Mao Asada leads Skate America; Russian pair breaks world record

Mao Asada
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Japan’s Mao Asada sat in first place over U.S. champion Ashley Wagner after the women’s short program at Skate America in Detroit on Saturday.

Asada, the 2010 Olympic silver medalist, landed the most difficult jump being performed by the top women today, a triple axel, to open her program.

She also hit a triple flip and a triple loop-double loop combination en route to a score of 73.18 points. Wagner, who skated just before Asada at Joe Louis Arena, posted 69.26 points (full results below). The free skate is Sunday afternoon.

In the pairs short program, the favorites for Olympic gold broke the world record score for the second time on the young season.

Russians Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov posted 83.05 points, taking an 11.54-point lead over Canadians Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch going into Sunday’s free skate.

NBC and NBC Live Extra will have live Skate America coverage from 4-6 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday.

The two-time world champion Asada heads a field missing reigning Olympic and world champion Yuna Kim, who is sidelined by a foot injury, and Italy’s Carolina Kostner, who has won a medal at the last three World Championships.

In an excellent season debut, Wagner opened with a clean triple flip-triple toe loop combination and added a triple loop and double axel while skating to Pink Floyd’s “Shine on you Crazy Diamond.”

Her score was a personal best by nearly three points.

Wagner, who just missed the Olympic team in 2010, is a favorite for one of three 2014 U.S. Olympic team spots chosen after the U.S. Championships in Boston in January.

The other top contenders, Gracie GoldChristina Gao and Agnes Zawadzki, are not competing at Skate America.

Davis/White lead ice dance; surprise U.S. men’s results

In the pairs, Volosozhar and Trankov were lacking their biggest competition for Sochi gold — Germans Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy — but were far superior to a field led by the fourth-place finishers from March’s World Championships.

A Russian/Unified Team/Soviet pair won gold at every Olympics from 1964 through 2006, but none won a medal in 2010.

The top U.S. pairs were 2013 national champions Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir (fifth place, 62.56 points) and 2012 national champions Caydee Denney and John Coughlin (sixth place, 62.06 points).

Those two pairs figure to vie for two Olympic spots with Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim, the top U.S. finishers at worlds in ninth place. Scimeca and Knierim are not competing at Skate America.

The U.S. has not won an Olympic pairs figure skating medal since 1988.

Women’s Short Program
1. Mao Asada (JPN) 73.18
2. Ashley Wagner (USA) 69.26
3. Elena Radionova (RUS) 67.01
4. Valentina Marchei (ITA) 59.25
5. Viktoria Helgesson (SWE) 58.80
6. Elene Gedevanishvili (GEO) 56.68
7. Mae Berenice Meite (FRA) 55.84
8. Samantha Cesario (USA) 53.51
9. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS) 53.20
10. Caroline Zhang (USA) 45.76

Pairs Short Program
1. Tatiana Volosozhar/Maxim Trankov (RUS) 83.05
2. Kirsten Moore-Towers/Dylan Moscovitch (CAN) 71.51
3. Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov (RUS) 64.80
4. Stefania Berton/Ondrej Hotarek (ITA) 63.85
5. Marissa Castelli/Simon Shnapir (USA) 62.56
6. Caydee Denney/John Coughlin (USA) 62.06
7. Felicia Zhang/Nathan Bartholomay (USA) 55.83
8. Margaret Purdy/Michael Marinaro (CAN) 50.26

U.S. men’s Olympic figure skating picture clouded

IOC gives more time to pick 2030 Olympic host, studies rotating Winter Games

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The 2030 Winter Olympic host, expected to be Salt Lake City or Sapporo, Japan, is no longer targeted to be decided before next fall, the IOC said in announcing wider discussions into the future of the Winter Games, including the possibility of rotating the Games within a pool of hosts.

The IOC Future Host Commission was granted more time to study factors, including climate change, that could impact which cities and regions host future Winter Olympics and Paralympics. The 2030 Winter Games host is not expected to be decided before or at an IOC session next September or October.

Hosts have traditionally been chosen by IOC members vote seven years before the Games, though recent reforms allow flexibility on the process and timeline. For example, the 2024 and 2028 Games were awarded to Paris and Los Angeles in a historic double award in 2017. The 2032 Summer Games were awarded to Brisbane last year without a traditional bid race.

There are three interested parties for the 2030 Winter Olympics, the IOC said Tuesday without naming them. Previously, Salt Lake City, Sapporo and Vancouver were confirmed as bids. Then in October, the British Columbia government said it would not support a Vancouver bid, a major setback, though organizers did not say that decision ended the bid. All three cities are attractive as past Winter Games hosts with existing venues.

U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee officials have said Salt Lake City is a likelier candidate for 2034 than 2030, but could step in for 2030 if asked.

The future host commission outlined proposals for future Winter Olympics, which included rotating hosts within a pool of cities or regions and a requirement that hosts have an average minimum temperature below freezing (32 degrees) for snow competition venues at the time of the Games over a 10-year period.

The IOC Executive Board gave the commission more time to study the proposals and other factors impacting winter sports.

The IOC board also discussed and will continue to explore a potential double awarding of the 2030 and 2034 Winter Olympic hosts.

Also Tuesday, the IOC board said that Afghanistan participation in the 2024 Olympics will depend on making progress in safe access to sports for women and young girls in the country.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch urged the IOC to suspend Afghanistan until women and girls can play sport in the country.

In a press release, the IOC board expressed “serious concern and strongly condemned the latest restrictions imposed by the Afghan authorities on women and young girls in Afghanistan, which prevent them from practicing sport in the country.” It urged Afghanistan authorities to “take immediate action at the highest level to reverse such restrictions and ensure safe access to sport for women and young girls.”

The IOC board also announced that North Korea’s National Olympic Committee will be reinstated when its suspension is up at the end of the year.

In September 2021, the IOC banned the North Korean NOC through the end of 2022, including banning a North Korean delegation from participating in the Beijing Winter Games, after it chose not to participate in the Tokyo Games.

North Korea, formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, was the only one of 206 National Olympic Committees to withdraw from Tokyo. The country made its choice in late March 2021, citing a desire “to protect our athletes from the global health crisis caused by the malicious virus infection.”

The IOC said in September 2021 that it “provided reassurances for the holding of safe Games and offered constructive proposals to find an appropriate and tailor-made solution until the very last minute (including the provision of vaccines), which were systematically rejected by the PRK NOC.”

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Olympic champion Justine Dufour-Lapointe leaves moguls for another skiing discipline

Justine Dufour-Lapointe
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Justine Dufour-Lapointe, the 2014 Olympic moguls champion, is leaving the event to compete in freeriding, a non-Olympic skiing discipline.

“After three Olympic cycles and 12 years on the World Cup circuit, I felt that I needed to find a new source of motivation and had to push my limits even more so I can reach my full potential as a skier,” the 28-year-old Montreal native said in a social media video, according to a translation from French. “Today, I am starting a new chapter in my career. … I want to perfect myself in another discipline. I want to connect with the mountain differently. Above all, I want to get out of my comfort zone in a way I’ve never done before.”

Dufour-Lapointe said she will compete on the Freeride World Tour, a series of judged competitions described as:

There‘s a start gate at the summit and a finish gate at the bottom. That’s it. Best run down wins. It truly is that simple. Think skiers and snowboarders choosing impossible-looking lines through cornices and cliff-faces and nasty couloirs. Think progressive: big jumps, mach-speed turns and full-on attack. Think entertaining.

Dufour-Lapointe has retired from moguls skiing, according to a Freeride World Tour press release, though she did not explicitly say that in social media posts Tuesday.

At the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, Dufour-Lapointe denied American Hannah Kearney‘s bid to become the first freestyle skier to repeat as Olympic champion. Older sister Chloé took silver in a Canadian one-two.

Dufour-Lapointe also won the world title in 2015, then Olympic silver in 2018 behind Frenchwoman Perrine Laffont.

Chloé announced her retirement in September. A third Dufour-Lapointe Olympic moguls skier, Maxime, retired in 2018.

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