Adam Rippon says top five is possible at World Championships

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Looking back, Adam Rippon said he was “a fetus” at his first World Figure Skating Championships in 2010, at age 20.

“Now, I feel like a grown fetus man,” he said Wednesday.

Rippon, the U.S. silver medalist, returns to Worlds for the third time in Shanghai next week, his first time at the global competition since 2012.

Rippon believes a top-six finish is reasonable, maybe top five. That’s if he can become the first man to land a clean quadruple Lutz at a Worlds and, of course, check off the rest of his elements in two programs.

“I want to show them that I’m not the fragile skater that people sometimes think that I am,” he said.

It wasn’t always that way. Rippon became the first singles skater to win two World Junior Championships, in 2008 and 2009. He beat fields that included Japanese Yuzuru Hanyu, Spaniard Javier Fernandez and Kazakh Denis Ten, the men who are favored to take medals in Shanghai next week.

Then in 2010, Rippon was called up for the senior World Championships team as second alternate after Olympians Evan Lysacek and Johnny Weir passed. He placed sixth with little prep time.

After that, his mind started to wander. Rippon put pressure on himself to have immediate success as a senior skater.

“When that didn’t happen, I felt kind of like a failure,” said Rippon, who fell to fifth at the 2011 U.S. Championships, 13th at the 2012 Worlds and bottomed out at the 2014 U.S. Championships, finishing eighth, where the top two made the Sochi Olympics.

“It takes everybody a different amount of time to regain their confidence,” he said. “For me, it took 25 years.”

Two months ago, Rippon ranked fifth in the short program at the U.S. Championships. He felt like a pariah, unlikely to make the three-man Worlds team.

“A message like, good for you Adam, but it’s time for you to retire,” he said.

Rippon shattered his fragile reputation two days later by topping the free skate at Nationals, jumping to second place behind Jason Brown. He landed a downgraded quad Lutz and eight triple jumps, one year after he considered quitting after missing the Olympic team by a mile.

That bounce-back recalled the way he described his skating as a junior champion six and seven years ago.

“I went into these [junior] competitions with a little more reckless abandon than I did when I got a little bit older,” Rippon says now. “I had nothing to lose.”

Rippon would like to feel the same way in Shanghai. He calls the quad Lutz his “friend” but knows the mental part of skating has long been the opposite.

So to prepare for his third World Championships, Rippon will make sure to be in the building for good friend Ashley Wagner‘s short program next Thursday.

The nervousness watching Wagner, favored to win her first Worlds medal, perform a program he helped choreograph will conjure a positive in Rippon’s mind.

“I would much rather skate myself than watch Ashley right now,” he said.

Rippon admitted competing in the Four Continents Championships in February in Seoul, where he finished a disappointing 10th amid exhaustion, may have been a mistake.

He can’t worry about the past anymore.

“It’s really about making sure my head is all in the right place,” Rippon said.

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Japanese pair edges Americans for historic Grand Prix Final figure skating title

Riku Miura, Ryuichi Kihara
Getty
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Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the biggest title ever for a Japanese figure skating pair, taking the Grand Prix Final and consolidating their status as the world’s top active team.

Miura and Kihara, last season’s world silver medalists, barely outscored world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier in Turin, Italy, in both Thursday’s short program and Friday’s free skate to win the six-pair event that is a preview of March’s worlds.

The Japanese totaled 214.58 points, distancing the Americans by a mere 1.3 points after Frazier erred on both of their side-by-side jumping passes in the free skate. Italians Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii took bronze.

“We had a very late start to our season than initially planned, so as we have been performing at each event, I see us getting stronger, improving things,” said Frazier, who with Knierim had their best short program and free skate scores of the autumn.

Knierim and Frazier didn’t decide to continue competing together this season until July.

“I feel a little personally disappointed tonight just for myself for my jumps,” Frazier continued. “I was a little all over the place and, normally, I can execute better, so I feel a little bad, but I’m very proud of us overall. We’ve done a great job of improving each competition and looking forward to the second half of the season where we can start tapping into our best skating.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Miura and Kihara, who partnered in June 2019 and train in Ontario, both waited with trepidation for their final score to be posted, worried that each’s separate mistake on jumps might cost them the title. When they learned they won, both burst into tears.

“This was the first time in eight years that I made a mistake with a Salchow, so I thought we might not get a good score, and it would be my fault,” Kihara said.

Miura and Kihara entered the competition ranked No. 1 in the world by best scores this season ahead of Knierim and Frazier, who in March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979.

Last season, Miura and Kihara became the second Japanese pair to make a Grand Prix podium and to earn a world championships medal. Their ascension helped Japan win its first Olympic figure skating team event medal in February (a bronze that could be upgraded to gold pending the Kamila Valiyeva case).

In Grand Prix Final history, Japan had won 11 gold medals and 40 total medals, all in singles, before this breakthrough.

Knierim and Frazier, already the first U.S. pair to compete in the Grand Prix Final since 2015, became the first U.S. pair to win a Grand Prix Final medal. The Final has been held annually since 1996, though it was canceled the last two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Miura and Kihara and Knierim and Frazier ascended to the top of the sport while the top five teams from the Olympics from Russia and China have not competed internationally since the Winter Games.

All Russian skaters are ineligible for international competition due to the war in Ukraine. China’s pairs, including Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, didn’t enter last March’s worlds and did not compete in the fall Grand Prix Series.

Later Friday, world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan led the women’s short program with 75.86 points, 1.28 ahead of countrywoman Mai Mihara. American Isabeau Levito, the 15-year-old world junior champion, was fifth of six skaters in her Grand Prix Final debut.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier topped the rhythm dance with 85.93 points, edging Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates by .44. Both couples are bidding for the biggest international title of their careers. None of the Olympic medalists competed internationally this fall.

The Grand Prix Final ends Saturday with the men’s and women’s free skates and free dance, all live on Peacock.

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A Winter Olympic medal still being decided, 10 months later

Fanny Smith, Daniela Maier
It's still unknown whether Fanny Smith (green) or Daniela Maier (blue) is the Olympic ski cross bronze medalist. (Getty)
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There is a second Winter Olympic medal result still in question, 10 months after the Games.

While the figure skating team event results are still unknown due to the Kamila Valiyeva case, the bronze medal in women’s ski cross is also in dispute.

Originally, Swiss Fanny Smith crossed the finish line in third place in the four-woman final at the Winter Games in February. Upon review by the International Ski Federation (FIS) jury, she was minutes later demoted to fourth place after making contact with German Daniela Maier near the end of the course. Maier, who originally was fourth, was upgraded to bronze.

“I tried to be OK with the fourth place. I was very disappointed, I have to say, [then] the jury was like this,” Maier said then. “I am really sorry for Fanny that it’s like this right now. … The jury decided like this, so accept it and be happy with the medal.”

Smith and the Swiss ski federation appealed. FIS reinstated Smith as the bronze medalist nine days after the race and six days after the Closing Ceremony. A FIS appeals commission met four times and reviewed video and written documentation for several hours before deciding that “the close proximity of the racers at that moment resulted in action that was neither intentional or avoidable.”

But that wasn’t the end. The case ended up reportedly going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), whose rulings are usually accepted as final. The CAS process is ongoing, European media reported this week.

CAS has not responded to a request for comment. A FIS contact said Friday, “There is currently no update to provide in regards to the bronze medal in ski cross. Should there be any update, we will inform you.”

Smith said there should be news soon regarding the case, according to Blick.

Maier still has the bronze medal at her home and enjoys looking at it, according to German media, which also reported that the German ski federation expects Maier to win the case and keep the medal. Smith and Maier spoke extensively about it in recent training sessions and cleared things up. Maier said the best outcome would be bronze medals for both of them, according to the report.

For now, FIS lists Smith as the bronze medalist. The IOC lists Maier as the bronze medalist.

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