Mao Asada leads Skate America; Russian pair breaks world record

Mao Asada

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

USA Boxing to skip world championships

USA Boxing

USA Boxing will not send boxers to this year’s men’s and women’s world championships, citing “the ongoing failures” of the IBA, the sport’s international governing body, that put boxing’s place on the Olympic program at risk.

The Washington Post first reported the decision.

In a letter to its members, USA Boxing Executive Director Mike McAtee listed many factors that led to the decision, including IBA governance issues, financial irregularities and transparency and that Russian and Belarusian boxers are allowed to compete with their flags.

IBA lifted its ban on Russian and Belarusian boxers in October and said it would allow their flags and anthems to return, too.

The IOC has not shifted from its recommendation to international sports federations last February that Russian and Belarusian athletes be barred, though the IOC and Olympic sports officials have been exploring whether those athletes could return without national symbols.

USA Boxing said that Russian boxers have competed at an IBA event in Morocco this month with their flags and are expected to compete at this year’s world championships under their flags.

“While sport is intended to be politically neutral, many boxers, coaches and other representatives of the Ukrainian boxing community were killed as a result of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, including coach Mykhaylo Korenovsky who was killed when a Russian missile hit an apartment block in January 2023,” according to the USA Boxing letter. “Ukraine’s sports infrastructure, including numerous boxing gyms, has been devastated by Russian aggression.”

McAtee added later that USA Boxing would still not send athletes to worlds even if Russians and Belarusians were competing as neutrals and without their flags.

“USA Boxing’s decision is based on the ‘totality of all of the factors,'” he said in an emailed response. “Third party oversite and fairness in the field of play is the most important factor.”

A message has been sent to the IBA seeking comment on USA Boxing’s decision.

The women’s world championships are in March in India. The men’s world championships are in May in Uzbekistan. They do not count toward 2024 Olympic qualifying.

In December, the IOC said recent IBA decisions could lead to “the cancellation of boxing” for the 2024 Paris Games.

Some of the already reported governance issues led to the IOC stripping IBA — then known as AIBA — of its Olympic recognition in 2019. AIBA had suspended all 36 referees and judges used at the 2016 Rio Olympics pending an investigation into a possible judging scandal, one that found that some medal bouts were fixed by “complicit and compliant” referees and judges.

The IOC ran the Tokyo Olympic boxing competition.

Boxing was not included on the initial program for the 2028 Los Angeles Games announced in December 2021, though it could still be added. The IBA must address concerns “around its governance, its financial transparency and sustainability and the integrity of its refereeing and judging processes,” IOC President Thomas Bach said then.

This past June, the IOC said IBA would not run qualifying competitions for the 2024 Paris Games.

In September, the IOC said it was “extremely concerned” about the Olympic future of boxing after an IBA extraordinary congress overwhelmingly backed Russian Umar Kremlev to remain as its president rather than hold an election.

Kremlev was re-elected in May after an opponent, Boris van der Vorst of the Netherlands, was barred from running against him. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled in June that van der Vorst should have been eligible to run against Kremlev, but the IBA group still decided not to hold a new election.

Last May, Rashida Ellis became the first U.S. woman to win a world boxing title at an Olympic weight since Claressa Shields in 2016, taking the 60kg lightweight crown in Istanbul. In Tokyo, Ellis lost 3-0 in her opening bout in her Olympic debut.

At the last men’s worlds in 2021, Robby Gonzales and Jahmal Harvey became the first U.S. men to win an Olympic or world title since 2007, ending the longest American men’s drought since World War II.

The Associated Press and NBC Olympic research contributed to this report.

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Sweden weighs 2030 Winter Olympic bid after IOC meeting

Sweden Olympics

Sweden’s Olympic leaders are weighing up whether to bid for the Winter Games in 2030.

The Nordic country’s potential entry into the race to stage the 2030 Games comes at a time when the International Olympic Committee has delayed the process and is searching around for more contenders to host the event.

Sapporo, Japan, was considered the favorite before an ongoing bid-rigging scandal related to the Summer Olympics in Tokyo held in 2021. Salt Lake City is the only other known bidder that might consider taking 2030, though officials have said they favor a bid for 2034.

A joint Stockholm-Are bid from Sweden lost out to another shared bid, from Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo in Italy, to stage the Winter Games in 2026 amid a lack of clear public support in Sweden and some government upheaval at local and national level in the run-up to the vote.

There was reportedly discontent in Stockholm over how the Swedish bid was treated in the contest for the 2026 Games.

The Swedish Olympic and Paralympic Committees and the Swedish Sports Confederation will start a feasibility study for 2030, they said Wednesday. A report from the study will be presented on April 20.

“These are new times now and the feasibility study will show how the Olympics and Paralympics can be shaped based on Sweden’s conditions,” said Anders Larsson, acting chairman of the Swedish Olympic Committee. “We already have virtually all the arenas required to arrange the largest Winter Games.”

The committee’s secretary general, Åsa Edlund Jönsson, said the 2030 Games “could be a campfire to rally Sweden around.”

“The idea is to review the concept that existed for the candidacy in 2026, which would mean competitions in several places in Sweden,” Jönsson said, specifically referencing Stockholm and the regions of Dalarna and Jämtland. “Here we feel confident that there is great experience in arranging world-class winter championships in the Swedish sports movement.”

The Stockholm-Are bid for 2026 even included plans to stage ice-sliding sports across the Baltic Sea at a venue in Latvia to avoid building a white elephant venue in Sweden — a key demand of IOC reforms to cut Olympic hosting costs.

The idea of Sweden potentially joining the 2030 race came up at a meeting in Lausanne in January.

“We have had a meeting with the IOC that was about, without obligation from any quarter, looking at the Games in 2030,” Larsson said. “During that meeting, it was clear that the IOC liked our concept for 2026. What the feasibility study will provide answers to is whether we are ready to move forward in the process.”

Sweden hosted the Summer Olympics in 1912 but never a Winter Games, despite the country being an established giant in winter sports.

It has made eight failed bids to stage the Winter Games.

Gunilla Lindberg, who is on the Swedish Olympic Committee, is also an IOC member and on its panel tasked with finding potential future hosts for the Winter Games.

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