Yuzuru Hanyu

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

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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

Heimana Reynolds wins skateboard world title, nears an Olympic goal from age 10

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In February 2009, a 10-year-old Heimana Reynolds was profiled by his local NBC TV station on Oahu.

“My goal is to become a professional skateboarder and compete in the X Games and the Olympics,” he said, according to the report.

Skateboarding would not be added to the Olympics for another seven years. But here Reynolds is, age 21, having just won the world title in park, one of two skateboarding events that debut at the Games in Tokyo.

Reynolds, who wasn’t named to the four-man U.S. national team in March, consolidated his lead in the Olympic qualification rankings by prevailing over a pair of Brazilians in Sao Paulo on Sunday.

A shirtless Reynolds scored 88 points in the final, beating Luis Francisco (85.50) and Pedro Quintas (85).

No more than three Americans can make the Olympic team in the event, which will make it difficult if three-time Olympic halfpipe snowboarding champion Shaun White decides to continue his skateboarding pursuit. White was the sixth-best American, bowing out in the semifinals in 13th place on Saturday in just his second contest since returning to competitive skating last year.

Back to Reynolds. He grew up on the North Shore and attended the Punahou School, where Barack Obama is the most famous alum. His first name is Tahitian, reportedly referring to the power of Jesus’ crown of thorns.

Reynolds, the son of a surfer, proved a natural on land. After pre-teen media profiles, he blossomed into a world silver medalist last year. He won an Olympic qualifier in China in July to take the top spot in the Olympic rankings despite a best career X Games finish of sixth.

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Primoz Roglic, ex-ski jumper, wins Vuelta a Espana

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In a year of new talent in cycling, a former world junior champion ski jumper won the last Grand Tour.

Primoz Roglic, a 2007 World junior team ski jumping champion, won the Vuelta a Espana, becoming the first Slovenian to capture a Grand Tour. He prevailed by 2 minutes, 16 seconds over Spanish veteran Alejandro Valverde after Sunday’s final stage, a largely ceremonial ride into Madrid.

“Not much words to say about it,” Roglic said in a speech atop the podium. “See you next races.”

Roglic, 29, became the fifth straight first-time Grand Tour champion dating to Geraint Thomas‘ 2018 Tour de France title.

Roglic benefited from Thomas and other stars like Chris Froome skipping the Vuelta, but he also had the credentials, having finished fourth in the 2018 Tour and third in this year’s Giro d’Italia.

Valverde deserves acclaim, too, having, at age 39, made his ninth Grand Tour podium and seventh at the Vuelta. Valverde, the reigning world road race champion, has gone 16 years between his first and most recent Vuelta podium. He also had a record-breaking 19th Grand Tour top 10, according to Gracenote.

Then there’s third-place finisher Tadej Pogacar, a 20-year-old Slovenian who became the youngest Grand Tour podium finisher since 1974.

Roglic, who suffered this scary crash before leaving ski jumping, joined Ecuadorian Richard Carapaz and Colombian Egan Bernal as this year’s Grand Tour winners. All ride for different teams.

Roglic is with Jumbo-Visma, which also includes this year’s Tour de France third-place finisher Steven Kruijswijk and will include, starting in 2020, 2018 Tour de France runner-up Tom Dumoulin.

Kruijswijk abandoned the Vuelta with a knee injury in the fourth stage. Dumoulin did not start the Vuelta.

The road cycling season continues with the world championships in Yorkshire, Great Britain, later this month.

MORE: Chris Froome: Pre-Tour de France crash like ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ scene

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