Alysia Montano

Pregnant runner Alysia Montano reflects on whirlwind week

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Alysia Montano is incredibly thankful for the support she’s received after competing while eight months pregnant, but she ceded the spotlight at her baby shower over the weekend.

“People went to my belly,” she said, “and told the baby, ‘Good job.'”

Montano, a five-time U.S. outdoor champion and Olympian, ran a preliminary 800m heat at the U.S. Championships in Sacramento, Calif., on Thursday, with her pink jersey stretching over her baby bump.

Her goals were to not get lapped and to raise awareness about the importance of exercising during pregnancy. She accomplished both, finishing 25 seconds behind the field and easily becoming the biggest story of the meet.

When her two laps were up, she remembered being the first competitor to receive a water bottle. Then, USA Track and Field medical staff quickly checked her heart rate, pulse and the baby’s well being.

“They cleared me, and everything was good,” Montano said. “I’m like, thank you, can I have some more water?”

Media gathered quickly, contacting her manager (who is also her husband), calling her parents and even showing up at her parents’ house.

“I have no idea how they got there,” Montano said. “I recognized that this is going to be a big thing.”

The reactions came first from track and field followers, then social media and in person, such as at her 10-year high school reunion over the weekend. They’ve been 90 percent positive, Montano said.

She was featured on “SportsCenter,” cable news shows, “Good Morning Sacramento” and “Good Day LA.”

“It’s been an amazing whirlwind, more than we expected or imagined,” Montano said. “I imagined that it would be among the running community and maybe a little bit the athletic community. I’m so happy that it went national and even touching a little bit globally.”

Media from the United Kingdom, Australia and Japan requested her time. She said she made the front page of a Swiss newspaper. She’s graciously granted requests, keeping in mind her Aug. 13 due date is approaching.

Fitness is key, too. She alternated walking, running and swimming before recently “coasting in” as she calls it with easier runs, walks and ElliptiGO work. Montano said Wednesday was her relaxing day — about an hour’s worth of circuit training.

She’s drawn inspiration from many, many sources, but track fans will recognize one name in particular — two-time Olympian Kara Goucher.

She asked questions of the distance runner before she competed in Sacramento. On Sept. 25, 2010, Goucher jogged five miles in the morning, lifted weights and gave birth to her first child in the evening.

“My doctor was a runner and she told me I could run through the pregnancy,” Goucher told Sports Illustrated in 2011.

“It was so nice to have a woman that has done it before me to help pave the way,” Montano said.

In the last week, Montano traveled up and down the California coast by plane, train and automobile, from her Bay Area residence to Sacramento to her hometown of Canyon Country in Los Angeles County and back to the Bay Area.

She made sure not to miss a specific appointment on Tuesday — watching the thrilling U.S.-Belgium World Cup match.

“I almost went into labor during the soccer game,” she joked.

She also laughed when asked what she’ll tell her first child about the last seven days.

“These are going to be the most amazing baby photos, pregnant bump photos for our child to have,” she said.

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Yevgenia Medvedeva breaks record in Grand Prix Final short program

MISSISSAUGA, ON - OCTOBER 28: Evgenia Medvedeva of Russia competes in the Women's Singles Short Program during day one of the 2016 Skate Canada International at Hershey Centre on October 28, 2016 in Mississauga, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
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Russian Yevgenia Medvedeva broke the record for highest women’s short program score at the Grand Prix Final on Friday.

Medvedeva, who hasn’t lost in more than one year, totaled 79.21 points in Marseille, France. That beat Mao Asada‘s 78.66 from the 2014 World Championships, the previous record under a decade-old judging system.

“I knew approximately about the record,” Medvedeva said through a translator. “For me, it’s one step further.”

Medvedeva leads Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond by 3.67 points going into Saturday’s free skate. No U.S. woman qualified for the six-skater Grand Prix Final for the first time since 2008.

Medvedeva, 17, hopes to repeat as champion at the Grand Prix Final, the second-biggest annual figure skating event.

She already holds the free skate world record and can break Yuna Kim‘s record for total score with a solid effort Saturday in Marseille. Medvedeva said she can perform better than she did Friday, specifically with her program interpretation and spins.

“I always strive for perfection,” she said through a translator. “When you stop doing that, you will stop progress.”

The Grand Prix Final concludes with the women’s and men’s free skates and free dance Saturday (schedule here). NBCSN will air coverage Sunday from 8:30-11 p.m. ET.

Earlier Friday, Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov held onto their short-program lead to win the pairs event by 7.14 points over China’s Yu Xiaoyu and Zhang Hao.

Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, the two-time world champions and pre-event favorites, struggled in the short program and free skate and lost for just the second time in the last three seasons.

In the short dance, Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir recorded the highest score of all time, an 80.50, to take a 2.53-point lead into Saturday’s free dance.

That Virtue and Moir lead is no surprise — they were the top couple in the fall Grand Prix season — but their closest challenger is a surprise.

It is not two-time world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France, but instead Americans Maia and Alex Shibutani, who totaled a personal-best short dance.

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Women’s Short Program
1. Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS) — 79.21
2. Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN) — 75.54
3. Satoko Miyahara (JPN) — 74.64
4. Anna Pogorilaya (RUS) — 73.29
5. Yelena Radionova (RUS) — 68.98
6. Maria Sotskova (RUS) — 65.74

Short Dance
1. Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir (CAN) — 80.50
2. Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA) — 77.97
3. Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron (FRA) — 77.86
4. Yekaterina Bobrova/Dmitry Soloviyev (RUS) — 74.04
5. Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue (USA) — 72.47
6. Madison Chock/Evan Bates (USA) — 70.87

Pairs Results
GOLD: Yevgenia Tarasovana/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 213.85
SILVER: Yu Xiaoyu/Zhang Hao (CHN) — 206.71
BRONZE: Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford (CAN) — 205.99
4. Natalya Zabiyako/Aleksander Enbert (RUS) — 188.32
5. Julianne Seguin/Charlie Bilodeau (CAN) — 186.85
6. Cheng Peng/Yang Jin (CHN) — 183.19

Gracie Gold’s outlook for U.S. Championships clouded after more struggles

Gracie Gold
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Gracie Gold struggled in all four of her competitions this fall, capped by her lowest total score in four years at a Croatian event this week, putting her under scrutiny for the U.S. Championships in six weeks.

She singled three jumps and fell twice across two programs at Golden Spin in Zagreb, Croatia, on Thursday and Friday.

Gold totaled 159.02 points for sixth place, her first time below 160 points since 2012 Skate Canada in her first season as a senior skater.

Italian Carolina Kostner, the 2014 Olympic bronze medalist, won with 196.23 points in her first full competition since the 2014 World Championships.

GOLD’S SKATES: Short Program | Free Skate

Earlier this fall, Gold finished last of six skaters in the free skate-only Japan Open on Oct. 1, fifth at Skate America in October and eighth at Trophée de France in November.

Gold has spoken openly about trying to mentally and physically recover from last season’s world championships, where she dropped from first after the short program to finish fourth, and taking weeks off from training in the summer offseason.

Even with the rough skates, Gold still ranks fourth among U.S. women in top scores this season, behind Ashley WagnerMariah Bell and Mirai Nagasu.

She could struggle — to a degree — at the U.S. Championships in January and still make the three-woman world championships team. Gold has finished first or second at all four of her senior nationals appearances.

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Top U.S. women’s skaters in 2016-17
1. Ashley Wagner — 196.44 (Skate America)
2. Mariah Bell — 191.59 (Skate America)
3. Mirai Nagasu — 189.11 (Autumn Classic)
4. Gracie Gold — 184.22 (Skate America)
5. Amber Glenn — 183.60 (Golden Spin)
6. Courtney Hicks — 182.98 (Rostelecom Cup)