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’

Grigory Rodchenkov, Russian doping whistleblower, still lives in fear

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His head covered in a black balaclava, adjusting dark goggles obscuring his eyes, Grigory Rodchenkov grows anxious if any part of his face can be seen.

Exposing Russia’s state-sponsorship doping scheme forced Rodchenkov into hiding in the United States five years ago. Revealing his current identity is still too risky for the chemist turned whistleblower, even in a video interview from an undisclosed location.

“It’s my security measures because I have physical threats to be assassinated,” Rodchenkov told The Associated Press. “And I want to live.”

Evidence from Rodchenkov that has already turned Vladimir Putin‘s Russia into international sporting outcasts continues to be used in cases against athletes along with data from his former laboratory in Moscow.

“Putin, he is quite logical. He separates opposition in two ways — enemies … betrayers,” Rodchenkov said. “I am falling in the betrayers’ category and all betrayers should be beheaded, cut, dead. So there is no doubt that he wants me to be dead.”

It has not deterred him from documenting his life story in “The Rodchenkov Affair: How I Brought Down Putin’s Secret Doping Empire,” revisiting how he conspired with his country to corrupt sports and then tries to show contrition by turning star witness.

Rodchenkov was the brains behind the Duchess cocktail of anabolic steroids and cover-up that turned Russia into a medal machine at the home Olympics in Sochi in 2014, topping the standings with 13 gold medals before disqualifications.

Russian spies ensured the Duchess would not be detected in doping tests as FSB agents used a hole in the wall of the Sochi laboratory to swap out the dirty samples with clean urine at night.

“For me, it was the end of doping control,” Rodchenkov said. “If we can do it, why others cannot?”

The doping cover-up extended beyond the Winter Olympics, into the Summer Games, Paralympics, world track and field championships and every major sport.

Some Russians were barred from competing at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Games and 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games as the International Olympic Committee remains opposed to blanket bans on countries.

So Russian athletes can still compete on the international stage if they can show they are clean, despite a four-year ban from major international sporting events being imposed on the nation last year for a fresh cover-up, including tampering with data gained from Rodchenkov’s former lab in Moscow.

“Sport is a part of Putin’s politics and showing to the West how good Russia is,” Rodchenkov said. “You cannot trust Russia. You cannot trust the certification authorities, and (anti-doping) laboratories cannot be allowed to be restored within the foreseeable future.”

Especially now, according to Rodchenkov, following constitutional changes allowing Putin to run for two more six-year terms, in 2024 and 2030,

“Until 2036,” Rodchenkov said, “no trust.”

But why now trust Rodchenkov as he presents a virtuous image at odds with his deep collusion with the state to cheat?

“When you are laboratory director and you have 50 employees and you are reporting to your high ups at the ministry, I could not even think about morals,” he said, dismissing concerns about any long-term damage to the health of athletes he allowed to be pumped with steroids.

“It’s extremely debatable and still ungrounded,” he said. “We see the generation who is now in the end of their lives of 70s and 80s, which are still … in a good physical condition after steroid programs.”

Go back four decades and Rodchenkov was starting out in a Soviet system learning how to manipulate doping controls.

“I had honestly, I’m sorry, but I had huge feelings of accomplishment,” he said. “Those athletes I helped to (win) were extremely talented and I could not understand, with the coach, how he or she may lose to others. The only explanation was doping. Then using some programs, we won gold medals. Honestly it was like leveling the field.

“Again, ‘morals’ is maybe vocabulary from American life but not from Soviet and Russian. In (the) Soviet (Union) it was the Soviet moral, in Russia there is no morals.”

It helps when the athletes are compliant.

“This is the huge problem of the militarization of Russia sport,” Rodchenkov said. “They follow orders, they are disciplined but they cannot tell the truth because they have given the oath to the Russian state and consider foreigners as potential enemies or even actual enemies. That’s why in Russia there are three ways – lying, cheating and denying.”

Rodchenkov has had to convince the world he has shed those ways and is coming clean. More of the cases he helped to cover-up could soon come to light after the World Anti-Doping Agency shared data – of samples tested up to 2015, and tampering that continued into 2019 – that was retrieved from the Moscow testing lab at the heart of the state-backed doping program.

“The problem is that the people from outside cannot understand what is going on inside sports,” he said. “Only whistleblowers could do that. But in corrupted countries you have to escape and we need to be preserved.”

For Rodchenkov that means living a life constantly in fear of being recognized as happened on a train in the US.

“It was a student,” he recalled. “I told him, `Forget you are meeting me, yes it’s me, don’t tell anyone.’ … I disappeared again.”

MORE: Russia track and field faces expulsion if it misses deadline

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Noah Lyles, more world champs race in Monaco; TV, live stream schedule

Noah Lyles
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Noah Lyles headlines a bevy of world champions slated for the first full-on Diamond League meet of the abbreviated track and field season, live on NBC Sports on Friday.

Monaco hosts the strongest fields of any meet since the world championships 10 months ago. Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and NBC Sports Gold air coverage on Friday at 2 p.m. ET.

Reigning world champions include Lyles (200m), Grant Holloway (110m hurdles), Donavan Brazier (800m) and Sam Kendricks (pole vault), and those are just the Americans.

Swede Mondo Duplantis, who twice raised the pole vault world record in February, takes on Kendricks in Monaco. Distance stars Sifan Hassan, Hellen Obiri, Beatrice Chepkoech, Timothy Cheruiyot and Joshua Cheptegei dot the fields, too.

The Diamond League season was due to start in April, but the coronavirus pandemic halted large-gathering track meets until now. Repurposed versions of Diamond League meets in Oslo and Zurich were held the last two months with fewer events and athletes and some entrants racing from different countries.

After Monaco, more Diamond League meets are scheduled for Stockholm (Aug. 23), Lausanne (Sept. 2), Brussels (Sept. 4), Naples (Sept. 17), Doha (Sept. 25) and China (Oct. 17).

Here are the Monaco entry lists. Here’s the schedule of events (all times Eastern):

1:40 p.m. ET — Men’s Pole Vault
2:03 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
2:05 — Women’s High Jump
2:12 — Men’s 800m
2:17 — Women’s Triple Jump
2:19 — Women’s 5000m
2:42 — Men’s 400m Hurdles
2:50 — Women’s 100m
2:57 — Men’s 1500m
3:07 — Women’s 400m
3:13 — Men’s 5000m
3:32 — Men’s 200m
3:39 — Women’s 100m
3:47 — Men’s 3000m Steeplechase

Here are five events to watch (statistics via Tilastopaja.org):

Men’s Pole Vault — 1:40 p.m.
The top field event of the meet includes the reigning Olympic champion (Brazil’s Thiago Braz), reigning world champion (Kendricks) and the world-record holder (Duplantis, who must be the favorite here). Kendricks and Duplantis already went head-to-head this spring, competing virtually from respective home pole-vault setups. Kendricks took their first six head-to-heads, back when Duplantis was a teenager, but the Louisiana-born Swede won all four of their indoor duels in February. Duplantis is the clear Tokyo Olympic favorite until proven otherwise.

Men’s 800m — 2:12 p.m.
The top four from the 2019 World Championships are entered. Brazier, 23, caught fire the last year. He broke the American record to win the world title. He broke his own American indoor record in February. Then, last month, Brazier took 1.33 seconds off his 1500m personal best. Nobody in the Monaco field has beaten Brazier since the start of 2018.

Women’s 5000m — 2:19 p.m.
Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan in world champion at 1500m and 10,000m, but she’s lost four of five meetings with two-time world champion Hellen Obiri of Kenya at 5000m. Hassan appears to be gearing up to race the 5000m in Tokyo, though, saying last month her eye was on a 1500m-5000m Olympic double had the Games been held this year. The 1500m preliminary heats and the 5000m final are separated by about 12 hours at the Olympics next year. Also in this field: three-time Olympian and former American record holder Shannon Rowbury, set for her first Diamond League race in nearly three years and since the birth of daughter Sienna.

Men’s 1500m — 2:57 p.m.
Last we saw Kenyan Timothy Cheruiyot in a 1500m, he led wire-to-wire en route to a 2.12-second victory in the world championships final. Only one man has beaten Cheruiyot in three years, countryman Elijah Manangoi, who is provisionally suspended due to whereabouts failures. The Monaco field does include Norwegian Jakob Ingebrigtsen (second-fastest man of 2019), Ethiopian Yomif Kejelcha (indoor mile world-record holder), Pole Marcin Lewandowski (world bronze medalist) and Craig Engels (2019 U.S. champion who was 10th at worlds).

Men’s 200m — 3:32 p.m.
Lyles and younger brother Josephus Lyles go head-to-head for the first time since January 2017. Noah has lost just one outdoor 200m since placing fourth at the 2016 Olympic Trials coming out of high school. Josephus, primarily a 400m sprinter in his developmnt, last month took a half-second off a five-year-old 200m personal best. His new best time — 20.24 seconds — would have placed third at the 2019 USATF Outdoor Championships behind Noah (19.78) and Christian Coleman (20.02).

MORE: Trayvon Bromell’s return from destruction, death to sprinting

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