Key information for Cup of China

Denis Ten
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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’

Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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