Javier Fernandez falls twice, still wins Grand Prix France (video)

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Javier Fernandez and Shoma Uno are Olympic medal contenders, but neither looked like it Saturday night.

Both skaters fell twice in their free skates at Grand Prix France and had more errors on jump landings.

Fernandez got the victory — thanks to a 13.94-point lead after Friday’s short program — bouncing back from a disastrous sixth-place finish at a Grand Prix two weeks ago.

The two-time world champion from Spain reportedly had a stomach bug at that opener.

Uno, the world silver medalist from Japan, had the highest-scoring free skate Saturday, but it was 35.57 points off the best score in the world this season that he owns.

Uno finished 10.39 behind Fernandez, with Uzbekistan’s Misha Ge in third.

GP FRANCE: Full Results

Americans Max Aaron and Vincent Zhou were seventh and ninth, respectively, after struggling with jumps.

Zhou, the U.S. silver medalist and world junior champion, fell four times between two programs, two weeks after falling three times at his senior Grand Prix debut.

Neither Aaron nor Zhou helped his case for the three-man Olympic team that will be named after nationals in January.

Nathan Chen is a runaway favorite to claim an Olympic spot. Past U.S. champions Jason Brown and Adam Rippon are also in the mix with Aaron and Zhou.

Uno joined Russian Mikhail Kolyada as the first two qualifiers for December’s six-skater Grand Prix Final, the biggest competition before the Olympics. Uno owns the two best total scores in the world this season, and the only scores above 300 points (though he managed much fewer, 273.32, in France).

Chen, who ranks No. 2 in the world behind Uno, will make his second Grand Prix Final if he finishes fourth or better at next week’s Skate America.

Incredibly, it looks like every active skater who owns a world title (and an individual Olympic medal) will not be at the Grand Prix Final.

Japanese Yuzuru Hanyu is out with an ankle injury. Canadian Patrick Chan skipped his second Grand Prix after he was fourth at Skate Canada. Fernandez needs some disasters from top skaters at Skate America to have a shot.

Brown and Rippon could both make the Grand Prix Final along with Chen depending on how Skate America shakes out.

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Internationaux de France
Men
1. Javier Fernandez (ESP) — 283.71
2. Shoma Uno (JPN) — 273.32
3. Misha Ge (UZB) — 258.34
7. Max Aaron (USA) — 237.20
9. Vincent Zhou (USA) — 222.21

Thank you. #idf2017 #wegetup

A post shared by Vincent Zhou (@govincentzhou) on

Vic Wild finds much different welcome at PyeongChang

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PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) — It was a feel-good love story about snowboarders that made Russia smile.

Four years later, Vic Wild and Alena Zavarzina are still married and still riding.

But boy did this get complicated.

Wild, the American-born rider who now competes for Russia, finished out of the medals, same as his wife, at the parallel giant slalom Saturday, closing a sad chapter to a journey that began as a fairy tale but turned into a drama about cheating, doping and figuring out who was to blame.

It was a small part of a much larger story about the strained, scandal-tainted relationship between Russia, the Olympics and the rest of the world.

“For 18 months, the IOC never told me anything,” Wild said after losing in the round-of-16 in a contest taken by Switzerland’s Nevin Galmarini. “No one would tell me if, somehow, some way, I was involved. That definitely put some gray hairs on my head.”

Read the full story at NBCOlympics.com

How Arianna Fontana quietly skated into short track history

Arianna Fontana
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Arianna Fontana is silently one of the greatest short track skaters in Olympic history.

Her numbers at the Games speak for themselves; one gold, two silver, and five bronze. Those eight total medals make her the most decorated female short track skater by two medals, and tie her with legends Apolo Ohno and Viktor Ahn for most Olympic medals ever won by a short track skater.

But it is her numbers outside the Olympic stage that really call attention to her Olympic success. She is a 14-time world medalist, which is no small feat, but her podium appearances are spread over a 12-year competitive career. Someone like Elise Christie, for example, has won 12 world championships medals in just five years. And also unlike Christie, Fontana has never won an overall title.

But Christie struggled on the sport’s biggest stage in both Sochi and PyeongChang, and has yet to win her first Olympic medal. Fontana, on the other hand, has become such a consistent podium presence over the last two Games that she almost makes it look easy.

Before retiring from competition, Ohno won 21 world medals, eight of them gold. Ahn, still competing but not one of the athletes invited to competed at the PyeongChang Olympics as an Olympic Athlete from Russia, has to date has won 35 world medals, 20 of which were gold.

Fontana does not come from a short track power like South Korea or China, perhaps another reason why she is not more notorious.

Most of her medals are bronze, which could be used as a strike against her, but just ask Lindsey Vonn how hard she worked to get hers this year.

Fontana’s first medal came at the 2006 Torino Olympics, when she helped the Italian women to bronze in the 3000m relay at just 15 years old. Fontana earned her first individual medal, a bronze in the 500m, four years later in Vancouver.

But in Sochi, she exploded, making the podium in three out of four events: the 500m, where she won silver, and the 1500m and 3000m relay, where she picked up two more bronzes.

“I thought I was going to win a gold medal in Sochi but I still don’t have that,” Fontana said to the ISU in early 2017. “That’s there up in my mind and sometimes it comes out and says, ‘Hey, you still miss me? So come get me!'”.

But after the 2014-15 season, Fontana’s desire for gold was eclipsed by something else: burnout.

“I was pretty tired mentally. My body was ready to race again but my mind was not. It was hard for me. After the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, I had some doubts about whether to keep skating or not,” Fontana said to the ISU. “Maybe it would have been better to take that year right after the Olympic Games off, but I decided to keep going. It is not that I regret it, but I had some hard times that season.”

She stayed active during her time off, learning how to box, which eased the transition back to skating.

Her pursuit for gold was what motivated her comeback, and in 2018 Fontana got what she came back for.

“When I saw I was first, I was just yelling and started crying. I worked for four years and the last four months were really hard for me. I was really focused on getting here in the best shape ever,” Fontana said after earning the 500m Olympic title.

“I was chasing it and finally I got it.”

In addition to her 500m gold medal, Fontana also added a 1000m bronze and 3000m relay bronze.

Fontana has spoken about retirement, but has not made a definitive decision. She will only be 31 years old by the time 2022 rolls around, so she could feasibly add to her medal haul if she competes. What she has made clear is that when she does leave the sport she hopes to become a personal trainer.

Whenever she does retire Fontana should be considered not only one of the greatest Italian athletes or greatest short track skaters, but also one of the greatest Winter Olympians.