Nathan Chen wins Grand Prix Final … barely (video)

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Nathan Chen goes into 2018 — the Olympic year — as the only undefeated male figure skater this season after notching the most prestigious victory by an American since the Sochi Olympics.

The 18-year-old U.S. champion won the Grand Prix Final, the second-biggest annual competition and the biggest pre-Olympic event this season.

The last American singles skaters to do so were Alissa Czisny in 2010 and Evan Lysacek in 2009, the latter en route to Olympic gold. In fact, four of the five men to win the Grand Prix Final in Olympic seasons later won the Winter Games, too.

“I’m very happy with the results,” Chen said, “not very happy with the performance.”

Chen prevailed despite being outscored in Friday’s free skate by Japanese Shoma Uno, the world silver medalist and top-ranked skater in the world this season. Both skaters had a few errors in Friday’s free skate.

But Chen’s lead from Thursday’s short program allowed him to edge Uno by half a point overall — 286.51 to 286.01 — in one of the closest finishes in elite-level figure skating under a 13-year-old points system.

Chen fell on a quadruple toe loop, doubled what could have been a quadruple Salchow and turned out of the landing of another jump. He landed four quads.

“I made a couple mistakes and a lot of things to work on, but I’m happy,” said Chen, who struggled even more in his free skate at Skate America two weeks ago. “Throughout the season I’ve been able to prove myself. I’ve got to continue doing that at the U.S. Championships.”

Adam Rippon and Jason Brown, the two U.S. champions before Chen, finished fifth and sixth in the six-man field after counting one fall each in the free skate.

Still, they’re positioned well going into nationals next month, after which the three-man Olympic team will be named.

The Grand Prix Final concludes Saturday with the pairs free, free dance and women’s free. Three U.S. couples are in the ice dance, led by Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani, who are in third place after Thursday’s short dance.

Grand Prix Final: Full Scores | TV Schedule

The Grand Prix Final is the single biggest indicator of Olympic medal prospects.

It takes the top six skaters per discipline from the fall Grand Prix series. However, this season’s men’s field was lacking.

The world’s other top skaters — world gold and bronze medalists Yuzuru Hanyu and Jin Boyang and two-time world champion Javier Fernandez — weren’t in Nagoya. Each dealt with illness or injury this fall but is expected to be fine for the Olympics, where they should join Chen and Uno as the medal favorites.

“Regardless of who’s there competitive-wise, you’re still going to have to do what you have to do,” Chen said. “So I think it really didn’t change too much in terms of my performance. But definitely in terms of practices, the environment of the competition, it does feel a little bit different.”

Chen broke out at last year’s Grand Prix Final in his first senior international season, topping the free skate to finish second overall behind Hanyu.

“Last year I wasn’t even expecting to be at the Grand Prix Final,” Chen said Friday. “This year I was able to win it.”

A month later, he became the youngest U.S. men’s champion since 1966 and the first man to land five quads in one program.

Then in February, he beat Hanyu and Uno at the Four Continents Championships at the Olympic venue. He entered worlds with medal hopes but finished sixth.

Earlier Friday, Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond topped a women’s short program that lacked Olympic favorite Yevgenia Medvedeva of Russia, who is out with a broken foot.

Osmond, the world silver medalist behind Medvedeva, led a group of six women who counted zero falls Friday. Her clean short included a triple flip-triple toe loop combination.

She leads another Russian, world junior champion Alina Zagitova, by .77 going into Saturday’s free skate. Zagitova ranks second in the world behind training partner Medvedeva this season.

There are no U.S. women in the Grand Prix Final for a second straight year.

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Grand Prix Final
Men’s Results
Gold: Nathan Chen (USA) — 286.51
Silver: Shoma Uno (JPN) — 286.01

Bronze: Mikhail Kolyada (RUS) — 282.00
4. Sergei Voronov (RUS) — 266.59
5. Adam Rippon (USA) — 254.33
6. Jason Brown (USA) — 253.81

Women’s Short Program
1. Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN) — 77.04
2. Alina Zagitova (RUS) — 76.27
3. Satoko Miyahara (JPN) — 74.61
4. Maria Sotskova (RUS) — 74.00
5. Wakaba Higuchi (JPN) — 73.26
6. Carolina Kostner (ITA) — 72.82

WATCH LIVE: London Marathon

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Watch the world’s best distance runners chase world records at the London Marathon, live on NBCSN and commercial free on the NBC Sports Gold “Track and Field Pass” for subscribers on Sunday at 3:30 a.m. ET.

NBCSN coverage also streams on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app for subscribers.

WATCH LIVE: London Marathon
NBCSN coverage — STREAM LINK
NBC Sports Gold commercial free — STREAM LINK

Sunday’s race start times (ET)
3:55 – Elite Wheelchair Races
4:00 – World Para Athletics Marathon World Cup ambulant races
4:15 – Elite Women’s Race
5:00 – Elite Men’s Race, Mass Race

The men’s field features arguably the two greatest distance runners of all time — Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge and Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele.

Kipchoge, the Rio Olympic marathon champ, ran the fastest marathon ever recorded — 2:00:25 in Nike’s sub-two-hour attempt last May in non-record-eligible conditions.

Bekele is the second-fastest marathoner in history under legal conditions, having run six seconds shy of Kenyan Dennis Kimetto‘s world record of 2:02:57 from 2014.

In the women’s race, Kenyan Mary Keitany, already the world-record holder in a women’s-only race, looks to take down Brit Paula Radcliffe‘s world record with male pacers set in London 15 years ago. That time is 2:15:25.

Keitany is challenged by Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba, the third-fastest female marathoner in history behind Keitany and Radcliffe.

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Teddy Riner, dominant judoka, to skip 2018, 2019 Worlds

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French judoka Teddy Riner, arguably the world’s most dominant athlete, will reportedly skip the next two world championships before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

French coach Franck Chambily said Riner will compete a light international schedule the next two years ahead of what would be his fourth Olympics, according to Agence France-Presse.

Riner, a 29-year-old, 6-foot-8-inch native of Guadeloupe, is undefeated since 2010 with a reported 144-match winning streak. That includes Olympic titles in 2012 and 2016 and world titles in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017.

Before the streak, Riner also earned world titles in 2007, 2009 and 2010, plus an Olympic bronze at age 19 in 2008.

He could compete through the 2024 Paris Games.

“When I am invincible, I will stop,” Riner said in 2013, according to The Associated Press.

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