Tatsuki Machida

Tatsuki Machida leads Skate America over Jeremy Abbott, Jason Brown

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Japan’s Tatsuki Machida topped both U.S. Olympians in the Skate America short program in Hoffman Estates, Ill., on Friday night. He can become the first repeat men’s champion at the Grand Prix series event in 13 years on Saturday.

Machida, who was fifth at the Sochi Olympics and second at the World Championships in March, landed all of his jumps cleanly — unlike the other leading men — and scored 93.39 points.

The four-time U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott turned out of his triple Axel landing and scored 81.82 points for second place. Abbott, 29, skated with facial hair, wearing a tie and to Sam Smith‘s “Lay Me Down,” accompanied by Smith’s vocal lyrics, allowed under a new rule this season.

Jason Brown fell on his opening triple Axel and scored 79.75 points for third place. Brown, 19, won his first senior international competition in Germany last month after placing ninth at the Sochi Olympics.

Sochi Olympic bronze medalist Denis Ten of Kazakhstan fell on his opening quadruple jump, and into the Sears Centre boards. He’s in fourth with 77.18 points.

The last man to win two straight Skate America titles was American Tim Goebel in 2000 and 2001. Goebel won Olympic bronze in 2002.

A Japanese man won Skate America seven of the previous nine years. Vancouver Olympic gold medalist Evan Lysacek was the only American men’s champ in that stretch, in 2009.

Earlier, U.S. Olympians Madison Chock and Evan Bates took the ice dance lead with 68.96 points in the short dance. Sochi teammates Maia and Alex Shibutani were second with 64.14.

The Sochi Olympic ice dance gold and silver medalists — Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White and Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir — are taking the season off. The Sochi bronze medalists and fourth-place couple are also not skating together this season.

Chock and Bates and the Shibutani siblings were eighth and ninth, respectively, in Sochi.

Skate America continues Saturday with the pairs short program (1 p.m. ET), women’s short program (2:30), free dance (8) and men’s free skate (9:30).

NBC will air coverage of the women’s free skate Sunday (4-6 ET).

Johnny Weir, Tara Lipinski preview Skate America

World Alpine Skiing Championships on for 2021 after request to delay rejected

Alpine Skiing World Championships
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GENEVA (AP) — A request by the organizers of next year’s skiing world championships in Italy to postpone the event by one year was rejected Thursday by the International Ski Federation.

FIS ruled that the event will go ahead from Feb. 9-21, 2021, in Cortina d’Ampezzo — the highlight of an Alpine season that faces challenges to find safe protocols for international travel and attending races in Europe, North America and China.

The Veneto region of northern Italy was hit hard by the coronavirus and the season-ending World Cup races in Cortina in mid-March were canceled. That week-long event was to be a test for the 2021 worlds.

“The last month of efforts to come to this solution demonstrates the strong collaborative spirit of the ski family and stakeholders.” FIS president Gian-Franco Kasper said.

Organizers in Italy have said they expect losses of about 30 million euros ($34 million) if the worlds are also canceled. They asked for a postponement to March 2022, which would be only weeks after the Beijing Olympics.

“But we will be ready in any case and we will show that these world championships can change the history of a region despite the current difficulties,” Alessandro Benetton, president of the Cortina organizing committee, said in a statement.

Italian racer Sofia Goggia, the 2018 Olympic downhill champion, said she was “happy for Cortina because it will host the first major international event after the coronavirus epidemic.”

Cortina, which hosted the 1956 Olympics, will co-host the 2026 Winter Games with Milan and use the worlds as a showcase for the resort.

The women’s World Cup downhill on the Olympia delle Tofane course each January is one of the most scenic in the sport with a signature jump between tall outcrops of jagged rock.

The Dolomites venue was awarded the 2021 worlds by FIS after missing out as a candidate four straight times from 2013-19.

MORE: Anna Veith retires, leaves Austrian Alpine skiing in unfamiliar territory

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Russia track and field athlete clearance frozen due to unpaid fine

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MONACO (AP) — The program allowing Russian track athletes to compete internationally will be frozen because the country’s federation failed to pay a fine on time, World Athletics said Thursday.

The Russian track federation, known as RusAF, owes a $5 million fine and another $1.31 million in costs for various doping-related work and legal wrangles. World Athletics said RusAF missed Wednesday’s deadline to pay.

World Athletics said it would freeze the work of the Doping Review Board, which vets Russian athletes who want the “authorized neutral athlete” status that allows them to compete internationally, and its taskforce monitoring RusAF’s anti-doping reforms.

World Athletics said both bodies will be “put on hold” until its council meets to discuss the situation at the end of July.

“RusAF is letting its athletes down badly,” World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said in a statement. “We have done as much as we can to expedite our ANA process and support RusAF with its reinstatement plan, but seemingly to no avail.”

RusAF president Yevgeny Yurchenko earlier told the Tass state news agency that his federation’s finances were damaged by the coronavirus pandemic and that it had asked for more time to pay.

World Athletics’ statement didn’t directly address that issue, but said Russia hadn’t indicated when it would pay.

Russia was fined $10 million by World Athletics in March, with $5 million suspended for two years, after the federation admitted to breaking anti-doping rules and obstructing an investigation.

The Athletics Integrity Unit said fake documents were used under the previous management to give an athlete an alibi for missing a doping test.

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