Yuzuru Hanyu beaten at Cup of China short program; Yulia Lipnitskaya eyes history (video)

Yuzuru Hanyu
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Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu was beaten in the Cup of China short program Friday, his first competition since sweeping the Sochi Olympics and World Championships.

Hanyu, who pulled out of his planned October season debut with a back injury, scored 82.95 points, falling 3.01 shy of Russian leader Maksim Kovtun. Hanyu did not perform a quadruple jump or a jumping combination. Kovtun landed two quads.

“In one word, it was the worst,” Hanyu said, according to the Japan Times. “It’s surprising that this kind of performance was good enough for second.

“It’s extremely frustrating. I’ll have a hard look in the mirror, and then I want to put on the kind of performance tomorrow [in the free skate] that people expect from me.”

Russian Yulia Lipnitskaya led a one-two Russian effort on the women’s side, hitting her triple-triple combination, double Axel and triple flip (short program video here) to lead Elizaveta Tuktamysheva by 1.57.

Kovtun, 19 like Hanyu, beat four-time Olympic medalist Yevgeny Plushenko at the 2014 Russian Championships but was passed over in favor of Plushenko for Russia’s lone Olympic men’s spot.

Russia failed to earn more than one men’s spot in Sochi due to Kovtun’s 17th-place finish at the 2013 World Championships, the competition that determined how many spots nations earned for the Olympics. Kovtun went on to finish fourth at the World Championships in March won by Hanyu.

If Hanyu and/or Lipnitskaya win the Cup of China after the free skate Saturday, it will mark the first time in Grand Prix series history (since 1995) that one nation swept the first three events with three different singles champions, on either the men’s or women’s side.

Japan’s Tatsuki Machida and Takahito Mura and Russians Yelena Radionova and Anna Pogorilaya won Skate America and Skate Canada the previous two weeks.

The only times one nation swept the first three Grand Prix events on either the men’s or women’s side were 1998 and 1999. Russian men won every event those seasons, but the first three were not split among three different men.

One nation has never swept the first three events in women’s history, regardless of number of different skaters.

U.S. Olympian Polina Edmunds, in her Grand Prix series debut, was seventh after falling on her opening triple Lutz. Edmunds, 16, was the youngest U.S. Olympic figure skater since Tara Lipinski in 1998. She finished ninth in Sochi and eighth at the World Championships in March.

U.S. Olympians Maia and Alex Shibutani led World champions Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte after the short dance.

NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra will air Cup of China coverage Sunday from 4-6 p.m. ET.

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Cup of China short program

1. Maksim Kovtun (RUS) — 85.96
2. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 82.95
3. Han Yan (CHN) — 79.21
4. Richard Dornbush (USA) — 77.23

1. Yulia Lipnitskaya (RUS) — 69.56
2. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS) — 67.99
3. Kanako Murakami (JPN) — 60.44
7. Polina Edmunds (USA) — 50.32
8. Christina Gao (USA) — 47.15
11. Ashley Cain (USA) — 39.8

South Korea’s first gold medalist of 2018 PyeongChang Olympics to compete for China

Lim Hyo-Jun
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Lim Hyo-Jun, a short track speed skater who won South Korea’s first gold medal of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, has been cleared to skate for China and was reportedly named to the national team Monday.

Lim, who won the 1500m on the first day of medal competition at the PyeongChang Games, began the process of switching to China after a June 2019 incident where he pulled down a teammate’s trousers, leaving him standing, exposed, in front of female teammates.

Lim, the 2019 World overall champion, was banned from the team for a year and later found guilty of sexual harassment before the verdict was overturned on appeal.

It was reported in March 2021 that Lim was in the process of trying to gain Chinese nationality to compete at the Beijing Winter Olympics, but Lim was not cleared to switch by the International Skating Union until this July. His Chinese name is Lin Xiaojun.

Another star South Korean skater, triple 2006 Olympic gold medalist Ahn Hyun-Soo, switched to Russia after not making the 2010 Olympic team. He then won three golds for the host nation as Viktor Ahn at the 2014 Sochi Games.

China’s national team for the upcoming season reportedly does not include veterans Wu Dajing, the nation’s lone gold medalist across all sports at the 2018 Olympics, and Fan Kexin, a three-time Olympic medalist.

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Brigid Kosgei, world record holder, to miss London Marathon

Brigid Kosgei
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World record holder Brigid Kosgei withdrew before Sunday’s London Marathon due to a right hamstring injury that has bothered her for the last month.

“My training has been up and down and not the way I would like to prepare to be in top condition,” was posted on Kosgei’s social media. “We’ve decided it’s best I withdraw from this year’s race and get further treatment on my injuries in order to enter 2023 stronger than ever.”

Kosgei, a 28-year-old Kenyan mother of twins, shattered the world record by 81 seconds at the 2019 Chicago Marathon. She clocked 2:14:04 to smash Brit Paula Radcliffe‘s record from 2003.

Since, Kosgei won the 2020 London Marathon, took silver at the Tokyo Olympics, placed fourth at the 2021 London Marathon and won this past March’s Tokyo Marathon in what was then the third-fastest time in history (2:16:02).

Ethiopian Tigist Assefa moved into the top three by winning the Berlin Marathon last Sunday in 2:15:37.

The London Marathon women’s field includes Kenyan Joyciline Jepkosgei, a winner in New York City (2019) and London (2021), and Yalemzerf Yehualaw, who was the Ethiopian record holder until Assefa won in Berlin.

The men’s field is headlined by Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest male marathoner in history, and Brit Mo Farah, a four-time Olympic champion on the track.

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