Nathan Chen of US competes in the Men Free Skating Program during the ISU figure skating France's Trophy at Bercy arena, in Paris, France, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
AP

Nathan Chen, 17, leads two U.S. men in Grand Prix Final; Ashley Wagner misses

Leave a comment

The top U.S. singles figure skaters this fall were men, a stunning reversal of a half-decade-long trend.

As Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu ran away with the NHK Trophy title by 32.56 points Saturday, the rest of the men’s and women’s standings in the last of six qualifiers for December’s Grand Prix Final revealed this:

A U.S. man qualified for the Grand Prix Final for the first time since 2011. Two, in fact, for the first time since 2009.

No U.S. woman qualified for the Grand Prix Final for the first time since 2008.

Without a doubt, the U.S. star of the six-event, fall Grand Prix season was Nathan Chen, a 17-year-old who finished a distant second to Hanyu at NHK. Chen posted 268.91 points, the highest total score by a U.S. singles skater in the history of the decade-old points system.

Full NHK results are here. NBC and the NBC Sports app will air NHK Trophy coverage Sunday from 4-6 p.m. ET.

Chen attempted six quadruple jumps in his two programs at NHK — falling twice — and became the youngest male singles skater to qualify for the annual Grand Prix Final since Hanyu in 2011.

The Grand Prix Final — in two weeks in Marseille, France — takes the top six skaters per discipline from the fall Grand Prix season and is the second-biggest annual competition behind the world championships.

Chen is joined in the men’s Grand Prix Final field by Hanyu, two-time world champion Javier Fernandez, three-time world champion Patrick Chan, Skate America winner Shoma Uno and U.S. champion Adam Rippon.

Rippon makes his Grand Prix Final debut at the advanced age of 27 after making the podium at both of his fall Grand Prix starts for the first time in his career.

Another American, Olympian Jason Brown, had a shot at the Grand Prix Final going into NHK. But Brown struggled, finishing seventh when a fourth place would have sent him to Marseille over Rippon.

The real goal for the U.S. men this season are the world championships in four months. The U.S. will send two male singles skaters to Helsinki for worlds (likely the top two at January’s U.S. Championships). That duo will hope to get a combined placement of 13 or better (sixth and seventh, for example) to qualify three men instead of two for the 2018 Olympics.

With the first chunk of the season finished, that goal is looking quite attainable.

The U.S. women are comparatively disorganized.

World silver medalist Ashley Wagner fumbled her Grand Prix Final berth at last week’s Cup of China, finishing sixth in the worst Grand Prix showing of her decade-long career.

Gracie Gold missed a large chunk of training in the summer after an emotional drop from first to fourth at the world championships last April. The lack of preparation showed, as Gold had her worst Grand Prix efforts since her debut in 2012.

The third 2014 U.S. Olympian, Polina Edmunds, hasn’t competed since January due to a foot injury.

Mariah Bell was a bright spot, taking silver behind Wagner at Skate America, but Bell did not receive a second Grand Prix assignment and thus was not eligible for the Grand Prix Final.

The women’s Grand Prix Final field includes four Russians for the third time in four years. World champion Yevgenia Medvedeva is undefeated for more than one year. World bronze medalist Anna Pogorilaya‘s scores this fall were higher than anybody outside of Medvedeva.

Pogorilaya won NHK Trophy by 12.86 points over Japan’s Satoko Miyahara. The top American was 2010 Olympian Mirai Nagasu in fifth.

MORE: U.S., world champion figure skaters join Mannequin Challenge

Grand Prix Final Qualifiers
Men
1. Javier Fernández (ESP)
2. Patrick Chan (CAN)
3. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN)
4. Shoma Uno (JPN)
5. Nathan Chen (USA)
6. Adam Rippon (USA)

Women
1. Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS)
2. Anna Pogorilaya (RUS)
3. Yelena Radionova (RUS)
4. Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN)
5. Maria Sotskova (RUS)
6. Satoko Miyahara (JPN)

Pairs
1. Aliona Savchenko/Bruno Massot (GER)
2. Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford (CAN)
3. Yu Xiaoyu/Zhang Hao (CHN)
4. Peng Cheng/Jin Yang (CHN)
5. Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS)
6. Julianne Séguin/Charlie Bilodeau (CAN)

Ice Dance
1. Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA) — 30 points (qualified)
2. Yekaterina Bobrova/Dmitry Soloviyev (RUS) — 26 (qualified)
3. Madison Chock/Evan Bates (USA) — 26 (qualified)
4. Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue (USA) — 26 (qualified)
5. Kaitlyn Weaver/Andrew Poje (CAN) — 24

Skating at NHK Trophy
Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron (FRA) — Will qualify if 3rd or higher
Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir (CAN) — Will qualify if 3rd or higher

Top Grand Prix Season Scores
Men
1. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 301.47 (NHK Trophy)
2. Javier Fernández (ESP) — 292.98 (Rostelecom Cup)
3. Javier Fernández (ESP) — 285.38 (Trophée de France)
4. Shoma Uno (JPN) — 285.07 (Rostelecom Cup)
5. Patrick Chan (CAN) — 279.72 (Cup of China)
6. Shoma Uno (JPN) — 279.34 (Skate America)
7. Jin Boyang (CHN) — 278.54 (Cup of China)
8. Denis Ten (KAZ) — 269.26 (Trophée de France)
9. Nathan Chen (USA) — 268.91 (NHK Trophy)
10. Jason Brown (USA) — 268.38 (Skate America)

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. Anna Pogorilaya (RUS) — 210.86 (NHK Trophy)
5. Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN) — 206.45 (Skate Canada)
6. Yelena Radionova (RUS) — 205.90 (Cup of China)
7. Maria Sotskova (RUS) — 200.35 (Trophée de France)
8. Satoko Miyahara (JPN) — 198.00 (NHK Trophy)
9. Ashley Wagner (USA) — 196.44 (Skate America)
10. Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN) — 196.00 (Cup of China)

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. Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford (CAN) — 204.56 (NHK Trophy)
6. Yu Xiaoyu/Zhang Hao (CHN) — 203.76 (Cup of China)
7. Yu Xiaoyu/Zhang Hao (CHN) — 202.08 (Skate Canada)
8. Vanessa James/Morgan Cipres (FRA) — 198.58 (Trophée de France)
9. Peng Cheng/Jin Yang (CHN) — 197.96 (Cup of China)
10. Natalya Zabiyako/Alexander Enbert (RUS) — 197.77 (Rostelecom Cup)

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. Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA) — 185.13 (Cup of China)
7. Piper Gilles/Paul Poirier (CAN) — 182.57 (Skate Canada)
8. Madison Chock/Evan Bates (USA) — 182.13 (Rostelecom Cup)
9. Kaitlyn Weaver/Andrew Poje (CAN) — 181.54 (Cup of China)
10. Anna Cappellini/Luca Lanotte (ITA) — 180.35 (Skate Canada)

IOC president wants life bans for Russian cheats

DOHA, QATAR - NOVEMBER 16: IOC President Thomas Bach closing remarks during the fourth day of the 21st ANOC General Assembly at the Sheraton Grand Hotel on November 16, 2016 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images for ANOC)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Russian athletes and officials who are proven to have been part of a doping “manipulation system” should be banned for life from the Olympics, IOC President Thomas Bach said Thursday.

Bach gave his personal view one day before Canadian investigator Richard McLaren publishes a final report into alleged state-backed cheating at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

Proof of systematic doping would be “aggravated circumstances” to justify life bans, the IOC leader said at a news conference after a three-day executive board meeting.

“I would not like to see this person again at any Olympic Games in any function,” Bach said, noting that as an IOC disciplinary commission chairman he approved life bans for Austrian team members implicated in doping at the 2006 Turin Winter Games.

However, proving that individual athletes knew of systematic doping involving state agencies could be difficult.

McLaren, who was appointed by the World Anti-Doping Agency in May, is expected to give more detail about cheating operations at the Sochi laboratory.

In his interim report in July, McLaren confirmed claims by former lab director Grigory Rodchenkov of a hole-in-the-wall swapping system aided by the FSB security agency to exchange athletes’ dirty urine samples for clean ones.

Earlier Thursday, the IOC member appointed to oversee disciplinary cases that arise from McLaren’s evidence acknowledged they could be tough to prove.

“Can you prove (athletes) were aware?” Denis Oswald, a Swiss lawyer, said on the sidelines of a sports law conference in Geneva.

“It is not that we would be scared to attack high level people in the Russian regime,” the Swiss lawyer said. “The question is more on the legal point of view. Can you punish athletes if they have done nothing and whether they were not aware of what was happening?”

Bach has also appointed a second IOC commission, headed by former Switzerland president Samuel Schmid, to evaluate if McLaren’s report and evidence proves a state-run doping system.

“And then based on that we will see if we can start cases against athletes,” Oswald said.

Meanwhile, United States lawmakers want Bach to attend a congressional committee hearing next Thursday to provide an update on sports’ fight against doping.

“Unfortunately I cannot attend there,” said Bach, adding that the IOC will “provide by other means all the information they may need.”

MORE: Russia sets 2018 Olympics medal target

IOC president doesn’t rule out awarding 2028 Olympic host in 2017

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 23: The Olympic Flag waves as part of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 23, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)
AP
Leave a comment

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — IOC President Thomas Bach says he wants to change the Olympic host city bidding procedure because it “produces too many losers.”

Bach’s comments came on the same day the IOC executive board cleared all three candidate cities for the 2024 Olympics — Paris, Los Angeles and Budapest, Hungary — to advance to the next stage of the race.

Bach did not categorically rule out the possibility of awarding the hosting rights for two games at once — 2024 and 2028 — when the IOC votes next September in Lima, Peru.

Bach said at a news conference “it is not the purpose of an Olympic candidature procedure to produce losers.”

He said the goal is “to produce the best possible host for an Olympic Games.”

Asked about speculation the IOC could award the 2024 and 2028 Olympics at the same time, he said: “Let us study this question, which is not an easy one.”

VIDEO: LA 2024 Olympic bid venue plan