Yuzuru Hanyu falls, still tops Grand Prix Final short program (video)

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Olympic and World champion Yuzuru Hanyu posted the highest short program score this Grand Prix season, despite a fall, to lead the Grand Prix Final in Barcelona on Friday.

Hanyu, a 20-year-old from Japan, tallied 94.08 points. He takes a 6.26-point lead over countryman Tatsuki Machida into the free skate Saturday. Hanyu and Machida went one-two at the World Championships in March.

Hanyu suffered a head injury in a warm-up collison at Cup of China on Nov. 8 and snuck into the Grand Prix Final in the sixth and final qualifying spot by .15 of a point in the last Grand Prix series event two weeks ago.

In Barcelona, Hanyu landed a quadruple toe loop and triple Axel before falling on the back end of a triple-triple combination. He’s in position to become the third man to repeat as Grand Prix Final champion, joining Yegeny Plushenko and Patrick Chan, the Olympic silver medalist who is sitting out this Grand Prix season.

The most anticipated skater of the night, Spain’s Javier Fernandez, placed fifth, behind the Japanese and Russians Maksim Kovtun and Sergey Voronov. Fernandez, competing under the pressure and expectations of being Spain’s only world-class skater, fell on his opening quadruple jump, doubled the first jump of a triple-triple combination and tripped before a spin.

Earlier in the short dance, Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje took a 6.28-point lead over Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates. Another U.S. couple, Maia and Alex Shibutani, was third.

Weaver and Poje won World Championships silver, while Chock and Bates, who fell in their short dance, were the top qualifiers into the Grand Prix Final.

The Grand Prix Final concludes will all of the free skates Saturday. Icenetwork.com will stream all the sessions to subscribers live.

NBC will air coverage Sunday (4-6 p.m. ET).

Men’s short program
1. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 94.08
2. Tatsuki Machida (JPN) — 87.82
3. Maksim Kovtun (RUS) — 87.02
4. Sergey Voronov (RUS) — 84.48
5. Javier Fernandez (ESP) — 79.18
6. Takahito Mura (JPN) — 78.35

Short dance
1. Kaitlyn Weaver/Andrew Poje (CAN) — 71.34
2. Madison Chock/Evan Bates (USA) — 65.06
3. Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA) — 63.9
4. Piper Gilles/Paul Poirer (CAN) — 62.49
5. Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron (FRA) — 61.48
6. Yelena Ilinykh/Ruslan Zhiganshin (RUS) — 60.25

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Federica Brignone passes Mikaela Shiffrin for World Cup overall lead

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Italian Federica Brignone passed an absent Mikaela Shiffrin for the World Cup overall standings lead by winning a combined in Switzerland on Sunday.

Brignone prevailed by .92 of a second adding times from super-G and slalom runs in Crans-Montana. Full results are here.

Brignone moved 73 points ahead of Shiffrin in the overall through 29 of 40 scheduled races. A race winner receives 100 points on a descending scale through the 30th-place finisher. The season runs through March 22.

Shiffrin, the three-time reigning World Cup overall champion, has not competed since the unexpected death of her father on Feb. 2. She has not announced if or when she will return this season.

Brignone, 29, is having a career season with five wins and 10 podiums across four disciplines.

Brignone’s best previous World Cup overall standings finish was fifth. She earned giant slalom medals at the 2018 Olympics (bronze) and 2011 World Championships (silver).

She could become Italy’s first female World Cup overall champion. The last Italian male winner was Alberto Tomba in 1995.

The women’s Alpine skiing World Cup moves to La Thuile, Italy, for a super-G and a combined next Saturday and Sunday.

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Jade Carey on brink of becoming first gymnast to qualify for U.S. Olympic team

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The U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials aren’t until late June, but Jade Carey is in position to qualify for the Tokyo Games in March.

Carey, seeking an individual Olympic gymnastics spot outside of the team competition, earned the maximum points in a World Cup series that is one path to Olympic qualification.

Carey has three wins each on floor exercise and vault with two World Cups left in March. Carey will mathematically clinch an Olympic spot if no other gymnasts earn maximum points on one of the apparatuses to force a tiebreaker.

A gymnast’s top three finishes across the eight-stop series count in Olympic qualifying. If Carey finishes atop the floor or vault standings, she goes to the Olympics.

Carey picked up those third wins on floor and vault at the sixth World Cup in Melbourne, Australia, this weekend.

So far, no other gymnast has two wins on floor. One other gymnast can get to the maximum points on vault with one win between the last two stops (and others with two).

The one downside to qualifying this route: Carey would not be able to compete in the team competition at the Olympics. Those four spots will be determined at and after June’s trials in St. Louis, with Simone Biles likely grabbing one of them.

“I knew I would be giving up being on the team,” Carey said in October of going the World Cup route, “but I think, for me, it made sense to just go for it.”

Carey is a world medalist on vault and floor, but she doesn’t have the all-around credentials of Biles and some other U.S. gymnasts.

Olympic team event roster sizes were cut from five to four for Tokyo, putting a greater onus on all-around prowess given a team must put three gymnasts on each apparatus in the Olympic final.

The U.S. is the deepest country in women’s gymnastics, so the only truly safe pick to make the four-woman Olympic team event roster is Biles.

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