Surprise leader at Cup of China (video)

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The men’s leader at Cup of China isn’t two-time world champion Javier Fernandez. It’s not world bronze medalist Jin Boyang. Not American Vincent Zhou, the world junior champion, either.

Instead, it’s Mikhail Kolyada, who shattered his Russian record for a short program score in Beijing on Friday.

The 22-year-old tallied 103.13 points, buoyed by a quadruple Lutz, plus a quadruple toe loop in combination. Full scores are here.

Kolyada, eighth and fourth at the last two world championships, has never won a top-level international event.

He goes into Saturday’s free skate with a 9.24-point lead over Jin, who also attempted two quads but had trouble with landings on both. The Cup of China broadcast schedule is here.

Fernandez, who has won five straight Grand Prix events, erred on his opening combination. He performed a triple-double combo, while Kolyada and Jin both did quad-triples.

U.S. Olympic hopefuls are further down the standings. Max Aaron (fifth), the 2013 U.S. champion, attempted two quads but didn’t land either cleanly.

Grant Hochstein (seventh), fourth at the last two U.S. Championships, stepped out of the landing of his opening quad toe.

Zhou (eighth), 17 and the No. 2 U.S. man behind Nathan Chen last season, fell twice in his senior Grand Prix debut.

Three U.S. men will be named to the U.S. Olympic team following nationals in January.

Chen is a huge favorite for one spot. Zhou, Jason Brown and Adam Rippon have been the other top men the last two seasons.

Also Friday, surprise world bronze medalist Gabrielle Daleman of Canada topped the women’s short program. The top three — including Japanese Wakaba Higuchi and Russian Yelena Radionova — are separated by .17.

Daleman is trying to keep pace with world gold and silver medalists Yevgenia Medvedeva and Kaetlyn Osmond, who won the first two Grand Prix events the previous two weeks.

In the short dance, France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron posted the third-best score under an eight-year-old system.

Papadakis and Cizeron won world titles in 2015 and 2016 but last season fell behind Canadian’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who came back from a two-year break to relegate the French to silver at worlds.

While Virtue and Moir aren’t at Cup of China, Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates are. Chock and Bates, two-time world medalists, trail the French by 8.54 points after the short dance.

Chock and Bates’ score — 72.66 — is points shy of what the other top Americans — Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue — tallied in their Grand Prix season debuts the last two weeks.

The U.S. can send three couples to the Olympics, with one likely to earn medals along with Virtue and Moir and Papadakis and Cizeron.

As expected, world champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong distanced themselves in the pairs short, by 8.77 points.

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MORE: Nathan Chen sees ‘pretty high chance’ of Olympic gold

Cup of China Short Programs
Men
1. Mikhail Kolyada (RUS) — 103.13
2. Jin Boyang (CHN) — 93.89
3. Javier Fernandez (ESP) — 90.57
5. Max Aaron (USA) — 83.11
7. Grant Hochstein (USA) — 80.55
8. Vincent Zhou (USA) — 80.23

Women
1. Gabrielle Daleman (CAN) — 70.65
2. Wakaba Higuchi (JPN) — 70.53
3. Yelena Radionova (RUS) — 70.48
10. Amber Glenn (USA) — 52.61

Ice Dance
1. Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron (FRA) — 81.10
2. Madison Chock/Evan Bates (USA) — 72.66
3. Yekaterina Bobrova/Dmitry Soloviyev (RUS) — 72.34
5. Lorraine McNamara/Quinn Carpenter (USA) — 63.65
7. Elliana Pogrebinsky/Alex Benoit (USA) — 59.32

Pairs
1. Sui Wenjing/Han Cong (CHN) — 80.14
2. Yu Xiaoyu/Zhang Hao (CHN) — 71.37
3. Nicole Della Monica/Matteo Guarise (ITA) — 63.76
7. Ashley Cain/Tim LeDuc (USA) — 53.15

Skylar Diggins-Smith has the opportunity to fill USA Basketball’s need

Skylar Diggins
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Skylar Diggins-Smith said making the U.S. Olympic team is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This is her second chance.

An ACL tear derailed her Rio 2016 hopes. That happened in a WNBA game on June 28, 2015.

Though Diggins-Smith was among 25 Olympic finalists named in January 2016, she didn’t return to game action until that May, four weeks after the 12-woman Olympic team was chosen.

The 27-year-old guard said she’s played for USA Basketball for 12 years, since before her standout Notre Dame career that led to her current stint with the Dallas Wings (formerly Tulsa Shock).

“This is the most clear my mind has been,” with USA Basketball, Diggins-Smith said from training camp in Seattle on Tuesday, ahead of a Thursday exhibition against China at Key Arena (10 p.m. ET, usab.com/live).

Signs point to Diggins-Smith making her major international tournament debut at September’s FIBA World Cup, the quadrennial world championship event.

Though Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi‘s surprising returns crowd the backcourt, the other Olympic gold medalist guard, Lindsay Whalen, retired from the national team.

Diggins-Smith’s play last season, her first full campaign back from the ACL tear, boosts her case. She made the All-WNBA First Team.

She also made the first team in 2014. That year, Diggins-Smith was among the final cuts for the world championship team less than a week before the tournament.

“Every time I come to USA Basketball, I think you have a tendency to kind of overthink,” Diggins-Smith said Tuesday. “You just want to do the right thing, don’t really want to make mistakes. … You want to do the right thing, and you press a little bit.”

USA Basketball has stressed finding its next stalwart point guard following five-time Olympian Teresa Edwards, three-time Olympian Dawn Staley (now the U.S. head coach) and the 37-year-old Bird, eyeing her fifth Olympics in 2020.

“Give me three guards that have separated themselves from everyone else in the WNBA to put themselves at the same level as Sue, Diana, Lindsay Whalen,” then-U.S. coach Geno Auriemma said after the Olympic team was named in April 2016. “You really start to look around and, you go, that is a huge question that has to be answered.”

“Obviously, there’s a need,” Staley said in February, listing point guards other than Bird at that camp.

The first name Staley mentioned was Diggins-Smith, for what it’s worth.

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MORE: Candace Parker finished with USA Basketball

USA Track and Field to honor 1968 Olympic team on 50th anniversary

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USA Track and Field begins a campaign this week to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Olympic team.

Members of the Mexico City Games team, one of the greatest track and field teams in history, will be honored at high-profile events the remainder of the year.

The campaign, “1968-2018: Celebrating Athletic Achievement and Courage,” culminates with a “Night of Legends” reunion in December at the USATF Annual Meeting in Columbus, Ohio, also attended by current U.S. stars.

The 1968 Olympic team is most remembered for Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who took gold and bronze in the 200m and were sent home after raising their black-gloved fists in a human rights salute during the national anthem.

The team also included gold medalists Bob Beamon (long jump), Dick Fosbury (high jump), Al Oerter (discus), Wyomia Tyus and Jim Hines (100m), Lee Evans (400m), Madeline Manning Mims (800m), Willie Davenport (110m hurdles), Bob Seagren (pole vault), Randy Matson (shot put), Bill Toomey (decathlon) and the men’s and women’s 4x100m and men’s 4x400m.

“The legacy of the greatest track & field team to ever be assembled is still felt 50 years later,” USATF CEO Max Siegel said in a press release. “These Olympians persevered through athletic challenges and social injustices, maintaining their composure and dignity when others may have fallen. It is USATF’s honor to pay homage to their achievements and bring the team together for an epic celebration at our Annual Meeting.”

U.S. track and field athletes will compete at two meets on NBC Sports and NBC Sports Gold this weekend — the Drake Relays and Penn Relays.

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WATCH: NBC Olympics documentary on 1968 Olympics