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Cup of China preview, broadcast schedule

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After a world silver medal and a Skate America victory, the demanding question of Ashley Wagner is, can she be better?

In a way, Wagner faces less pressure at Cup of China this weekend than at worlds last season and Skate America in October.

Combined with the latter win, Wagner will clinch a spot in December’s Grand Prix Final with any podium placement in Beijing. Perhaps even if she finishes fourth or fifth.

The Grand Prix Final is the second-biggest annual competition, and the most exclusive. Only six skaters per discipline qualify via their two results on the six-event Grand Prix series. Cup of China is the fifth of six events.

Wagner said she left points on the table at the first event, Skate America, noting the need to work on her spins. She also singled the back end of a jump combination and under-rotated two more jumps in her free skate in Hoffman Estates, Ill.

It showed in the scores. Wagner won with 196.44 points, a total that would not have won any of the next three Grand Prix events leading up to Cup of China.

Though Wagner is the only skater in this weekend’s women’s field who boasts a Grand Prix victory this season, another skater owns a higher score. That’s Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond, who took runner-up at Skate Canada with a personal-best 206.45 points, more than 10 clear of Wagner from Skate America.

The field is deep, including 2015 World gold and bronze medalists Elizaveta Tuktamysheva and Yelena Radionova and rising Japanese 17-year-old Mai Mihara.

Another American, Courtney Hicks, can push into Grand Prix Final contention for the first time if she can reach the podium.

Three U.S. men with Grand Prix Final aspirations will be intently watching the results in Beijing. Adam Rippon, Jason Brown and Nathan Chen are all in contention to become the first U.S. man to make the final since Jeremy Abbott in 2011.

But none of them are competing this week. Rippon was third in both of his Grand Prix events, while Brown and Chen skate at next week’s NHK Trophy in Japan.

They should all be rooting for Canadian Patrick Chan to win Cup of China. Chan already has a victory from Skate Canada, so he is one foot into the Grand Prix Final like Wagner.

China’s Jin Boyang is of greater concern. The world bronze medalist took fifth at Skate America, so he pretty much needs to win Cup of China to have a shot at the Grand Prix Final. Jin, the first skater to land four quadruple jumps in an international program, certainly has the skill.

If Jin finishes second or lower, Rippon will be ahead of him in the Grand Prix standings, which will pretty much assure that the U.S. men’s Grand Prix Final drought ends.

Also in China, world silver medalists Maia and Alex Shibutani will become the third U.S. ice dance couple to qualify for the Grand Prix Final with any podium finish.

MORE: Full figure skating season broadcast schedule

Cup of China broadcast schedule (all times Eastern)

Friday Short dance 2:30 a.m. Icenetwork.com
Friday Women’s short program 4:10 a.m. Icenetwork.com
Friday Men’s short program 6:05 a.m. Icenetwork.com
Friday Pairs short program 8 a.m. Icenetwork.com
Friday Women’s, men’s short programs 8-10 p.m. UniHD
Saturday Free dance 1:30 a.m. Icenetwork.com
Saturday Women’s free skate 3:30 a.m. Icenetwork.com
Saturday Men’s free skate 5:45 a.m. Icenetwork.com
Saturday Pairs free skate 8 a.m. Icenetwork.com
Saturday Free dance, pairs free 9-11 p.m. UniHD
Sunday Cup of China 11 p.m.-12:30 a.m. NBCSN, NBC Sports app

Key Short Program Start Times Friday (ET)
Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA) — 2:36 a.m.
Courtney Hicks (USA) — 4:17 a.m.
Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN) — 4:24 a.m.
Ashley Wagner (USA) — 4:37 a.m.
Yelena Radionova (RUS) — 5:17 a.m.
Patrick Chan (CAN) — 6:12 a.m.
Jin Boyang (CHN) — 6:59 a.m.
Max Aaron (USA) — 7:12 a.m.

Top Grand Prix Season Scores
Men
1. Javier Fernández (ESP) — 292.98 (Rostelecom Cup)
2. Javier Fernández (ESP) — 285.38 (Trophée de France)
3. Shoma Uno (JPN) — 285.07 (Rostelecom Cup)
4. Shoma Uno (JPN) — 279.34 (Skate America)
5. Denis Ten (KAZ) — 265.26 (Trophée de France)
6. Jason Brown (USA) — 268.38 (Skate America)
7. Adam Rippon (USA) — 267.53 (Trophée de France)
8. Patrick Chan (CAN) — 266.95 (Skate Canada)
9. Nathan Chen (USA) — 264.80 (Trophée de France)
10. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 263.06 (Skate Canada)

Women
1. Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS) — 221.54 (Trophée de France)
2. Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS) — 220.65 (Skate Canada)
3. Anna Pogorilaya (RUS) — 215.21 (Rostelecom Cup)
4. Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN) — 206.45 (Skate Canada)
5. Maria Sotskova (RUS) — 200.35 (Trophée de France)
6. Ashley Wagner (USA) — 196.44 (Skate America)
7. Yelena Radionova (RUS) — 195.60 (Rostelecom Cup)
8. Wakaba Higuchi (JPN) — 194.48 (Trophée de France)
9. Gabrielle Daleman (CAN) — 192.10 (Trophée de France)
10. Satoko Miyahara (JPN) — 192.08 (Skate Canada)

Pairs
1. Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford (CAN) — 218.30 (Skate Canada)
2. Aliona Savchenko/Bruno Massot (GER) — 210.59 (Trophée de France)
3. Aliona Savchenko/Bruno Massot (GER) — 207.89 (Rostelecom Cup)
4. Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 206.94 (Trophée de France)
5. Yu Xiaoyu/Zhang Hao (CHN) — 202.08 (Skate Canada)
6. Vanessa James/Morgan Cipres (FRA) — 198.58 (Trophée de France)
7. Natalya Zabiyako/Alexander Enbert (RUS) — 197.77 (Rostelecom Cup)
8. Julianne Séguin/Charlie Bilodeau (CAN) — 197.31 (Skate America)
9. Haven Denney/Brandon Frazier (USA) — 192.65 (Skate America)
10. Natalya Zabiiako/Alexander Enbert (RUS) — 192.56 (Trophée de France)

Ice Dance
1. Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron (FRA) — 193.50 (Trophée de France)
2. Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir (CAN) — 189.06 (Skate Canada)
3. Madison Chock/Evan Bates (USA) — 188.24 (Skate Canada)
4. Yekaterina Bobrova/Dmitry Soloviyev (RUS) — 186.68 (Rostelecom Cup)
5. Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA) — 185.75 (Skate America)

6. Piper Gilles/Paul Poirier (CAN) — 182.57 (Skate Canada)
7. Madison Chock/Evan Bates (USA) — 182.13 (Rostelecom Cup)
8. Anna Cappellini/Luca Lanotte (ITA) — 180.35 (Skate Canada)
9. Kaitlyn Weaver/Andrew Poje (CAN) — 178.57 (Rostelecom Cup)
10. Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue (USA) — 175.77 (Skate America)

 

Alina Zagitova hands Yevgenia Medvedeva first loss in 2 years

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Russian Yevgenia Medvedeva is no longer the clear favorite in the Winter Olympics’ marquee event.

The two-time world champion lost for the first time in more than two years, upset by training partner Alina Zagitova at the European Figure Skating Championships in Moscow.

Italian Carolina Kostner earned bronze.

Zagitova, the 15-year-old world junior champion, set personal bests in the short program and free skate and totaled 238.24 points. She beat Medvedeva by 5.38 points.

Medvedeva, in her first competition since November due to a broken foot, fully rotated all of her jumps Saturday, but Zagitova was cleaner. She also stumbled out of a double Axel in her short program.

“I did not feel the injury,” Medvedeva said after the short program, according to the International Skating Union. “Everything has healed.”

Full results are here. NBCSN will air coverage Saturday at 9 p.m. ET.

Zagitova was born three months after the Salt Lake City Olympics and without a name for her first year. Her parents eventually decided on Alina after watching Olympic rhythmic gymnastics champion Alina Kabayeva on TV.

She had been working to this point in her first senior international season. She swept her two fall Grand Prix starts, then won the Grand Prix Final in December, all without Medvedeva in the field.

On Saturday, she landed all of her jumps (including seven triples) in the second half of her program for 10 percent bonuses. It’s the type of technical content layout ambitious enough to challenge Medvedeva.

“I think that Zhenia [Medvedeva] is her role model in life, in behavior, in her way to work,” shared coach Eteri Tutberidze said last year, according to Goldenskate.com. “Alina absolutely tries to copy her way to work, the amount of work and she doesn’t stop. This helps. I can sometimes show Zhenia and say, ‘Look how Alina is working,’ and I tell Alina, ‘Look how Zhenia is working.’”

Medvedeva, whose last defeat was in November 2015, also won both of her Grand Prix starts, posting the world’s highest scores this season, while dealing with foot pain.

She underwent an MRI that revealed a crack, then withdrew from the Grand Prix Final and the Russian Championships in December. She is still expected to be on the Olympic Athlete from Russia team in PyeongChang.

Kostner, the 2014 Olympic bronze medalist who made her Europeans debut in 2003, fell on her opening triple Lutz and landed just three triple jumps Saturday.

She hung on to win a medal at her 11th straight European Championships.

Russian Maria Sotskova, the Grand Prix Final silver medalist, fell on her last triple jump, a Lutz, among other landing troubles. She placed fourth.

Those four skaters are the Olympic medal contenders along with Canadians Kaetlyn Osmond and Gabrielle Daleman and Japanese Satoko Miyahara and Kaori Sakamoto.

U.S. champion Bradie Tennell ranks 14th in the world this season.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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Julia Marino, Hailey Langland qualify for Olympics; U.S. sweeps possible

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The addition of snowboard big air to the Olympics next month means Jamie AndersonJulia Marino and Hailey Langland have two chances for a U.S. podium sweep in PyeongChang.

Marino and Langland qualified for the U.S. big air and slopestyle team Saturday, joining the already qualified Anderson, who won slopestyle’s debut in Sochi.

Anderson, Marino and Langland swept the podium in that order at the last Olympic qualifier in slopestyle in Mammoth Mountain, Calif.

They also made up three of the top four riders at the 2017 X Games big air and slopestyle.

The U.S. has never swept the Winter Olympic medals in a women’s event but could do so in big air, slopestyle and even snowboard halfpipe in PyeongChang.

MORE: U.S. Olympic roster

While Anderson is the veteran, an X Games medalist 11 of the last 12 years, Marino and Langland represent the new wave of U.S. big air and slopestyle riders.

Marino, a 20-year-old from Connecticut who trains in Quebec, earned slopestyle and big air medals at X Games Aspen and Oslo last year in her debuts at those events.

They included slopestyle gold in Aspen over Anderson.

Langland, a 17-year-old from Southern California who plays the ukulele, guitar and piano, won the first X Games women’s big air title last year and took bronze in slopestyle in 2016.

Born in 2000, she is younger than any previous female Olympic snowboarding medalist.

“She reminds me of a younger me,” Anderson said, according to NBC Olympic Research.

The U.S. could add a fourth woman to the big air/slopestyle team, likely either Jessika Jenson or Ty Walker, a pair of 2014 Olympians in slopestyle.

The U.S. men are not as strong internationally in big air and slopestyle, where the Olympic favorites hail from Canada and Norway.

Kyle Mack won the last qualifier Saturday — without the top international riders in the field — to clinch the third and last automatic spot on the men’s big air/slopestyle team.

Chris Corning and Red Gerard previously qualified for PyeongChang. A fourth rider can be added via discretionary selection.

U.S. Olympic Qualifying Standings
Snowboard Big Air/Slopestyle 
(through five of five events)
Three riders auto qualify per gender; one possible discretionary spot
1. Chris Corning — 2,000* QUALIFIED
1. Red Gerard — 2,000* QUALIFIED
3. Kyle Mack — 1,800* QUALIFIED

4. Chandler Hunt — 1,400* (2nd and 3rd)
5. Ryan Stassel — 1,400 (2nd and 3rd)

1. Jamie Anderson — 2,000* QUALIFIED
2. Julia Marino — 1,800* QUALIFIED
3. Hailey Langland — 1,600* QUALIFIED
4. Jessika Jenson — 1,600 (1st and 3rd)
5. Ty Walker — 1,300 (2nd and 4th)
*Has automatic qualifying minimum of one top-three result against entire field.

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