Gracie Gold wins NHK Trophy; Grand Prix Final picture

Gracie Gold
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U.S. champion Gracie Gold won the biggest international title of her career at NHK Trophy in Osaka, Japan, on Saturday, clinching her first Grand Prix Final berth.

Gold, who finished fourth at the Olympics and fifth at March’s World Championships, totaled 191.16 points to win by 4.76 over Russian Alena Leonova. Gold landed four triple jumps in her free skate and fell on a triple Salchow but improved on her lead after the short program due in part to Leonova’s errors.

“It wasn’t my best performance, but I skated well enough to win the competition, which was one of my goals,” Gold said in a Japanese TV interview, according to the Japan News. “But I know that I can do much better, and everyone should look for better performances later on in the season.”

Gold joined Olympic teammate Ashley Wagner and four Russians, including World silver medalist Yulia Lipnitskaya, to qualify for the Grand Prix Final in Barcelona in two weeks. Four Russians qualified for the Grand Prix Final for the second straight year.

The Grand Prix Final is the top annual international competition outside the World Championships, made up of the best six skaters per discipline over the Grand Prix series that concluded with NHK Trophy.

Gold and Wagner were the only U.S. women to make the podium in the Grand Prix series this year, and both did so in each of their two competitions. They are currently co-favorites going into the U.S. Championships in January, where three women will earn berths for the World Championships in March.

On Saturday, Gold became the first U.S. woman other than Wagner to win a Grand Prix series event since 2011.

Wagner joined Michelle Kwan as the only U.S. women to make three straight Grand Prix Finals.

NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra will air NHK Trophy coverage Sunday from 4-6 p.m. ET.

Yuzuru Hanyu KOs Jason Brown from GP Final

NHK Trophy women’s results
1. Gracie Gold (USA) — 191.16
2. Alena Leonova (RUS) — 186.4
3. Satoko Miyahara (JPN) — 179.02
8. Polina Edmunds (USA) — 161.79
9. Christina Gao (USA) — 147.51

Leaders in Grand Prix season
1. Yelena Radionova (RUS) — 203.92 (Trophee Bompard)
2. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS) — 196.6 (Cup of China)
3. Yelena Radionova (RUS) — 195.47 (Skate America)
4. Anna Pogorilaya (RUS) — 191.81 (Skate Canada)
5. Gracie Gold (USA) — 191.16 (NHK Trophy)
6. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS) — 189.62 (Skate America)
7. Alena Leonova (RUS) — 186.4 (NHK Trophy)
8. Ashley Wagner (USA) — 186 (Skate Canada)
9. Yulia Lipnitskaya (RUS) — 185.18 (Trophee Bompard)
10. Satoko Miyahara (JPN) — 181.75 (Skate Canada)
Olympic champion Adelina Sotnikova is out with a torn ankle ligament.

U.S. leaders in Grand Prix season
1. Gracie Gold — 191.16 (NHK Trophy)
2. Ashley Wagner — 186 (Skate Canada)
3. Gracie Gold — 179.38 (Skate America)
4. Ashley Wagner — 177.74 (Trophee Bompard)
5. Samantha Cesario — 174.58 (Skate America)
6. Courtney Hicks — 174.51 (Skate Canada)
7. Courtney Hicks — 172.58 (Trophee Bompard)
8. Mirai Nagasu — 165.88 (Rostelecom Cup)
9. Polina Edmunds — 161.79 (NHK Trophy)
10. Samantha Cesario — 161.7 (Trophee Bompard)

Grand Prix Final qualifiers
1. Yelena Radionova (RUS)
2. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS)
3. Anna Pogorilaya (RUS)
4. Yulia Lipnitskaya (RUS)
5. Gracie Gold (USA)
6. Ashley Wagner (USA)

Alpine skiing to test new format for combined race

Alpine Skiing Combined
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Alpine skiing officials will test a new format for the combined event, a race that is under review to remain on the Olympic program.

French newspaper L’Equipe reported that the International Ski Federation (FIS) will test a new team format for the combined, which has been an individual event on the Olympic program since 1988. L’Equipe reported that a nation can use a different skier for the downhill and slalom in the new setup, quoting FIS secretary general Michel Vion.

For example, the U.S. could use Breezy Johnson in the downhill run and sub her out for Mikaela Shiffrin in the slalom run, should the format be adopted into senior competition.

The format will be tested at the world junior championships in January in St. Anton, Austria, according to the report.

In response to the report, a FIS spokesperson said, “Regarding the new format of the combined is correct, and our directors are working on the rules so for the moment the only thing we can confirm is that there will be this new format for the Alpine combined that has been proposed by the athletes’ commission.”

Some version of the combined event has been provisionally included on the 2026 Olympic program, with a final IOC decision on its place coming by April.

This will be the third consecutive World Cup season with no combined events. Instead, FIS has included more parallel races in recent years. The individual combined remains on the biennial world championships program.

L’Equipe also reported that the mixed team parallel event, which is being dropped from the Olympics, will also be dropped from the biennial world championships after this season.

“There is nothing definitive about that yet, but it is a project in the making,” a FIS spokesperson said in commenting on the report.

Vion said the mixed team event, which debuted at the Olympics in 2018, was not a hit at the Beijing Games and did not draw a strong audience, according to L’Equipe.

The World Cup season starts in two weeks with the traditional opening giant slaloms in Soelden, Austria.

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Ironman Kona World Championships return, live on Peacock

Ironman Kona World Championship
Ironman
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The Ironman Kona World Championships return after a three-year hiatus with a new format, live on Peacock on Thursday and Saturday at 12 p.m. ET.

The Ironman, held annually in Hawaii since 1978, and in Kailua-Kona since 1981, was not held in 2020 or 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The world championships made a one-time-only stop in St. George, Utah, on May 7 to make up for the 2021 cancellation. The winners were Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt, the Tokyo Olympic triathlon champion, and Swiss Daniela Ryf, who bagged her fifth Ironman world title.

WATCH LIVE: Ironman Kona men’s pro race, Saturday, 12 p.m. ET — STREAM LINK

Both entered Kailua-Kona, where the races were now split between two days — Thursday for the women and Saturday for the men. Chelsea Sodaro won the women’s race, ending a 20-year American victory drought.

An Ironman includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and a marathon — totaling 140.6 miles of racing. It takes top triathletes eight hours to complete. Very arguably, it crowns the world’s fittest man and woman.

Blummenfelt, 28 and in his Kona debut, will try to become the youngest male champion in Kona since German Normann Stadler in 2005. His top challengers include countryman Gustav Iden, the two-time reigning Half Ironman world champion, and German Patrick Lange, the 2017 and 2018 Ironman Kona winner.

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