Kovtun beats Plushenko at Russian Nationals

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As whispers circled around the figure skating world that Yevgeny Plushenko might not make the trip to Sochi for the Olympic Games, the Russian veteran did not help his case with a second-place finish to teenager Maksim Kovtun at the Russian National Championships.

Plushenko had a five-point lead after the short program, but was tight in his free skate, losing it to the 18-year-old Kovtun who outscored the three-time Olympic medalist by 17 points in the technical marks.

Plushenko had told members of the media earlier that he planned to skate only the new team event at the Sochi Games in February and not the men’s singles event, in which Russia has just one spot. But officials said Plushenko may have been incorrect in thinking that two different Russian men can skate those events because of the single allotment at the Games.

PHOTOS: Russia’s top skaters

Kovtun won with a 267.13 overall to Plushenko’s 261.37. The members of the team are not formally announced until after the European Championships, Jan. 14-19.

Adelina Sotnikova won her fourth national title at the age of 17, edging out 15-year-old Yulia Lipnitskaya.

Like in the men’s competition, it was Lipnitskaya who led after the short program, but Sotnikova was more solid in the free skate. Both ladies will compete at the European Championships and look to be the skaters who will represent the host nation come Sochi in the two spots its earned in the ladies singles.

Anna Leonova (fifth), Anna Pogorilaya (eighth) and Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (10th) were seen as Olympic hopefuls, but their Nationals performances by and large knock them out of the Olympic conversation.

Reigning world champions Tatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov sat out the pairs competition, in which Trankov served as a commentator for.

Ksenia Stolbova and Fyodor Klimov won by less than a half point over Vera Bazarova and Yuri Lariyonov. All three teams should make the trip to Euros and the Olympics.

In ice dancing, Yekaterina Bobrova and Dmitry Soloviyev won by a 10-point margin over Yelena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov.

Gregorio Paltrinieri swims second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history

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Olympic champion Gregorio Paltrinieri swam the second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history, clocking 14:33.10 in his native Italy on Thursday.

Paltrinieri, 25, missed Chinese Sun Yang‘s world record from the 2012 Olympics by 2.08 seconds.

The Italian now owns the second- and third-fastest times in history, including his 14:34.10 from the 2016 European Championships, also held at the 2012 Olympic pool in London.

Paltrinieri is a versatile distance swimmer. At last year’s world championships, he finished sixth in the open-water 10km to qualify for the Olympics, then won the 800m free in the pool in a European record time and finished with 1500m bronze, just missing a third straight world title in that event.

German Florian Wellbrock won the 1500m in 14:36.54 at worlds, with Paltrinieri finishing 2.21 seconds back.

Sun, 28, was in February banned eight years stemming from destroying a drug-test sample with a hammer in September 2018. Sun, who focused more on the 200m and 400m frees in recent years, did not race the 1500m at the 2017 or 2019 Worlds.

Top-level swim meets in the U.S. are scheduled to resume in November with the Tyr Pro Series.

MORE: Michael Phelps qualifies for first Olympics at age 15

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Bianca Andreescu to miss U.S. Open

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Bianca Andreescu withdrew from the U.S. Open, citing “unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic” compromising her ability to prepare to defend her Grand Slam title.

“I have taken this step in order to focus on my match fitness and ensure that I return ready to play at my highest level,” Andreescu, a 20-year-old Canadian, posted on social media. “The US Open victory last year has been the high point of my career thus far and I will miss not being there. However, I realize that the unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic, have compromised my ability to prepare and compete to the degree necessary to play at my highest level.”

Andreescu’s absence means the U.S. Open, the first Grand Slam tournament since tennis resumed amid the coronavirus pandemic, will be without both 2019 male and female singles champions.

Rafael Nadal previously announced he would not defend his title, saying he would rather not travel given the global situation. Roger Federer is also out after knee surgery. Women’s No. 1 Ash Barty didn’t enter, either, citing travel concerns.

Last year, Andreescu made her U.S. Open title run as the 15th seed, sweeping Serena Williams in the final. Ranked 208th a year earlier, she became the first player born in the 2000s to win a Slam and the first teen Slam winner since Maria Sharapova at the 2006 U.S. Open.

Andreescu then missed the Australian Open in January due to rehab from a knee injury that forced her to retire during a match at the WTA Finals on Oct. 30. She also missed the French Open and Wimbledon in 2019 following a rotator cuff tear.

MORE: Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis competition

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