Mao Asada, Patrick Chan highlight Grand Prix assignments; stars missing

Mao Asada
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Three-time World champions Mao Asada and Patrick Chan will return to figure skating’s Grand Prix Series this year following a one-year competition break.

Japan’s Asada, the 2010 Olympic silver medalist and World champion in 2008, 2010 and 2014, will return at the Cup of China from Nov. 6-8 and was also assigned to NHK Trophy in Japan from Nov. 27-29.

Canada’s Chan, the 2014 Olympic silver medalist and World champion from 2011-13, will return at Skate Canada from Oct. 30-Nov. 1. Chan will face Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu at Skate Canada.

Russia’s four-time Olympic medalist Yevgeny Plushenko and Sochi Olympic champion Adelina Sotnikova, both thought to be returning to competition after missing top-level international events last season, were not listed among Monday’s Grand Prix Series assignments. Sotnikova is the only skater on the eight-woman Russian national team who was not given an assignment.

Grand Prix assignments: Men | Women | PairsIce Dance

Also returning are Olympic pairs champions Tatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov of Russia, who also took the 2014-15 season off. They were assigned to Trophee Bompard in France from Nov. 13-15 and NHK Trophy.

World champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva of Russia was assigned to Skate Canada and Trophee Bompard.

World champion Javier Fernandez of Spain was assigned to Cup of China and Rostelecom Cup in Russia.

Four-time U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott will not compete in the Grand Prix Series but hopes to return for the U.S. Championships following the Grand Prix season and end his career by winning his first medal at the World Championships.

“After coming back from [last season’s] U.S. Championships, I talked with my coaches, Yuka [Sato] and Jason [Dungjen], and we discussed things,” Abbott, who said in May he would retire if he couldn’t land two different quadruple jumps in training by June, told IceNetwork.com. “I felt hungry. I felt the fire in my stomach.”

Olympic ice dance champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White have said they will sit out this season. Silver medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada also haven’t competed since the Sochi Olympics and haven’t said if or when they will return.

Here are the U.S. assignments:

Skate America — Milwaukee — Oct. 23-25

Ladies: Mariah Bell; Gracie Gold; TBA

Men: Max Aaron; Jason Brown; TBA

Pairs: Tarah Kayne & Daniel O’Shea; Alexa Scimeca & Chris Knierim; TBA

Ice dance: Madison Chock & Evan Bates; Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker; TBA

Skate Canada — Lethbridge, Alberta — Oct. 30-Nov. 1

Ladies: Polina Edmunds; Ashley Wagner

Men: Joshua Farris; Adam Rippon

Pairs: Marissa Castelli & Mervin Tran

Ice dance: Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani

Cup of China — Beijing — Nov. 6-8

Ladies: Karen Chen; Courtney Hicks; Hannah Miller

Men: Richard Dornbush; Grant Hochstein

Pairs: Madeline Aaron & Max Settlage

Ice dance: Madison Chock & Evan Bates; Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker

Trophée Bompard — Bordeaux, France — Nov. 13-15

Ladies: Gracie Gold; Angela Wang

Men: Max Aaron

Pairs: Marissa Castelli & Mervin Tran

Ice dance: Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue

Rostelecom Cup — Moscow — Nov. 20-22

Ladies: Polina Edmunds; Hannah Miller

Men: Ross Miner; Adam Rippon

Pairs: Tarah Kayne & Daniel O’Shea

NHK Trophy — Nagano, Japan — Nov. 27-29

Ladies: Courtney Hicks; Mirai Nagasu; Ashley Wagner

Men: Jason Brown; Richard Dornbush; Joshua Farris

Pairs: Jessica Calalang & Zack Sidhu; Alexa Scimeca & Chris Knierim

Ice dance: Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue; Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani

Figure skaters recall odd gifts from fans

In a tie, Wendy Holdener puts to rest a remarkable stat in Alpine skiing

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Swiss Wendy Holdener ended one of the most remarkable victory droughts in sports by tying for the win with Swede Anna Swenn Larsson in a World Cup slalom in Killington, Vermont, on Sunday.

Holdener, after 15 second-place finishes and 15 third-place finishes in her career, stood on the top step of a World Cup slalom podium for the first time. She shared it with Swenn Larsson, who had six World Cup slalom podiums before Sunday and also earned her first win.

They beat Austrian Katharina Truppe by .22 of a second combining times from two runs.

ALPINE SKIING: Full Results | Broadcast Schedule

Holdener, 29, previously won three World Cups in other disciplines, plus two world championships in the combined and Olympic and world titles in the team event.

“To be tied first when I came into the finish was such a relief,” Holdener said while shoulder to shoulder with Swenn Larsson. “On the end, it’s perfect, because now we can share our first win together.”

Mikaela Shiffrin had the best first-run time but lost her lead midway through the second run and finished fifth. Shiffrin, who won the first two slaloms this season last weekend, was bidding for a 50th World Cup slalom victory and a sixth win in six slaloms in Killington.

“I fought. I think some spots I got a little bit off my timing, but I was pushing, and that’s slalom,” she said before turning her attention to Holdener and Swenn Larsson. “It’s a pretty special day, actually.”

The women’s Alpine skiing World Cup moves next weekend to Lake Louise, Alberta, with two downhills and a super-G.

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Injured Ilia Malinin wins Grand Prix Finland, qualifies for Grand Prix Final

Ilia Malinin
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Ilia Malinin, competing “a little bit injured” this week, still won Grand Prix Finland and goes into the Grand Prix Final in two weeks as the world’s top-ranked male singles skater.

Malinin, who was second after Friday’s short program, landed four clean quadruple jumps in Saturday’s free skate to overtake Frenchman Kevin Aymoz.

Malinin, who landed a quad flip in competition for the first time, according to SkatingScores.com, also attempted a quad Axel to open his program, but spun out of the landing and put his hand down on the ice.

Malinin also won his previous two starts this season in come-from-behind fashion. The 17-year-old world junior champion became the first skater to land a clean, fully rotated quad Axel in September, then did it again in October at Skate America, where he posted the world’s top overall score this season.

Next, Malinin can become the second-youngest man to win the Grand Prix Final after Russian Yevgeny Plushenko. His biggest competition is likely to be world champion Shoma Uno of Japan, who like Malinin won both of his Grand Prix starts this fall. Malinin and Uno have not gone head-to-head this season.

Grand Prix Finland highlights air on NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET.

FIGURE SKATING: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Earlier, Japan’s Mai Mihara overtook world silver medalist Loena Hendrickx of Belgium to become the only woman to win both of her Grand Prix starts this season. Mihara prevailed by .23 of a point. The top three women this season by best total score are Japanese, led by a junior skater, 14-year-old Mao Shimada, who isn’t Olympic age-eligible until 2030.

Mihara and Hendrickx qualified for the Grand Prix Final, joining world champion Kaori Sakamoto and Rinka Watanabe, both of Japan, South Korean Yelim Kim and American Isabeau Levito, the world junior champion.

Italians Rebecca Ghilardi and Filippo Ambrosini won both pairs’ programs and qualified for their first Grand Prix Final.

Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara and Americans Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier headline the Final. Both pairs won each of their Grand Prix starts earlier this fall. The Japanese have the world’s two best scores this season. The Americans are reigning world champions.

At least one Russian or Chinese pair made every Grand Prix Final podium — usually pairs from both countries — but neither nation competed in pairs this Grand Prix season. All Russian skaters are banned due to the war in Ukraine. China’s lone entry on the Grand Prix across all disciplines was an ice dance couple.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier improved on their world-leading score for this season in winning the ice dance by 17.03 points over Americans Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker. Both couples qualified for the Grand Prix Final in the absence of all three Olympic medalists this fall.

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