Denis Ten

Key information for Cup of China

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Almost every (healthy) Olympic figure skating medal contender will have completed a Grand Prix event by the end of the weekend.

2012 World champion Carolina Kostner and 2013 World silver medalist Denis Ten lead the fields at the Cup of China, the third of six events before the Grand Prix Final, on Friday and Saturday in Beijing.

When they’re done, it will be time to compare scores and gauge the early Olympic pecking order for men, women, pairs and ice dancers.

Here’s the Universal Sports and NBC schedule for Cup of China:

Friday
Universal Sports (online) — 3 a.m. (short programs)
Universal Sports (TV) — 6 p.m. (short programs)

Saturday
Universal Sports (online) — 2 a.m. (free dance)
Universal Sports (online) — 7:30 a.m. (pairs free)
Universal Sports (TV) — 6 p.m. (free dance/pairs free)

Sunday
NBC (TV) — 1:30 (men’s/women’s free)

Here’s a preview for each discipline:

Men

Ten, the Kazakh who placed 11th at the 2010 Olympics at age 16, is reportedly going to compete despite a back injury. He withdrew from Skate America two weeks ago and has also battled an infection that left black spots on his ankles and forced a tooth to be removed, according to icenetwork.com.

Ten was a revelation at the World Championships in March, beating three-time world champion Patrick Chan in the free skate and finishing 1.3 points behind Chan overall.

His competition in Beijing will come from France’s Florent Amodio (three-time European medalist), Japan’s Takahiko Kozuka (2011 World silver medalist) and Russia’s Maxim Kovtun. Kovtun is the top threat to Yevgeny Plushenko to take Russia’s single men’s entry at the Olympics.

One American is entered — 2011 U.S. silver medalist Richard Dornbush.

Here are the top scores from Skate America and Skate Canada for comparison’s sake this weekend:

Tatsuki Machida (JPN) — 265.38
Patrick Chan (CAN) — 262.03
Adam Rippon (USA) — 241.24
Max Aaron (USA) — 238.36
Daisuke Takahashi (JPN) — 236.21
Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 234.80

2013 World bronze medalist Javier Fernandez of Spain will make his Grand Prix season debut at NHK Trophy in Tokyo next week. 2013 Four Continents champion Kevin Reynolds of Canada withdrew from Cup of China due to equipment issues that limited his training.

Women

The Italian Kostner, a five-time medalist at the World Championships, is the class of the field. She’ll be challenged by four women who made the top 10 at worlds in March — Japan’s Kanako Murakami (fourth), China’s Li Zijun (seventh) and Russia’s Adelina Sotnikova (ninth).

One American woman is entered — 2013 U.S. bronze medalist Agnes Zawadzki. Zawadzki is in the thick of the running for one of three U.S. Olympic Team spots with Ashley WagnerGracie Gold and Christina Gao

Here are the top scores from Skate America and Skate Canada for comparison’s sake this weekend:

Mao Asada (JPN) — 204.55
Julia Lipnitskaia (RUS) — 198.23
Ashley Wagner (USA) — 193.81
Akiko Suzuki (JPN) — 193.75
Gracie Gold (USA) — 186.75
Elena Radionova (RUS) — 183.95 (not Olympic eligible)
Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS) — 176.75
Christina Gao (USA) — 173.69

Reigning Olympic and world champion Yuna Kim pulled out of her two Grand Prix events due to a foot injury but may return for a smaller event in December.

Pairs

Germans Aliona Savechenko and Robin Szolkowy have won a medal at each of the last seven World Championships and are the 2010 Olympic bronze medalists. They are looking up at reigning world champions Russians Tatiana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov (not competing at Cup of China) going into Sochi, though.

In Beijing, they will go up against the 2010 Olympic silver medalists Chinese Pang Qing and Tong Jian.

Two U.S. pairs are entered — 2013 U.S. silver medalists Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim and bronze medalists Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay. They are in the running for two available pairs spots on the U.S. Olympic Team.

Here are the top scores from Skate America and Skate Canada for comparison’s sake this weekend:

Volosozhar/Trankov (RUS) — 237.71
Moore-Towers/Moscovitch (CAN) — 208.45
Berton/Hotarek (ITA) — 193.92
Sui/Han (CHN) — 193.77
Duhamel/Radford (CAN) 190.62

Denney/Coughlin (USA) — 182.43
Castelli/Shnapir (USA) — 177.11
Zhang/Bartholomay (USA) — 168.42

Ice Dance

The Olympic gold and silver medals are expected to go to Meryl Davis and Charlie White and Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, but the next two best couples are in Beijing.

Either France’s Nathalie Péchalat and Fabian Bourzat or Russia’s Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev won bronze medals behind the Americans and Canadians at the last two World Championships and Grand Prix Finals.

Two U.S. couples are entered — U.S. silver medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates and two-time reigning U.S. junior champions Alexandra Aldridge and Daniel Eaton.

They are among the couples fighting for three U.S. Olympic Team spots in ice dancing.

Here are the top scores from Skate America and Skate Canada for comparison’s sake this weekend:

Davis/White (USA) — 188.23
Virtue/Moir (CAN) — 181.03
Weaver/Poje (CAN) — 175.23
Cappellini/Lanotte (ITA) 168.49
Shibutani/Shibutani (USA) — 154.47
Hubbell/Donohue (USA) — 153.20

Video: Davis/White discuss Sochi, coffee on ‘SportsDash’

Eliud Kipchoge sets next marathon

Eliud Kipchoge
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Eliud Kipchoge will race the London Marathon on April 26 before he is expected to defend his Olympic title in Japan on Aug. 9, which would mark the shortest break between marathons of his career.

Kipchoge, who in his last 26.2-mile effort became the first person to break two hours at the distance, won all four of his London Marathon starts, including breaking the course record in 2016 and 2019.

His time this past April 28 — 2:02:37 — is the third-fastest time in history. Kipchoge has the world record of 2:01:39 set at the 2018 Berlin Marathon. His sub-two-hour marathon in Vienna on Oct. 12 was not in a record-eligible race.

Kipchoge’s previous shortest break between marathons came in 2016, when he also ran London and the Olympics. The Olympics will be two weeks earlier in 2020 than in 2016.

Kipchoge, 35, has won 11 of 12 marathons since moving to road racing after failing to make Kenya’s 2012 Olympic track team.

He has yet to race the two most prestigious marathons in the U.S. — Boston and New York City — but has said they are on his bucket list.

MORE: Eliud Kipchoge opines on shoe technology debate

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Canadians become first female doubles luge team in World Cup

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WHISTLER, British Columbia (AP) — Caitlin Nash and Natalie Corless made luge history Saturday, becoming the first female team to compete in a World Cup doubles race.

The 16-year-olds from Whistler combined to finish 22nd in a field of 23 sleds, though that seemed largely irrelevant. There have been four-woman teams in what is typically called four-man bobsledding, but luge has never seen a pairing like this until now.

The German sled of Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken won the race in 1 minute, 16.644 seconds. Germany’s Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt finished second and the Russian team of Vsevolod Kashkin and Konstantin Korshunov placed third for their first medal of the season.

The U.S. team of Chris Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman placed 11th.

But the story was the Canadian teens, who qualified for the World Cup event on Thursday. They were nearly a half-second behind any other finisher and almost 2.7 seconds back of Eggert and Benecken. But they’ll forever be able to say that they were winning the race at one point — a technicality because they were the first ones down the hill at the Whistler Sliding Center, but accurate nonetheless.

The only sled they beat was the Italian team of Ivan Nagler and Fabian Malleier, who crashed in the second heat.

There are women’s singles and men’s singles races on the World Cup luge circuit, but there is no rule saying doubles teams must be composed of two men. There have been more female doubles racers at the junior level in recent years, and it was generally considered to be just a matter of time before it happened at the World Cup level.

That time became Saturday.

Canada had the chance to qualify a second sled into the doubles field because some teams typically on the circuit chose to skip this weekend’s stop, and Nash and Corless got into by successfully finishing a Nations Cup qualifying race on Thursday.

They were 11th in that race out of 11 sleds, more than a full second behind the winner and nearly a half-second behind the closest finisher. But all they had to do was cross the line without crashing to get into Saturday’s competition, and earned their spot in the luge history books as a result.

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