Getty Images

Grand Prix figure skating: 10 male skaters to watch

Leave a comment

Ten men to watch this fall as the Grand Prix figure skating season starts this week …

Yuzuru Hanyu
Japan
2014 Olympic champion, two-time world champion
Grand Prix Starts: Russia, Japan

Will be the first man to go into a Winter Games as reigning Olympic and world champion since Dick Button in 1952. Hanyu also owns the highest recorded scores under a 13-year-old judging system. But he’s vulnerable, especially early in the season. Hanyu has never won his opening Grand Prix in seven tries.

Shoma Uno
Japan
2017 World silver medalist
Grand Prix Starts: Canada, France

Younger (19 years old) and shorter (5 feet, 3 inches) than countryman Hanyu, but with just as much jumping firepower, if not more. Hanyu owns the three highest scores of all time. Uno has Nos. 4 and 5, set at last season’s worlds and his opening, lower-level event this season. Will try to beat Hanyu for the first time in December, either at the Grand Prix Final, Japanese Nationals or both. If he does, Uno could go into the Olympics as the favorite.

Jin Boyang
China
Two-time world bronze medalist
Grand Prix Starts: China, U.S.

Bronze at the last two worlds for Jin, who like Uno turns 20 in the Olympic season. Also a noted quadruple-jump practitioner, Jin is erratic. He was fifth at last season’s Skate America, failing to make the six-man Grand Prix Final. He was also fifth at the Four Continents Championships in February before rising back to the podium against tougher competition at the world championships a month later.

Grand Prix Capsules: Men | Women | Pairs | Ice Dance | TV Schedule

Javier Fernández
Spain
Two-time world champion
Grand Prix Starts: China, France

Missed a historic bronze medal for Spain in Sochi because he repeated a jump at the end of his free skate and earned zero points for the element. Became clutch on the global stage in 2015 and 2016, overtaking Hanyu’s short-program leads to win both world titles. But then did the opposite at 2017 Worlds, squandering a short-program lead and finishing fourth. Trains with Hanyu in Toronto under double Olympic silver medalist Brian Orser.

Nathan Chen
U.S.
2016 Grand Prix Final silver medalist
Grand Prix Starts: Russia, U.S.

A phenom in his first senior season last year. Chen outscored Hanyu in the Grand Prix Final free skate, then beat the Japanese megastar at the Four Continents Championships at the PyeongChang Olympic venue. In between, he became the first man to land seven quads at an event in winning the U.S. title at age 17. Chen ended up sixth at worlds, where he attempted eight quads overall skating on duct-taped boots. His sophomore Grand Prix season opens with a showdown with Hanyu in Moscow.

Patrick Chan
Canada
Three-time world champion
Grand Prix Starts: Canada, Japan

The Olympic favorite going into the Grand Prix season four years ago. Chan won the 2011, 2012 and 2013 World titles before taking silver behind Hanyu in Sochi. He rested for a year and beat Hanyu in his Grand Prix return in 2015, but Chan has so far been unable to match the men listed above in quadruple jumps. Fifth at the last two worlds.

Jason Brown
U.S.
Fourth at 2015 Worlds
Grand Prix Starts: Canada, Japan

A respectable ninth in Sochi as the youngest U.S. Olympic male singles skater since 1976. Brown won his first U.S. title a year later but struggled with injuries the last two seasons. He has also never landed a fully rotated quadruple jump, which has put him a tier below the six above men. Still, has a great shot to make the three-man Olympic team after placing seventh at worlds last season.

Vincent Zhou
U.S.
2017 World junior champion
Grand Prix Starts: China, France

Zhou has the quadruple jumps to contend. The 16-year-old actually was second to Chen at last season’s nationals but did not compete at senior worlds because he had zero senior international experience. He won junior worlds instead, with three quads in his free skate, to post the highest score ever by somebody his age. For now, it’s Zhou who is the top threat to Chen at nationals in January.

Adam Rippon
U.S.
2016 U.S. champion
Grand Prix Starts: Japan, U.S.

A decade older than training partner Chen and Zhou. Rippon will try for a third time to make his first Olympic team. He looked on his way after winning his first U.S. title in 2016, but a broken foot kept him from defending that last year as the two teens ascended. Now, Rippon will likely need to master a quad or two if he wants to control his own destiny to earn a spot in PyeongChang.

Mikhail Kolyada
Russia
2016 Russian champion
Grand Prix Starts: Russia, China

Yevgeny Plushenko‘s retirement left a gaping hole in Russian men’s skating. The 22-year-old Kolyada was fourth at his first senior worlds in 2016 but dropped to eighth last year, continuing the unpredictable results of the country’s next-in-line skaters.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Figure skating season broadcast schedule

Emma Coburn, Sam Kendricks win USATF Athlete of the Year awards

Emma Coburn, Sam Kendricks
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Emma Coburn and Sam Kendricks followed Rio Olympic bronze medals with their first world titles in August. And now, they both won USATF Athlete of the Year honors.

Coburn, 27, took the female award named after Jackie Joyner-Kersee after becoming the first American woman to bag 3000m steeplechase gold at the Olympics or worlds.

Coburn led an emotional U.S. one-two with Courtney Frerichs in London on Aug. 11 (video here). She broke the American record (by five seconds) and the world championships record by winning in 9:02.58.

Kendricks, 25, captured the Jesse Owens Award after an undefeated season that included the first Olympic or world pole vault title by an American man in 10 years.

The first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve won all 17 of his competitions in 2017, clearing six meters for the first time. No American had eclipsed that barrier since 2008.

Coburn and Kendricks won the USATF honors over the likes of fellow world champions Justin Gatlin and Tori Bowie (100m), Christian Taylor (triple jump), Phyllis Francis (400m), Kori Carter (400m hurdles) and Brittney Reese (long jump). Plus Shalane Flanagan and Galen Rupp, who each won World Marathon Majors this fall.

Rio gold medalists Michelle Carter (shot put) and Matthew Centrowitz (1500m) won the awards last year.

Coburn is the first steeplechaser to take home a USATF Athlete of the Year award. They’ve been handed out since 1981.

Kendricks joined 2000 Olympic champion Stacy Dragila as the only pole vaulters to earn the honor.

More from USATF on the awards here.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

VIDEO: NFL team celebrates TD by racing sprint relay

Jana Novotna, Wimbledon champ and Olympic medalist, dies at 49

AP
Leave a comment

PRAGUE (AP) — Jana Novotna, who won the hearts of the tennis world when she sobbed on the shoulder of a member of the British royal family after a heartbreaking loss in the Wimbledon final, has died at the age of 49.

The WTA announced Novotna’s death on Monday, saying she died Sunday in her native Czech Republic following a long battle with cancer.

Novotna died “peacefully, surrounded by her family,” the women’s tennis body said.

Her family confirmed her death to the Czech Republic’s CTK news agency. No details were given.

Martina Navratilova, the tennis great who was also born in what was then Czechoslovakia, tweeted: “The tennis world is so sad about the passing of Jana Novotna. I am gutted and beyond words. Jana was a true friend and an amazing woman.”

Novotna won her only Grand Slam singles title at Wimbledon in 1998, eventually triumphing after two losses in the final at the All England Lawn Tennis Club in 1993 and 1997.

She added three Olympic tennis medals — singles bronze at Altanta 1996 (knocking out top seed Monica Seles) and doubles silver in 1988 and 1996 with Helena Sukova.

She also lost in the 1991 Australian Open final.

While she finally captured the Grand Slam singles title she longed for in 1998, she won over the Wimbledon crowd five years earlier after wasting a big lead in the decisive set in a tough three-set loss to Steffi Graf.

Unable to hide her disappointment, Novotna cried on the shoulder of Britain’s Duchess of Kent at the prize giving ceremony and was gently comforted by the royal, who told her: “I know you will win it one day, don’t worry.”

Novotna ultimately had her moment five years later when she beat Nathalie Tauziat in straight sets to win Wimbledon. At the time, she was the oldest first-time winner of a Grand Slam singles title at age 29.

There wear tears again from Novotna, this time of joy, and the Duchess of Kent was present again to congratulate her.

“She was a true champion in all senses of the word, and her 1998 triumph will live long in the memory,” Wimbledon organizers the All England Club said in tribute to Novotna. “The thoughts of all those at Wimbledon are with her family and friends.”

Fellow Czech and four-time Grand Slam champion Hana Mandlikova, who coached Novotna for her Wimbledon win, said: “It’s hard to find words. Jana was a great girl and I’m happy that she won Wimbledon after all. It’s so sad when someone so young dies.”

During a 14-year professional career, Novotna won 24 singles titles and reached a career-high No. 2 in the singles rankings in 1997. She was a prolific and top-ranked doubles player, collecting 16 slam titles in doubles and mixed doubles.

She also won the Fed Cup with her country in 1988. Novotna was inducted into tennis’ Hall of Fame in 2005.

Even after retiring in 1999, Novotna was desperate to stay involved in tennis and became a commentator and coach.

“I’m dependent on tennis,” she said in an interview two years ago. “A day without it would be terrible.”

Members of the current Czech Fed Cup team said Novotna “supported us in the stands any time she could be there. We’ll miss her.”

“Jana was an inspiration both on and off court to anyone who had the opportunity to know her,” WTA chief executive Steve Simon said. “Her star will always shine brightly in the history of the WTA.”