Yuzuru Hanyu repeats as Grand Prix Final champion (video)

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Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu added a second straight Grand Prix Final to his growing gold medal collection on Saturday, winning the second biggest international competition of the season.

Hanyu, the reigning Olympic and World champion, totaled 288.16 points to win by a whopping 34.26 over Spain’s Javier Fernandez. Russian Sergey Voronov won bronze.

Hanyu, 20, scored a personal-best 194.08 in the free skate — 19.36 better than anyone else — landing two quadruple jumps and falling on a triple jump. Hanyu won last year’s Grand Prix Final with 293.25 total points.

His winning margin in Barcelona was the second-highest in men’s Grand Prix Final history, behind Yevgeny Plushenko in 2004.

He became the second man to repeat as Grand Prix Final champion in the event’s 20-year history, joining Plushenko and Patrick Chan.

Only Chan has scored higher point totals overall and in a free skate.

Hanyu recovered after suffering a head injury in a warm-up collison at Cup of China on Nov. 8 and sneaking 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.

He is now favored to become the first Japanese man to win multiple World Championships in Shanghai in March. Though his mission may be complicated if Olympic silver medalist and three-time World champion Chan returns later this season.

Fernandez, the reigning World bronze medalist, landed two quadruple jumps in his free skate to secure silver after a disastrous fifth-place short program. That’s his best showing in three trips to the Grand Prix Final. He and Hanyu share a coach in two-time Olympic silver medalist Brian Orser.

Voronov, 27, was making his Grand Prix Final debut after five World Championships appearances, where he never placed better than seventh. He captured Russia’s first men’s Grand Prix Final medal since Plushenko won in 2004.

Japan’s Tatsuki Machida, the reigning World silver medalist, fell three times in his free skate Saturday and plummeted from second place in the short program to finish last of six skaters.

Earlier in ice dance, Canadian World silver medalists Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje held on to win by 14.05 points over U.S. Olympians Madison Chock and Evan Bates. U.S. Olympic champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White won the previous five Grand Prix Finals but are sitting out this season.

“A year ago if you told us we’d be second at the Grand Prix Final, we would definitely both be ecstatic about that,” said Bates, who finished eighth in Sochi with Chock and was making his Grand Prix Final debut.

Men
Gold: Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 288.16
Silver: Javier Fernandez (ESP) — 253.9
Bronze: Sergey Voronov (RUS) — 244.53
4. Maksim Kovtun (RUS) — 242.27
5. Takahito Mura (JPN) — 235.37
6. Tatsuki Machida (JPN) — 216.13

Ice Dance
Gold: Kaitlyn Weaver/Andrew Poje (CAN) — 181.14
Silver: Madison Chock/Evan Bates (USA) — 167.09
Bronze: Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron (FRA) — 162.39
4. Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA) — 158.94
5. Piper Gilles/Paul Poirier (CAN) — 158.16
6. Yelena Ilinykh/Ruslan Zhiganshin (RUS) — 156.46

Ashley Wagner denies historic Russian sweep

Bernard Lagat commits to Olympic marathon trials, eyes age record

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Bernard Lagat, a 44-year-old, five-time Olympian, reportedly said he will race the Olympic marathon trials on Feb. 29 in a bid to break his own record as the oldest U.S. Olympic runner.

“I feel like I can still improve,” Lagat said, according to Runner’s World. “I’m going to give it my best.”

Lagat, a two-time Olympic 1500m medalist, moved to the marathon after becoming the oldest U.S. Olympic runner in history at the Rio Games, placing fifth in the 5000m.

He clocked 2:17:20 in his 26.2-mile debut at the 2018 New York City Marathon. He lowered it to 2:12:10 at the Gold Coast Marathon in Australia on July 7 but did not previously commit to entering the trials.

If Lagat finishes in the top three at the marathon trials, he is in line to become the third-oldest U.S. Olympic track and field athlete in history. The oldest are race walker John Deni (49 years old in 1952) and hammer thrower Matt McGrath (48 years old in 1924), according to the OlyMADMen.

Lagat ranks outside the top 20 among U.S. marathoners in this Olympic cycle. The fastest are Galen Rupp (2:06:07), Leonard Korir (2:07:56, from Sunday’s Amsterdam Marathon) and Scott Fauble (2:09:09).

No American has competed in six Olympics in track and field. Lagat’s first two Olympic appearances were for Kenya.

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Natalie Geisenberger, Olympic luge champion, will not race this season

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For the first time in eight years, there will be a new World Cup women’s luge champion.

Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger — the seven-time defending champion and two-time defending Olympic singles gold medalist — announced that she isn’t sliding this season because she and her husband are expecting their first child in April.

“Our happiness is on the way,” Geisenberger said on her Facebook page.

Geisenberger plans to return next season and still has hopes to compete at the 2022 Beijing Olympics, where she could match fellow German great Georg Hackl’s feat of winning three consecutive singles golds.

With Geisenberger not sliding this season, the top returning women from last year’s World Cup standings now are Julia Taubitz of Germany and Summer Britcher of the U.S. — second and third, respectively, in 2018-19.

Geisenberger has a luge record-tying four Olympic golds in all, being part of Germany’s victories in the team relays in Sochi in 2014 and Pyeongchang in 2018 as well.

Her 49 World Cup singles wins are another record, and she’s one of two sliders to win seven consecutive World Cup titles — Austria’s Markus Prock took the men’s championships each year from 1990-91 through 1996-97.

Geisenberger’s break from sliding only adds to how the World Cup standings — and the German roster — will look very different this season. Dajana Eitberger, who was fourth in last season’s World Cup standings, is also pregnant and expecting a baby in February. And Tatjana Huefner, who was sixth overall last season, has retired.

Huefner won five consecutive World Cup titles before Geisenberger took over and began her seven-year streak of championships. Geisenberger earned medals 11 times in 12 singles races last year — six golds, four silvers and one bronze.

“We are so happy for you even though we will miss you this season!” two-time Olympic singles gold medalist Felix Loch of Germany wrote in a message to Geisenberger on Instagram.

Geisenberger has been in the top three of the World Cup standings in 12 consecutive seasons. She was third in 2007-08, finished second in each of the next four seasons, and then began her title streak in 2012-13.

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