Ashley Wagner

Ashley Wagner finishes second at Skate Canada; Grand Prix analysis

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Ashley Wagner didn’t impress at the 2014 U.S. Championships, Olympics and World Championships, but she remains the top U.S. woman in Grand Prix competition.

Wagner took second at Skate Canada, behind Russian Anna Pogorilaya in Kelowna, British Columbia, on Saturday night. Pogorilaya, the leader after the short program, won with 191.81 points. Wagner had 186, keeping her runner-up spot from the short program with two under-rotated jumps and no triple-triple combination in her free skate (video here).

Pogorilaya’s clean free skate made it four straight top-level events in which the top active finisher was a different Russian. Adelina Sotnikova won the Olympics, Yulia Lipnitskaya won the World Championships silver medal (behind Mao Asada, who is not competing this season) and Yelena Radionova won Skate America last week.

Pogorilaya didn’t make the Russian Olympic team and was fourth at the World Championships.

Wagner was fourth at the 2014 U.S. Championships but made the three-woman U.S. Olympic team in part due to her strong international results — unrivaled among Americans — the past few years.

Wagner has finished first or second at Grand Prix series events six times since 2012. Other U.S. women have done so a combined two times. Wagner has made a Grand Prix podium each of the last six seasons.

Wagner was beaten by Gracie Gold at last season’s U.S. Championships, Olympics and Worlds. Wagner was seventh at the Olympics and Worlds.

But Wagner’s total score at Skate Canada was 6.62 points better than Gold at Skate America last week. The other U.S. Olympian, Polina Edmunds, makes her Grand Prix debut at Cup of China next week.

Wagner, Gold and Edmunds appear the early favorites for January’s U.S. Championships. Three women will make the team for the World Championships in March.

Pogorilaya’s win marks the first time since 2003 that one nation swept the first two Grand Prix women’s events. In 2003, American Sasha Cohen prevailed at Skate America and Skate Canada. In 2002, Michelle Kwan won Skate America, and Cohen won Skate Canada.

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

Skate Canada women’s results
1. Anna Pogorilaya (RUS) — 191.81
2. Ashley Wagner (USA) — 186
3. Satoko Miyahara (JPN) — 181.75
4. Courtney Hicks (USA) — 174.51

Leaders in Grand Prix season
1. Elena Radionova (RUS) — 195.47 (Skate America)
2. Anna Pogorilaya (RUS) — 191.81 (Skate Canada)
3. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS) — 189.62 (Skate America)
4. Ashley Wagner (USA) — 186 (Skate Canada)
5. Satoko Miyahara (JPN) — 181.75 (Skate Canada)
6. Gracie Gold (USA) — 179.38 (Skate America)
Olympic champion Adelina Sotnikova to debut at Rostelecom Cup in two weeks. World silver medalist Yulia Lipnitskaya to debut at Cup of China next week.

U.S. leaders in Grand Prix season
1. Ashley Wagner (USA) — 186 (Skate Canada)
2. Gracie Gold (USA) — 179.38 (Skate America)
3. Samantha Cesario (USA) — 174.58 (Skate America)
4. Courtney Hicks (USA) — 174.51 (Skate Canada)
5. Mirai Nagasu (USA) — 158.21 (Skate America)
U.S. Olympian Polina Edmunds to debut at Cup of China.

Alpine skiers beaten out for Austria Sportsman of the Year award

World champion wins doping case citing bodily fluids from boyfriend

AP
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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — A world champion canoeist won a doping case Monday after persuading a tribunal that her positive test was caused by bodily fluid contamination from her boyfriend.

The International Canoe Federation (ICF) ended its investigation into 11-time world champion Laurence Vincent Lapointe, who tested positive for a steroid-like substance in July. She faced a four-year ban and could have missed her event’s Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games.

The Canadian canoe sprint racer and her lawyer detailed in a news program that laboratory analysis of hair from her then-boyfriend showed he was likely responsible for a tiny presence of ligandrol in her doping sample.

“The ICF has accepted Ms. Vincent Lapointe’s evidence which supports that she was the victim of third-party contamination,” the governing body said in a statement, clearing her to return to competition.

The legal debate is similar to tennis player Richard Gasquet’s 2009 acquittal in the “cocaine kiss” case. The Court of Arbitration for Sport accepted Gasquet’s defense that kissing a woman who had taken cocaine in a Miami nightclub, after he had withdrawn injured from a tournament, caused his positive test.

The 27-year-old Vincent Lapointe was provisionally suspended for almost six months and missed the 2019 World Championships, which was a key qualifying event for the Tokyo Olympics. American 17-year-old Nevin Harrison won the 200m world title in her absence.

She can still qualify for the Olympic debut of women’s canoe sprint events with victory at a World Cup event in May in Germany.

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U.S. women’s soccer team begins Olympic qualifying, which should rest on one match

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The U.S. women’s soccer team has never been in danger in Olympic qualifying, but that doesn’t change this fact: It must win on Feb. 7 to reach the Tokyo Games.

The CONCACAF tournament begins Tuesday in Houston, where the world champion Americans face world No. 72 Haiti. The last two group games are against No. 68 Panama on Friday and No. 37 Costa Rica on Feb. 3. The top two nations from the group advance to Feb. 7 semifinals.

The U.S. roster, with 18 of its 20 players coming from the 2019 World Cup team, is here.

Since CONCACAF qualifies two nations to the Olympics, the semifinals are the deciding games.

Should the U.S. win its group, it would face the runner-up from the other group in a winner-goes-to-Tokyo match. The other group (world ranking):

Canada (8)
Mexico (37)
Jamaica (53)
St. Kitts and Nevis (127)

Chaos could result in the unlikely event that either the U.S. or Canada finishes second in its group, and the two North American powers play a semifinal.

The U.S. is undefeated in Olympic qualifying history, since the tournament format began in 2004 — 15-0 with a goal differential of 88-1 (not counting matches played once they’ve already clinched qualification). The lone goal allowed came in a group-stage match in 2008, when the U.S. was already assured a spot in the semifinals.

Still, the U.S. knows the feeling of one poor outing in an important match. In 2010, it lost to Mexico in a winner-to-the-World Cup match. The U.S. was forced to win a last-chance, home-and-home playoff against a UEFA team — Italy — for the last spot in the World Cup.

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