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

Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic committee says all events will be held in South Korea

Swim meet canceled after FINA’s threat to ban athletes

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GENEVA (AP) — Amid growing conflict between swimmers and their world governing body, an international swimming meet was canceled on Thursday after threats to ban athletes who took part seeking better prize money.

The Italian swim federation called off the Dec. 20-21 competition it was organizing in Turin, saying it acted to protect athletes from FINA.

The Turin meet was linked to a proposed International Swimming League, a privately run operation which aims to operate outside FINA’s control and pay higher prize money.

“FINA declared the event ‘non-approved,’ threatening sanctions against the participating athletes,” Italian officials said in a statement.

FINA, based in Lausanne, Switzerland, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Some Olympic champions have long criticized FINA, believing swimmers should be better rewarded, have more say in decisions, and could create their own union.

Olympic champion Adam Peaty of Britain wrote on Thursday on Twitter he was “incredibly disappointed” by the cancellation.

The politics involved will “galvanize swimmers, not break them,” wrote Peaty, who holds 50m and 100m breaststroke world records.

Peaty has previously supported Hungarian star Katinka Hosszu in her public criticism of FINA, and calls to create a swimmers’ union.

Italian organizers said Peaty, Hosszu and other Olympic champions including Chad le Clos of South Africa and Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden were due to take part in their 25-meter pool event. It was scheduled days after the short-course world championships being staged in Hangzhou, China.

The clash of events seemed to provoke FINA into finding more prize money for its worlds event in the smaller pool.

On Nov. 6, FINA added to its promised prize fund for China by almost doubling the total to $2.07 million.

FINA wrote to member federations on Oct. 30 warning of bans of up to two years for taking part in Turin.

However, a European Commission decision last year suggests swimmers could successfully challenge any attempt to limit their right to race and earn money.

The European Union’s executive arm ruled the International Staking Union in breach of anti-trust laws by threatening severe bans for speed skaters who wanted to compete in a South Korean-organized event in Dubai.

The ISU’s threats “also serve to protect its own commercial interests,” the European officials said.

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Simon Ammann believes ski jumping career end is near

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Simon Ammann, the most decorated active ski jumper with four Olympic gold medals, said it is hard to imagine competing beyond this season, according to Swiss newspaper Blick.

Ammann, 37, swept the individual Olympic titles in 2002 and 2010 to join retired Finn Matti Nykänen as the only four-time Olympic ski jumping champs.

In PyeongChang, his sixth Olympics, Ammann placed 11th and 13th, one month after making his first World Cup podium in nearly three years. He decided after those Winter Games that he would continue at least one more season, but has no plan to go all the way to a seventh Olympics in 2022, according to Blick.

Ammann has teased retirement since at least 2011 and even said going into the 2014 Sochi Olympics that he was “99 percent sure” they would be his final Games.

The now-father of two first gained crossover celebrity with his surprise Salt Lake City 2002 gold medals, his first wins in top-level international competition. The bespectacled Ammann’s victory screams and resemblance to Harry Potter helped land him on “The Late Show with David Letterman” and one of Europe’s biggest shows, sitting next to Shakira.

Fellow ski jumper Noriaki Kasai of Japan holds the Winter Olympic record of eight appearances. Kasai, 46, has said he plans to go for a ninth participation at Beijing 2022.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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