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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World short-track speedskating championships will be moved, postponed or canceled

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The International Skating Union announced Tuesday that the world short-track speedskating championships will not proceed as scheduled because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Seoul’s Mokdong Ice Rink, where the competition was set to be held March 13-15, held the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships earlier this month but closed on Monday.

The ISU left open the possibility that the championships will be postponed or relocated, but the window to do so may close rapidly.

“Taking into account the uncertain world-wide development of the coronavirus, the limited and uncertain available time slots during the coming weeks and the logistical challenges of potential organizers and participating teams, a postponement and/or relocation of the Championships would be difficult to achieve,” the ISU said. “Nevertheless, a postponement and/or relocation of this Championships might be considered if the circumstances would allow so in due time.”

South Korea is one of short-track speedskating’s traditional powers. Last year, the country dominated the world championships in Sofia, Bulgaria, winning both relays and taking gold in all of the men’s individual races. South Korea also led the medal count on home ice in the 2018 Olympics.

The coronavirus outbreak has forced the cancellation of many events in China, where the illness was first found. The world indoor track and field championships were pushed back a whole year.

With the virus spreading to other regions, other countries’ sports schedules are being affected. Several soccer games are proceeding in empty stadiums in Italy and Iran.

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Daniel Romanchuk’s ascent to marathon stardom accelerated at University of Illinois

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The rise of Daniel Romanchuk has been one of the major stories of this Paralympic cycle. The wheelchair racer was eliminated in the first round of all five of his races in Rio.

But now, he’s the world’s best marathoner with a 6-foot-10 wingspan, a world-record holder on the track and already qualified for the Tokyo Games.

Romanchuk, born with spina bifida, was profiled by NBC Sports Chicago as part of a series of NBC Sports Regional Networks pieces published this week — marking 150 days until the Tokyo Olympics and six months until the Tokyo Paralympics.

NBC RSN Olympic and Paralympic Profiles
NBC Sports Bay Area

Abbey Weitzeil (Swimming) — LINK

NBC Sports Boston
Margaret Bertasi (Rowing) — LINK
Abbey D’Agostino Cooper (Track and Field) — LINK

NBC Sports Chicago
Ryan Murphy (Swimming) — LINK

NBC Sports Northwest
Galen Rupp (Marathon) — LINK
Mariel Zagunis (Fencing) — LINK

NBC Sports Philadelphia
Vashti Cunningham (Track and Field) — LINK
Julie Ertz (Soccer) — LINK

NBC Sports Washington
Katie Ledecky (Swimming) — LINK
Kyle Snyder (Wrestling) — LINK

Romanchuk, 21, swept the Boston, London, Chicago and New York City Marathon titles in 2019. He attributes that success to his native Baltimore and his training residence of the University of Illinois.

At age 2, he was enrolled in Baltimore’s Bennett Blazers, an adaptive sports program for children with physical disabilities. Tatyana McFadden, a 17-time Paralympic medalist who dominated women’s wheelchair marathons, planted her athletic roots there.

“Their motto is to teach kids they can before they’re told they can’t,” Romanchuk said.

Things really blossomed for Romanchuk after he moved from Baltimore to the University of Illinois. Illinois was designated a U.S. Paralympic training site in 2014 and has produced McFadden, Jean Driscoll and other U.S. Paralympic stars.

“Without this program, I certainly would not be where I am,” Romanchuk said. “It’s a very unique combination of coaching and teammates.”

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