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Jason Brown added as Grand Prix Final replacement

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U.S. men make up half of the field at the most exclusive event in figure skating, two months before the Olympics.

Jason Brown was added to next week’s six-skater Grand Prix Final after Jin Boyang of China withdrew, the International Skating Union said Friday.

Jin said before finishing fourth at last week’s Skate America that he had two sprained ankles, according to Icenetwork.com, but the ISU did not provide a reason for Jin’s withdrawal.

Brown, a Sochi Olympian and the 2015 U.S. champion, joins 2016 U.S. champion Adam Rippon and 2017 U.S. champion Nathan Chen in the Grand Prix Final at Nagoya, Japan.

The last time the U.S. had three men in the Grand Prix Final was 2009 — Evan LysacekJeremy Abbott and Johnny Weir, who went on to make up the Olympic team two months later.

The Grand Prix Final, usually the single biggest indicator of Olympic medal prospects two months before the Winter Games, is lacking serious star power this year.

Jin, who took bronze at the last two world championships, is the latest absentee.

Yuzuru HanyuJavier Fernandez and Patrick Chan, who combined to win the last seven world championships, won’t be in Nagoya, either.

Hanyu (ankle) and Chan withdrew from their second fall Grand Prix series starts. Fernandez was shockingly sixth in his Grand Prix opener, reportedly slowed by a stomach bug, denting his shot at making the Final even though he won his second start.

The Grand Prix Final field is headlined by world silver medalist Shoma Uno of Japan and Chen, who rank Nos. 1 and 2 in the world this season. Chen won silver at this event last season in his international breakout.

The 22-year-old Brown goes to his first Grand Prix Final after a few agonizing misses.

In 2014, Brown was the youngest U.S. Olympic male singles skater since 1976. Later that year, Brown missed the Grand Prix Final by .16 of a point. He took silver at his first qualifier but stumbled to fifth at his second event.

In 2015, Brown would have made the Grand Prix Final with a runner-up finish at the Grand Prix of Japan. But he withdrew before the event with a back injury.

Then last season, Brown would have made the Grand Prix Final by placing third at the Grand Prix of Japan. But he was seventh, slowed by right leg soreness that eventually developed into a stress fracture.

This season, Brown again set himself up well with a runner-up at his first Grand Prix. But he missed the podium at his second event and ended up the first alternate.

Russians Mikhail Kolyada and Sergei Voronov round out the Grand Prix Final field.

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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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