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

Ashley Wagner
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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

Asher Hong leads U.S. men’s gymnastics world team selection camp after first day

Asher Hong
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Asher Hong, 18, posted the highest all-around score on the first of two days of competition at the U.S. men’s gymnastics selection camp to determine the last three spots on the team for the world championships that start in three weeks.

Hong, bidding to become the youngest U.S. man to compete at worlds since Danell Leyva in 2009, totaled 84.6 points in Colorado Springs. He edged Colt Walker by one tenth. Tokyo Olympians Shane Wiskus (84.15) and Yul Moldauer (83.95) were next. Full apparatus-by-apparatus scores are here.

Brody Malone, who repeated as U.S. all-around champion at August’s national championships, and runner-up Donnell Whittenburg already clinched spots on the five-man team for worlds in Liverpool, Great Britain. They did not compete Monday, though their results from the first day of nationals are shown in the official scores.

The three remaining team spots will not necessarily go to the top three all-arounders at this week’s camp, which is supposed to be weighed equally with results from August’s nationals. Hong was third at nationals, but if excluding difficulty bonus points from that meet that will not be considered by the committee, would have finished behind Walker and Moldauer in August.

A selection committee is expected to announce the team soon after the second and final day of selection camp competition on Wednesday evening. The committee will look at overall scoring potential for the world team final, where three men go per apparatus, and medal potential in individual events.

Stephen Nedoroscik, who last year became the first American to win a world title on the pommel horse, is trying to make the team solely on that apparatus. He wasn’t at his best at nationals and struggled again on Monday, hurting his chances of displacing an all-arounder for one of the last three spots.

The U.S. has reason to emphasize the team event over individual medals at this year’s worlds. It will clinch an Olympic berth by finishing in the top three, and its medal hopes are boosted by the absence of the Russians who won the Olympic team title. All gymnasts from Belarus and Russia are banned indefinitely from international competition due to the war in Ukraine.

In recent years, the U.S. has been among the nations in the second tier behind China, Japan and Russia, including in Tokyo, where the Americans were fifth.

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Ironman Kona World Championships return for first time in three years, live on Peacock

Ironman Kona World Championship
Ironman
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The Ironman Kona World Championships return after a three-year hiatus with a new format, live on Peacock on Thursday and Saturday at 12 p.m. ET.

The Ironman, held annually in Hawaii since 1978, and in Kailua-Kona since 1981, was not held in 2020 or 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The world championships made a one-time-only stop in St. George, Utah, on May 7 to make up for the 2021 cancellation. The winners were Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt, the Tokyo Olympic triathlon champion, and Swiss Daniela Ryf, who bagged her fifth Ironman world title.

Both are entered in Kailua-Kona, where the races are now split between two days — Thursday for the women and Saturday for the men.

An Ironman includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and a marathon — totaling 140.6 miles of racing. It takes top triathletes eight hours to complete. Very arguably, it crowns the world’s fittest man and woman.

WATCH LIVE: Ironman Kona, Thursday, 12 p.m. ET — STREAM LINK

Ryf, 35 and a 2008 and 2012 Olympian, can tie retired countrywoman Natascha Badmann for second place on the women’s list at six Ironman world titles. Only Zimbabwean-turned-American Paula Newby-Fraser has more with eight.

The field also includes German Anne Haug, the 2019 Kona champ and only woman other than Ryf to win since 2015. Brit Lucy Charles-Barclay, the Kona runner-up in 2017, 2018 and 2019, returns after missing the St. George event due to a stress fracture in her hip.

Blummenfelt, 28 and in his Kona debut, will try to become the youngest male champion in Kona since German Normann Stadler in 2005. His top challengers include countryman Gustav Iden, the two-time reigning Half Ironman world champion, and German Patrick Lange, the 2017 and 2018 Ironman Kona winner.

Also racing Saturday is Dallas Clark, a retired All-Pro NFL tight end with the Indianapolis Colts, and Tony Kanaan, the 2013 Indy 500 champion who completed the 2011 Kona Ironman in 12 hours, 52 minutes, 40 seconds.

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