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

Olympian Tasha Schwikert says she is a Larry Nassar survivor, speaks out on Steve Penny

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Tasha Schwikert is at least the ninth Olympian to come forward as a Larry Nassar survivor.

“After months of grappling with the decision, I have decided to come forward as a victim of Larry Nassar,” was tweeted from the 2000 Olympic bronze medalist Schwikert’s account. “I want to join my former teammates and fellow survivors to help enact REAL change at @USAGym and @TeamUSA. #MeToo.

“I refuse to remain a victim. It is time for @USAGym and @TeamUSA to come clean and be held accountable for the toxic environment that enabled Nassar’s abuse. Only then will we see REAL change.”

Schwikert, now 33, was the youngest woman on the 2000 Olympic team across all sports, the U.S. all-around champion in 2001 and 2002, the 2003 World champion team captain and an alternate for the 2004 Olympic team.

Schwikert also said that ex-USA Gymnastics president and CEO Steve Penny pressed her to publicly support USA Gymnastics at the height of the Nassar scandal, according to ABC’s “World News Tonight.”

Penny was arrested Wednesday and indicted on charges he tampered with evidence in the Nassar sexual-assault investigation and on Thursday banned for life from USA Gymnastics. Penny’s lawyers said he is “confident that when all the facts are known it will be shown that he did nothing criminal.”

“Steve had always manipulated all of us, really, but I felt indebted to him,” Schwikert said on ABC. “Him and USA Gymnastics made me feel like if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be the person or the athlete who I was.”

She is at least the second member of the Sydney 2000 team to come forward as a Nassar survivor, joining Jamie Dantzscher, the first Olympian to do so in February 2017.

USA Gymnastics posted a statement from Schwikert on social media the night Dantzscher’s first interview aired, saying, “As a member of the national team from 1999-2004, I firmly believe USA Gymnastics always had my health and well-being top of mind. The program provided me with the resources and experiences that helped me achieve my goals.”

Penny resigned a month later.

Seven of the eight members of the 2012 or 2016 Olympic women’s artistic gymnastics teams have also come forward — Simone BilesGabby Douglas, Aly RaismanMcKayla MaroneyJordyn WieberKyla Ross and Madison Kocian. As have world championships team members among the hundreds of girls and women who said Nassar sexually abused them under the guise of medical treatment when he worked for Michigan State and USA Gymnastics.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Madison Hubbell, Zach Donohue can make it 10 straight at Skate America

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If Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue ever lacked motivation in the post-Olympic summer, they needed only scan their Montreal training ice.

They would spot France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, the only ice dancers from the Olympic podium who return this season. Papadakis and Cizeron relegated the Americans to silver at March’s world championships, one month after Hubbell and Donohue were fourth in PyeongChang (the French took silver). They have trained under the same coaches in Quebec for three years.

They would also see Madison Chock and Evan Bates and Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, the third- and fourth-place finishers from January’s U.S. Championships. Those couples moved to the Montreal group in the spring. They are Hubbell and Donohue’s top threats to repeat as national champions in Detroit in three months, given U.S. silver medalists Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani are also taking a break.

Practicing next to rivals is often shunned in sports. It has elevated ice dance the last several years.

Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White trained together in Michigan and split the Olympic gold and silver medals in 2010 and 2014.

When Virtue and Moir returned from a two-year break in 2016, they joined the Montreal group and went one-two with training partners Papadakis and Cizeron at every major competition through PyeongChang.

Hubbell and Donohue thrived last season, their third in Montreal, winning their first national title after six straight years of finishing third or fourth. They were in position for an Olympic medal, third after the short dance, but Donohue fell in the free dance (as he did at 2017 Worlds after they were third in the short).

Then at worlds in March, they delivered back-to-back podium-worthy performances on the global stage for the first time for that silver medal. They are the world No. 2 and the favorites at this weekend’s Skate America, with the French not in the field.

U.S. couples have won nine straight Skate Americas, more than the other three disciplines combined in the last decade.

MORE: Skate America TV/Stream Schedule

“Clearly this formula is working for them,” NBC Sports analyst and 2006 Olympic ice dance silver medalist Tanith White said. “It has proven to work for many of the greatest teams in ice dance over the last few decades. … I cannot see a drawback.”

Hubbell and Donohue (and Papadakis and Cizeron) appear to agree.

They joked back and forth at a press conference after worlds in March. Asked how they would spend the offseason, Cizeron looked straight at Hubbell and Donohue and said, jokingly, “Our goal is to get drunk together as many times as we can.”

“As much as our own personal accomplishment is pretty incredible, being on the podium with training mates and having, literally, everyone from our training center skate the best programs of their season, all at the same competition, was pretty incredible,” Donohue said last week.

Hubbell and Donohue should breeze through Skate America in Everett, Wash. Nobody else from the top nine in PyeongChang is in the field. They’re the favorites next week at Skate Canada, too.

The first real test will be at December’s Grand Prix Final, where Papadakis and Cizeron should join them. Hubbell and Donohue never outscored the French in nine head-to-head competitions and were more than 10 points adrift at worlds.

“The French, where they left off last season, I think that they are still in a category on their own based on the last time we saw those two teams go up against each other,” White said. 

Hubbell said the world silver medal showed that they had tackled their demons, fear and history of errors. If the next goal is gold, they must conquer a much more visible foe, one they see every day on the ice.

“The podium at worlds,” Hubbell said, “was the moment I was able to leave that season behind me and go into the future.”

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