U.S. figure skaters still have podium shot

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SOCHI, Russia – There were no American women in the top three at the end of the ladies’ short program Wednesday at the Olympics, but that doesn’t mean the nation’s skating present – or future – isn’t bright.

Gracie Gold led the way with a fourth-place finish as Ashley Wagner and Polina Edmunds went six-seven in the first portion of the event, Gold – and to a lesser sense, Wagner – sitting within striking distance of the podium.

“I think it was a great skate for all three of them,” said Tara Lipinski, the 1998 Olympic champion and a commentator for NBC Sports. “Olympic pressure is not easy to skate under and they all put out good performances.”

None of Gold, Wagner or Edmunds skated their best, but they all stayed on their feet in a short program that was full of ups and downs, turns and tumbles.

VIDEO: Gold “a triple lutz away from Yuna Kim”

“I was a little iffy,” Gold said after her skate. “I was able to just trust my training out there. I’ve done enough programs to know when to snap back into place.”

The 18-year-old Gold, who won the U.S. Championships last month, sits five points off the podium heading into the free skate, though two up-and-down skaters – Adelina Sotnikova and Carolina Kostner – placed in front of her.

“If Gracie keeps her head together and skates full-out – tonight she was very tight – there is definitely a chance for her to be on the podium,” said two-time Olympian Johnny Weir, a commentator alongside Lipinski for NBC Sports.

VIDEO: Nancy Kerrigan’s take on short program

The U.S. is in danger of not placing a man or woman on the podium for the first time in 76 years (since 1936) after Jason Brown placed ninth and Jeremy Abbott was 12th in the men’s event last week.

No woman placed on the podium in 2010, either, but Evan Lysacek won gold for the U.S.

“The Americans will remain strong,” said Weir, who was sixth in Vancouver. “They were all a bit nervous, but definitely strong. That was encouraging to see. I was personally unsure of the chances of the U.S. women coming in and now they’re in a really good position.”

Gold prefers her free skate, as well.

VIDEO: Ashley Wagner “shines on” in sixth place

“I feel better doing the free program,” the Chicago native said. “Once I keep going, it’s all about momentum for me. I’m a free-program kind of person. There’s nothing to lose.”

Gold shared that before the program she had an emotional moment with her mom, saying she was scared that she wouldn’t be able to perform on the Olympic stage.

“It’s scary to poor your heart and soul into something and you’re not quite there,” Gold said. “My mom told me just to trust myself and let the universe unfold.”

Olympian Derrick Mein ends U.S. men’s trap drought at shotgun worlds

Derrick Mein
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Tokyo Olympian Derrick Mein became the first U.S. male shooter to win a world title in the trap event since 1966, prevailing at the world shotgun championships in Osijek, Croatia, on Wednesday.

Mein, who grew up on a small farm in Southeast Kansas, hunting deer and quail, nearly squandered a place in the final when he missed his last three shots in the semifinal round after hitting his first 22. He rallied in a sudden-death shoot-off for the last spot in the final by hitting all five of his targets.

He hit 33 of 34 targets in the final to win by two over Brit Nathan Hales with one round to spare.

The last U.S. man to win an Olympic trap title was Donald Haldeman in 1976.

Mein, 37, was 24th in his Olympic debut in Tokyo (and placed 13th with Kayle Browning in the mixed-gender team event).

The U.S. swept the Tokyo golds in the other shotgun event — skeet — with Vincent Hancock and Amber English. Browning took silver in women’s trap.

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Mo Farah withdraws before London Marathon

Mo Farah
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British track legend Mo Farah withdrew before Sunday’s London Marathon, citing a right hip injury before what would have been his first 26.2-mile race in nearly two years.

Farah, who swept the 2012 and 2016 Olympic track titles at 5000m and 10,000m, said he hoped “to be back out there” next April, when the London Marathon returns to its traditional month after COVID moved it to the fall for three consecutive years. Farah turns 40 on March 23.

“I’ve been training really hard over the past few months and I’d got myself back into good shape and was feeling pretty optimistic about being able to put in a good performance,” in London, Farah said in a press release. “However, over the past 10 days I’ve been feeling pain and tightness in my right hip. I’ve had extensive physio and treatment and done everything I can to be on the start line, but it hasn’t improved enough to compete on Sunday.”

Farah switched from the track to the marathon after the 2017 World Championships and won the 2018 Chicago Marathon in a then-European record time of 2:05:11. Belgium’s Bashir Abdi now holds the record at 2:03:36.

Farah returned to the track in a failed bid to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, then shifted back to the roads.

Sunday’s London Marathon men’s race is headlined by Ethiopians Kenenisa Bekele and Birhanu Legese, the second- and third-fastest marathoners in history.

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