Russia’s Kovtun records monster short program in Plushenko’s absence

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For some 15 years, Yevgeny Plushenko has been the king of Russian skating. But Friday, with no king in sight, a prince reigned over the ice in Moscow, Maksim Kovtun formally announcing his challenge to Plushenko’s throne.

Kovtun has been the up-and-coming boy of a nation steeped in figure skating tradition for the last two years and delivered a monster short program at the Rostelecom Cup, the final Grand Prix of the season, in which Plushenko withdrew from a week ago with a knee injury.

Skating in front of a home crowd, the 18-year-old Kovtun produced a 92.53, the fourth-highest score of the season and better than Plushenko’s best-ever short program (91.30), securing himself a safe lead over second-place Tatsuki Machida of Japan (84.90) and re-igniting the discussion of who will get Russia’s coveted lone Olympic spot for Sochi.

Kovtun was a disappointing 17th at the World Championships earlier this year, meaning the Russians got just one place for a men’s singles skater at the upcoming Olympic Games. But after a second-place finish at the Cup of Russia earlier this month and a dazzling performance that included a quadruple Salchow-triple toe opening combination and a quadruple toe to follow, Kovtun continues to push the envelope.

Reigning world bronze medalist Javier Fernandez fell on his opening quadruple Salchow, relegating him to third behind Kovtun and Machida.

Lipnitskaya, Savchenko/Szolkowy take leads in Moscow

It was a poor showing for American men, as Richard Dornbush came up short on two of his jumps and fell on his lone Axel, a triple, finishing seventh out of eight skaters. His teammate, Josh Farris, withdrew after spraining his ankle Thursday in practice.

Dornbush is the 2011 U.S. Championships siilver medalist while Farris, 18, is competing in his first season on the senior Grand Prix circuit. He was fifth at Skate Canada last month.

In the ice dancing that followed, reigning and three-time Russian national champions Ekaterina Bobrova and Dimitry Soloviyev skated to a first-place finish in the short program with a 68.42. The team earned a bronze medal at the World Championships earlier this year.

Canada’s Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje were second with a 61.50, though they were visibly disappointed after seeing their scores. Weaver had pumped her fist following their short dance, but then stared blankly at the screen and simply said, “OK,” when their scores came up.

Ekaterina Riyazanova and Iliya Tkachenko of Russia were third while Madison Chock and Evan Bates, the lone Americans in ice dance, were fourth, less than a point back from medal contention.

For much of the second group of ice dancers Friday night the rink took on a Broadway theme, music from “Chicago,” “42nd Street,” “Annie Get Your Gun” and “Moulin Rouge” playing in consecutive programs.

Kovtun will look for another show-stopping performance Saturday in the men’s free skate. Many around skating believe the Olympic spot will go to Plushenko if he is healthy regardless of how Kovtun performs, though a win in Moscow from the youngster would put more pressure on the veteran.

The last Russian man not named Plushenko to win a Grand Prix gold medal? Iliya Klimkin at the NHK Trohpy in 2002.

2018 French Open TV, streaming broadcast schedule

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NBC and Tennis Channel will combine to air live coverage of the French Open, which begins Sunday in Paris. NBC will broadcast Roland Garros for the 36th straight year, with TV coverage also streaming on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

Top-ranked Rafael Nadal eyes his 11th French Open title. That would tie Margaret Court‘s record for singles wins at a Grand Slam event (Court won 11 Australian Opens, but seven came when it was the Australian Championships, an amateur event.).

Other notables include Novak Djokovic, who last won a Slam at the 2016 French Open, and German Alexander Zverev, the top player in 2018. Roger Federer (rest) and Andy Murray (hip surgery) will miss the season’s second major tournament.

Serena Williams, a 23-time Grand Slam singles titlist and three-time winner at Roland Garros, plays her first Grand Slam since giving birth to daughter Alexis Ohanian on Sept. 1. Williams was not given a seen by French Open organizers as she comes back from maternity leave.

Williams has played four WTA Tour matches, all in March, since winning the 2017 Australian Open. Like Nadal, she can tie a Court record this year — the most career Grand Slam singles titles at 24.

Other contenders include top-ranked Simona Halep, Australian Open champ Caroline Wozniacki, U.S. Open champ Sloane Stephens and past French Open champions Maria SharapovaGarbiñe Muguruza and Jelena Ostapenko.

French Open Broadcast Schedule

Date Time (ET) Network Round
Sunday, May 27 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel First Round
12-3 p.m. NBC First Round
Monday, May 28 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel First Round
12-3 p.m. NBC First Round
Tuesday, May 29 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel First Round
Wednesday, May 30 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Second Round
Thursday, May 31 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Second Round
Friday, June 1 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Third Round
Saturday, June 2 5 a.m.-12 p.m. Tennis Channel Third Round
12-3 p.m. NBC Third Round
Sunday, June 3 5 a.m.-12 p.m. Tennis Channel Fourth Round
12-3 p.m. NBC Fourth Round
Monday, June 4 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Fourth Round
Tuesday, June 5 7 a.m.-1 p.m. Tennis Channel Quarterfinals
Wednesday, June 6 7 a.m.-1 p.m. Tennis Channel Quarterfinals
Thursday, June 7 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Tennis Channel Women’s Semifinals
11 a.m.-2 p.m. NBC Women’s Semifinals
Friday, June 8 6 a.m.-11 a.m. Tennis Channel Men’s Semifinals
11 a.m.-2 p.m. NBC Men’s Semifinals
Saturday, June 9 9 a.m.-1 p.m. NBC Women’s Final
Sunday, June 10 9 a.m.-2 p.m. NBC Men’s Final

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Adam Rippon tops Tonya Harding, is sixth Olympian to win Dancing with the Stars

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Adam Rippon‘s dream year now includes a “Dancing with the Stars” title.

Rippon topped fellow Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding and Washington Redskins cornerback Josh Norman to win an all-athletes season of the series.

“This has been such an incredible experience, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone,” Rippon said on “Entertainment Tonight,” holding a Mirrorball Trophy with partner Jenna Johnson. “More than that, getting to meet somebody who I’m going to be friends with for the rest of my life.”

Olympian winners in the previous 25 seasons were all gold medalists: Apolo OhnoKristi YamaguchiShawn JohnsonMeryl Davis and Laurie Hernandez.

Rippon, 28, took team bronze at his first and last Games in PyeongChang in February, making the Olympics in his third and final try in January as the oldest U.S. Olympic rookie singles skater in 82 years.

The outspoken, charismatic Rippon became one of the biggest mainstream stars of the winter sports season after nearly missing the Olympic team in finishing fourth at nationals in January. He was then 10th at the Olympics.

In March, Rippon attended the Oscars and met Reese Witherspoon. In April, he was named to the Time 100 and in People Magazine’s Beautiful issue.

Rippon successfully managed a hectic travel schedule the last month, dotting the country for Stars on Ice shows while squeezing in rehearsals and live “Dancing” episodes in Los Angeles the last four Mondays.

On the finale, Rippon recorded the first perfect score for the abbreviated season — 10s from all three judges on the first of two dances. Harding and Norman later scored straight 10s on their second dances.

Rippon scored 28 out of 30 on his last dance, wearing a bowl-cut wig, and had the highest combined total of judges scores on the night. The winner was determined by a combination of viewer voting and judges scores.

“They brought it home every week,” Harding said of Rippon and Johnson on “Entertainment Tonight.” “Adam is wonderful, and his partner. They deserved it.”

Harding finished higher than Olympic rival Nancy Kerrigan did on the show last year.

“Last night felt like it was the first time I landed the triple axel,” was posted on Harding’s Instagram.

Olympians/Paralympians on Dancing with the Stars
Season 1 
— Evander Holyfield (1984, boxing)
Season 4 — Apolo Ohno (2002-2010, short track speed skating) — WINNER, Clyde Drexler (1992, basketball)
Season 5 — Floyd Mayweather Jr. (1996, boxing)
Season 6 — Kristi Yamaguchi (1992, figure skating) — WINNER, Monica Seles (1996-2000, tennis)
Season 7 — Maurice Greene (2000-2004, track and field), Misty May-Treanor (2000-2012, volleyball)
Season 8 — Shawn Johnson (2008, gymnastics) — WINNER
Season 9 — Louie Vito (2010, snowboarding), Natalie Coughlin (2004-2012, swimming)
Season 10 — Evan Lysacek (2006-2010, figure skating)
Season 12 — Sugar Ray Leonard (1976, boxing)
Season 13 — Hope Solo (2004-2016, soccer)
Season 14 — Martina Navratilova (2004, tennis)
Season 15 — Shawn Johnson, Apolo Ohno
Season 16 — Dorothy Hamill (1976, figure skating), Aly Raisman (2012-2016, gymnastics)
Season 18 — Meryl Davis (2010-2014, figure skating) — WINNER, Charlie White (2010-2014, figure skating), Amy Purdy (2014, snowboarding)
Season 19 — Lolo Jones (2008, 2012, 2014, track and field/bobsled)
Season 20 — Nastia Liukin (2008, gymnastics)
Season 23 — Laurie Hernandez (2016, gymnastics) — WINNER, Ryan Lochte (2004-2016, swimming)
Season 24 — Simone Biles (2016, gymnastics), Nancy Kerrigan (1992-94, figure skating)
Season 25 — Victoria Arlen (2012, swimming)
Season 26 — Adam Rippon (2018, figure skating) — WINNER, Jamie Anderson (2014-18, snowboarding), Chris Mazdzer (2010-18, luge), Jennie Finch (2004-08, softball), Mirai Nagasu (2010, 2018, figure skating), Tonya Harding (1992-94, figure skating)

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