Polina Edmunds

Polina Edmunds rises to her biggest win, Gracie Gold drops at Four Continents (video)

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Polina Edmunds put this season’s struggles behind her to claim the biggest victory of her young career, rising from fourth place after the short program to capture the Four Continents Championships in Seoul on Sunday.

Former U.S. champion Gracie Gold went in the opposite direction, going from second in the short program to fourth place overall in a tune-up competition before the World Championships in March.

Edmunds, who was 3.81 behind Japanese short program leader Satoko Miyahara on Friday, landed seven triple jumps in her free skate to score 122.99 points. Nobody else scored better than 116.75. She totaled 184.02 to top Miyahara by 2.43. Japan’s Rika Hongo took bronze ahead of the American Gold.

Edmunds said she was not surprised by the result.

“I knew if I relaxed and skated like I knew I could, it was possible,” the 16-year-old said, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “I expected myself to skate well and I did. I’m happy I was awarded the gold medal for it.”

Edmunds endured a rocky season, adapting to pressure and puberty, and missed the podium in her two Grand Prix series events. She finished fourth at the U.S. Championships, making her second straight World Championships team due to third-place Karen Chen being too young for Worlds.

“I had trouble earlier in the season with nerves and handling the different coordination,” Edmunds said, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “I think now I’m back to a straight level for where I am in my body. Now it’s mental for me to do clean programs.”

Edmunds was a surprise last season, when she came from no expectations to become the youngest U.S. competitor across all sports at the Sochi Olympics. She finished ninth at Sochi and eighth at Worlds.

“I want to place higher than eighth,” at Worlds in Shanghai in March, Edmunds said, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “But really I want two clean programs. I do have high technical difficulty so I’m hoping that I can skate well and that the judges see the difficulty and the artistry in my skating. Honestly, my goal all the way through the season was to be on the podium. That didn’t happen, but I hope it will at Worlds.”

To make the podium, Edmunds, Gold and U.S. champion Ashley Wagner must break up a talented trio of Russians looking to become the first nation to sweep a Worlds or Olympic women’s podium since 1991. That year, it was Kristi Yamaguchi, Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan.

“I don’t think that the Russians are stronger than any one of us,” Edmunds said, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “We all have the same elements, everyone has different skating styles. If everyone skates clean, that’s when you can nitpick whose style you like more. Otherwise, it’s going to come down to elements and how we perform. But going into Worlds, I’m optimistic that it’s not going to be ‘the Russians are coming.'”

Gold singled at least one jump in both of her programs in Seoul. She was the top U.S. finisher at the Sochi Olympics and last year’s World Championships. Now, she’s been beaten by Wagner and Edmunds in back-to-back competitions since taking a December break to recover from a small stress fracture in her foot.

“It was a difficult competition for me,” she said of Four Continents, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “I skated poorly in both segments of competition. I’m sorry about that.”

Video: Josh Farris shatters personal bests for Four Continents silver

Sam Girard, Olympic short track champion, surprisingly retires at age 22

Sam Girard
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Sam Girard, who avoided a three-skater pileup to win the PyeongChang Olympic 1000m, retired from short track speed skating at age 22, saying he lost the desire to compete.

“I leave my sport satisfied with what I have accomplished,” Girard said in a press release. “This decision was very well thought through. I am at peace with the choice that I’ve made and am ready to move onto the next step.”

Girard and girlfriend and fellow Olympic skater Kasandra Bradette announced their careers end together in a tearful French-language press conference in Quebec on Friday.

Girard detailed the decision in a letter, the sacrifices made to pursue skating. Notably, moving from his hometown of Ferland-et-Boilleau, population 600, to Montreal in 2012. His hobbies had been of the outdoor variety, but he now had to drive an hour and a half from the training center just to go fishing.

In PyeongChang, Girard led for most of the 1000m final, which meant he avoided chaos behind him on the penultimate lap of the nine-lap race. Hungarian Liu Shaolin Sandor‘s inside pass took out South Koreans Lim Hyo-Jun and Seo Yi-Ra, leaving just Girard and American John-Henry Krueger.

Girard maintained his lead, crossing .214 in front of Krueger to claim the title. He also finished fourth in the 500m and 1500m and earned bronze in the relay.

“My first Olympics, won a gold medal, can’t ask for more,” he said afterward.

Though Girard was already accomplished — earning individual silver medals at the 2016 and 2017 Worlds — he came to PyeongChang as the heir apparent to Charles Hamelin, a roommate on the World Cup circuit whom Girard likened to a big brother. Girard earned another world silver medal this past season.

Hamelin, after taking individual gold in 2010 and 2014, left PyeongChang without an individual medal in what many expected to be his last Olympics. However, he went back on a retirement vow and continued to skate through the 2018-19 season.

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MORE: J.R. Celski explains decision to retire

Maia, Alex Shibutani extend break from ice dance competition

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Brother-sister ice dance duo Maia and Alex Shibutani will not compete next season, the Olympic bronze medalists announced via U.S. Figure Skating on Friday.

“We’re healthier and stronger than we were after the Olympics, and we’re continuing to push ourselves,” Maia Shibutani said in a press release.

“We’ve continued to skate a lot, and we feel like we’ve benefited from some time away to create in different environments and focus on experiences that can help us grow,” Alex said.

The “Shib Sibs” won the U.S. title in 2016 and 2017. They won their first world medal in 2011 (bronze) before reaching the world podium again in 2016 and 2017 with silver and bronze, respectively.

They most recently competed at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, where they earned bronze both individually and in the team event.

Maia and Alex Shibutani are now the second ice dance medalists from PyeongChang to announce they’ll sit out at least part of next season. Gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada will tour instead this fall and are not expected to return to competition.

The siblings haven’t stayed away from the ice entirely in their break from the sport, though — they’ve also been touring and performing in shows.

The Shibutanis became the second set of siblings to earn Olympic ice dance medals after France’s Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay in 1992.

MORE: How Gracie Gold landed in Philadelphia, thoughts competitive return

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