Yuzuru Hanyu rallies for world title; Nathan Chen struggles in free skate

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Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu rallied with a record free-skate score to win his second world title on Saturday.

U.S. champion Nathan Chen finished sixth, falling twice while attempting a record six quadruple jumps in Helsinki.

The Olympic champion Hanyu, fifth after Thursday’s short program, silenced the doubters by landing four quadruple jumps in a flawless free. Hanyu broke his scoring record by 3.72 points in Helsinki.

His total score was 321.59 points, the third-highest of all time. Hanyu also owns Nos. 1 and 2.

Countryman Shoma Uno was second, 2.28 points behind, followed by China’s Jin Boyang. Uno and Jin, both 19 years old, broke their personal-best total scores.

Spain’s Javier Fernandez, the 2015 and 2016 World champion, fell from first after the short program to fourth overall.

Later Saturday, Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir capped an undefeated comeback season with their third world title and first since 2012. That despite Moir tripping during their free dance.

Full Men’s Results | TV Schedule

Hanyu had led after the short program at the previous two worlds, only to drop to silver behind training partner Fernandez with errors in his free skate both times.

Hanyu trailed Fernandez by 10.66 points following Thursday’s short, after a poor landing on his jumping combination.

“After the short program I was quite depressed, I was so deeply depressed,” Hanyu said after winning Saturday, according to a Japanese translator. “But I think the fans and my team believed in me, so I was able to pull off this performance today.”

Chen, a 17-year-old with aspirations of becoming the youngest men’s world champion ever, fell in both his short program and free skate.

In the free, he snapped a streak of 20 straight quadruple jumps landed in competition dating to December.

“I planned this program because I’m a strong technical skater, and that’s something that has been working for me this season,” said Chen, who upped his free-skate content from five quads to six. “I threw in that extra quad, but it didn’t really play out how I wanted it to. It’s a good step for me. This is the longest season that I’ve ever had and we’re here at Worlds, so it’s a good experience for me. I’ve learned a lot this week.”

Chen said this week that he had trouble sleeping due to nerves and was dealing with boot problems. He scored 16.74 points lower overall than at the Four Continents Championships last month. The Four Continents score was the highest in the world this season coming into worlds. Hanyu and Uno surpassed it this week.

Chen finished directly above countryman Jason Brown in the final standings (though separated by 21.15 points), earning the U.S. three men’s spots at the 2018 Olympics after they had two in Sochi.

The Sochi Olympian Brown attempted one quad, falling, but otherwise had a clean free skate.

The three-man U.S. team for the PyeongChang Olympics will be announced after January’s U.S. Championships, taking into account results not only from nationals but also the two most recent seasons.

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Men’s Results
Gold: Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 321.59
Silver: Shoma Uno (JPN) — 319.31

Bronze: Jin Boyang (CHN) — 303.58
6. Nathan Chen (USA) — 290.72
7. Jason Brown (USA) — 269.57

Alina Zagitova eyes more gold at worlds; women’s preview

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Alina Zagitova hasn’t lost internationally in 18 months, and that doesn’t figure to change this week at the world championships in Milan.

The 15-year-old Russian is favored to become the youngest world gold medalist since Tara Lipinski (duplicating her feat from the Olympics) and make it five straight Olympic or world titles for Russian women, the longest streak for one country since American Carol Heiss won six straight Olympic/world titles from 1956 through 1960.

Zagitova would also become the first Olympic women’s champion to win worlds the following month since Kristi Yamaguchi in 1992. That’s largely because Olympic champions usually skip worlds in Olympic years. Since Yamaguchi, the only one to compete was Yuna Kim, who grabbed silver in 2010.

Zagitova may be young, but she may not have the longevity of Kim to make it to a second Olympics. Russia turns over a new class of elite women’s skaters every year.

Two weeks ago, 13-year-old Alexandra Trusova won the world junior title as the first woman to land two different quadruple jumps in one program. Trusova isn’t old enough to compete at the senior worlds until 2020.

Zagitova’s current rival and training partner, Olympic silver medalist and 2016 and 2017 World champion Yevgenia Medvedeva, withdrew from worlds due to injury.

WORLDS: TV Schedule | Pairs Preview | Nagasu’s Outlook

Which leaves the last two Olympic bronze medalists, Kaetlyn Osmond of Canada and Carolina Kostner of Italy, plus PyeongChang fourth-place finisher Satoko Miyahara of Japan as the top challengers this week.

None finished within seven points of Zagitova at any competition this season, the Russian’s first on the senior international level.

Zagitova set herself apart at the Olympics by putting all of her jumps in the second half of her programs for 10 percent bonuses and landing them all with positive grades of execution.

The U.S. contingent includes national champion Bradie Tennell, two-time Olympian Mirai Nagasu and Mariah Bell (replacement for 2017 U.S. champion Karen Chen).

It is the end of a challenging season for U.S. women. In the autumn, none qualified for the Grand Prix Final for a second straight year (after at least one had done so each of the previous seven seasons).

In PyeongChang, no U.S. woman finished in the top six for the first time in Winter Games history. Tennell, who emerged this season after placing ninth at 2017 Nationals, was the top U.S. Olympic finisher in ninth.

Tennell goes into worlds as the top seeded American — seventh — by best international scores this season.

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MORE: Best figure skating moments from PyeongChang

Olympic golf qualifying, format largely unchanged for 2020

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The Tokyo 2020 Olympic golf tournaments qualifying and format will remain largely the same as they were for the sport’s return to the Games in 2016, according to Golf Channel, citing a memo sent to PGA Tour players.

The format will again be four rounds of stroke play with 60 men and 60 women taken from the world rankings, according to the report.

The qualifying window to determine the rankings will be July 1, 2018 to June 22, 2020 for men and July 8, 2018 to June 29, 2020 for women. That’s a slight change, as for 2016 the dates were the same for men and women.

The 2016 process saw a maximum of two men and two women per country, or up to four if they were ranked in the top 15.

Then-PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said one month after the Rio Games that he hoped the Olympic golf format would be changed to have more medals awarded.

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