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

 

Kaillie Humphries wins Canada Athlete of the Year

Saudi Arabia to host 2029 Asian Winter Games

Olympic Council of Asia
Getty
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Saudi Arabia will host the Asian Winter Games in 2029 in mountains near the $500 billion futuristic city project Neom.

The Olympic Council of Asia on Tuesday picked the Saudi candidacy that centers on Trojena that is planned to be a year-round ski resort by 2026.

“The deserts & mountains of Saudi Arabia will soon be a playground for Winter sports!” the OCA said in a statement announcing its decision.

Saudi sports minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal said the kingdom’s winter sports project “challenges perception” in a presentation of the plan to OCA members.

“Trojena is the future of mountain living,” the minister said of a region described as an area of about 60 square kilometers at altitude ranging from 1,500 to 2,600 meters.

The Neom megaproject is being fund by the Saudi sovereign wealth vehicle, the Public Investment Fund.

Saudi Arabia also will host the Asian Games in 2034 in Riyadh as part of aggressive moves to build a sports hosting portfolio and help diversify the economy from reliance on oil.

A campaign to host soccer’s 2030 World Cup is expected with an unprecedented three-continent bid including Egypt and Greece.

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Jim Redmond, who helped son Derek finish 1992 Olympic race, dies

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Jim Redmond, who helped his injured son, Derek, finish his 1992 Olympic 400m semifinal, died at age 81 on Sunday, according to the British Olympic Association, citing family members.

At the 1992 Barcelona Games, Derek pulled his right hamstring 15 seconds into his 400m semifinal, falling to the track in anguish.

He brushed off help from officials, got up and began limping around the track. About 120 meters from the finish line, he felt the presence of an uncredentialed man who rushed down the stadium stairs, dodged officials and said, “We started this together, and we’re going to finish this together,” according to Olympedia.org.

“As I turned into the home straight, I could sense this person was about to try and stop me,” Derek said in an NBC Olympics profile interview before the 2012 London Games. “I was just about to get ready to sort of fend them off, and then I heard a familiar voice of my dad. He said, ‘Derek, it’s me. You don’t need to do this.'”

Derek said he shouted to his dad that he wanted to finish the race.

“He was sort of saying things like, ‘You’ve got nothing to prove. You’re a champion. You’ll come back. You’re one of the best guys in the world. You’re a true champion. You’ve got heart. You’re going to get over this. We’ll conquer the world together,'” Derek remembered. “I’m just sort of saying, ‘I can’t believe this is happening.'”

At one point, Derek noticed stadium security, not knowing who Jim was, having removed guns from their holsters.

“It’s the only time I’ve ever heard my dad use bad language,” Derek said. “He just goes, ‘Leave him alone, I’m his father.'”

Derek told himself in that moment, “I’m going to finish this race if it’s the last race I ever run.” It turned out to be the last 400m race of his career, after surgery and 18 months of rehab were not enough to yield a competitive comeback, according to Sports Illustrated.

Derek had missed the 1988 Seoul Games after tearing an Achilles, reportedly while warming up for his opening race. He looked strong in Barcelona, winning his first-round heat and quarterfinal.

“I’d rather be seen to be coming last in the semifinal than not finish in the semifinal,” he said, “because at least I can say I gave it my best.”