Surprising U.S. results in Skate America short program (video)

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LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — Bradie Tennell, ninth at last season’s nationals, is complicating the U.S. Olympic team picture.

The 19-year-old bettered the top Americans from last season — Ashley Wagner and Karen Chen — in the Skate America short program at the 1980 Winter Olympic venue on Saturday night.

“It’s a little surprising to me, too, because I think just believing in myself is one of my biggest obstacles,” Tennell said on NBCSN.

Tennell tallied 67.01 points — cleanly landing all her jumps, including a triple-triple combination — in her senior Grand Prix debut. Tennell was the top American at last season’s junior worlds in seventh place.

She is fourth going into Sunday’s free skate, trailing leader Satoko Miyahara of Japan by 3.71.

Wagner, who needs to win this event to qualify for December’s Grand Prix Final, under rotated two of her four jumps in her short program.

She’s in sixth place with 64.12 points, one year after winning Skate America. Wagner noted a recent ankle injury that cost her a week and a half of training.

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“That program is a good example of how my ankle and my training has kind of affected me,” Wagner said on NBCSN. “Putting things together is a little bit of a challenge.

“My mentality is don’t lose too much in the short program. The long program is always where I plan on making up my points.”

Chen, who won nationals and was fourth at worlds last season, continued her struggles this season by falling hard on a triple loop. She scored 59.53 points for ninth.

“I landed forward, and before I knew it I was flat on my face,” Chen said, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “I think I’ll wake up and discover a bunch of bruises. I don’t think I hit my head. A lot of people told me that I may have, but I’m pretty sure my face stayed off the ice, so that’s always a plus.”

The three-woman U.S. Olympic team — chosen based off results from the last year — will be announced after nationals in January.

Wagner and Chen came into this season as favorites to make it, but neither has been particularly impressive in the fall Grand Prix series. No other U.S. woman has put together two strong programs at one event, either.

Meanwhile, Tennell owns the top short program and free skate scores among Americans this season, but that free skate was from way back in September.

Earlier Saturday, Nathan Chen led a U.S. one-two in the men’s event but apologized.

Siblings Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani topped the short dance with an American record 79.18 points.

The three-time world medalists will become the third U.S. couple to clinch a spot in the six-couple Grand Prix Final field with a top-four overall finish after Sunday’s free dance.

More importantly, they’ll go into the Grand Prix Final as the top-scoring U.S. couple this season if they tally 110.26 points in the free dance. The Shibutanis scored at least that high at their last seven international events.

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Skate America
Women’s Short
1. Satoko Miyahara (JPN) — 70.72
2. Kaori Sakamoto (JPN) — 69.40
3. Gabrielle Daleman (CAN) — 68.08
4. Bradie Tennell (USA) — 67.01
6. Ashley Wagner (USA) — 64.12
9. Karen Chen (USA) — 59.53

Short Dance
1. Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA) — 79.18
2. Anna Cappellini/Luca Lanotte (ITA) — 72.70
3. Victoria Sinitsina / Nikita Katsalapov (RUS) — 68.72
7. Kaitlin Hawayek/Jean-Luc Baker (USA) — 62.15
8. Rachel Parsons/Michael Parsons (USA) — 58.36

Canada in control of hockey rivalry going into Olympics

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Four years ago, the U.S. women’s hockey team rode a four-game winning streak over rival Canada into the Olympics, then lost both games in Sochi, including a gut-wrenching overtime final.

This time, Canada goes into the Winter Games having won four straight.

The Canadians beat the Americans 2-1 in overtime in Edmonton on Sunday night, taking their pre-Olympic series 5-3 overall.

“I don’t think it was our best performance,” Canada coach Laura Schuler said. “There’s still more work to do.”

The Canadians were led by their stalwarts — captain Marie-Philip Poulin scored in regulation, Sochi gold medalist Jennifer Wakefield scored 26 seconds into overtime and longtime goalie Shannon Szabados stopped 34 of 35 shots.

Hilary Knight netted the U.S. goal, with Maddie Rooney making 24 saves.

“The goal for us is to be hitting on all cylinders in February,” U.S. coach Robb Stauber said.

The U.S. appeared to be in that kind of form until about two weeks ago.

Before this losing streak, the U.S. had a 12-4 record against Canada since the start of 2015, including taking the last three world championship finals.

At one point, the U.S. won six straight games over a 12-month stretch, its longest streak over Canada since it famously won eight straight going into the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics then lost the gold-medal game.

Canada also beat the U.S. in their last four meetings before the 2006 Olympics and five straight going into the 2010 Olympics.

The U.S. Olympic team will be announced Jan. 1. The national-team roster is at 25 players (22 skaters, three goalies), but the Olympic roster is 23 (20 skaters, three goalies).

“Can’t live in the past, can’t live in the future, so tonight we were worried about this game,” U.S. captain Meghan Duggan said, according to the Canadian Press. “We weren’t looking ahead to February.”

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Yuzuru Hanyu to miss Japan Figure Skating Championships

Yuzuru Hanyu
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Yuzuru Hanyu, the reigning Olympic and world figure skating champion, will miss his national championships this week due to ankle and knee injuries suffered in a Nov. 9 practice fall, according to Japanese media citing the Japan Skating Federation.

Hanyu can (and very likely will) be named to Japan’s three-man Olympic team despite missing nationals.

Hanyu has reportedly been off the ice for more than one month since the fall.

“It is an important selection competition, and the Olympics are a big goal, so with that in mind we would like to think things through together,” Japan Skating Federation director Yoshiko Kobayashi said last week, according to Kyodo News.

Hanyu, who turned 23 on Dec. 7, fell on a quadruple Lutz attempted and then favored his right ankle in a Nov. 9 practice at a Grand Prix event (video here).

He skated the run-through for his free skate, although he elected not to do any more jumps.

“I have been told by the doctor that I need 10 days of complete rest,” Hanyu said in a statement on Nov. 12, according to Kyodo. “Following that, it will take three to four weeks to return and get back to where I was.”

Hanyu and world silver medalist Shoma Uno are favored to lead Japan’s Olympic men’s figure skating team. The third spot is likely to go to Takahito Mura or Keiji Tanaka.

Hanyu competed twice this season.

He posted a world-record short program score in his debut at a small September event in Canada, but struggled to fifth place in the free skate and finished second overall behind two-time world champion Javier Fernandez of Spain.

He then finished second to U.S. champion Nathan Chen at the first Grand Prix event of the season in Moscow in October.

Chen is the only undefeated male singles skater this season.

Hanyu won four straight national titles before missing last season’s event with the flu.

He was still named to Japan’s team for worlds, where he won his second title in four years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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