Noelle Pikus-Pace, Katie Uhlaender in women’s skeleton medal position

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After today’s first two runs of women’s skeleton, the U.S. combo of former world champions Noelle Pikus-Pace (pictured) and Katie Uhlaender are toward the front of the field.

Pikus-Pace is second behind her main World Cup circuit rival, Great Britain’s Lizzy Yarnold, by just .44 of a second, while Uhlaender is fourth at just .14 of a second off of the bronze position that’s currently occupied by Russia’s Elena Nikitina (+.55 seconds).

Going into Sochi, Pikus-Pace’s best Olympic finish was a fourth four years ago at Vancouver; Uhlaender’s was a sixth at Torino in 2006.

“That would be a dream come true if Katie and I could both be up on that podium together, to have two U.S. flags flying and waving in the wind,” Pikus-Pace said in a team release. “That would be absolutely incredible.”

WATCH: Pikus-Pace’s remarkable Olympic journey

The Russians were at the center of a protest of Thursday’s results that was filed by Australian officials. The home team was accused by the Australians of having an unfair advantage by using a push track that wasn’t open to all nations before the race. However, the protest was denied.

Yarnold is looking to defend Great Britain’s skeleton gold from Vancouver four years ago, which was won by her own landlord, Amy Williams. It was the first Winter Olympic individual gold for Great Britain in 30 years.

In Run 1, Yarnold built up a lead of one quarter-second, and then tacked on .19 of a second more in Run 2.

Nikitina – who surely benefits from the knowledge she’s gained about her home track leading up to the Olympics – actually bested Pikus-Pace for second in Run 1 before the American moved back into P2 behind Yarnold.

The women’s skeleton competition concludes tomorrow, with action beginning at 10:20 a.m. ET.

Chinese figure skating judges banned for biased Olympic scoring

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Two Chinese figure skating judges were suspended by the International Skating Union for biased judging at the PyeongChang Olympics.

Chen Weiguang and Huang Feng had “preferential marking” for top Chinese skaters Jin Boyang (fourth place in PyeongChang) and the silver medalist pairs’ team of Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, respectively, according to the ISU.

Chen was banned two years and excluded from the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Huang got a one-year ban.

Chen awarded her highest grades of execution scores of the men’s competition to Jin, as well as her second-highest program components scores, trailing only gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu. Both sets of scores, in both the short and long programs, were out of line with the other eight judges.

“There is evidence of preference for the Chinese skater and prejudice against his strongest competitors,” an ISU report read. “Her marks were completely unrealistic.”

The pairs’ judge Huang “obviously favored his pair also vis-à-vis the other top candidates for the Olympic gold medal,” the ISU said in a report, referencing inflated scores for Sui and Han and lower scores for gold and bronze medalists Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany and Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada.

Huang was warned one month before the Olympics by the ISU for biased judging at the December 2017 Grand Prix Final pairs’ event.

Both suspensions are subject to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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MORE: Adam Rippon opines on figure skating future

Javier Fernandez to skip Grand Prix, still compete next season

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Javier Fernandez, who in PyeongChang became the first Spanish Olympic figure skating medalist, will skip the fall Grand Prix series but return for January’s European Championships, which could be his final competition.

Europeans will be Fernandez’s focus for the season, his agent said Tuesday.

Fernandez, 26, added an Olympic bronze medal to his 2015 and 2016 World titles. He has said that his third Olympics in PyeongChang would be his last. But Fernandez did not say he would retire after the Winter Games, though he did skip the world championships in March.

Fernandez now plans to compete in his 13th straight European Championships in Minsk in January. He won the last six titles. It’s unknown if he will continue on to the world championships in Saitama, Japan, in March.

In Fernandez’s absence, the top male singles skaters in the fall Grand Prix season should be double Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, PyeongChang silver medalist Shoma Uno and American Nathan Chen, who was fifth at the Olympics after a disastrous short program but ran away with March’s world title by the largest margin in history.

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