Yan Han

Yan Han, Anna Pogorilaya win Cup of China

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China’s Yan Han held on to his short program lead, while Russian Anna Pogorilaya jumped from third to first to win at the Cup of China on Saturday.

Yan, 17, the 2012 World junior champion, totaled 245.62 points after his free skate in Beijing to hold off Russian Maksim Kovtun (scroll down for full results).

Pogorilaya became the second straight women’s Grand Prix winner from Russia with 178.62 points, nearly four better than countrywoman Adelina Sotnikova. Yulia Lipnitskaya won Skate Canada a week ago.

France’s Natahlie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat, the 2012 World bronze medalists, won the ice dance. The pairs competition went to Germany’s Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy, the 2013 World silver medalists.

NBC and NBC Live Extra will have coverage of the Cup of China on Sunday from 1:30-3:30 p.m. ET.

Here’s an event-by-event rundown of Saturday’s free skates:

Men

Yan landed a quadruple toe loop-triple toe loop combination but also stepped out of a triple Axel and fell on a triple flip.

Here’s how Yan stacks up with the top men from Skate America and Skate Canada:

Tatsuki Machida (JPN) — 265.38
Patrick Chan (CAN) — 262.03
Yan Han (CHN) — 245.62
Adam Rippon (USA) — 241.24
Maksim Kovtun (RUS) — 238.65
Max Aaron (USA) — 238.36
Daisuke Takahashi (JPN) — 236.21
Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 234.80

The top men’s skater yet to perform this Grand Prix season is Spain’s Javier Fernandez, the 2013 World bronze medalist, who debuts at NHK Trophy in Tokyo next weekend.

Second-place Kovtun landed two quadruple jumps (one in combination) in the top-scoring free skate to hold onto second place. The 18-year-old finished 17th at the World Championships in March, giving Russia a single men’s entry at the Olympics.

It’s believed that entry will go to three-time Olympic medalist Yevgeny Plushenko, if he shows he’s healthy at the Russian National Championships in December and the European Championships in January.

Plushenko hasn’t competed much since winning silver at the 2010 Olympics, but he did score 265.94 points at the 2013 Russian Championships, nearly 30 more points than Kovtun tallied in Beijing the last two days.

Denis Ten, the 2013 World silver medalist, finished fourth (224.80) in his Grand Prix season debut after pulling out of Skate America with a back injury. Ten was questionable to compete in Beijing given he developed a jaw infection training in California. The infection also reportedly left black spots in his ankles.

Richard Dornbush, the 2011 U.S. silver medalist, totaled 218.57 points after falling on his quadruple toe loop attempt in his free skate.

Two men will make the Olympic team following the U.S. Championships in Boston in January. Here’s how Dornbush’s score stacks up with the other top U.S. men in the Grand Prix season so far:

Adam Rippon — 241.24
Max Aaron — 238.36
Jason Brown — 231.03
Richard Dornbush — 218.57
Josh Farris — 216.72
Jeremy Abbott — 215.95
Ross Miner — 196.89

Aaron, Abbott and Rippon are entered in the NHK Trophy in Tokyo next weekend. The wild card for the Olympics is 2010 Olympic champion Evan Lysacek, who is working his way back from a hip injury and hasn’t competed since the Vancouver Games.

Women

Pogorilaya, the 2013 World junior bronze medalist, followed fellow 15-year-old Russian Lipnitskaya in winning a Grand Prix event.

Skating to “Pirates of the Caribbean,” she opened with a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination and added five more triple jumps.

Here’s how Pogorilaya stacks up with the top women from Skate America and Skate Canada:

Mao Asada (JPN) — 204.55
Yulia Lipnitskaya (RUS) — 198.23
Ashley Wagner (USA) — 193.81
Akiko Suzuki (JPN) — 193.75
Gracie Gold (USA) — 186.75
Yelena Radyonova (RUS) — 183.95 (not Olympic eligible)
Anna Pogorilaya (RUS) 178.62
Yelizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS) — 176.75
Adelina Sotnikova (RUS) 174.70
Christina Gao (USA) — 173.69
Carolina Kostner (ITA) 173.40

Kostner, the 2012 World champion, dropped from second after the short program to third, falling on a triple toe loop. She finished 1.3 points behind Sotnikova, the Russian leader after the short program. Sotnikova fell twice in her free skate.

American Agnes Zawadzki did not complete a triple-triple combination and fell on a triple Lutz.

Three U.S. women will make the Olympic team after the U.S. Championships.

Here’s how Zawadzki, the U.S. bronze medalist, stacks up with the top U.S. women from Skate America and Skate Canada:

Ashley Wagner — 193.81
Gracie Gold — 186.75
Christina Gao — 173.69
Agnes Zawadzki — 147.64

Pairs

The Germans Savchenko and Szolkowy jumped past Chinese short program leaders Pang Qing and Tong Jian despite Savchenko falling on a throw at the end of their free skate.

Savchenko and Szolkowy trailed by a little over one point after the short program and ended up winning with 201.21 total points, nearly seven better than the Chinese veterans.

The Germans are considered the top threat to Russian World champions Tatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov, who did not compete in Beijing but will lead the NHK Trophy field.

Here are how the world’s top pairs and the U.S.’ top pairs stack up after three Grand Prix events:

Volosozhar/Trankov (RUS) — 237.71
Moore-Towers/Moscovitch (CAN) — 208.45
Savchenko/Szolkowy (GER) 201.21
Pang/Tong (CHN) 194.38
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
Scimeca/Knierim (USA) 161.72

Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim, the 2013 U.S. silver medalists, finished in fifth place in Beijing with that 161.72, 6.2 points better than Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay. However, Zhang and Bartholomay scored that 168.42 at Skate America two weeks ago. Two U.S. pairs will make the Olympic team.

Ice Dance

Pechalat and Bourzat leapfrogged Russian short program leaders Yekaterina Bobrova and Dmitry Soloviyev.

Those two teams are among the Sochi medal contenders with the reigning World champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the U.S. and reigning Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada.

Here’s how the top couples stack up after their Grand Prix season debuts:

Davis/White (USA) — 188.23
Virtue/Moir (CAN) — 181.03
Weaver/Poje (CAN) — 175.23
Cappellini/Lanotte (ITA) 168.49
Pechalat/Bourzat (FRA) 165.68
Bobrova/Soloviyev (RUS) 163.42
Shibutani/Shibutani (USA) — 154.47
Hubbell/Donohue (USA) — 153.20
Chock/Bates (USA) 150.53

Madison Chock and Evan Bates, the U.S. silver medalists, held onto their third-place standing after the short program at the Cup of China. U.S. junior champions Alexandra Aldridge and Daniel Eaton fell from fourth to fifth. Three U.S. ice dance couples will make the Olympic team.

Davis and White are entered in NHK Trophy next week.

Cup of China Results

Men
1. Yan Han (CHN) 245.62
2. Maksim Kovtun (RUS) 238.65
3. Takahiko Kozuka (JPN) 226.92
4. Denis Ten (KAZ) 224.80
5. Richard Dornbush (USA) 218.57
6. Florent Amodio (FRA) 213.39
7. Peter Liebers (GER) 200.80
8. Song Nan (CHN) 196.80
9. Wang Yi (CHN) 185.22

Women
1. Anna Pogorilaya (RUS) 178.62
2. Adelina Sotnikova (RUS) 174.70
3. Carolina Kostner (ITA) 173.40
4. Kanako Murakami (JPN) 165.95
5. Nikol Gosviani (RUS) 152.04
6. Haruka Imai (JPN) 150.30
7. Agnes Zawadzki (USA) 147.64
8. Zhang Kexin (CHN) 144.88
9. Guo Xiaowen (CHN) 139.50
10. Zijun Li (CHN) 138.98

Pairs
1. Savchenko/Szolkowy (GER) 201.21
2. Pang/Tong (CHN) 194.38
3. Peng/Zhang (CHN) 187.19
4. Wang/Wang (CHN) 172.35
5. Scimeca/Knierim (USA) 161.72
6. Zhang/Bartholomay (USA) 155.52
7. Martiusheva/Rogonov (RUS) 147.19
8. Popova/Massot (FRA) 141.33

Ice Dance
1. Pechalat/Bourzat (FRA) 165.68
2. Bobrova/Soloviyev (RUS) 163.42
3. Chock/Bates (USA) 150.53
4. Carron/Jones (FRA) 134.12
5. Aldridge/Eaton (USA) 132.06
6. Yu/Wang (CHN) 106.18
7. Zhang/Wu (CHN) 104.98

Video: Davis/White on ‘SportsDash’

Jordan Thompson, U.S. volleyball’s new weapon, took unique route to NCAA history

Jordan Thompson
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It was about this time last year that Jordan Thompson first appeared on the radar of U.S. women’s volleyball coach Karch Kiraly. Since, Thompson emerged as the youngest starter, and arguably a star, for the national team.

She goes into what could be her final weekend of college volleyball as one of the most dominant athletes in any sport. And one of the most unique stories in NCAA history.

Thompson plays not for a Big Ten or Pac-12 powerhouse, but for Cincinnati, a school that, before she arrived, never made it past the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

The unranked Bearcats upset second-ranked Pittsburgh in the second round last Saturday. They play Penn State, winner of six of the last 12 NCAA titles, in the Sweet 16 on Friday.

In 33 games this season, Thompson has registered a Division I-leading 768 kills, which is 143 more than the next most prolific attacker. That margin of 143 is the same number that separates No. 2 from No. 31.

Last season, she had 827 kills, which was 240 more than anybody else and a single-season record (by 112 kills) since NCAA match formats shifted from 30-point to 25-point sets in 2008.

She is a contender, if not a favorite, to be AVCA National Player of the Year. All of the previous winners dating to 1985 came from schools that reached at least one Final Four.

On Oct. 4, a UCF player’s face caught the wrong end of a Thompson attack. Cincinnati teammates watching from the bench dropped to the floor in astonishment.

Thompson tallied 50 kills in one match alone on Nov. 3, becoming the first D-I player to do so in 20 years.

That happened on Senior Day. Before that match, Thompson received a plaqued No. 23 jersey and flowers.

She posed for a photo standing with her husband, former Cincinnati offensive lineman Blake Yager, her mother, Mary, whose bribes helped Thompson develop into an attacker, and her father, 1990s Harlem Globetrotter Tyrone Doleman (and brother of Pro Football Hall of Famer Chris Doleman).

Mary has been most instrumental, raising Thompson as a single mom in Minnesota. Thompson, who is 6 feet, 4 inches now, was always tall for her age.

She played youth basketball against older girls and grew frustrated by the physical contact. Kneepads weren’t comfort enough. She decided to give volleyball a try in middle school.

“She was very timid,” Mary said of her daughter, who has since gotten 10 tattoos, including one of a hummingbird. “She would tell me she didn’t want to hurt anyone on the other side of the net. I told her I would give her a dollar for every time she would whack it. And I would give her $10 if she would actually hit someone on the other end of the court.”

It took a while, but Thompson was motivated by her love of horses. The payouts from her mom went toward a saddle and a bridal. A box with horse equipment remains in the family garage back home.

“She was trying to build up her supplies to be able to one day say to me, look, I’ve got a saddle, I’ve got all of my tack, I’ve got stuff to clean the hooves, can we get a horse now?” Mary said. 

After just two years of club volleyball, Thompson received her first Division-I scholarship offer. It came from Syracuse. Thompson was a high school sophomore.

“In the back of my head, I’m thinking, I’m never going to get another offer, so I better take this one,” she said.

Thompson was intent on Syracuse for a year before a coaching change led her to decommit. She wasn’t sure if many schools knew she had reopened her recruiting. A Minnesota club teammate had committed to Cincinnati and suggested Thompson take a visit.

The Bearcats went 3-29 the season before she committed.

“I said, Jordan, you can play D-I at Texas. You can go to Nebraska,” Mary said. “She was like, no, no, I want to play all four years. I actually want to get playing time, mom. She really struggled believing how good she could be.”

The biggest obstacle came junior year. In a preseason training session, Thompson collided with that Minnesota club teammate, Jade Tingelhoff, and tore the UCL in her dominant, right arm. She was in an armpit-to-wrist brace for two months post-Tommy John surgery, including three weeks with her arm locked in place.

She couldn’t brush her hair, had a hard time brushing her teeth and found it difficult showering and getting dressed.

She still went to every Bearcats game and traveled with the team. Cincinnati went from 22-10 her sophomore season to 13-19 that year without her on the court.

“It ended up being OK,” Tingelhoff said. “She came back that next season — I’m not kidding — 10 times as better than she was even the previous year.”

As a redshirt junior, Thompson and her 827 kills helped Cincinnati to a 26-8 record and its first NCAA Tournament win in seven years. She also caught the eye of Kiraly by the end of that 2018 season.

“She was one of the elite players in all of college volleyball,” he said. “Probably the only one who came from a conference other than the ones known for producing the most NCAA champions, like the Big Ten and the Pac-12.”

By last spring break, Thompson had become a favorite of U.S coaches at a camp to help select teams for summer international tournaments.

She had a one-on-one conversation with Kiraly, the only person to own Olympic indoor and beach gold medals. The legend told her she had potential to play at the Pan American Games. Later, he upped the praise to say she was ready for the top-level Nations League, a precursor to Olympic qualifying.

Thompson made her national team debut in May. By August, she came off the bench to help spur a comeback in a crucial Olympic qualifying match. The next day, she was in the starting lineup for the U.S.’ final Olympic qualifier, where the Americans clinched a Tokyo 2020 berth.

“I think a lot people don’t know she is still in college,” two-time U.S. Olympic outside hitter Jordan Larson said then. “She still has one more year left.”

Agents reached out, but Thompson had no intention of giving up her final year of NCAA eligibility. She wanted to make history at Cincinnati. That was secured with the Sweet 16 berth.

With the new year, she will trade the Cincinnati red and black for Team USA colors. She will keep in mind what the U.S. coaching staff told the team during Olympic qualifying and what she called a dream summer.

“My big goal in life was I just wanted to be in the USA gym,” said Thompson, who is working on her master’s in criminal justice. “To hear that we’re all working towards this goal of trying to make this roster, and we are being looked as potential players to make that roster, my jaw dropped. To know that it’s even a remote possibility is mind-blowing.”

VIDEO: Brazil volleyball star faints during courtside interview

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Tahiti chosen for Olympic surfing competition at 2024 Paris Games

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Paris 2024 Olympic organizers want the surfing competition to be held in Tahiti, an island in French Polynesia that is about 9,800 miles from Paris.

It would break the record for the farthest Olympic medal competition to be held outside the host. In 1956, equestrian events were moved out of Melbourne due to quarantine laws and held five months earlier in Stockholm, some 9,700 miles away.

The Paris 2024 executive board approved the site Thursday — specifically, the village of Teahupo’o — and will propose it to the IOC. It beat out other applicants Biarritz, Lacanau, Les Landes and La Torche, all part of mainland France.

“If, ever, we have two alternatives, and where one alternative gives the athletes of a particular sport more closeness to the heart of the Games and allows them to enjoy the magic and the spirit of the Games better, then in the interest of the athletes, we prefer this solution,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in June when asked about Tahiti’s interest in hosting surfing.

Surfing will debut at the 2020 Tokyo Games but is not on the permanent Olympic program. Surfing was among sports added to the Paris 2024 program in June and could be added for the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

MORE: U.S. athletes qualified for Tokyo Olympics

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