Ashley Wagner

Preview: Wagner, Chan, Virtue/Moir look for golds at Paris Grand Prix

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Back in the city of love, American Ashley Wagner would very much like to defend her title this weekend at the Trophee Eric Bompard, the fifth Grand Prix of the figure skating season.

Wagner won in Paris a year ago, leading up to her second straight U.S. Championship in January. A silver medalist at Skate America last month, the Los Angeles-based Wagner faces a pair of Russians who also have Grand Prix medals this season in Anna Pogorilaya and Adelina Sotnikova, who were first and second at Cup of China this month.

Reigning Olympic ice dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada will headline alongside Wagner and their countryman, three-time reigning world champion Patrick Chan.

Here’s the broadcast schedule (all times Eastern):

Universal Sports online broadcast schedule
Friday — 2 p.m. (pairs/men’s)
Friday — 8 p.m. (short dance/ladies)
Saturday — 1 p.m. (pairs/free dance)

NBC broadcast schedule
Sunday — 4:30-6 p.m.

Here are event-by-event previews:

LADIES
Wagner will take comfort in her score from Skate America compared to Pogorilaya’s in China, 193.81 to 178.62. The American will arrive in Paris continuing to solidify her triple-triple combination, which she landed twice in Detroit and gained confidence off of.

France’s Mae Berenice Meite will lead the home effort, though she shouldn’t pose much of a threat to the top spot, having been 11th at the World Championships in March.

Wagner’s countrywoman, Christina Gao, will look to build confidence in Paris after a fourth-place finish at Skate Canada. The Boston-based Gao, who is taking the year off from Harvard, has been fifth at the last four U.S. Championships, but will likely need third or better come January to make the trip to Sochi.

Yuna Kim pulled out of Paris earlier this season. She’s set to make a comeback from a foot injury next month in Croatia.

MEN
Chan’s gap over the world’s other top men shrank with a controversial win at Worlds in March and skating with some trepidation last month at Skate Canada. China’s Yan Han, Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu and the U.S.’ Jason Brown, 18, will all be chasing medals alongside the still-favored Chan in Paris.

Yan, the 2012 world junior champion, could be Chan’s biggest rival this weekend. The 17-year-old scored 245.62 to win the Cup of China. Chan tallied 262.03 in winning Skate Canada.

Brown, while he lacks a quadruple jump, made a strong senior debut at Skate America last month, subbing in for an injured Evan Lysacek and scoring one of the season’s highest short programs. Consistency will be the key for the teen who ended fifth in Detroit after a shaky free skate.

France’s Florent Amodio, a two-time national champion, will have the support of the home crowd.

ICE DANCE
Virtue and Moir looked happy — though not elated — after winning their fifth Skate Canada and will skate in Paris for the first time in two years, having won there in 2008 and 2011.

The Canadians will look to improve their twizzles and match rivals Meryl Davis and Charlie White in going two-for-two in Grand Prix events this year.

Two other top-10 ranked couples appear in Paris — France’s Nathalie Pechalat and Fabrian Bourzat (sixth at March’s World Championships) and Russia’s Yelena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov (fourth at a deep NHK Trophy in Japan last week).

Davis and White registered a 186.65 in Tokyo, down from 188.23 in Detroit, but still higher than Virtue and Moir’s 181.03 at Skate Canada, a mark upon which the Canadians will seek to improve.

PAIRS
There is a possibility Canada wins three golds should Chan and Virtue and Moir hold their form and the pairs team of Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford shine. The reigning world bronze medalists were a disappointing third at Skate Canada last month, however.

Vancouver silver medalists Pang Qing and Tong Jian, fifth at Worlds this year, also factor into the pairs discussion, as do 2012 U.S. champions Caydee Denney and John Coughlin. Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov are a team to watch, as well, the Russians having been seventh at the World Championships in March. They are making their Grand Prix season debut.

Plushenko withdraws from Russian Grand Prix event

J’den Cox repeats as world wrestling champion; Kyle Snyder stunned

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If he wasn’t crowned already, it’s clear U.S. wrestling has a new king.

On a day when Rio Olympic champion Kyle Snyder was upset and London Olympic champ Jordan Burroughs rallied for another bronze medal, J’den Cox repeated as world champion in Kazakhstan.

Cox, the Rio Olympic 86kg bronze medalist, completed a perfect run through the 92kg division — not giving up a point in four matches — by dominating Iranian Alireza Karimi 4-0 in the final. He became the second U.S. man to win an Olympic or world title without surrendering a point in more than 30 years (joining Kyle Dake from last year).

“I don’t know why, but it feels like a ton better [than 2018],” said Cox, whose tattoos include one that reads in Latin, “If I cannot move heaven, I will raise hell.” “I made more sacrifices … I wanted to do it better.”

Earlier Saturday, Snyder was shocked by Azerbaijan’s Sharif Sharifov 5-2 in the 97kg semifinals, denying a third straight world final between Snyder and Russian Tank Abdulrashid Sadulayev. Sharifov, the 2012 Olympic 84kg champ, clinched his first world medal in eight years.

Snyder, who in Rio became the youngest U.S. Olympic wrestling champion at age 20, failed to make an Olympic or world final for the first time in his career. He will wrestle for bronze on Sunday, while Sharifov meets Sadulayev for gold.

Burroughs earned his seventh straight world championships medal and second straight bronze. Burroughs, the 2012 Olympic 74kg champion, rebounded from losing to Russian Zaurbeck Sidakov on Friday with a 10-0 technical fall over Japanese Mao Okui.

Burroughs gave up a lead on Sidakov with 1.3 seconds left in the semifinals, a year after Sidakov overtook him as time expired in the quarterfinals.

“A lot of people in 2016 called me a quitter,” said Burroughs, who tearfully missed the medals in Rio, “and I think that after watching the amount of devastation and heartbreak that I’ve taken over the last two years and still being able to come back and take third place is a testament.”

Burroughs, 31, shares third with Adeline Gray on the U.S. list of career world wrestling championships medals, trailing only Bruce Baumgartner and Kristie Davis, who each earned nine.

Burroughs’ bronze ensured he gets a bye into the 74kg final of the Olympic trials in April. But this will be the first time he goes into an Olympic year as anything other than a reigning world champion.

“At this juncture of my career, I feel I’m running out of time,” said Burroughs, who next year will be older than any previous U.S. Olympic wrestling champion. “That can be really scary.”

Dake marched to Sunday’s final in defense of his 2018 World title at 79kg (a non-Olympic weight) by going 23-4 over three matches. Dake, who at Cornell became the only wrestler to win NCAA titles at four weight classes or without a redshirt, gets Azerbaijan’s Jabrayil Hasanov in the final, a rematch of the 2018 gold-medal match.

Next year, Dake must move up to 86kg, where Cox will likely reside, or down to 74kg, where Burroughs has won every U.S. Olympic or world trials dating to 2011. There’s also David Taylor to reckon with. Taylor won the 86kg world title last year but missed this season due to injury.

“We’ve got a guy at 79 kilos that’s going to win a world championship tomorrow,” Burroughs said, smiling, of Dake, “I’m hopefully going to be waiting for [Dake at Olympic trials], healthy and prepared.”

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Alexandra Trusova, 15, becomes first woman to land three quadruple jumps

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Alexandra Trusova established herself as the world’s leading female figure skater … in her first senior international competition.

Trusova, the 15-year-old, two-time world junior champion from Russia, became the first woman to land three quadruple jumps in one international competition program, posting the world’s highest free skate and total scores on the early season.

Trusova previously landed three quads in the free skate at the Russian Federation’s test skates in early September.

She opened Saturday’s free skate with a quadruple Lutz, a quadruple toe loop-triple toe combination and another quad toe to run away from Japanese Olympian Kaori Sakamoto by 44.27 points. Video is here.

She won a lower-level event in Slovakia with 238.69 points, which would have beaten Japan’s top skater, Rika Kihira, and Olympic bronze medalist Yevgenia Medvedeva by more than 14 points at an event last week in Canada. However, judging panels can be more or less forgiving from event to event.

Still, Trusova established herself as a force going into next month’s Grand Prix season. She will face Kihira and Medvedeva at Skate Canada the last week of October.

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