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

Asbel Kiprop, Olympic 1500m champ, banned 4 years

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Kenyan Asbel Kiprop, the 2008 Olympic 1500m champion and a three-time world champ, was banned four years after testing positive for EPO in November 2017, according to track and field’s doping watchdog organization.

The ban is backdated to Feb. 3, 2018, when the 29-year-old was provisionally suspended after the failed test.

Kiprop repeatedly denied doping since last May, when he first acknowledged the positive test. Most recently, a 3,000-word defense from his lawyer was posted on Kiprop’s Facebook page.

Kiprop’s defenses included saying he was a victim of extortion and that he was offered “a reward” of becoming an anti-doping ambassador if he admitted guilt. The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), the IAAF’s independent organization to monitor doping and corruption, denied the latter last May.

A disciplinary panel dismissed six defenses from exonerating him, including the possibility his sample was spiked, in handing out the four-year ban.

Kiprop, the pre-eminent 1500m runner of the last decade, can appeal the ban.

At 19, he finished second in the Beijing Olympic 1500m but was upgraded to gold a year later after Bahrain’s Rashid Ramzi failed a drug test. He is the youngest Olympic 1500m medalist of all time, according to the OlyMADMen.

Kiprop went on to earn three straight world titles in the 1500m in 2011, 2013 and 2015, matching the feats of retired legends Noureddine Morceli and Hicham El Guerrouj.

He struggled in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, finishing last in the London final with a hamstring injury and sixth in the Rio final won by American rival Matthew Centrowitz.

Kiprop has targeted El Guerrouj’s world record of 3:26:00, missing the mark by .69 of a second in 2015.

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Maggie Nichols is second woman in 20 years to repeat as NCAA all-around champ

Maggie Nichols
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Oklahoma junior and world champion gymnast Maggie Nichols became the first woman to repeat as NCAA all-around champion in 12 years, returning from a heel injury to compete on all four events for the first time since January on Friday.

Nichols, a Rio Olympic hopeful before being beset by a torn meniscus in 2016, joined 2004 Olympic silver medalist Courtney Kupets as the only women to win back-to-back NCAA all-arounds in the 2000s.

A junior, Nichols can next year join Jenny Hansen as the only women to three-peat in NCAA history.

Oklahoma goes for a third team title in four years on Saturday night against UCLA (featuring Olympic champions Madison Kocian and Kyla Ross), LSU and Denver.

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NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships Individual Results
All-Around
1. Maggie Nichols (Oklahoma) — 39.7125
2. Lexy Ramler (Minnesota) — 39.6625
2. Kyla Ross (UCLA) — 39.6625
4. Sarah Finnegan (LSU) — 39.65
5. Kennedi Edney (LSU) — 39.6

Vault
1. Kennedi Edney (LSU) — 9.95
1. Derrian Gobourne (Auburn)
1. Maggie Nichols (Oklahoma)
1. Kyla Ross (UCLA)

Uneven Bars
1. Sarah Finnegan (LSU) — 9.95

Balance Beam
1. Natalie Wojcik (Michigan) — 9.95

Floor Exercise
1. Alicia Boren (Florida) — 9.95
1. Lynnzee Brown (Denver)
1. Brenna Dowell (Oklahoma)
1. Kyla Ross (UCLA)