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

April Ross, Alix Klineman back atop Olympic beach volleyball qualifying

April Ross, Alix Klineman
FIVB World Tour
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Two-time Olympic medalist April Ross and new partner Alix Klineman moved back on top of the U.S. Olympic beach volleyball qualifying standings by winning an event in Itapema, Brazil this week.

Ross, who split from Kerri Walsh Jennings in 2017, and Klineman beat Canadians Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes 25-23, 18-21, 15-10 in Sunday’s final for their third title in 11 FIVB World Tour tournaments together.

“Every victory is important, but this counts for more,” Klineman said, according to the FIVB. “We want to send a message and we want to be consistently the best.

Ross and Klineman supplanted Walsh Jennings and her new partner, Brooke Sweat, for the lead in the early U.S. Olympic qualifying rankings with still more than a year of events ahead.

1. Ross/Klineman – 3,240 (5 events played)
2. Walsh Jennings/Sweat – 3,100 (7 events)
3. Day/Flint – 2,180 (5 events)
4. Hughes/Ross — 2,000 (4 events)
5. Larsen/Stockman — 1,840 (5 events)
6. Sponcil/Claes — 1,600 (3 events)

Each team’s 12 best results from Sept. 1, 2018, to June 14, 2020, go into the Olympic qualifying rankings. That means Ross and Klineman are comfortably in front, having played two fewer events than Walsh Jennings and Sweat, who lost in the quarterfinals in Itapema.

The top two U.S. pairs come June 15, 2020, provided they’re ranked high enough internationally, will qualify for Tokyo. Most of the qualifying events, including the ones with the most points available, are still to come this summer.

Ross, 36, picked up Klineman, 29, after Walsh Jennings didn’t join her in signing a domestic AVP contract in 2017. The 6-foot-5 Klineman primarily played indoor the previous decade, including at Stanford from 2007-10 after being the Gatorade National Player of the Year coming out of high school.

MORE: Brazil volleyball star faints during courtside interview

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Katie Ledecky extends 5-year win streak

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Katie Ledecky extended a five-year domestic win streak by taking the 200m freestyle at the Tyr Pro Swim Series at Bloomington on Saturday.

In her last full meet before July’s world championships, Ledecky clocked 1:55.80 to beat training partner Simone Manuel by 1.44 seconds for her second win in as many days. Ledecky is also entered in Sunday’s 800m free on the last day of the meet.

Ledecky, who also cruised to a 400m free victory on Friday, ranks third in the world in the 200m free this year, behind Australian Ariarne Titmus and Swede Sarah Sjöström (the Olympic silver medalist who is not expected to race the 200m free at worlds).

Ledecky, a five-time Olympic champion, hasn’t lost a 200m, 400m, 800m or 1500m free final at a domestic meet since Allison Schmitt beat her in a 200m free on Jan. 18, 2014 when Ledecky was 16 years old.

BLOOMINGTON: Full Results

But Ledecky lost the two biggest 200m frees of this Olympic cycle so far, at the 2017 World Championships and the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships. Italian veteran Federica Pellegrini handed Ledecky her first individual final defeat at a major international meet at 2017 Worlds.

Ledecky dropped to third in the 200m free at Pan Pacs in Tokyo last year, beaten by younger swimmers Taylor Ruck of Canada and Rikako Ikee of Japan.

Ruck, who like Ledecky trains at Stanford, is in Bloomington, but she chose not to swim the 200m free on Saturday. She instead swam the 200m backstroke about 45 minutes after the 200m free and was upset by 17-year-old Regan Smith. Smith won in 2:06.47, moving to No. 3 in the world this year.

In other events Saturday, Ella Eastin captured the 400m individual medley in 4:37.18, taking 1.25 seconds off her personal best and moving to fifth in the world this year. Eastin is not on the world championships team after an untimely bout with mono before qualifying meets last summer.

Blake Pieroni won the men’s 200m free in 1:47.25. No American ranks in the top 20 in the world this year. World silver medalist Townley Haas did not enter Bloomington.

MORE: Olympic breaststroke champion faces ban for missed drug tests

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