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

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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.

Icenetwork.com 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

 

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Gregorio Paltrinieri swims second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history

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Olympic champion Gregorio Paltrinieri swam the second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history, clocking 14:33.10 in his native Italy on Thursday.

Paltrinieri, 25, missed Chinese Sun Yang‘s world record from the 2012 Olympics by 2.08 seconds.

The Italian now owns the second- and third-fastest times in history, including his 14:34.10 from the 2016 European Championships, also held at the 2012 Olympic pool in London.

Paltrinieri is a versatile distance swimmer. At last year’s world championships, he finished sixth in the open-water 10km to qualify for the Olympics, then won the 800m free in the pool in a European record time and finished with 1500m bronze, just missing a third straight world title in that event.

German Florian Wellbrock won the 1500m in 14:36.54 at worlds, with Paltrinieri finishing 2.21 seconds back.

Sun, 28, was in February banned eight years stemming from destroying a drug-test sample with a hammer in September 2018. Sun, who focused more on the 200m and 400m frees in recent years, did not race the 1500m at the 2017 or 2019 Worlds.

Top-level swim meets in the U.S. are scheduled to resume in November with the Tyr Pro Series.

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Bianca Andreescu to miss U.S. Open

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Bianca Andreescu withdrew from the U.S. Open, citing “unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic” compromising her ability to prepare to defend her Grand Slam title.

“I have taken this step in order to focus on my match fitness and ensure that I return ready to play at my highest level,” Andreescu, a 20-year-old Canadian, posted on social media. “The US Open victory last year has been the high point of my career thus far and I will miss not being there. However, I realize that the unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic, have compromised my ability to prepare and compete to the degree necessary to play at my highest level.”

Andreescu’s absence means the U.S. Open, the first Grand Slam tournament since tennis resumed amid the coronavirus pandemic, will be without both 2019 male and female singles champions.

Rafael Nadal previously announced he would not defend his title, saying he would rather not travel given the global situation. Roger Federer is also out after knee surgery. Women’s No. 1 Ash Barty didn’t enter, either, citing travel concerns.

Last year, Andreescu made her U.S. Open title run as the 15th seed, sweeping Serena Williams in the final. Ranked 208th a year earlier, she became the first player born in the 2000s to win a Slam and the first teen Slam winner since Maria Sharapova at the 2006 U.S. Open.

Andreescu then missed the Australian Open in January due to rehab from a knee injury that forced her to retire during a match at the WTA Finals on Oct. 30. She also missed the French Open and Wimbledon in 2019 following a rotator cuff tear.

MORE: Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis competition

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