, born in Canada, is not a U.S. citizen.

Pairs is the U.S.’ weakest discipline. The last U.S. pair to earn an Olympic or world medal was Kyoka Ina and John Zimmerman at the 2002 Worlds. Eight different pairs have won the last nine U.S. titles.

In 2016, the U.S. pairs finished ninth and 13th at worlds, but both of those teams are out due to injuries.

Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Christopher Knierim, the top U.S. pair in international competition in recent seasons, has been out of competition all season due to her September stomach surgery. They have returned to full training.

The Knierims filed a petition to be named to the world championships team, which is selected on a discretionary basis on results from the U.S. Championships and other recent competitions.

“Whatever they decide,” Tran said of a U.S. Figure Skating selection committee, “we’re all for that.”

The 2016 U.S. champions Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea withdrew before the free skate Saturday after Kayne suffered a concussion in a short-program fall. They placed fifth in the short program.

The U.S. Championships continue Saturday night with the women’s free skate (8 p.m. ET, NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

Check out NBCsports.com/USFIGS for all-access coverage all weekend.

VIDEO: Tara Lipinski reflects on 1997 U.S. title at age 14

U.S. Championships Pairs
GOLD: Haven Denney/Brandon Frazier — 188.32
SILVER: Marissa Castelli/Mervin Tran — 186.28
BRONZE: Ashley Cain/Timothy LeDuc — 184.41

4. Deanna Stellato/Nathan Bartholomay — 173.50
5. Jessica Pfund/Joshua Santillan — 168.90