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

12-year-old skateboarders earn medals at world championships

Chloe Covell
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At the world skateboarding championships, 12-year-olds Chloe Covell from Australia and Onodera Ginwoo from Japan earned silver and bronze medals, respectively, in Sunday’s street finals.

In the women’s event, Covell took silver behind Brazilian 15-year-old Rayssa Leal, who was a silver medalist herself at the Tokyo Games.

Frenchman Aurélien Giraud, a 25-year-old who was sixth in skateboarding’s Olympic debut in Tokyo, won the men’s final in the United Arab Emirates. Ginwoo was third behind Portugal’s Gustavo Ribeiro.

The top Americans were Olympic men’s bronze medalist Jagger Eaton in sixth and 15-year-old Paige Heyn in seventh in the women’s event.

Nyjah Huston, a six-time world champion who placed seventh in Tokyo, missed worlds after August surgery for an ACL tear.

Up to three men and three women per nation can qualify per event (street and park) for the 2024 Paris Games. World rankings come June 2024 determine which Americans qualify.

In Tokyo, four of the 12 skateboarding medalists were ages 12 or 13.

Japan’s Kokona Hiraki, then 12, won silver in women’s park to become the youngest Olympic medalist since 1936, according to Olympedia.org. Japan’s Momiji Nishiya, then 13, won women’s street and became the youngest gold medalist in an individual event since 1936.

Worlds conclude this week with the men’s and women’s park events. The finals are Saturday.

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Francesco Friedrich, most decorated bobsledder in history, rebounds for 12th world title

Francesco Friedrich
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A week after his first major championships defeat in seven years, German Francesco Friedrich returned to his winning ways to close the world bobsled championships on Sunday.

Friedrich’s four-man sled won the world title by 69 hundredths of a second over British and Latvian sleds that tied for silver, combining times from four runs over the last two days in St. Moritz, Switzerland. It marked Great Britain’s first world championships men’s bobsled medal since 1966.

Geoff Gadbois drove the lone U.S. sled in the field, finishing 18th.

Friedrich, the most decorated bobsledder in history, extended his records with a fifth consecutive world four-man title and 12th world championship between two- and four-man events.

Germany swept all four titles at bobsled worlds with four different drivers taking gold.

Friedrich had won 12 consecutive Olympic or world titles before taking two-man silver at worlds last week in St. Moritz, Switzerland. He was dethroned in that event by countryman Johannes Lochner.

Friedrich has been hampered recently by a muscle injury from sprint training in late December. Going into worlds, Lochner had won four consecutive World Cup two-man races, while Hall won the last two World Cups in four-man.

Friedrich, 32, said before this season that he plans to make the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games his final competition. Friedrich and push athlete Thorsten Margis can break the record of four career Olympic bobsled gold medals that they currently share with retired Germans Andre Lange and Kevin Kuske.

The World Cup season concludes with stops in Igls, Austria, and Sigulda, Latvia, the next two weekends.

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