Yuzuru Hanyu

Yuzuru Hanyu tops World Championships short program; Jason Brown leads Americans

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Yuzuru Hanyu returned to the site of a scary warm-up collision and five-fall performance from November and skated much stronger Friday, topping the World Championships short program in Shanghai.

He scored 95.20 points, leading top rivals Spain’s Javier Fernandez by 2.46 and Kazakhstan’s Denis Ten by 9.31. Jason Brown was the top American in sixth (full results here).

Hanyu, the 20-year-old Olympic and World champion, can become the first Japanese skater to repeat as World champion in the free skate Saturday.

In the short program, he stumbled out of a quadruple toe loop, but judges still put him above the two-time World bronze medalist Fernandez, who cleanly landed all of his jumps, including a quadruple Salchow.

“I made an error on the quad toe loop, but my physical condition is nothing to worry about,” Hanyu, who missed weeks in the winter following bladder surgery, said, according to The Associated Press. “For the free skate, I’d like to put out everything that I have.”

At least 10 kids on skates spent minutes cleaning the ice following Hanyu’s short program Friday, after the crowd littered it with gifts and toys, mostly stuffed bears.

Fernandez will skate after Hanyu in the free skate Saturday.

“I’m going to skate around [the bears] and try not to kill myself,” Fernandez said, according to the AP.

Ten, the Olympic bronze medalist thought to be the biggest threat to Hanyu, fell on a quad toe loop and was a distant third.

The U.S. champion Brown scored the highest of any man who did not attempt a quad. He’s in the same position as he was after the Sochi Olympics short program, sixth and less than half of a point out of fourth.

“I feel really proud,” Brown said, according to U.S. Figure Skating.

U.S. silver medalist Adam Rippon, in his third Worlds appearance and first since 2012, had his quad Lutz downgraded and under-rotated a triple Lutz. He’s in 11th.

“I’m kind of mad right now,” Rippon said, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “I’m going to take my feeling and channel it into my long program.”

The third American, Joshua Farris, fell on his opening triple Axel in his Worlds debut. He’s in 13th, disappointing after taking silver at the Four Continents Championships in February.

“I was nervous, but no more than I normally am,” Farris said, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “That fall did surprise me. In the air I didn’t think I was going to fall. It shook me up a bit.”

The top two U.S. men’s placements following the free skate Saturday must add up to 13 or better (such as Brown in sixth and Rippon in seventh) to ensure they keep three spots for the 2016 World Championships in Boston. Right now, that total is 17.

A U.S. man has not won a Worlds medal since Evan Lysacek‘s gold in 2009.

Men’s Short Program
1. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 95.20
2. Javier Fernandez (ESP) — 92.74
3. Denis Ten (KAZ) — 85.89
4. Sergey Voronov (RUS) — 84.70
5. Yan Han (CHN) — 84.45
6. Jason Brown (USA) — 84.32
11. Adam Rippon (USA) — 75.14
13. Joshua Farris (USA) — 73.52

Youngest World champions in ice dance since 1975

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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