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’

A 1983 world champion will become the oldest Olympic table tennis player ever

Ni Xia Lian
European Table Tennis Union
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Ni Xia Lian, a 55-year-old, Chinese-born table tennis player for Luxembourg, is set to become the oldest Olympian ever in her sport.

Ni earned Luxembourg a quota spot at the 2020 Tokyo Games by bagging bronze at the European Championships on Wednesday. Ni will fill that spot and compete at her fifth Games next summer, according to Luxembourg’s table tennis federation.

Ni’s first senior medal at a global competition came with China at the world team championships in 1983.

Ni moved to Luxembourg in the 1990s, running a hotel with her husband. She kept competing, with a five-year break between 2002 and 2007, and set a record in 2017 for the longest table-tennis match at 1 hour 33 minutes.

She would already be the oldest Olympic table tennis player if not for He Zhiwen, who was born in China and competed for Spain with the nickname Juanito at the 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016 Olympics. He retired after Rio at age 54, according to the International Table Tennis Federation.

Ni will be 57 next summer, older than any previous female Olympians outside of archery, equestrian, shooting and art competitions, according to the OlyMADMen. Her best Olympic finish was ninth in Sydney in 2000.

Chinese-born players represent many countries in table tennis, including European Games gold and silver medalists, Fu Yu of Portugal and Han Ying of Germany.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

MORE: Most experienced Olympian in history retires at age 72

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Phil Dalhausser, tempted by retirement, partner switch, forges to final Olympics

Phil Dalhausser, Nick Lucena
AVP
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At one point last summer, Nick Lucena made an unusual move for an Olympic beach volleyball player. He suggested to his partner, 2008 Olympic gold medalist Phil Dalhausser, the best American for the last decade, that Dalhausser might be happier playing with somebody else.

“I thought, man, Phil’s not enjoying this, he wants to retire,” said Lucena, who at the time was sidelined by a minor injury. “The last thing I want to do is slow you down. I was like, if he’s going out, it’s not going to be on my account.”

Lucena even offered a replacement: the up-and-coming Taylor Crabb, who at 27 is 12 years younger than both Lucena and Dalhausser, Floridians who paired at the Rio Olympics (lost in the quarterfinals), for the last four years and to start their careers from 2003-05.

“Taylor is a special player,” Lucena said. “Them together, I thought they’d be a special team.”

Dalhausser agreed to an extent. Crabb is the best defender in the world, he said. But Dalhausser, the bald, 6-foot-9 blocker known as the “Thin Beast,” waved off Lucena’s humility.

“If I were to rate a defender one through 10, Taylor being a 10, say Nick is a nine,” Dalhausser said earlier this month. “But we’re buddies. We get along. We’ve been friends for 20 years. That just adds a point value to him, so now he’s a 10.”

Crabb, based in California, sensed from afar that Dalhausser might be interested in a change last year. So, he called him.

“I’d be crazy not to ask Phil or for us to talk,” said Crabb, in his third season with three-time Olympian Jake Gibb. “We had talked a little bit, but at the end of the day … “

Crabb cut his answer short in a Midtown Manhattan hotel breakfast booth as Lucena walked by.

Even though they didn’t split, Lucena worried that Dalhausser’s heart was not in the sport anymore. Dalhausser isn’t one to show emotion on the sand, but it was clear that 15 years traveling the world took its toll. He’s married now with 4- and 6-year-olds, but he spends more time every summer with Lucena, a fellow 39-year-old father of two.

“I just wasn’t happy, and I wasn’t going to become happy with making a change in volleyball or whatever,” Dalhausser said. “It had to come from inside.”

An epiphany came last offseason. Dalhausser dived into self-help books: Jack Canfield‘s “The Success Principles,” Eckhart Tolle, Tony Robbins.

“One day, I was walking around the kitchen, thinking aloud, what the hell is my purpose?” he said. “I said, I guess it’s volleyball. My wife [former beach volleyball pro Jennifer Corral] was sitting right there and said, you’re an effing idiot if you don’t think it’s volleyball.

“Since then, I was like, all right, I guess I’m going to make a run.”

An Olympic run. Dalhausser and Lucena are about to start a crucial stretch of international tournaments in Tokyo 2020 qualifying. It begins this weekend at the world championships in Hamburg, Germany.

MORE: Beach Volleyball Worlds TV/Stream Schedule

A maximum of two U.S. pairs can qualify for the Games. Dalhausser and Lucena are outside the world top 25, but, more importantly, third among Americans about halfway through qualifying. They’ve only played four events; most have played at least six. Each team’s 12 best finishes in the two-year qualifying window count when the Olympic field is determined next summer.

“Results wise haven’t been great up to this point,” said Dalhausser, who won at least one international event each of the previous 13 seasons, but none since Olympic qualifying began last June. “I feel like we’re going to hit our stride here, the more we play consistently and get into a rhythm. I think we’ll be fine. I’m not really worried about it.”

Come next summer, Dalhausser and Lucena will both be older than all but one previous Olympic beach volleyball player. Dalhausser said this is his last Olympic cycle and that he will not play internationally after the 2020 season, but could continue on the domestic AVP tour.

“You see these grays here?” Dalhausser said, pointing to his chin stubble. “Obviously, when I was 28 in Beijing [the 2008 Olympics with Todd Rogers], that was probably my peak as far as vertical goes. But I’m not so sure I’m that far under it.”

Still, injuries are creeping up. They withdrew from a recent event in Poland, citing Dalhausser’s ab injury that has limited his jump serving.

While Dalhausser and Lucena were arguably medal favorites going into Rio, there is no debate about the new No. 1 going into worlds.

“Hands down,” Dalhausser said. “Norway.”

Anders Mol, 21, and Christian Sørum, 23, have won eight of their last 11 international events together. Norway has never put a men’s or women’s team into an Olympic beach volleyball quarterfinal. But the Beachvolley Vikings, who honed their skills at a Hogwarts-like academy called Top Volley Norge in a village named Sand, are unlike any team Dalhausser has ever seen.

“They just don’t have any holes in their game,” Dalhausser said.

It was about this time five years ago when Dalhausser was part of the world’s hottest team. He and Sean Rosenthal won three Grand Slams in a four-event stretch in the summer of 2014. But Dalhausser suffered an oblique injury at about this time in the last Olympic cycle, and they plateaued. Lucena emailed Dalhausser about his availability, and they reunited a year before the Rio Games.

Dalhausser actually wanted to retire after he and Lucena lost to eventual gold medalists Alison and Bruno in the Olympic quarterfinals. He spoke with his alma mater, the University of Central Florida. Had the school started a beach volleyball program, he would have left for a job there.

Even up until this past January, Lucena said he was trying to talk Dalhausser into playing this summer’s world championships. Finally, Dalhausser was asked by his agent and USA Volleyball for a 2019 season schedule. He submitted one with 15 events, mostly international ones, and shared it with Lucena.

“It kind of told me, oh damn, we’re going to try to make a run, which I was not ready for, but I was kind of excited,” Lucena said. “I still felt like I had a lot left in the tank. Maybe not a lot, but enough to make a push.”

Lucena said he’s seen a change in Dalhausser’s demeanor. They won for the first time in seven events together this season at the AVP New York City Open earlier this month, rallying past Crabb and Gibb in a three-set semifinal. Lucena, known more for his defense, earned the AVP’s Hammer Award, given to the top offensive player of the tournament.

“A wise man once said,” Dalhausser deadpanned, sitting next to Lucena at the event, “a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while.”

Lucena and Dalhausser came up together in the early 2000s, playing for a few hundred dollars a tournament and holding part-time jobs, including as substitute teachers. When Dalhausser left to pair with Rogers, Lucena spent nearly a decade with the motivation to become a strong enough player to get Dalhausser back as a partner.

It didn’t surprise NBC Sports analyst Kevin Wong that Lucena would willingly let Dalhausser leave for another partner in the middle of their last Olympic cycle.

“Those guys are lifelong friends,” Wong said. “Nick’s that guy who can see the bigger picture, life outside of volleyball. The crazy thing was last year on tour, Phil never told me this, but there were two or three different people saying, hey, we think Phil’s going to retire after this year. His motivation, his energy were pretty low and so the question was, is this like a little lull, recharging the battery before one last Olympic push? Or is this the swan song?”

Now Dalhausser seems firm in pushing ahead for one more year.

“It was tempting [to switch partners], but, again, at the end of the day, family then volleyball,” Dalhausser said, noting that sticking with the Tallahassee-based Lucena allows him to spend more time at home in the Orlando area. Most elite beach volleyball players live in California, including Crabb.

“I guess I can be like, hey, Taylor, you want to make a run? It’s not too late,” Dalhausser said. “But my gut’s not telling me that’s the right thing.”

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