Jessica Ennis-Hill out of world track and field championships

Jessica Ennis
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The world track and field championships lost another superstar when Olympic heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis-Hill pulled out of the August meet due to an Achilles injury.

It’s no shock. Ennis-Hill has been hampered since the spring, only competing twice since the Brit’s Olympic triumph a year ago.

“To say I am gutted is an understatement — no athlete likes to miss the opportunity to compete at a major championships — they don’t come round that often,” Ennis-Hill said in a statement.

She had voiced concern after taking part in the London Anniversary Games on Saturday, taking fourth in the 100-meter hurdles and eighth (last place) in the long jump. Ennis-Hill said she was disappointed with her performance at the Olympic Stadium and would confer with her coach two or three days later about her status for worlds.

“Up until now we have been focusing on managing the pain so I can train and get myself in shape to go out there to win in Moscow — which has meant not focusing on finding a cure for the injury,” Ennis-Hill said. “The time has now come to stop chasing fitness and look to cure the problem.”

Ennis-Hill will now focus on getting healthy for the 2014 indoor season. The heptathlon at worlds is now wide open with Ennis-Hill and 2011 world champion Tatyana Chernova of Russia out with a knee injury.

American Sharon Day has the highest point total this year of those entered in Moscow — 6,550. That would have placed seventh at the Olympics and fourth at the 2011 world championships. No American has won a world title in the seven-event competition since Jackie Joyner-Kersee in 1993.

Canadian Brianne Theisen — who just married Olympic decathlon champion Ashton Eaton — is also in the medal picture after placing 11th at the Olympics.

Here’s a list of track and field stars who will not compete in Moscow:

Aslı Çakır Alptekin (drug test) — 2012 Olympic champion, 1,500 meters
Nijel Amos 
(injury) — 2012 Olympic silver medalist, 800 meters
Ryan Bailey (injury) — 2012 Olympics fifth place, 100 meters
Yohan Blake (injury) — 2011 world champion, 100 meters
Tatyana Chernova (injury) — 2011 world champion, heptathlon
Vivian Cheruiyot (extended break) — 2011 world champion, 5,000 meters, 10,000 meters
Veronica Campbell-Brown (drug test) — nine-time world championship sprint medalist
Walter Dix (injury) — 2011 world silver medalist, 100 meters, 200 meters
Jessica Ennis-Hill (injury) — 2012 Olympic champion, heptathlon
Tyson Gay (drug test) — 2007 world champion, 100 meters, 200 meters
Phillips Idowu (extended break) — 2009 world champion, triple jump
Lolo Jones (did not qualify) — 2012 Olympics fourth place, 100-meter hurdles
Abel Kirui (injury) — 2009, 2011 world champion, marathon
Liu Xiang (injury) — 2007 world champion, 110-meter hurdles
Taoufik Makhloufi (illness) — 2012 Olympic champion, 1,500 meters
Oscar Pistorius (trial) — 2011 world silver medalist, 4×400-meter relay
Asafa Powell (did not qualify) — 2007, 2009 world bronze medalist, 100 meters
Sanya Richards-Ross (injury) — 2009 world champion, 400 meters
Dayron Robles (banned by Cuba) — 2008 Olympic champion, 110-meter hurdles
David Rudisha (injury) — 2011 world champion, 800 meters
Caster Semenya (did not qualify) — 2009 world champion, 800 meters
Sherone Simpson (drug test) — 2008 Olympic silver medalist, 100 meters
Barbora Spotakova (childbirth) — 2008, 2012 Olympic champion, javelin
Andy Turner (injury) — 2011 world bronze medalist, 110-meter hurdles
Blanka Vlasic (injury) — 2007/2009 world champion, high jump

h/t @Statman_Jon, @UltimateCrans

Usain Bolt learns Russian (video)

Japanese pair edges Americans for historic Grand Prix Final figure skating title

Riku Miura, Ryuichi Kihara
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Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the biggest title ever for a Japanese figure skating pair, taking the Grand Prix Final and consolidating their status as the world’s top active team.

Miura and Kihara, last season’s world silver medalists, barely outscored world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier in Turin, Italy, in both Thursday’s short program and Friday’s free skate to win the six-pair event that is a preview of March’s worlds.

The Japanese totaled 214.58 points, distancing the Americans by a mere 1.3 points after Frazier erred on both of their side-by-side jumping passes in the free skate. Italians Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii took bronze.

“We had a very late start to our season than initially planned, so as we have been performing at each event, I see us getting stronger, improving things,” said Frazier, who with Knierim had their best short program and free skate scores of the autumn.

Knierim and Frazier didn’t decide to continue competing together this season until July.

“I feel a little personally disappointed tonight just for myself for my jumps,” Frazier continued. “I was a little all over the place and, normally, I can execute better, so I feel a little bad, but I’m very proud of us overall. We’ve done a great job of improving each competition and looking forward to the second half of the season where we can start tapping into our best skating.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Miura and Kihara, who partnered in June 2019 and train in Ontario, both waited with trepidation for their final score to be posted, worried that each’s separate mistake on jumps might cost them the title. When they learned they won, both burst into tears.

“This was the first time in eight years that I made a mistake with a Salchow, so I thought we might not get a good score, and it would be my fault,” Kihara said.

Miura and Kihara entered the competition ranked No. 1 in the world by best scores this season ahead of Knierim and Frazier, who in March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979.

Last season, Miura and Kihara became the second Japanese pair to make a Grand Prix podium and to earn a world championships medal. Their ascension helped Japan win its first Olympic figure skating team event medal in February (a bronze that could be upgraded to gold pending the Kamila Valiyeva case).

In Grand Prix Final history, Japan had won 11 gold medals and 40 total medals, all in singles, before this breakthrough.

Knierim and Frazier, already the first U.S. pair to compete in the Grand Prix Final since 2015, became the first U.S. pair to win a Grand Prix Final medal. The Final has been held annually since 1996, though it was canceled the last two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Miura and Kihara and Knierim and Frazier ascended to the top of the sport while the top five teams from the Olympics from Russia and China have not competed internationally since the Winter Games.

All Russian skaters are ineligible for international competition due to the war in Ukraine. China’s pairs, including Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, didn’t enter last March’s worlds and did not compete in the fall Grand Prix Series.

Later Friday, world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan led the women’s short program with 75.86 points, 1.28 ahead of countrywoman Mai Mihara. American Isabeau Levito, the 15-year-old world junior champion, was fifth of six skaters in her Grand Prix Final debut.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier topped the rhythm dance with 85.93 points, edging Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates by .44. Both couples are bidding for the biggest international title of their careers. None of the Olympic medalists competed internationally this fall.

The Grand Prix Final ends Saturday with the men’s and women’s free skates and free dance, all live on Peacock.

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A Winter Olympic medal still being decided, 10 months later

Fanny Smith, Daniela Maier
It's still unknown whether Fanny Smith (green) or Daniela Maier (blue) is the Olympic ski cross bronze medalist. (Getty)
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There is a second Winter Olympic medal result still in question, 10 months after the Games.

While the figure skating team event results are still unknown due to the Kamila Valiyeva case, the bronze medal in women’s ski cross is also in dispute.

Originally, Swiss Fanny Smith crossed the finish line in third place in the four-woman final at the Winter Games in February. Upon review by the International Ski Federation (FIS) jury, she was minutes later demoted to fourth place after making contact with German Daniela Maier near the end of the course. Maier, who originally was fourth, was upgraded to bronze.

“I tried to be OK with the fourth place. I was very disappointed, I have to say, [then] the jury was like this,” Maier said then. “I am really sorry for Fanny that it’s like this right now. … The jury decided like this, so accept it and be happy with the medal.”

Smith and the Swiss ski federation appealed. FIS reinstated Smith as the bronze medalist nine days after the race and six days after the Closing Ceremony. A FIS appeals commission met four times and reviewed video and written documentation for several hours before deciding that “the close proximity of the racers at that moment resulted in action that was neither intentional or avoidable.”

But that wasn’t the end. The case ended up reportedly going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), whose rulings are usually accepted as final. The CAS process is ongoing, European media reported this week.

CAS has not responded to a request for comment. A FIS contact said Friday, “There is currently no update to provide in regards to the bronze medal in ski cross. Should there be any update, we will inform you.”

Smith said there should be news soon regarding the case, according to Blick.

Maier still has the bronze medal at her home and enjoys looking at it, according to German media, which also reported that the German ski federation expects Maier to win the case and keep the medal. Smith and Maier spoke extensively about it in recent training sessions and cleared things up. Maier said the best outcome would be bronze medals for both of them, according to the report.

For now, FIS lists Smith as the bronze medalist. The IOC lists Maier as the bronze medalist.

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