Volosozhar and Trankov throw down the gauntlet at Nebelhorn

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Tatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov, the reigning world champions in pairs figure skating, looked nearly unbeatable at the Nebelhorn Trophy, currently underway in Oberstdorf, Germany. In their free skate on Friday, the Russian duo solidified its position as the gold medal favorite for a home Olympics in February. They beat the rest of the field by 57.08 points overall. (To put that number in perspective, last year they won this competition by 17.65 points.) 

As a smaller international competition, the Nebelhorn Trophy scores don’t factor into the International Skating Union’s official list of the highest scores ever recorded. If they did, however, Volosozhar and Trankov would have surpassed the current top scores in the short program, free skate, and total score. Nebelhorn marks do count in the record of the skaters’ personal bests; in that regard, the team topped all of their previous high scores.

 Volosozhar and Trankov went undefeated last season, finishing off the year with a win over German rivals Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy at the World Championships. While the German team has traditionally been their strongest source of competition, Volosozhar and Trankov have looked increasingly dominant as of late.

The Russians’ free skate is set to music from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Jesus Christ Superstar, with the skaters playing the roles of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene. Trankov told the Russian press this summer that he sees himself as more of the television version of Jesus Christ, as opposed to the stage version’s, and that he’s not planning on growing out a beard for the role.

The Nebelhorn Trophy is the last chance for countries who haven’t yet qualified for Olympic spots to earn entries to the Winter Games. The event also marks the return of two-time world champion Miki Ando of Japan, who gave birth to a daughter in April. Also of note are the senior debuts of two talented young singles skaters: 2013 World Junior Champion Yelena Radyonova, 14, of Russia and Jason Brown, 19, of the United States.  Radyonova is in first place after the ladies’ short program, and Brown is second after the men’s.

Dmitriy Balandin, surprise Olympic swimming champion, retires

Dmitriy Balandin
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Dmitriy Balandin, the Kazakh swimmer who pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the 2016 Rio Olympics, retired at age 27.

“Today I would like to announce the end of my sports career,” Balandin said last week, according to Kazakhstan’s Olympic Committee. “I am still inspired. A new phase of my life begins. I have a lot of cool projects in my head that will soon be implemented.”

Balandin reportedly has coaching aspirations.

In 2016, he won the Olympic men’s 200m breaststroke out of lane eight as the last qualifier into the final. He edged American Josh Prenot by seven hundredths of a second and became Kazakhstan’s first Olympic swimming medalist.

He followed that up with 11th- and 17th-place finishes in the breaststrokes in Tokyo last year.

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U.S. women’s basketball team scores most points in FIBA World Cup history

Brionna Jones
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SYDNEY — A’ja Wilson and the U.S. put on quite a show, breaking the World Cup scoring mark in a record rout of South Korea.

Brionna Jones scored 24 points and Wilson added 20 to help the U.S. beat South Korea 145-69 on Monday. Shakira Austin’s layup with 9 seconds left helped the Americans break Brazil’s record of 143 points set in 1990.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been part of a team that can score the basketball like this,” Wilson said. “This is crazy, we put up 145 points. I think when you look at us and just knowing how talented we are, we just came together and we play together very, very well.”

The U.S. always has the most talented and deepest roster of any team in the World Cup with 12 WNBA stars on the roster. Still, the Americans had never come close to that sort of offensive output during it’s storied World Cup history. The previous team record was 119 points against Angola in 2014 and China in 2006. The scoring margin was also the biggest in U.S. history as well surpassing the 75-point win over Angola in 2014.

The win was also the 26th in a row in World Cup play for the Americans, who haven’t lost since the 2006 semifinals when they fell to Russia. The U.S. also won 26 in a row from 1994-2006. The Soviet Union holds the World Cup record with 56 straight wins from 1959-1986.

MORE: FIBA World Cup Results

What started with Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and Sylvia Fowles has now been passed on to Breanna Stewart and Wilson. A legacy of excellence that doesn’t look like it’s ending anytime soon.

The U.S. (4-0), which has been playing stellar defense, was challenged by South Korea early. The teams were trading baskets for the first 8 minutes and it was tied at 21 before the Americans took control, scoring the final 11 points of the period.

Kahleah Copper came off the bench for the first time of the tournament and scored six points during that spurt. The Americans kept the streak going to start the second quarter, scoring nine of the first 11 points to put the game away.

By the time the game reached the half the U.S. was up 68-40, including scoring 44 points in the paint against the undersized Koreans.

“We were trying to get the ball inside,” Jones said. “We had an advantage there.”

The only suspense in the second half was how many records the Americans could break. They took down their own scoring mark on Sabrina Ionescu’s 3-pointer with 6:15 left in the game and kept putting up points with Austin’s layup capping off the contest.

Other records broken on Monday included the 62 field goals made, 36 assists and 94 points in the paint.

“Our size was a problem for them and I thought we shared the ball,” U.S. coach Cheryl Reeve said.

The Americans were well rested for the game after having their first day off of the tournament on Sunday.

Despite the rout, South Korea (1-3) can still advance to the quarterfinals with a win over Puerto Rico on Tuesday.

Leeseul Kang, who had 37 points in a win over Bosnia and Herzegovina, scored 10 points. Hyejin Park had 17 to lead the team.

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