Adelina Sotnikova

Carolina Kostner, Denis Ten struggle early at Cup of China

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Mild surprises marked the short programs at the Cup of China on Friday.

Russian Adelina Sotnikova led the women’s standings over 2012 World champion Carolina Kostner of Italy, while China’s Yan Han posted a score two points higher than Olympic favorite Patrick Chan had at Skate Canada last week.

In pairs, Chinese veterans Pang Qing and Tong Jian scored 70.38 points to lead reigning World silver medalists Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany, who tallied 69.07.

Ice dance went more according to plan. Russians Yekaterina Bobrova and Dmitry Soloviyev edged France’s Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat in a battle of two teams thought to be in the Olympic medal hunt.

The Cup of China, the third of six Grand Prix events before the Grand Prix Final (Dec. 5-6), concludes Saturday with the free skates for all four disciplines.

Key information for Cup of China

A Russian woman took command for the second straight Grand Prix. Sotnikova, 17, scored 66.03 points to lead the favored Kostner going into the free skate.

Kostner fell on her opening combination jump but is still within striking distance, 3.28 points behind Sotnikova. The Russian also topped Kostner in the short program at the European Championships in January, but the standings reversed after the free skate.

The American entry, Agnes Zawadzki, fell on her opening combination and landed in seventh place at 53.73.

Zawadzki is in the running for one of three U.S. Olympic Team spots but will need to be much better. Ashley WagnerGracie Gold and Christina Gao all scored at least nine points better in their short programs at Skate America or Skate Canada.

China’s Han, 17 and the 2012 World junior champion, topped a men’s field that included reigning World silver medalist Denis Ten.

Yan, wearing an earring, landed a quadruple toe loop, triple Axel and a triple-triple combination to take a strong 8.2-point lead over Russian Maksim Kovtun.

Kovtun landed two quads and a triple Axel but fell on a footwork sequence. He is considered the top threat to three-time Olympic medalist Yevgeny Plushenko for Russia’s single men’s Olympic spot.

Ten made an underwhelming Grand Prix debut after he pulled out of Skate America due to a back injury two weeks ago. The Kazakh is in fourth with 77.05 points.

He put his hand down on a quad toe and didn’t perform a jump combination, popping a triple Lutz.

Ten, who trains in California, had been battling a jaw infection that also left black spots on his ankles.

“Well that’s not as bad as maybe it could have been,” Ten’s coach, Frank Carroll, told his skater in the kiss-and-cry area.

2011 U.S. silver medalist Richard Dornbush put his hand down on a triple Axel, tripled a planned quad and placed sixth with 72.58 points.

In pairs, 2013 U.S. silver medalists Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim scored 57.99 points, good for fourth place. U.S. bronze medalists Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay were last with 50.33. The top U.S. pairs at Skate America — Caydee Denney and John Coughlin and Marissa Castelli and Simon Schnapir — were 62-plus.

The ice dance standings saw the last two World Championships bronze medalists leading two U.S. couples after the short program.

U.S. silver medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates scored 56.77 to land in third behind the Russians and French. Their short dance score was four points behind what Alex and Maia Shibutani and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue scored at previous Grand Prix events.

Behind Chock and Bates were U.S. junior champions Alexandra Aldridge and Daniel Eaton in fourth with 52.92.

Three U.S. ice dance couples will make the Olympics, likely led by World champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0LPi5J2jow

Men
1. Yan Han (CHN) 90.14
2. Maksim Kovtun (RUS) 81.84
3. Takahiko Kozuka (JPN) 81.62
4. Denis Ten (KAZ) 77.05
5. Florent Amodio (FRA) 76.75
6. Richard Dornbush (USA) 72.58
7. Peter Liebers (GER) 69.34
8. Nan Song (CHN) 68.68
9. Yi Wang (CHN) 63.27

Women
1. Adelina Sotnikova (RUS) 66.03
2. Carolina Kostner (ITA) 62.75
3. Anna Pogorilaya (RUS) 60.24
4. Kanako Murakami (JPN) 57.33
5. Haruka Imai (JPN) 54.79
6. Nikol Gosviani (RUS) 53.76
7. Agnes Zawadzki (USA) 53.73
8. Zijun Li (CHN) 53.58
9. Zhang Kexin (CHN) 53.32
10. Guo Xiaowen (CHN) 45.32

Pairs
1. Pang/Tong (CHN) 70.38
2. Savchenko/Szolkowy (GER) 69.07
3. Peng/Zhang (CHN) 64.24
4. Scimeca/Knierim (USA) 57.99
5. Wang/Wang (CHN) 57.16
6. Martiusheva/Rogonov (RUS) 53.02
7. Popova/Massot (FRA) 51.82
8. Zhang/Bartholomay (USA) 50.33

Ice Dance
1. Bobrova/Soloviyev (RUS) 65.70
2. Pechalat/Bourzat (FRA) 62.60
3. Chock/Bates (USA) 56.77
4. Aldridge/Eaton (USA) 52.92
5. Carron/Jones (FRA) 50.20
6. Zhang/Wu (CHN) 41.79
7. Yu/Wang (CHN) 41.24

Video: Davis/White on ‘SportsDash’

WATCH LIVE: Nathan Chen in U.S. Figure Skating Championships free skate

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Nathan Chen tries to become the first man to win four straight U.S. figure skating titles since 1988, live on NBC Sports on Sunday.

NBC Sports Gold streams live coverage of the men’s free skate for subscribers starting at 2:30 p.m. ET in Greensboro, N.C. NBC joins with TV coverage at 3.

LIVE STREAM: Men’s Free Skate — Gold | NBC | Skate Order

Chen, a 20-year-old Yale sophomore, is undefeated since placing fifth at the PyeongChang Olympics. He can become the seventh man since World War II to win four straight national titles.

Five of the previous six went on to earn Olympic gold, including Dick ButtonScott Hamilton and, most recently, Brian Boitano in 1988.

Chen carries a substantial 13.14-point lead from Saturday’s short program, where he landed two quadruple jumps on one week of full training following a flu bout.

The anticipated drama Sunday comes in the battle for silver and bronze medals and the last two world championships team spots.

Jason BrownAndrew TorgashevVincent Zhou and Tomoki Hiwatashi are separated by 8.78 points. Brown, the 2015 U.S. champion, and Zhou, the 2019 World bronze medalist, are the only men in the field other than Chen with world team experience.

Key Skate Times
5:01 p.m. (ET) — Vincent Zhou
5:18 — Tomoki Hiwatashi
5:26 — Andrew Torgashev
5:35 — Nathan Chen
5:43 — Jason Brown

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NATIONALS: TV Schedule | Full Results

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

Mikaela Shiffrin, with 66th World Cup win, moves one shy of career dream

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Mikaela Shiffrin has said one of her career dreams is to win in every discipline in one season. She is now one victory shy of realizing it.

Shiffrin earned her 66th World Cup victory — and her second in three days — at a super-G in Bansko, Bulgaria, on Sunday.

She prevailed by .29 of a second over Italian Marta Bassino and .70 over Swiss Lara Gut-Behrami. Gut-Behrami, the last skier other than Shiffrin to win a World Cup overall title back in 2016, earned her first podium in exactly one year.

Full results are here.

“Perfect weekend for me,” said Shiffrin, who moved one shy of recently retired Austrian Marcel Hirscher for third place on the World Cup career wins list. “The whole team is excited about the whole weekend, but especially today.”

She is en route to a fourth straight World Cup overall title. And she is a combined victory away from wins in all five disciplines in one season. Only Marc GirardelliPetra KronbergerJanica Kostelic and Tina Maze have done it.

“The thing that I’m most proud of right now is that I know how to win in slalom, [giant slalom], super-G and downhill, which I never expected that would really happen,” she said.

Shiffrin struggled with confidence during a winless stretch in early January, trying not to compare herself to last season, when she won a record 17 times. She still leads the men’s and women’s tours with six victories this season, a little more than halfway through.

“Every race is such a big fight, and I haven’t been the one on top of this fight every time,” she said. “Certainly I’ve been like sometimes the expectations that I have or that other people might have, I’m not quite living up to that. Sometimes it’s hard not to feel like I’m failing sometimes, even though this is still just an incredible season.”

There are two combined races left this season for Shiffrin to achieve the dream — Feb. 23 in Switzerland and March 1 in Italy. While combined — mixing a speed run and a technical run — might seem perfect for Shiffrin, she has one victory in four starts in the discipline between the World Cup and Olympics.

And Shiffrin is careful about her race schedule. She is undecided on entering a downhill and super-G next weekend at the 2014 Olympic venue in Russia.

“After this weekend my brain is a little bit dead,” she joked.

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