Yohan Blake is running scared, coach says

Yohan Blake
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NEW YORK — Yohan Blake must overcome a fear of injury, the coach of the Olympic 100m and 200m silver medalist said Saturday.

Blake, joint second-fastest man all time in the 100m and the only man other than Usain Bolt to break 19.30 in the 200m, is trying to come back from major hamstring injuries in 2013 and 2014.

The 25-year-old nicknamed “The Beast” reportedly competed Saturday for the second time since tumbling to the track July 11, tearing a muscle off the bone (video of the fall here).

On Saturday, Blake clocked 10.21 seconds in a 100m with a 1.2 meters/second tailwind at a small meet in Jamaica, according to TeamJA.org, which would rank tied for 13th among Jamaican men this year. Blake’s personal best, 9.69, was set two weeks after the 2012 Olympics, before the injuries.

“He has a problem to get over the fear of getting hurt again,” coach Glen Mills said earlier Saturday at the Adidas Grand Prix, where Blake was a headliner last year but did not race this year. “We just have to take our time. … I think once his confidence comes back, he’ll do well, because he’s in good physical shape.”

The previous Saturday, Blake won a 200m race in Jamaica in 21.57, which ranks outside the top 200 in the world this year.

“I wouldn’t call that running,” Mills said. “He went through the motion.”

Mills said he wasn’t sure of Blake’s plan for the Jamaican Championships in two weeks, after which the Jamaican team for the World Championships in Beijing in August will be announced.

Blake will enter the 100m at the Jamaican Championships, Mills said, which comes before the 200m.

“We’ll see how he does in the early rounds,” Mills said. “If he’s not really competing, I think then we don’t want him to go any further. We don’t want to push him. If he does really well, if he makes the team at the 100m level, we may decide not to do the 200m. We’ll do enough to lay a foundation for the Olympic year. That’s our main objective.”

Three men plus defending World champion Bolt are expected to make the Worlds team each in the 100m and 200m. The No. 3 Jamaicans, excluding Bolt, in the 100m and 200m this year clocked 10.01 in the 100m and 20.28 in the 200m.

Blake was Bolt’s biggest rival in 2011 and 2012. After Bolt false-started out of the 2011 Worlds 100m final, Blake went on to win. Blake defeated Bolt in both the 100m and 200m at the 2012 Jamaican Olympic trials before Bolt returned the favor in London.

Blake, at 25, is three years younger than Bolt and eight years younger than Justin Gatlin, the world’s fastest man in 2014 and 2015. Blake has said he wants to retire before 2020, which would make the Rio 2016 Olympics his second and final Games, should he qualify.

Also Saturday, Mills said Warren Weir, the Olympic 200m bronze medalist and World silver medalist, scratched earlier last week out of the Adidas Grand Prix 200m with Bolt due to a severe hamstring cramp in training.

Usain Bolt runs slowest 200m since 2006 at Adidas Grand Prix

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

Riku Miura, Ryuichi Kihara
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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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