Takahashi, Asada lead at NHK Trophy as Gold skates to fourth

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A pair of Japanese skaters took healthy leads at the NHK Trophy Friday in Tokyo, Daisuke Takahashi and Mao Asada, both medalists at the 2010 Vancouver Games, claiming first place after the short program.

It was a particularly strong showing for Takahashi, who had started his season with a disappointing fourth-place finish at Skate America last month. The reigning Olympic bronze medalist scored the season’s highest short program mark, registering a 95.55. Spain’s Javier Fernandez, a bronze medalist at the 2013 World Championships, was in second with a 84.78.

Asada, who won silver behind Yuna Kim in Vancouver, landed her crowd-pleasing triple Axel and was strong on her spins, the component that set her apart for a Skate America win in October. She claimed first place over veteran countrywoman Akiko Suzuki, scoring a 71.26 to 66.03.

Gracie Gold led the American charge in Tokyo, skating without legendary coach Frank Carroll, whom she began working with in September, in attendance. The 18-year-old stepped out of a triple loop, but scored a 62.83 to put her into fourth place.

Once again Adam Rippon was the surprise of the American men. The 23-year-old, a 2012 U.S. Championships silver medalist, was first for Team USA, placing fourth ahead of Jeremy Abbott (seventh) and Max Aaron (eighth).

Rippon had not factored into the men’s Olympic-team conversation just a month ago, but he finished ahead of reigning U.S. Championships winner Aaron at Skate America, winning the silver there. Abbott, himself a three-time national champion, was a disappointing sixth at Skate Canada and again looked shaky Friday.

In pairs, reigning world champions Tatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov were safely in the lead with a 82.03, far ahead of the second-place team of Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, who scored a 70.13.

Americans Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier were fourth while reigning U.S. champions Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir placed fifth.

Takahashi’s short program score was the highest of any man this season. Reigning and three-time world champion Patrick Chan had scored a 88.10 at Skate Canada while Takahashi’s countryman Tatsuki Machida registered a 91.18 at Skate America.

NHK Trophy continues Friday night, Eastern Standard Time, with the ice dance short dance, featuring American Meryl Davis and Charlie White and siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani (below). The short dance will stream live on Universal Sports along with the pairs free skate, beginning at 10:05 p.m..

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Noah Lyles clips Trayvon Bromell in personal best at New Balance Indoor Grand Prix

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Noah Lyles got his 2023 off to a personal-best start, beating Trayvon Bromell in a photo finish in the 60m at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix on Boston on Saturday.

Lyles, the world 200m champion, ran 6.51 seconds. Bromell, the world 100m bronze medalist, also ran 6.51. Lyles prevailed by two thousandths of a second.

“I’ve been waiting on this for a long time,” Lyles, whose personal best was 6.55, told Lewis Johnson on NBC. “We’re not just coming for the 200m world record. We’re coming for all the world records.”

Lyles is running the 60m to better his start as he bids to add the 100m to his 200m slate come the outdoor season that starts in the spring.

Grant Holloway extended a near-nine-year, 50-plus-race win streak in the 60m hurdles, clocking 7.38 seconds, nine hundredths off his world record. Olympic teammate Daniel Roberts was second in 7.46. Trey Cunningham, who took silver behind Holloway in the 110m hurdles at last July’s world outdoor championships, was fifth in 7.67.

Aleia Hobbs won the women’s 60m in 7.02 seconds, one week after clocking a personal-best 6.98 to become the third-fastest American in history after Gail Devers and Marion Jones (both 6.95). Hobbs, 26, placed sixth in the 100m at last July’s world championships.

Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, the Olympic and world 400m hurdles champion competing for the first time since August, and Jamaican Shericka Jackson, the world 200m champion, were ninth and 10th in the 60m heats, just missing the eight-woman final.

In the women’s pole vault, Bridget Williams, seventh at last year’s USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships, upset the last two Olympic champions — American Katie Moon and Greek Katerina Stefanidi. Williams won with a 4.63-meter clearance (and then cleared 4.71 and a personal-best 4.77). Stefanidi missed three attempts at 4.63, while Moon went out at 4.55.

The indoor track and field season continues with the Millrose Games in New York City next Saturday at 4 p.m. ET on NBC, NBCSports.com/live, the NBC Sports app and Peacock.

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Birk Irving, last man on Olympic team, extends breakout season with Mammoth win

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One year ago, Birk Irving was the last man to make the four-man U.S. Olympic ski halfpipe team. Since, he continued to climb the ranks in arguably the nation’s strongest discipline across skiing and snowboarding.

Irving earned his second World Cup win this season, taking the U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain, California, on Friday.

Irving posted a 94-point final run, edging Canadian Brendan Mackay by one point. David Wise, the two-time Olympic champion who won his fifth X Games Aspen title last Sunday, was third.

A tribute was held to 2015 World champion Kyle Smaine, a U.S. halfpipe skier who died in an avalanche in Japan last Sunday.

“We’re all skiing the best we have because we’re all skiing with Kyle in our hearts,” Irving said, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “We’re skiing for him, and we know he’s looking down on us. We miss you Kyle. We love you. Thank you for keeping us safe in the pipe today.”

Irving also won the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, Colorado, on Dec. 17. Plus, the 23-year-old from Colorado had his best career X Games Aspen finish last Sunday, taking second.

The next major event is the world championships in Georgia (the country, not the state) in early March. Irving was third at the last worlds in 2021, then fifth at the Olympics last February.

The U.S. has been the strongest nation in men’s ski halfpipe since it debuted at the Olympics in 2014. Wise won the first two gold medals. Alex Ferreira won silver and bronze at the last two Olympics. Aaron Blunck is a world champion and X Games champion.

Irving is younger than all of them and has beaten all of them at multiple competitions this season.

New Zealand’s Nico Porteous, the reigning Olympic gold medalist, hasn’t competed since the Games after undergoing offseason knee surgery.

In snowboarding events at Mammoth, Americans Julia Marino and Lyon Farrell earned slopestyle wins by posting the top qualification scores. The finals were canceled due to wind.

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