Wagner, Virtue/Moir skate ahead in Paris

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With an injured Yuna Kim pulling out of the Trohpee Eric Bompard in Paris, the stage was handed over to American Ashley Wagner as the favorite and the American delivered Friday, leading after the Ladies’ short program.

Scoring a 66.75, Wagner skated to a six-point lead over two Russian teenagers seen as her biggest challengers at the year’s fifth Grand Prix stop, with 15-year-old Anna Pogorilaya in second (60.03) and 17-year-old Adelina Sotnikova in third (60.01). American Christina Gao was fourth.

In ice dancing, reigning Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir scored their season’s best on their way to a first-place finish after the short dance.

Home favorites Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat were in second while Russia’s Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov, fourth a week ago at NHK Trophy, placed third.

Virtue/Moir, the Canadians, looked more polished on the ice compared to their appearance at Skate Canada last month, where they scored a 73.15. Their 75.31 in Paris was just shy of the season high from Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who recorded a 75.70 at Skate America.

The two ice dance teams train alongside one another in Detroit year-round, as well as using the same coach. Davis/White were silver medalists behind the Canadians at the 2010 Vancouver Games.

Wagner didn’t make the 2010 Olympics, but continued to solidify herself as the front-runner for Team USA for the Sochi Games, which has three spots in Ladies’ singles. Judges marked her down for under-rotating her triple flip-triple toe combination to start, an element she’s made a personal goal to have ready for the Olympics.

Pogorilaya and Sotnikova went one-two at the Cup of China earlier this month. In the short program in Paris, however, both popped their dobule Axel attempts midway through their programs, opening the door for Wagner, who skated last, to build a lead.

Gao, who has been fifth at the last four U.S. Championships, was fourth at Skate Canada earlier this season and remains in striking distance of the podium in Paris with a 58.81, called for under-rotating her triple loop. None of the top four women fell on any of their jumps.

The Trophee Eric Bompard is the fifth of six Grand Prix events of the season, with the Rostelecom Cup in Moscow the remaining stop next week before December’s Grand Prix Final in December.

All four events – Men’s, Ladies’, pairs and ice dance – conclude Saturday in Paris.

Bernard Lagat commits to Olympic marathon trials, eyes age record

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Bernard Lagat, a 44-year-old, five-time Olympian, reportedly said he will race the Olympic marathon trials on Feb. 29 in a bid to break his own record as the oldest U.S. Olympic runner.

“I feel like I can still improve,” Lagat said, according to Runner’s World. “I’m going to give it my best.”

Lagat, a two-time Olympic 1500m medalist, moved to the marathon after becoming the oldest U.S. Olympic runner in history at the Rio Games, placing fifth in the 5000m.

He clocked 2:17:20 in his 26.2-mile debut at the 2018 New York City Marathon. He lowered it to 2:12:10 at the Gold Coast Marathon in Australia on July 7 but did not previously commit to entering the trials.

If Lagat finishes in the top three at the marathon trials, he is in line to become the third-oldest U.S. Olympic track and field athlete in history. The oldest are race walker John Deni (49 years old in 1952) and hammer thrower Matt McGrath (48 years old in 1924), according to the OlyMADMen.

Lagat ranks outside the top 20 among U.S. marathoners in this Olympic cycle. The fastest are Galen Rupp (2:06:07), Leonard Korir (2:07:56, from Sunday’s Amsterdam Marathon) and Scott Fauble (2:09:09).

No American has competed in six Olympics in track and field. Lagat’s first two Olympic appearances were for Kenya.

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MORE: Olympic marathon moved from Tokyo to another Olympic host city

Natalie Geisenberger, Olympic luge champion, will not race this season

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For the first time in eight years, there will be a new World Cup women’s luge champion.

Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger — the seven-time defending champion and two-time defending Olympic singles gold medalist — announced that she isn’t sliding this season because she and her husband are expecting their first child in April.

“Our happiness is on the way,” Geisenberger said on her Facebook page.

Geisenberger plans to return next season and still has hopes to compete at the 2022 Beijing Olympics, where she could match fellow German great Georg Hackl’s feat of winning three consecutive singles golds.

With Geisenberger not sliding this season, the top returning women from last year’s World Cup standings now are Julia Taubitz of Germany and Summer Britcher of the U.S. — second and third, respectively, in 2018-19.

Geisenberger has a luge record-tying four Olympic golds in all, being part of Germany’s victories in the team relays in Sochi in 2014 and Pyeongchang in 2018 as well.

Her 49 World Cup singles wins are another record, and she’s one of two sliders to win seven consecutive World Cup titles — Austria’s Markus Prock took the men’s championships each year from 1990-91 through 1996-97.

Geisenberger’s break from sliding only adds to how the World Cup standings — and the German roster — will look very different this season. Dajana Eitberger, who was fourth in last season’s World Cup standings, is also pregnant and expecting a baby in February. And Tatjana Huefner, who was sixth overall last season, has retired.

Huefner won five consecutive World Cup titles before Geisenberger took over and began her seven-year streak of championships. Geisenberger earned medals 11 times in 12 singles races last year — six golds, four silvers and one bronze.

“We are so happy for you even though we will miss you this season!” two-time Olympic singles gold medalist Felix Loch of Germany wrote in a message to Geisenberger on Instagram.

Geisenberger has been in the top three of the World Cup standings in 12 consecutive seasons. She was third in 2007-08, finished second in each of the next four seasons, and then began her title streak in 2012-13.

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MORE: U.S. luge star adds doubles after Olympic singles medal