Russians dominate Grand Prix Final short program; Ashley Wagner in last (video)

Leave a comment

Russians took the top four spots in the Grand Prix Final short program Thursday, setting up a likely women’s medal sweep for the first time in the event’s 20-year history.

Elizaveta Tuktamysheva led with 67.52 points in Barcelona, despite stepping out of a landing on a triple Lutz. Tuktamysheva was 10th at last season’s Russian Championships and didn’t make the Sochi Olympics.

Yulia Lipnitskaya was second with 66.24. She was the star of the Sochi team event and won the World Championships silver medal in March.

Two-time reigning World junior champion Yelena Radionova, arguably the favorite this week, fell on a triple loop and was in third place in the six-skater field. Radionova was too young for the Sochi Olympics.

Anna Pogorilaya, fourth at Worlds, was also fourth Thursday, ahead of Japan’s Rika Hongo and American Ashley Wagner.

Wagner, 23 and the oldest woman in the field by more than four years, stepped out of her opening triple flip landing and performed a triple-double combination rather than a triple-triple.

“The program as a whole was solid, but it just goes to show that now with these younger girls, you need a triple-triple jump to be competitive,” Wagner said, according to U.S. Figure Skating.

Wagner won bronze at last year’s Grand Prix Final and silver the year before. She and Michelle Kwan are the only U.S. women to make at least four Grand Prix Finals.

The Russian women will go for history in the free skate Saturday.

Only once in any discipline has a nation swept a Grand Prix Final podium — Russia’s men in 1999. No nation has ever swept the top four spots.

The only Russian woman to win a Grand Prix Final was two-time Olympic medalist Irina Slutskaya. The last of her four titles came in 2004.

Three Russians can compete at the World Championships in March in Shanghai, where they could take the second women’s medal sweep in the history of that event. In 1991, Kristi Yamaguchi, Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan owned the podium for the U.S.

Earlier in pairs, Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford led after the short program with 74.5. Russian favorites Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, the Olympic and World Championships silver medalists, were second with 72.33.

The Grand Prix Final continues with the short dance and men’s short program Friday. All of the free skates are Saturday. will stream all the sessions to subscribers live. NBC will air coverage Sunday (4-6 p.m.).

Women’s short program
1. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS) — 67.52
2. Yulia Lipnitskaya (RUS) — 66.24
3. Yelena Radionova (RUS) — 63.89
4. Anna Pogorilaya (RUS) — 61.34
5. Rika Hongo (JPN) — 61.1
6. Ashley Wagner (USA) — 60.24

Pairs short program
1. Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford (CAN) — 74.5
2. Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov (RUS) — 72.33
3. Sui Wenjing/Han Cong (CHN) — 66.66
4. Yu Xiaoyu/Jin Yang (CHN) — 62.71
5. Peng Cheng/Zhang Hao (CHN) — 62.46
6. Yuko Kavaguti/Aleksander Smirnov (RUS) — 55.97


Kaillie Humphries wins Canada Athlete of the Year

Danell Leyva makes incredible save on ‘American Ninja Warrior’

Danell Leyva
Leave a comment

Danell Leyva, a three-time Olympic gymnastics medalist, put those skills to the test in the “American Ninja Warrior” finals, saving himself from splashing out of the course.

In one obstacle, Leyva slipped and fell off one of four flexible boards positioned above water.

He faceplanted onto the last board, his lower body falling off. But Leyva held on with his arms and pulled himself back onto the apparatus and to the next obstacle.

The first Las Vegas Finals episode airs Monday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

Leyva previously splashed out of the “Leaps of Faith” obstacle in the Los Angeles City Finals episode that aired last month.

Leyva, a 27-year-old who took all-around bronze at the 2012 London Games, retired with parallel bars and high bar silvers in Rio.

Other Olympic gymnasts have tackled ANW, including gold medalists Nastia Liukin and Paul Hamm.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

VIDEO: U.S. gymnast catches high bar with one hand at nationals

Kim Rhode triumphs over theft on road to record-breaking Olympic bid

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Kim Rhode arrived at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, missing a few things.

The six-time Olympic shooting medalist had nearly all her equipment stolen prior to her trip earlier this month after her bag was nabbed from her father’s car.

“I lost everything but my vest and my gun,” Rhode said in Lima (noting with a smile she has seen worse: her gun was stolen a few years ago, though it was later returned). This time, “we’re all frantically trying to piece it back together, somewhat. … At the end of the day, you just have to kinda roll with it.”

It would take more than theft to rattle Rhode, who remains one of her sport’s top athletes 23 years after her first Olympic gold medal at the Atlanta Games.

The continental skeet title she won at Pan Ams (new equipment in tow) built upon a string of strong results since the last Olympics, including a world silver medal in 2018. Earlier this year, she became the first woman to win four straight World Cups in shooting.

At the Tokyo Olympics, Rhode could do something unprecedented: win seven medals in as many consecutive Olympics.

Rhode remembered a lot from her first trip to the Games as a 17-year-old carrying a pager. She described the volume of the crowd chanting “U-S-A” at the Opening Ceremony and the hum of the audience watching her compete, “almost like they were helping us to pull the trigger each and every time.” She recalled the athlete bowling alley, where both the balls and shoes were adorned with an Olympic flame symbol.

After winning gold in double trap, Rhode went back to high school life in El Monte, Calif. She couldn’t have known then that five more Olympics would follow. That one day, she’d have an Olympic medal from every continent in which the Games have been contested. That at 40, she’d still be at the top of her sport.

“I don’t think you ever get over the Olympics,” she said. “I don’t think you ever get used to it. It really takes on a life of its own.”

Rhode has been a constant in a sport that continues to evolve and change, and noted the technological advances that pushed it forward in the last several years: “you are seeing a lot more on the technical side of the stocks, more of these specialized grips,” she said, and “more people going with multiple lenses.”

Her competitors changed, too. Rhode described younger teammates showing her how to take a live photo and set up an Instagram account. “I’m kind of archaic in that sense,” she said with a laugh.

Her competitive spirit remains unchanged. While Tokyo would mark a milestone, Rhode has no plans of slowing down.

“I think I still have a few more in me,” she said, noting she’d like to compete in front of a home crowd again when the Olympics return to Los Angeles in 2028. “I definitely don’t see a need to stop. … Some of the shooters tend to be a lot older than most of the other Olympians because we have no shelf life. That’s the great thing about us.”

Rhode competed at the London Olympics not knowing she was pregnant with son Carter.

What followed was what she described as a difficult pregnancy and recovery. Her bones separated during the pregnancy, and she had her gall bladder removed after the birth.

The complications affected her ability to walk and complete endurance-related activities, which she continues to face. These days, Rhode said she still can’t run a mile, but in preparation for Tokyo, she is working with a physical therapist and nutritionist.

After Pan Ams, Rhode planned to add more strength training. “At the end of the day, I’m slowly but surely making small strides to get back to where I’m at,” she said.

Carter, now 6, speaks three languages and sometimes helps Rhode during practice, pulling for her before she shoots and collecting shells. He was on hand when Rhode earned a bronze medal at the Rio Olympics, but he isn’t overly impressed (yet) by his mom’s long list of accomplishments.

“I don’t think he grasps the whole picture of what it is that I’m doing,” she said. “I think that’ll come a little bit later.”

She stores Olympic mementos at her parents’ home, a collection of bags from each Games stuffed with clothing, pins and other paraphernalia, and vacuum-sealed.

“My family is running out of room with all the bags,” she said, noting she isn’t sure when she’ll open them up and go through what’s inside.

Maybe after she collects a few more.

“To have had that opportunity so many times is amazing,” she said of her Olympic career so far. “I feel very, very fortunate.”

MORE: Georgian shooter qualifies for 9th Olympics

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!