Javier Fernandez wins upset World Championship; top American fourth

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Javier Fernandez became the first Spaniard to win a World Figure Skating Championship, knocking off Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu in Shanghai on Saturday.

Fernandez, who grew up training on a Madrid ice rink that is now a restaurant, overcame a 2.46-point deficit from the short program to beat Hanyu by 2.82 after the free skate. Kazakhstan’s Denis Ten earned bronze (full results here).

“I still don’t believe it,” Fernandez said (video here of his interview). “To beat Yuzu, the Olympic champion, one time, is unbelievable. I don’t know if it’s going to ever happen again.”

U.S. champion Jason Brown was the top American in fourth, 19.43 points behind Ten, after taking ninth at the Sochi Olympics. That’s the best finish by a U.S. man since Evan Lysacek won gold in 2009.

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Fernandez, 23, landed two quadruple jumps and fell on another in his free skate. Hanyu, too, fell on a quad attempt and landed no four-revolution jumps. He failed in a bid to become the first Japanese to repeat as World champion.

“Honestly speaking, I feel really, really frustrated,” Hanyu said, according to the Japan Times. “But right until the very, very end, I am happy I could give it my all on this rink — especially on this rink [where Hanyu suffered a scary warm-up collision in November].”

Fernandez came through to make history for his nation, which has won two Winter Olympic medals, both in Alpine skiing, the last in 1992.

At the Sochi Olympics, Fernandez fell from third place after the short program to fourth overall and said he felt sad he couldn’t bring a medal home for his country.

One month later, Fernandez won his second straight World Championships bronze medal and took silver at the Grand Prix Final in Barcelona in December. Hanyu, who shares a coach in two-time Olympic silver medalist Brian Orser, won both of those competitions.

On Saturday, Hanyu could be seen clapping for Fernandez when the Spaniard’s winning score came up. Fernandez covered the sides of his head in his hands in shock.

“We’re teammates; in the competition we’re still rivals,” Fernandez said. “Yuzu just told me that he was happy for me. He even dropped a couple of tears.”

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The U.S. men finished fourth (Brown), eighth (Adam Rippon) and 11th (Joshua Farris). The top two U.S. men’s finishes needed to add up to 13 or fewer to keep three spots for the 2016 Worlds. Brown and Rippon’s finishes added up to 12.

Brown, 20 and the youngest U.S. champion since 2004, in his Worlds debut finished the highest of any man not doing quads.

“It’s crazy to be fourth in the world,” Brown said, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “I couldn’t ask for anything more right now. I skated the best that I could in those moments, and it’s nice to walk away as fourth in the world.”

Rippon, in his third Worlds appearance and first since 2012, improved from 11th after the free skate but had no quad or triple-triple jump combination Saturday.

“I felt free out there,” Rippon said, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “Maybe a little bit too free, making that mistake on the quad. I never gave up throughout the program. Coming away, I’m happy to be in the top 10.”

Farris, in his Worlds debut, moved up two spots to finish 11th. He fell on a quad attempt, two days after falling on a triple Axel in his short program.

Farris said he prepared for the free skate by crying a little bit with a coach after his 13th-place short program.

“I didn’t want to replicate what I’ve done in past competitions after a bad short program,” Farris said, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “It was far from perfect, but it was a step.”

The U.S. can enter three men at the 2016 World Championships in Boston. Brown, Rippon and Farris could be challenged for those spots by 2013 U.S. champion Max Aaron and four-time U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott, should Abbott continue competing.

Men’s Results
Gold: Javier Fernandez (ESP) — 273.90
Silver: Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 271.08
Bronze: Denis Ten (KAZ) — 267.72
4. Jason Brown (USA) — 248.29
8. Adam Rippon (USA) — 229.71
11. Joshua Farris (USA) — 223.04

Elizaveta Tuktamysheva ponders quad after dominant Worlds

Richard Callaghan, figure skating coach, banned for life

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Richard Callaghan, a figure skating coach best known for helping Tara Lipinski earn 1998 Olympic gold, was ruled permanently ineligible for violations including sexual misconduct involving a minor.

Callaghan can still appeal the sexual misconduct violation, according to the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a watchdog for U.S. Olympic sports organizations that updated Callaghan’s status Wednesday.

He was first suspended in March 2018 pending an investigation into allegations first made against him more than 20 years ago.

Earlier this month, another former skater, Adam Schmidt, said in a lawsuit that he was sexually molested as a teenager by Callaghan starting in 1999.

Callaghan was previously accused of sexual misconduct in April 1999 by Craig Maurizi, one of his former students and later an assistant to him in San Diego and Detroit.

Maurizi told The New York Times that Callaghan had engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with him beginning when he was 15 years old. The alleged misconduct had begun nearly 20 years earlier. Callaghan denied the allegations.

In March 2018, Callaghan told ABC News: “That’s 19 or 20 years ago. I have nothing to say.”

Maurizi’s previous grievance against Callaghan with the U.S. Figure Skating Association, the precursor to U.S. Figure Skating, was dismissed on procedural grounds.

He was Callaghan’s assistant at the Detroit Skating Club until they split after Lipinski turned pro, left Callaghan and decided to train with Maurizi.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Pita Taufatofua, Tonga flag bearer, finishes last in kayak debut

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Pita Taufatofua, the Tonga Olympic flag bearer who went viral in Rio and PyeongChang, began his quest to make a third straight Olympics in a third different sport with a last-place finish in his opening-round heat at the world sprint kayak championships in Hungary on Wednesday.

The start of the heat appeared delayed as Taufatofua struggled to get his kayak into position in the water. He was left at the start as the other six kayakers raced out and finished between 33 and 40 seconds. Taufatofua took 58.19 seconds, the slowest of 53 finishers among seven total heats.

“Well that was slightly better than the first time I competed in Taekwondo or skiing,” was tweeted from Taufatofua’s account. “Would have liked to start facing the right way but that’s life.”

Taufatofua, 35, was the oldest athlete in the heat by nearly a decade. He is also entered in doubles races with Tonga canoe federation president Malakai Ahokava with heats Thursday and Friday.

Taufatofua hopes to compete at the Tokyo Olympics in taekwondo, where he competed in Rio, and in sprint kayak.

But he hasn’t competed in taekwondo in three years and just started training kayak this spring. At worlds, Taufatofua told the BBC he is still having trouble staying afloat in the water.

Taufatofua said in announcing the new sport in April that it would be “largely impossible” to qualify for Tokyo. He could be the first athlete to compete in a different sport in three straight Olympics (Summer and Winter) since the Winter Games began in 1924, according to the OlyMADMen.

“It’s certainly going to be the greatest challenge that I’ve ever had to embark on,” he said then.

Taufatofua’s results at worlds this week has little bearing on his Olympic qualifying prospects. Rather, he just needed to compete in Hungary to stay eligible for the Olympics.

The key will be an Oceania qualifying event early next year, where one Olympic bid is available. He will likely have to beat the best kayakers from Australia and New Zealand to grab it. Australian Stephen Bird placed eighth at the Rio Olympics and 11th at the 2018 World Championships.

If Taufatofua fails, he could receive a special tripartite invitation sometimes offered to smaller nations like Tonga.

Taufatofua became a social-media celebrity by marching into the Rio Olympic Opening Ceremony shirtless and oiled up. He then lost in the first round via mercy rule in his taekwondo tournament.

He made a quixotic bid for the PyeongChang Winter Games in cross-country skiing — and accomplished the feat, barely, in a sport that has lenient qualifying requirements for nations with a lack of Winter Games depth.

Taufatofua finished 114th out of 116 in his 15km Olympic cross-country skiing race, nearly 23 minutes behind the winner.

If Taufatofua is able to carry the Tongan flag at a third Opening Ceremony, he will definitely be shirtless again, in a similar outfit to what he wore in Rio and PyeongChang, he said last year.

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