U.S. women struggle, trail Russian brilliance after World Championships short program


Russian Elizaveta Tuktamysheva landed a triple Axel and earned one of the highest short program scores ever, taking a commanding lead at the World Championships in Shanghai on Thursday.

The three Americans struggled so mightily that not only is a hoped-for first U.S. women’s medal since 2006 now unlikely, but they also must make up ground in Saturday’s free skate to qualify three women’s spots for the 2016 World Championships in Boston.

Polina Edmunds is seventh, Gracie Gold is eighth and Ashley Wagner is 11th.

Tuktamysheva, the only active elite women’s skater performing the triple Axel, jubilantly shook her right fist and spun around after her clean skate. A few minutes later, she smiled, nodded in approval and shook her coach’s hand when her point total came up — 77.62.

“When I landed the triple Axel, I got goosebumps and I thought, ‘Is this a dream or did I really just do the triple Axel at the World Championships?'” Tuktamysheva said, according to The Associated Press.

Only three-time World champion Mao Asada and 2010 Olympic champion Yuna Kim have scored higher under the current system.

Tuktamysheva leads countrywoman Yelena Radionova by a whopping 8.11 going into the free skate (full results here). She has won seven international events this season, an incredible rebound after finishing 10th at the previous season’s Russian Championships, not coming close to making the Sochi Olympic team.

Tuktamysheva said she felt there was a 50 percent chance she would fall on the triple Axel and does not plan another one in the free skate, according to reports from Shanghai.

“It was a risk to do the triple Axel in the short program, but figure skating has to evolve,” she said, according to the AP. “The men are doing three quads in their programs and the girls also have to develop.”

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Radionova, a two-time World junior champion who beat Tuktamysheva at Skate America in October and the Russian Championships in December, said she skated Thursday with a 100-degree fever, according to Russian reports.

Edmunds, the youngest U.S. competitor across all sports in Sochi, placed seventh Thursday with 61.71 points. Judges deducted from her triple flip for not having a clear edge. In February, Edmunds won the Four Continents Championships, beating two Japanese women who on Thursday placed third and fifth in the short program.

Edmunds, 16, is in position to better her finish from the Olympics (ninth) and 2014 Worlds (eighth).

“I was able to skate well,” she said, according to U.S. Figure Skating.”Most of all, I want to skate two clean programs here and I’m halfway there today.”

Gold, fourth at the Sochi Olympics and fifth at the 2014 World Championships, stepped out of the opening triple Lutz of a planned jumping combination and placed eighth with 60.73 points.

It continued a tough season that included a stress fracture in her left foot in the fall, ceding her U.S. title in January and several erred performances throughout.

“I’ve had a tough year, the hardest I’ve had in my skating career,” Gold said, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “I’m only 19, so it hasn’t been that long, but we’ll have to start fresh next year.”

Wagner scored 57.81 for 11th place. Wagner, who regained her U.S. championship in January and entered with high medal hopes, fell on the second jump of her opening combination and under-rotated a triple flip.

“Today was a horrible day, there’s no other way to say it,” Wagner said, according to the AP. “I think it was just that I was focusing on way too many things at once, and that was the recipe for disaster.”

The top two U.S. women’s placements after the free skate must combine to be 13 or better to ensure three spots at the 2016 World Championships in Boston. Right now, Edmunds and Gold’s combined placements are 15.

Women’s Short Program
1. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS) — 77.62
2. Yelena Radionova (RUS) — 69.51
3. Satoko Miyahara (JPN) — 67.02
4. Kanako Murakami (JPN) — 65.48
5. Rika Hongo (JPN) — 62.17
7. Polina Edmunds (USA) — 61.71
8. Gracie Gold (USA) — 60.73
11. Ashley Wagner (USA) — 57.81

World Figure Skating Championships schedule

Olympian Derrick Mein ends U.S. men’s trap drought at shotgun worlds

Derrick Mein

Tokyo Olympian Derrick Mein became the first U.S. male shooter to win a world title in the trap event since 1966, prevailing at the world shotgun championships in Osijek, Croatia, on Wednesday.

Mein, who grew up on a small farm in Southeast Kansas, hunting deer and quail, nearly squandered a place in the final when he missed his last three shots in the semifinal round after hitting his first 22. He rallied in a sudden-death shoot-off for the last spot in the final by hitting all five of his targets.

He hit 33 of 34 targets in the final to win by two over Brit Nathan Hales with one round to spare.

The last U.S. man to win an Olympic trap title was Donald Haldeman in 1976.

Mein, 37, was 24th in his Olympic debut in Tokyo (and placed 13th with Kayle Browning in the mixed-gender team event).

The U.S. swept the Tokyo golds in the other shotgun event — skeet — with Vincent Hancock and Amber English. Browning took silver in women’s trap.

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Mo Farah withdraws before London Marathon

Mo Farah

British track legend Mo Farah withdrew before Sunday’s London Marathon, citing a right hip injury before what would have been his first 26.2-mile race in nearly two years.

Farah, who swept the 2012 and 2016 Olympic track titles at 5000m and 10,000m, said he hoped “to be back out there” next April, when the London Marathon returns to its traditional month after COVID moved it to the fall for three consecutive years. Farah turns 40 on March 23.

“I’ve been training really hard over the past few months and I’d got myself back into good shape and was feeling pretty optimistic about being able to put in a good performance,” in London, Farah said in a press release. “However, over the past 10 days I’ve been feeling pain and tightness in my right hip. I’ve had extensive physio and treatment and done everything I can to be on the start line, but it hasn’t improved enough to compete on Sunday.”

Farah switched from the track to the marathon after the 2017 World Championships and won the 2018 Chicago Marathon in a then-European record time of 2:05:11. Belgium’s Bashir Abdi now holds the record at 2:03:36.

Farah returned to the track in a failed bid to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, then shifted back to the roads.

Sunday’s London Marathon men’s race is headlined by Ethiopians Kenenisa Bekele and Birhanu Legese, the second- and third-fastest marathoners in history.

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