Russians top NHK Trophy short program (video)

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Yevgenia Medvedeva is once again ahead at a Grand Prix event, but she’s not the only Russian leader.

Medvedeva and Sergey Voronov topped Friday’s short programs at NHK Trophy in Osaka, Japan, the fourth of six Grand Prix events this fall.

Medvedeva, the two-time world champion undefeated for two years, had her typical clean program will all of her jumps in the second half for a 10 percent bonus.

She tallied 79.99 points. Medvedeva is the only female skater to break 80 under the 13-year-old scoring system.

The overwhelming PyeongChang favorite goes into Saturday’s free skate with a 5.42-point lead over Olympic bronze medalist Carolina Kostner of Italy.

NHK: Broadcast Schedule | Scores

Kostner, 30, is in great position to become the oldest singles skater to qualify for December’s Grand Prix Final, breaking American Todd Eldredge‘s record from 2001.

Americans Mirai Nagasu and Mariah Bell are fifth and ninth, respectively, in what could be their final competition before the U.S. Championships in January.

Nagasu landed a fully rotated triple Axel but was given a negative grade-of-execution score. She under-rotated two other jumps.

Bell, the top-scoring U.S. woman on the Grand Prix series so far this fall, had trouble with her opening triple-triple combination and also doubled a planned triple flip.

Nagasu and Bell are among the top contenders to make the three-woman Olympic team, along with 2017 U.S. gold and silver medalists Karen Chen and Ashley Wagner.

In the men’s event, Voronov took the lead in the absence of Olympic gold and silver medalists Yuzuru Hanyu and Patrick Chan, who withdrew last week and Friday morning, respectively.

Hanyu suffered an ankle injury in a Thursday practice fall (video here).

Voronov landed a quadruple toe loop in a clean short program to tally 90.06 points. The 30-year-old has been competing on the Grand Prix since 2006 but has zero wins (six podium finishes, though).

He leads Israel’s Alexei Bychenko by 4.54 going into Saturday’s free skate.

Jason Brown and Adam Rippon, the 2015 and 2016 U.S. champions, are third and fourth.

Brown lost points by performing a triple-double combination rather than a triple-triple. Rippon, like Brown, did not attempt a quadruple jump.

Both Americans could qualify for their first Grand Prix Final, the second-biggest annual event after worlds. The Final takes the top six skaters from the Grand Prix season based on combined results in each skater’s two Grand Prix starts.

Brown already has a runner-up finish from last month. A podium finish Saturday will likely be enough to make the Final in Nagoya in December.

Rippon, sixth at last year’s Grand Prix Final before breaking his foot, has his second Grand Prix at Skate America in two weeks.

Also Friday, Chinese Sui Wenjing and Han Cong topped the pairs short by 4.38 points over Russians Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov.

Sui and Han, the reigning world champions, are seeking their second Grand Prix win in as many weeks.

Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Christopher Knierim, the favorites to grab the one U.S. Olympic pairs spot, are fourth after tallying the best short program score by Americans this season by 2.6 points.

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MORE: U.S. Olympic figure skating picture at Grand Prix midpoint

NHK Trophy Short Programs
Men

1. Sergey Voronov (RUS) — 90.06
2. Alexei Bychenko (ISR) — 85.52
3. Jason Brown (USA) — 85.36
4. Adam Rippon (USA) — 84.95

Women
1. Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS) — 79.99
2. Carolina Kostner (ITA) — 74.57
3. Polina Tsurskaya (RUS) — 70.04
5. Mirai Nagasu (USA) — 65.17
9. Mariah Bell (USA) — 57.25

Pairs
1. Sui Wenjing/Han Cong (CHN) — 79.43
2. Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov (RUS) — 75.05
3. Kristina Astakhova/Alexei Rogonov (RUS) — 70.47
4. Alexa Scimeca Knierim/Christopher Knierim (USA) — 65.86

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

AP
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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.”

Houston Texans turn TD celebration into relay race (video)

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The relaxation of NFL celebration rules generated another Olympic sport-themed touchdown celebration on Sunday.

Four Houston Texans players combined to make up a relay team in Sunday’s 31-21 win over the Arizona Cardinals.

Running back Lamar Miller led off after scoring on a seven-yard pass.

Miller, who reportedly ran a 100m in 10.71 seconds as a 16-year-old, handed the football off to DeAndre Hopkins, followed by Braxton Miller and finally Bruce Ellington on anchor.

“I think [Hopkins] came up with that out there,” said Lamar Miller, who briefly sprinted at the University of Miami. “He was like, whoever scored, we should do a relay.”

Unlike some recent U.S. men’s 4x100m teams at the Olympics and world championships, the Texans got the baton around clean.

“No rehearsal,” Lamar Miller said. “I think we would be a great 4x100m team.”

Last month, the Green Bay Packers celebrated like a bobsled team.

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