Takahito Mura

Takahito Mura wins Skate Canada; Grand Prix analysis

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Japanese men are the class of the early Grand Prix season, and Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu hasn’t even skated yet.

Takahito Mura won Skate Canada, coming from behind after the short program to top Spain’s Javier Fernandez in Kelowna, British Columbia, on Saturday.

Mura, who didn’t make Japan’s Sochi Olympic team, prevailed one week after Tatsuki Machida romped at Skate America in the Grand Prix season opener.

On Saturday, Mura landed two quadruple jumps in his clean, personal-best free skate.

Fernandez, the World Championships bronze medalist, led after the short program Friday and took second overall, falling on one quad, putting his hand down on another and stepping out of a third. He is coached by two-time Canadian Olympic silver medalist Brian Orser.

Max Aaron, the 2013 U.S. champion, moved ahead of countryman Stephen Carriere for third place.

Japanese men have won the last four Grand Prix events dating to last season, including Hanyu’s win at the Grand Prix Final and Machida at last year’s Rostelecom Cup. This is the first time skaters from one nation won the first two Grand Prix events since 1999, when Russia’s Alexei Yagudin won both Skate America and Skate Canada. Yagudin won Skate America in 1998, followed by countryman Yevgeny Plushenko at Skate Canada.

It’s the first time U.S. men have won medals at the first two Grand Prix events since 2010 (Jason Brown won silver at Skate America last week). U.S. men won medals at every Grand Prix event in 2010, except the Grand Prix Final.

The Grand Prix series continues at Cup of China next week.

NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra will air Skate Canada coverage Sunday from 1-2:30 p.m. ET.

Skate Canada men’s results
1. Takahito Mura (JPN) — 255.81
2. Javier Fernandez (ESP) — 244.87
3. Max Aaron (USA) — 231.77
4. Stephen Carriere (USA) — 231.67
10. Adam Rippon (USA) — 201.92

Leaders in Grand Prix season
1. Tatsuki Machida (JPN) — 269.09 (Skate America)
2. Takahito Mura (JPN) — 255.81 (Skate Canada)
3. Javier Fernandez (ESP) — 244.87 (Skate Canada)
4. Jason Brown (USA) — 234.17 (Skate America)
5. Nam Nguyen (CAN) — 232.24 (Skate America)
Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu to debut at Cup of China next week. Olympic silver medalist Patrick Chan not competing in Grand Prixs.

U.S. men’s leaders in Grand Prix season
1. Jason Brown — 234.17 (Skate America)
2. Max Aaron — 231.77 (Skate Canada)
3. Stephen Carriere — 231.67 (Skate Canada)
4. Jeremy Abbott — 219.33 (Skate America)
5. Douglas Razzano — 204.48 (Skate America)
6. Adam Rippon — 201.92 (Skate Canada)
Richard Dornbush to debut at Cup of China next week. Josh Farris pulled out of Cup of China.

Alpine skiers beaten out for Austria Sportsman of the Year award

Asbel Kiprop, Olympic 1500m champ, banned 4 years

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Kenyan Asbel Kiprop, the 2008 Olympic 1500m champion and a three-time world champ, was banned four years after testing positive for EPO in November 2017, according to track and field’s doping watchdog organization.

The ban is backdated to Feb. 3, 2018, when the 29-year-old was provisionally suspended after the failed test.

Kiprop repeatedly denied doping since last May, when he first acknowledged the positive test. Most recently, a 3,000-word defense from his lawyer was posted on Kiprop’s Facebook page.

Kiprop’s defenses included saying he was a victim of extortion and that he was offered “a reward” of becoming an anti-doping ambassador if he admitted guilt. The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), the IAAF’s independent organization to monitor doping and corruption, denied the latter last May.

A disciplinary panel dismissed six defenses from exonerating him, including the possibility his sample was spiked, in handing out the four-year ban.

Kiprop, the pre-eminent 1500m runner of the last decade, can appeal the ban.

At 19, he finished second in the Beijing Olympic 1500m but was upgraded to gold a year later after Bahrain’s Rashid Ramzi failed a drug test. He is the youngest Olympic 1500m medalist of all time, according to the OlyMADMen.

Kiprop went on to earn three straight world titles in the 1500m in 2011, 2013 and 2015, matching the feats of retired legends Noureddine Morceli and Hicham El Guerrouj.

He struggled in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, finishing last in the London final with a hamstring injury and sixth in the Rio final won by American rival Matthew Centrowitz.

Kiprop has targeted El Guerrouj’s world record of 3:26:00, missing the mark by .69 of a second in 2015.

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Maggie Nichols is second woman in 20 years to repeat as NCAA all-around champ

Maggie Nichols
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Oklahoma junior and world champion gymnast Maggie Nichols became the first woman to repeat as NCAA all-around champion in 12 years, returning from a heel injury to compete on all four events for the first time since January on Friday.

Nichols, a Rio Olympic hopeful before being beset by a torn meniscus in 2016, joined 2004 Olympic silver medalist Courtney Kupets as the only women to win back-to-back NCAA all-arounds in the 2000s.

A junior, Nichols can next year join Jenny Hansen as the only women to three-peat in NCAA history.

Oklahoma goes for a third team title in four years on Saturday night against UCLA (featuring Olympic champions Madison Kocian and Kyla Ross), LSU and Denver.

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NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships Individual Results
All-Around
1. Maggie Nichols (Oklahoma) — 39.7125
2. Lexy Ramler (Minnesota) — 39.6625
2. Kyla Ross (UCLA) — 39.6625
4. Sarah Finnegan (LSU) — 39.65
5. Kennedi Edney (LSU) — 39.6

Vault
1. Kennedi Edney (LSU) — 9.95
1. Derrian Gobourne (Auburn)
1. Maggie Nichols (Oklahoma)
1. Kyla Ross (UCLA)

Uneven Bars
1. Sarah Finnegan (LSU) — 9.95

Balance Beam
1. Natalie Wojcik (Michigan) — 9.95

Floor Exercise
1. Alicia Boren (Florida) — 9.95
1. Lynnzee Brown (Denver)
1. Brenna Dowell (Oklahoma)
1. Kyla Ross (UCLA)