Gracie Gold leads NHK Trophy; Yuzuru Hanyu struggles

Gracie Gold
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U.S. champion Gracie Gold is in position to qualify for her first Grand Prix Final, leading the NHK Trophy in Osaka, Japan, after the short program Friday.

Gold, who was fourth at the Olympics and fifth at March’s World Championships, posted her highest short program score this season, 68.16 points. She led Russian Alena Leonova by .05.

A win at NHK Trophy would put Gold into the six-woman Grand Prix Final in Barcelona in two weeks. The Grand Prix Final, which includes the top skaters from the six-event Grand Prix series, is the top annual international competition outside the World Championships.

If the NHK standings hold through the free skate Saturday, Gold and countrywoman Ashley Wagner would join four Russian women in the Grand Prix Final.

“I think there are positives and negatives in qualifying for the GP Final,” Gold said, according to The Associated Press. “When you consider the U.S. Nationals are in January, it kind of interrupts your schedule for that, but of course it means you have done very well.”

Olympic and World men’s champion Yuzuru Hanyu is in fifth place behind leader and countryman Takahito Mura and in jeopardy of missing the Grand Prix Final. Hanyu, 19, fell on his opening quadruple jump and put his hands down on a later jump, not getting credit for a combination.

Hanyu clearly wasn’t near his best, performing three weeks after a warm-up collision with another skater at Cup of China.

“I feel like I’ve recovered enough and just tried to skate as normal,” Hanyu said, according to the AP. “Obviously this is disappointing. But the free skate is one I’m confident with and I will do my best tomorrow.”

If the NHK standings hold through the free skate, Hanyu would be in a three-way tie with Americans Jeremy Abbott and Jason Brown for the last Grand Prix Final spot. The tiebreaker would be the skaters’ highest combined scores in their two Grand Prix series events.

If Hanyu moves into the top three after the free skate, he will make the Grand Prix Final regardless of what other skaters do in Osaka.

Abbott put himself in contention with a clean short program Friday, totaling 81.51, 4.77 behind Mura. Abbott, a four-time U.S. champion, hopes to make his first Grand Prix Final in three years.

NHK Trophy Short Program

Women
1. Gracie Gold (USA) — 68.16
2. Alena Leonova (RUS) — 68.11
3. Kanako Murakami (JPN) — 64.38
6. Christina Gao (USA) — 54.86
11. Polina Edmunds (USA) — 48.96

Men
1. Takahito Mura (JPN) — 86.28
2. Jeremy Abbott (USA) — 81.51
3. Daisuke Murakami (JPN) — 79.68
5. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 78.01
10. Ross Miner (USA) — 63.36
11. Josh Farris (USA) — 58.35

U.S. figure skaters officially Olympic medalists, 50 years later

Noah Lyles clips Trayvon Bromell in personal best at New Balance Indoor Grand Prix

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Noah Lyles got his 2023 off to a personal-best start, beating Trayvon Bromell in a photo finish in the 60m at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix on Boston on Saturday.

Lyles, the world 200m champion, ran 6.51 seconds. Bromell, the world 100m bronze medalist, also ran 6.51. Lyles prevailed by two thousandths of a second.

“I’ve been waiting on this for a long time,” Lyles, whose personal best was 6.55, told Lewis Johnson on NBC. “We’re not just coming for the 200m world record. We’re coming for all the world records.”

Lyles is running the 60m to better his start as he bids to add the 100m to his 200m slate come the outdoor season that starts in the spring.

Grant Holloway extended a near-nine-year, 50-plus-race win streak in the 60m hurdles, clocking 7.38 seconds, nine hundredths off his world record. Olympic teammate Daniel Roberts was second in 7.46. Trey Cunningham, who took silver behind Holloway in the 110m hurdles at last July’s world outdoor championships, was fifth in 7.67.

Aleia Hobbs won the women’s 60m in 7.02 seconds, one week after clocking a personal-best 6.98 to become the third-fastest American in history after Gail Devers and Marion Jones (both 6.95). Hobbs, 26, placed sixth in the 100m at last July’s world championships.

Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, the Olympic and world 400m hurdles champion competing for the first time since August, and Jamaican Shericka Jackson, the world 200m champion, were ninth and 10th in the 60m heats, just missing the eight-woman final.

In the women’s pole vault, Bridget Williams, seventh at last year’s USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships, upset the last two Olympic champions — American Katie Moon and Greek Katerina Stefanidi. Williams won with a 4.63-meter clearance (and then cleared 4.71 and a personal-best 4.77). Stefanidi missed three attempts at 4.63, while Moon went out at 4.55.

The indoor track and field season continues with the Millrose Games in New York City next Saturday at 4 p.m. ET on NBC, NBCSports.com/live, the NBC Sports app and Peacock.

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Birk Irving, last man on Olympic team, extends breakout season with Mammoth win

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One year ago, Birk Irving was the last man to make the four-man U.S. Olympic ski halfpipe team. Since, he continued to climb the ranks in arguably the nation’s strongest discipline across skiing and snowboarding.

Irving earned his second World Cup win this season, taking the U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain, California, on Friday.

Irving posted a 94-point final run, edging Canadian Brendan Mackay by one point. David Wise, the two-time Olympic champion who won his fifth X Games Aspen title last Sunday, was third.

A tribute was held to 2015 World champion Kyle Smaine, a U.S. halfpipe skier who died in an avalanche in Japan last Sunday.

“We’re all skiing the best we have because we’re all skiing with Kyle in our hearts,” Irving said, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “We’re skiing for him, and we know he’s looking down on us. We miss you Kyle. We love you. Thank you for keeping us safe in the pipe today.”

Irving also won the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, Colorado, on Dec. 17. Plus, the 23-year-old from Colorado had his best career X Games Aspen finish last Sunday, taking second.

The next major event is the world championships in Georgia (the country, not the state) in early March. Irving was third at the last worlds in 2021, then fifth at the Olympics last February.

The U.S. has been the strongest nation in men’s ski halfpipe since it debuted at the Olympics in 2014. Wise won the first two gold medals. Alex Ferreira won silver and bronze at the last two Olympics. Aaron Blunck is a world champion and X Games champion.

Irving is younger than all of them and has beaten all of them at multiple competitions this season.

New Zealand’s Nico Porteous, the reigning Olympic gold medalist, hasn’t competed since the Games after undergoing offseason knee surgery.

In snowboarding events at Mammoth, Americans Julia Marino and Lyon Farrell earned slopestyle wins by posting the top qualification scores. The finals were canceled due to wind.

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