Josh Farris

Josh Farris shatters personal bests, wins Four Continents silver (video)

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American Josh Farris earned silver at the Four Continents Championships on Saturday, following personal international bests in both his short program and free skate in Seoul.

Kazakhstan Olympic bronze medalist Denis Ten won the competition, the biggest event before March’s World Championships, by a massive 29.45 points over Farris. China’s Han Yan snagged bronze.

U.S. champion Jason Brown was sixth. U.S. silver medalist Adam Rippon was 10th.

Farris, the 2013 World junior champion, was a surprise bronze medalist at the U.S. Championships last month and now may enter the World Championships — his debut at the event — as the top U.S. hope to win its first men’s medal since 2009.

He looked up and yelled after finishing his free skate that included a quadruple toe loop. Farris, 20, was astonished at his score — 175.72 for the free skate and 260.01 overall.

“I felt very nervous, I was shaking all day,” Farris said, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “But once I got out there, I turned those nerves into determination. It worked. I can’t believe it. I’m pretty proud of myself for that. Last year, I would have let those nerves take control of me and I didn’t let that happen.”

Placing that high at the World Championships in Shanghai will be a much taller ask. Four Continents did not include the top four finishers from the Grand Prix Final in December — Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu, Spain’s Javier Fernandez and Russia’s Sergey Voronov and Maksim Kovtun.

“I didn’t skate perfect here, and I don’t think I have peaked yet,” Farris said, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “I’m saving my best performances for the World Championships.”

The U.S. champion Brown improved from ninth after the short program to finish sixth. Brown attempted a quadruple toe loop in his short program Thursday, two-footed the landing and did not attempt a quad in the free skate.

“It’s something my coach and I are going to go over after we leave Seoul,” Brown said, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “We’ll weigh the options. I have five weeks and time to continue to practice and integrate it into the program [before Worlds]. It’s up the air, and we’ll see once I get back home.”

Rippon fell on his quadruple Lutz attempt in his free skate after putting his hands down on the landing of the jump in the short program.

“I know that [coach] Rafael [Arutyunyan] is going to kick my butt when I get home so I don’t make any mistakes when we go to Words,” Rippon said, according to U.S. Figure Skating.

Earlier in pairs, U.S. champions Alexa Scimeca and Christopher Knierim finished fifth behind Canadian winners Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford.

The Four Continents Championships finish with the women’s free skate Sunday, including Gracie Gold.

Video: Gracie Gold struggles in Four Continents short program

Transgender track and field athletes now face same standard that has kept out Caster Semenya

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Transgender athletes will have to reduce their testosterone level to the same level applied to Caster Semenya and other athletes with Differences of Sex Development (DSD), under a new policy enacted by World Athletics (formerly the IAAF).

As with DSD athletes, the threshold for middle-distance runners has been lowered from 10 nanomoles per liter to 5.

“These Regulations have been drafted to align with the Eligibility Regulations for the Female Classification (Athletes with Differences of Sex Development) and include updates to reflect current medical standards and the legal framework,” World Athletics said in announcing the latest IAAF Council decisions.

The IAAF claimed a similar basis in medical standards last year when it announced its updated policy on DSD athletes: “No female would have serum levels of natural testosterone at 5 nmol/L or above unless they have DSD or a tumour.”

Semenya, a two-time Olympic champion at 800 meters, challenged that limit in the Court of Arbitration for Sport but lost her case in May. Given a brief reprieve by a Swiss court, she ran the fastest 800-meter time of the year (1:54.98), but a higher court overruled her appeal. She did not compete in the recent world championships.

MORE: Semenya laments lack of support

Another athlete affected by the DSD policy, 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Margaret Wambui, told the Olympic Channel she was struggling to find a new direction after the rule was passed.

“It affected me a lot,” Wambui said. “I didn’t want to train or do anything. …

“Caster has fought for us. She has done her level best. She has tried, but we failed.”

VIDEO: Wambui: “No one chose to be born the way they are”

Transgender athletes have not yet been prominent in international track and field, though controversies have arisen at other levels, particularly in a Connecticut case in which high school athletes filed a Title IX complaint after losing to transgender athletes. The athletes who filed the claim said they were potentially at a disadvantage in terms of earning college scholarships.

The new World Athletics policy insists that its stipulations for transgender athletes are actually generous. “The decision limit also takes into consideration that, for clinical purposes, the Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline for Endocrine Treatment of Gender-Dysphoric/Gender-Incongruent Persons recommends that transgender females should have serum testosterone levels of less than 50 ng/dL (i.e. approximately 1.7 nmol/L).”

But while DSD and transgender athletes face different issues, Semenya and other DSD athletes have set a precedent by withdrawing from competition rather than bring their levels down to the 5 nmol/L standard. In CAS proceedings, Semenya said she experienced regular fevers, night sweats, significant weight gain and constant abdominal pain while taking medication to meet the previous standard of 10 nmol/L.

The International Olympic Committee also put a 10 nmol/L limit in place for both transgender and DSD athletes in 2015. Some athletes have complained that transgender athletes still have an unfair advantage under that policy.

The World Athletics policy also addresses transgender men, granting them permission to take regulated testosterone supplements to bring levels within a typical range for men.

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U.S. men’s volleyball extends medal streak with bronze in World Cup

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With its medal-winning streak in jeopardy, the defending champion U.S. men’s volleyball team beat Egypt 22-25, 25-16, 25-14, 25-13 on Tuesday in Hiroshima, Japan. Poland beat Iran later in the day to slip past the U.S. for silver behind unbeaten Brazil.

The experienced U.S. men have claimed a medal in the last four major international tournaments — gold in the 2015 World Cup, bronze in the 2016 Olympics, bronze in the 2018 world championships and bronze in this year’s World Cup. The men also placed second in the 2019 Nations League and third in the first Nations League in 2018, though the team failed to medal in the last two editions of the World League in 2016 and 2017.

Most importantly for next year, the U.S. men swept their Olympic qualification tournament in August.

Micah Christenson was named best setter of the tournament, as he was in the 2015 tournament and in the 2018 world championships. Middle blocker Max Holt was also named to the tournament “Dream Team.

VIDEO: U.S.-Egypt highlights

The U.S. team’s World Cup started with a five-set loss to Argentina, which went on to finish fifth. The U.S. rebounded to beat Italy, world champion Poland, host Japan, Tunisia and Iran before losing to eventual champion Brazil. Border rival Canada took the U.S. to five sets, but sweeps against Australia and Brazil put the team in position to clinch its medal.

Heading into next year’s Olympics, the U.S. team has several internationally accomplished players. In addition to Christenson’s multiple awards, Matt Anderson was named the best opposite hitter in the world championship and Nations League in 2018, and Aaron Russell was named to the Dream Team in the 2016 Olympics. Russell, playing for Italian team Trentino, also was named MVP of the World Club Championship in December.

The U.S. women’s team also won two medals this year gold in the Nations League, silver in the World Cup and swept its own qualification tournament.

This success comes despite the lack of a professional league in the United States. USA volleyball announced last week it has processed paperwork for 257 women and 82 men to play in foreign leagues for the 2019-20, with more players to follow.

The World Cup is contested every four years, the year before the Olympics. The world championship takes place in even non-Olympic years. Qualification for the World Cup is more difficult — only 12 teams reach the tournament, while 24 teams take part in the world championship. 

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