Gracie Gold, Ashley Wagner
Getty Images

Ashley Wagner, Gracie Gold renew rivalry on new stage at Skate America

Leave a comment

Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold have gone head-to-head 10 times in major competition. Five times Wagner finished higher. Five times Gold finished higher.

The tie will be broken at Skate America this weekend in Hoffman Estates, Ill., (broadcast schedule here) in their first meeting on the Grand Prix level.

Wagner has embraced the rivalry angle the last few years, calling it beneficial for the sport’s popularity.

“I would love to establish myself as the leading U.S. lady,” Wagner said last week when asked of a goal for Skate America.

One could argue Wagner already accomplished that with her silver medal at the world championships last spring, ending a 10-year U.S. women’s podium drought. Gold was fourth at worlds, dropping from first after the short program.

Wagner and Gold each performed once already this season at the free-skate-only Japan Open on Oct. 1. Wagner placed third out of six skaters — which she called a success as she wasn’t yet in competition shape. Gold was sixth.

So Wagner may have an edge over Gold, but that wasn’t the case not too long ago.

Gold finished higher than Wagner at the 2014 Olympics, 2014 World Championships and 2015 World Championships, plus outscored Wagner in three straight programs before her free-skate free-fall at worlds on April 2.

A U.S. woman hasn’t won Skate America, the biggest annual international competition in the U.S., since 2012, matching the host nation’s longest drought in the history of the event that started in 1981.

Wagner and Gold each was runner-up in her last Skate America appearance — Gold last year and Wagner in 2013.

The opportunity is there for either to break through. The field includes no other woman who finished in the top six at worlds the last two years.

Japan’s Mao Asada, a three-time world champion, is the star name of the group, but Asada is a question after not attempting her trademark triple Axel at a lower-level competition two weeks ago (and finishing second).

The Skate America men’s field is led by the world’s two best teens — 2015 World bronze medalist Jin Boyang of China and 2015 Grand Prix Final bronze medalist Shoma Uno of Japan.

Jin is the first skater to land four quadruple jumps in an international program. Uno is the first to land a quadruple flip.

If Jin and Uno are on their game, the top Americans — 2015 national champion Jason Brown and 2016 national champion Adam Rippon — might be fighting for bronze.

Reigning U.S. champions Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea and Maia and Alex Shibutani highlight the pairs and ice dance fields, respectively.

MORE: Ashley Wagner: ‘I’m in the last couple of years of my career’

Ghana Olympic skeleton slider’s helmet: rabbit escapes lion

Ron Leblanc
Leave a comment

It’s called The Rabbit Theory.

That’s what Akwasi Frimpong, Ghana’s first Olympic skeleton slider, calls his new helmet.

The one that he will wear in PyeongChang as the second athlete from his nation to compete at a Winter Games.

Frimpong, 31, tells an incredible story.

He said he was raised by his grandmother Minka in a one-room home with nine other children before joining his mom in the Netherlands at age 8 as an illegal immigrant and eventually moving to Utah.

Frimpong’s full story is here.

Frimpong’s life — before he converted from sprinting to bobsled to skeleton — was chronicled in a 2010 Dutch documentary tilted “Theorie van het Konjin” (translation: The Rabbit Theory).

“My former sprint coach Sammy Monsels talks about the analogy of a rabbit in a cage, ready to escape from a lion,” Frimpong said in an email Monday. “I am that rabbit, and I have escaped the lions [of my past]. I am no longer being eaten by all the things around my life.”

The helmet that he will wear sliding head-first down an icy chute in South Korea in three weeks draws attention to it.

The design is of a lion’s head with mouth agape and a pair of rabbits coming out. Plus the colors of the Ghanaian flag.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Jamaica qualifies first Olympic women’s bobsled team

Images via Ron Leblanc:

USA Gymnastics leaders resign as more victims speak

USA Gymnastics
Getty Images
2 Comments

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — USA Gymnastics announced the resignations of three key leaders Monday while more women and girls told a judge about being sexually assaulted at the hands of a sports doctor who spent years with Olympic gymnasts and other female athletes.

The resignations of chairman Paul Parilla, vice chairman Jay Binder and treasurer Bitsy Kelley were announced in Indianapolis while a judge in Lansing heard a fifth day of statements from women and girls who said they were molested by Larry Nassar.

“We support their decisions to resign at this time,” said Kerry Perry, president and CEO of USA Gymnastics, which is the national governing body for gymnastics. “We believe this step will allow us to more effectively move forward in implementing change within our organization.”

The board positions are volunteer and unpaid, but the resignations add to the months of turmoil. Steve Penny quit as president last March after critics said USA Gymnastics failed to protect gymnasts from abusive coaches and Nassar.

“New board leadership is necessary because the current leaders have been focused on establishing that they did nothing wrong,” USOC CEO Scott Blackmun said in a statement Monday. “USA Gymnastics needs to focus on supporting the brave survivors.”

USA Gymnastics last week said it was ending its long relationship with the Karolyi Ranch, the Huntsville, Texas, home of former national team coordinator Martha Karolyi and her husband, Bela. Some Olympians said they were assaulted there by Nassar.

Meanwhile, in Michigan, Nassar’s sentencing hearing continued Monday, raising the number of girls and women who have spoken to nearly 100 since last week.

“I want to you know that your face and the face of all of the sister survivor warriors — the whole army of you — I’ve heard your words,” Ingham County Circuit Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said after a woman spoke in her Michigan courtroom. “Your sister survivors and you are going through incomprehensible lengths, emotions and soul-searching to put your words together, to publicly stop (the) defendant, to publicly stop predators, to make people listen.”

Nassar, 54, has admitted molesting athletes during medical treatment when he was employed by Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics. He has already been sentenced to 60 years in prison for child pornography crimes.

Under a plea deal, he faces a minimum prison sentence of 25 to 40 years in the molestation case. The maximum term could be much higher.

“Larry, how many of us are there? Do you even know?” asked Clasina Syrboby, as she fought back tears while speaking for more than 20 minutes Monday. “You preyed on me, on us. You saw a way to take advantage of your position — the almighty and trusted gymnastics doctor. Shame on you Larry. Shame on you.

She and other victims also continued their criticism of Michigan State, USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee for not doing enough to stop Nassar when initial complaints were made.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Watch, read Aly Raisman’s full testimony