Max Aaron

Max Aaron, Canadian pair lead after first day of U.S. International Figure Skating Classic

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U.S. figure skating champion Max Aaron‘s Olympic season is off to a personal-best start.

Aaron, 21, scored an 81.49 to take the lead at the U.S. International Classic in Salt Lake City on Thursday night, bettering his 78.20 from the World Championships in March, where he finished seventh overall.

Aaron’s short program highlight was a quad salchow-triple toe loop combination, though he put both his hands on the ice on the quad. Aaron also landed a clean triple axel, putting him four points ahead of second-place Stephen Carriere of the U.S. (full results below).

Carriere, 10th at last season’s U.S. Championships, skated a clean program but did not attempt a quadruple jump.

The men’s free skate is Friday at 9:15 p.m. ET on icenetwork.com. It will be preceded by the short dance (2:35) and women’s short program (5:10).

2013 world junior champion Josh Farris, 18, is in third place after his international debut short program scored a 72.58. Farris stepped out of a quad toe loop landing.

The U.S. men are beginning a season in which they’ll compete for two spots on the Olympic team at the 2014 U.S. Championships in Boston in January.

Other contenders for Sochi include 2010 Olympic champion Evan Lysacek, who pulled out of the U.S. International Classic earlier this week. Lysacek has not competed since winning gold in Vancouver. Also in the running are three-time U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott and the last three U.S. silver medalists, Ross MinerAdam Rippon and Richard Dornbush.

In the pairs short program Thursday, Canadians Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch took a six-point lead with a score of 68.52. 2013 U.S. champions Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir placed second despite Shnapir falling on a side-by-side triple salchow.

Moore-Towers and Moscovitch are the defending champions of the U.S. International Classic and took fourth at the World Championships in March.

2012 U.S. champions Caydee Denney and John Coughlin were third at 61.66, followed by Tarah Kayne and Daniel O’Shea (60.31). Denney put her hand on the ice on a side-by-side triple toe loop and a throw triple lutz.

U.S. bronze medalists Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay were sixth out of seven pairs at 50.23 after falls on a throw triple lutz and side-by-side triple toe loop (Bartholomay).

Men
1. Max Aaron (USA) 81.49
2. Stephen Carriere (USA) 77.48
3. Josh Farris (USA) 71.85
4. Grant Hochstein (USA) 63.29
5. Oleksii Bychenko (ISR) 62.19
6. Christopher Caluza (PHI) 61.79
7. Michael Christian Martinez (PHI) 59.65
8. Andrei Rogozine (CAN) 58.39
9. Stanislav Samohin (ISR) 56.84
10. Charles Pao (TPE) 34.62

Pairs
1. Moore-Towers/Moscovitch (CAN) 68.52
2. Castelli/Shnapir (USA) 62.26
3. Denney/Coughlin (USA) 61.66
4. Kayne/O’Shea (USA) 60.31
5. Lawrence/Swiegers (CAN) 59.30
6. Zhang/Bartholomay (USA) 50.23
7. Davidovich/Krasnapolsky (ISR) 43.70

U.S. women’s figure skater has mime coach

Figure skating’s Grand Prix fields look very different this season

Nathan Chen
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Before Nathan Chen is expected to go for a historic fifth straight U.S. figure skating title in January, he will, in a first, compete against most of his top countrymen later this month.

Fields for the Grand Prix Series, figure skating’s autumn international circuit, were published Thursday. As expected, every top skater entered will compete in his or her home country, or nearest to where he or she trains, and in one of the six events.

Traditionally, skaters compete in two of the six events and are scattered among competitions in the U.S., Canada, France, Russia, China and Japan based on world rankings.

But the International Skating Union restricted travel this season due to the coronavirus pandemic. Skaters are limited to compete locally. And the Grand Prix Final at the conclusion of the Grand Prix Series has been postponed from its scheduled December setting in Beijing.

That means that Chen vies for a record-tying fourth straight Skate America crown in Las Vegas in three weeks against a field mostly made up of countrymen, including Olympic teammate Vincent Zhou and U.S. bronze medalist Tomoki Hiwatashi.

In all, there are eight U.S. men entered in Skate America, 11 women (including past national champions Bradie Tennell and Gracie Gold), six pairs and nine ice dance couples (including U.S. champions Madison Chock and Evan Bates and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue), plus some skaters from other nations who train in the U.S.

Traditionally, a country has no more than three entries per discipline at a Grand Prix event.

GRAND PRIX FIELDS: Men | Women | Pairs | Ice Dance

Sochi Olympian Jason Brown, who trains in Toronto, is entered in Skate Canada the week after Skate America.

Two-time U.S. women’s champion Alysa Liu will not be old enough for the Grand Prix Series until the 2021-22 Olympic season.

All of the reigning Olympic champions are absent from the series.

Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan previously announced he wouldn’t compete due to virus-related travel risks. Russian Alina Zagitova extended her indefinite break from competition dating to last autumn, rather choosing to participate in a skating-themed TV series.

Ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada retired. The German pairs’ team of Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot last competed in the 2018 Olympic season.

Instead, the headliners include Chen, the two-time world champion undefeated since placing fifth in PyeongChang. And a deep crop of Russian teenage women, all of course entered in the Rostelecom Cup in Moscow in November.

MORE: Brian Orser reacts to Yevgenia Medvedeva’s coaching switch

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French Open: Karolina Pliskova, top player sans Slam, again exits early

Karolina Pliskova
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No. 2 seed Karolina Pliskova exited yet another Grand Slam in the early stages, falling to 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia in the second round at Roland Garros on Thursday.

Ostapenko, whose only match wins at the French Open before this week came in her title run three years ago, bounced the big-serving Czech 6-4, 6-2.

Pliskova put fewer than half of her first serves in play, while Ostapenko fired 27 winners to 19 unforced errors. Pliskova was on the ropes in her first round, too, needing three sets to get past an Egyptian qualifier.

“Maybe same level as the match before, but of course [Ostapenko] is much better player,” Pliskova said. “Not much to say about this match.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Pliskova is the highest-ranked player of either gender (No. 4) without a Grand Slam title, yet hasn’t made it past the fourth round at a major since the 2019 Australian Open.

She’s played six Slams as a No. 1 or No. 2 seed, one shy of Caroline Wozniacki‘s total before she broke through at the 2018 Australian Open and two shy of Simona Halep‘s total before she won the 2018 French Open.

Ostapenko, meanwhile, is having a very different career.

She won the 2017 Roland Garros title, two days after turning 20, while ranked 47th. She hasn’t gotten past the third round of a major since 2018 Wimbledon, including first-round French Open exits the last two years, and is back down to No. 43 in the WTA rankings.

“It’s hard to compare with 2017. As I said, it was like three years ago, and I was much younger, and also I was fearless. Nobody knew me,” Ostapenko said. “The world doesn’t stop with winning only one Grand Slam. Of course I want to achieve more, and I want to be back in top five, top 10.”

She dropped just nine games in four sets this week.

Ostapenko gets 87th-ranked Spaniard Paula Badosa in third round. Badosa dispatched 2018 French Open runner-up Sloane Stephens 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.

MORE: Serena Williams ‘struggling to walk’

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