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)

Elena Fanchini, medal-winning Alpine skier, dies at 37

Elena Fanchini
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Italian skier Elena Fanchini, whose career was cut short by a tumor, has died. She was 37.

Fanchini passed away Wednesday at her home in Solato, near Brescia, the Italian Winter Sports Federation announced.

Fanchini died on the same day that fellow Italian Marta Bassino won the super-G at the world championships in Meribel, France; and two days after Federica Brignone — another former teammate — claimed gold in combined.

Sofia Goggia, who is the favorite for Saturday’s downhill, dedicated her win in Cortina d’Ampezzo last month to Fanchini.

Fanchini last raced in December 2017. She was cleared to return to train nearly a year later but never made it fully back, and her condition grew worse in recent months.

Fanchini won a silver medal in downhill at the 2005 World Championships and also won two World Cup races in her career — both in downhill.

She missed the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics because of her condition.

Fanchini’s younger sisters Nadia and Sabrina were also World Cup racers.

USA Boxing to skip world championships

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USA Boxing will not send boxers to this year’s men’s and women’s world championships, citing “the ongoing failures” of the IBA, the sport’s international governing body, that put boxing’s place on the Olympic program at risk.

The Washington Post first reported the decision.

In a letter to its members, USA Boxing Executive Director Mike McAtee listed many factors that led to the decision, including IBA governance issues, financial irregularities and transparency and that Russian and Belarusian boxers are allowed to compete with their flags.

IBA lifted its ban on Russian and Belarusian boxers in October and said it would allow their flags and anthems to return, too.

The IOC has not shifted from its recommendation to international sports federations last February that Russian and Belarusian athletes be barred, though the IOC and Olympic sports officials have been exploring whether those athletes could return without national symbols.

USA Boxing said that Russian boxers have competed at an IBA event in Morocco this month with their flags and are expected to compete at this year’s world championships under their flags.

“While sport is intended to be politically neutral, many boxers, coaches and other representatives of the Ukrainian boxing community were killed as a result of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, including coach Mykhaylo Korenovsky who was killed when a Russian missile hit an apartment block in January 2023,” according to the USA Boxing letter. “Ukraine’s sports infrastructure, including numerous boxing gyms, has been devastated by Russian aggression.”

McAtee added later that USA Boxing would still not send athletes to worlds even if Russians and Belarusians were competing as neutrals and without their flags.

“USA Boxing’s decision is based on the ‘totality of all of the factors,'” he said in an emailed response. “Third party oversite and fairness in the field of play is the most important factor.”

A message has been sent to the IBA seeking comment on USA Boxing’s decision.

The women’s world championships are in March in India. The men’s world championships are in May in Uzbekistan. They do not count toward 2024 Olympic qualifying.

In December, the IOC said recent IBA decisions could lead to “the cancellation of boxing” for the 2024 Paris Games.

Some of the already reported governance issues led to the IOC stripping IBA — then known as AIBA — of its Olympic recognition in 2019. AIBA had suspended all 36 referees and judges used at the 2016 Rio Olympics pending an investigation into a possible judging scandal, one that found that some medal bouts were fixed by “complicit and compliant” referees and judges.

The IOC ran the Tokyo Olympic boxing competition.

Boxing was not included on the initial program for the 2028 Los Angeles Games announced in December 2021, though it could still be added. The IBA must address concerns “around its governance, its financial transparency and sustainability and the integrity of its refereeing and judging processes,” IOC President Thomas Bach said then.

This past June, the IOC said IBA would not run qualifying competitions for the 2024 Paris Games.

In September, the IOC said it was “extremely concerned” about the Olympic future of boxing after an IBA extraordinary congress overwhelmingly backed Russian Umar Kremlev to remain as its president rather than hold an election.

Kremlev was re-elected in May after an opponent, Boris van der Vorst of the Netherlands, was barred from running against him. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled in June that van der Vorst should have been eligible to run against Kremlev, but the IBA group still decided not to hold a new election.

Last May, Rashida Ellis became the first U.S. woman to win a world boxing title at an Olympic weight since Claressa Shields in 2016, taking the 60kg lightweight crown in Istanbul. In Tokyo, Ellis lost 3-0 in her opening bout in her Olympic debut.

At the last men’s worlds in 2021, Robby Gonzales and Jahmal Harvey became the first U.S. men to win an Olympic or world title since 2007, ending the longest American men’s drought since World War II.

The Associated Press and NBC Olympic research contributed to this report.

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