Usain Bolt, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce win Athlete of the Year awards; more drug testing comments

Usain Bolt
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Two Jamaicans winning the most prestigious awards in track and field did not come and go without more talk of Jamaica’s drug-testing program.

Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, both triple gold medalists at the World Championships in August, swept the IAAF World Athlete of the Year awards announced in Monaco on Saturday.

Bolt, 27, beat out British distance runner Mo Farah and Ukraine high jumper Bohdan Bondarenko to win for the fifth time in six years. He’s the only man or woman to win the award more than three times. It’s been awarded annually since 1988.

“I know track and field’s been through a lot, but I see a lot of positive things coming out,” said Bolt, who also signed 10 copies of his recently released book in 24 seconds before receiving his award. “(To the athletes), show the world that we can do this, and we can make athletics a better place.”

Fraser-Pryce, 26, won over New Zealand shot putter Valerie Adams and Czech 400m hurdler Zuzana Hejnova. She’s the first Jamaican woman since Merlene Ottey in 1990 to win the award.

“There is a little question on the men’s side because Usain wasn’t the usual Usain, and I think he does have some very good competition from Bondarenko,” NBC Olympics track and field analyst Ato Boldon told the Jamaica Gleaner before the awards. “I said in the stadium at the world champs that if there was an award for best track and field athlete overall, it would go to Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, that’s how good I think her performance was.”

News before the announcement at the World Athletics Gala centered on drug testing.

In August, it was reported that Jamaica’s anti-doping agency carried out one out-of-competition drug test in the five months leading into the 2012 Olympics.

In October, the World Anti-Doping Agency visited Jamaica to investigate its anti-doping setup and said it was “satisfied” that Jamaica’s minister of sport “accepted the practical suggestions” WADA made.

WADA said it’s asked Kenya to perform an independent investigation of its anti-doping system for the past 18 months, but it has not seen evidence that it has been carried out.

IAAF president Lamine Diack defended Jamaican and Kenyan athletes in Monaco on Saturday.

“I read in the newspapers and it was like a campaign against Jamaica, and I think it was ridiculous,” Diack said, according to the Jamaica Gleaner. “They are the most tested athletes in the world.

“And so I read in the newspapers how WADA are going there and they are going to suspend (Jamaica from the Olympics), they cannot suspend anybody!

“It was ridiculous, this campaign. After Jamaica they went to Kenya because some doctor went there and said the Kenyan athletes are not controlled. They are the most controlled. Six hundred fifty or so athletes in Kenya controlled every time in and out of competition. They went there, what did they find, nothing.”

Fraser-Pryce has threatened not to compete if the Jamaican federation doesn’t do more to support its athletes.

Bolt, too, had a say, with his Twitter account linking to the Gleaner article with Diack’s comments on Twitter.

Bolt may have been spurred because he lost a would-be big-money sponsorship deal due to Jamaica’s drug-testing issues, according to the Telegraph.

“A sponsor came up to us and was saying, ‘We’d like to sponsor you,'” he said, according to the newspaper. “They then used an agency that does background checks to figure out if it’s viable to sponsor you and it came back that WADA had said that I would not be eligible to run at the next Olympics.

“That information is not correct, so there are a lot of things that are going on with this drugs thing that I really feel they need to clarify because, for me, it’s causing problems for me when it comes to making money from my sport.”

Bolt’s obsession with ‘Call of Duty’

Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier win U.S. figure skating pairs’ title in possible final nationals

Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier
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Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier haven’t decided if they’ll compete beyond this season, so Saturday may have been their farewell to the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

If so, they went out as dominant winners, the first pair in their 30s to win nationals in more than 50 years.

Knierim, 31, and Frazier, 30, took their second U.S. title together, totaling 227.97 points to prevail by 31.11 over Emily Chan and Spencer Howe. They led by a gaping 15.1 points after Thursday’s short.

Knierim and Frazier were solid after errors on their opening jumping combination in Saturday’s free skate. They broke their own pairs’ margin of victory record from the 2021 U.S. Championships under a scoring system implemented in 2006. Knierim appeared to wipe away tears backstage.

“As I get older, the longer I’m in this sport, the more gratitude I have for it,” Knierim, the oldest woman to win a U.S. figure skating title since 1995 (Renée Roca), said on USA Network. “After that music ended, I’m just thankful that Brandon’s by my side and I’m able to do what I love.”

Ellie Kam and Danny O’Shea bagged bronze to likely round out the three-pair team for March’s world championships.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Scores | Broadcast Schedule

Knierim and Frazier considered retiring after last season, after they missed nationals due to Frazier’s COVID-19, petitioned onto the Olympic team and posted the best Olympic finish for a U.S. pair (sixth) in 20 years.

They then became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979, beating a field that didn’t include any of the top five from the Olympics.

They returned in part to compete as world champions and rank second in the world this season (during which the top Olympic pairs also haven’t competed). They will likely go into March’s worlds in Japan as underdogs to Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara, who won their lone head-to-head this past fall at the Grand Prix Final.

Back in October, Knierim said this will probably be their last season competing together, though the pair also thought they were done last spring. They don’t expect to make a final decision until after a Stars on Ice tour this spring.

“This U.S. Championships for us was extra special because you’re just reflecting on the journey, and you know that there’s a good chance that this will be your last one,” Frazier said.

Knierim won her fifth U.S. title, tying the record for a pairs’ skater since World War II, joining Kyoka InaTai BabiloniaRandy GardnerKarol Kennedy and Peter Kennedy. Knierim’s first three titles, and her first Olympics in 2018, were with husband Chris, who retired in 2020.

Silver medalists Chan and Howe continued their recent surge. After placing fourth at last season’s nationals, they rank sixth in the world this season. That’s despite summer injuries that left them unable to practice lifts (his shoulder) and throws (her foot) for a while.

Kam, 18, and O’Shea, 31, made the podium four months after becoming a pair and less than two months after a car Kim was riding in was hit by a drunk driver while crossing an intersection. The car was totaled, but Kim and O’Shea still competed days later in Croatia.

O’Shea won the 2016 U.S. title with Tarah Kayne, retired after they split in late 2020, then came back in 2021 with Chelsea Liu. They ranked sixth in the U.S. going into 2022 Nationals, but withdrew beforehand due to concussions both suffered in a November competition fall, according to Figure Skaters Online.

NBC Sports’ Sarah Hughes (not the figure skater) contributed to this report.

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2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships scores, results

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Full scores and results from the 2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in San Jose …

Women
Gold: Isabeau Levito — 223.33
Silver: Bradie Tennell — 213.12
Bronze: Amber Glenn — 207.44
4. Starr Andrews — 188.24
5. Josephine Lee — 187.68
6. Lindsay Thorngren — 187.19
7. Clare Seo — 175.60
8. Gracie Gold — 173.98
9. Ava Ziegler — 167.70
10. Sonja Hilmer — 166.49
11. Gabriella Izzo — 166.40
12. Ting Cui — 161.27
13. Audrey Shin — 161.12
14. Lindsay Wang — 154.91
15. Michelle Lee — 145.28
16. Elsa Cheng — 138.13
17. Alexa Gasparotto — 129.41
WD. Hanna Harrell

Men’s Short Program
1. Ilia Malinin — 110.36
2. Jason Brown — 100.25
3. Tomoki Hiwatashi — 85.43
4. Liam Kapeikis — 82.27
5. Andrew Torgashev — 78.78
6. Maxim Naumov — 77.71
7. Jimmy Ma — 73.88
8. Goku Endo — 73.45
9. Samuel Mindra — 71.36
10. Yaroslav Paniot — 70.87
11. Camden Pulkinen — 69.47
12. Matthew Nielsen — 67.98
13. Joonsoo Kim — 67.45
14. Daniel Martynov — 64.04
15. Will Annis — 63.46
16. Dinh Tran — 60.63
17. Mitchell Friess — 59.14
18. Joseph Klein — 58.38

Pairs
Gold: Alexa Knierim/Brandon Frazier — 227.97
Silver: Emily Chan/Spencer Howe — 196.86

Bronze: Ellie Kam/Danny O’Shea — 184.01
4. Sonia Baram/Danil Tioumentsev —- 179.08
5. Valentina Plazas/Maximiliano Fernandez — 176.34
6. Katie McBeath/Nathan Bartholomay —- 172.74
7. Maria Mokhova/Ivan Mokhov —- 148.84
8. Nica Digerness/Mark Sadusky — 137.98
9. Grace Hanns / Danny Neudecker — 135.30
10. Nina Ouellette/Rique Newby-Estrella — 132.07
11. Linzy Fitzpatrick/Keyton Bearinger — 129.80

Ice Dance
Gold: Madison Chock/Evan Bates — 229.75
Silver: Caroline Green/Michael Parsons — 207.46
Bronze: Christina Carreira/Anthony Ponomarenko — 198.45
4. Emilea Zingas/Vadym Kolesnik — 198.13
5. Emily Bratti/Ian Somerville — 189.84
6. Lorraine McNamara/Anton Spiridonov — 189.15
7. Katarina Wolfkostin/Jeffrey Chen — 183.05
8. Eva Pate/Logan Bye — 182.61
9. Oona Brown/Gage Brown — 181.89
10. Isabella Flores/Ivan Desyatov — 177.31
11. Angela Ling/Caleb Wein — 167.87
12. Leah Krauskopf/YuanShi Jin — 133.93
13. Cara Murphy/Joshua Levitt — 129.85
14. Caroline Depietri/TJ Carey — 123.40
WD. Raffaella Koncius/Alexey Shchepetov

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Broadcast Schedule | New Era for U.S.

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