Mao Asada

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

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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

Brooke Raboutou is first U.S. Olympic sport climbing qualifier

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Brooke Raboutou, 18, became the first American to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics in sport climbing by reaching Tuesday’s combined final at the world championships in Hachioji, Japan, USA Climbing confirmed.

She qualified ninth into that final.

Raboutou, the daughter of two world-class climbers who has competed since age 7, became the seventh American across all sports to qualify for the 2020 Olympics after three open-water swimmers, two modern pentathletes and a triathlete.

Olympic sport climbing will feature one set of medals per gender, the event combining three disciplines: lead, speed and bouldering.

From Tokyo 2020: Speed climbing pits two climbers against each other, both climbing a fixed route on a 15-meter wall at a 95-degree angle. Winning times are generally between five and eight seconds. In bouldering, climbers scale a number of fixed routes on a four-meter wall in a specified time without safety ropes. In lead climbing, athletes attempt to climb as high as possible on a wall measuring over 15 meters in height within a fixed time with safety ropes.

A nation can qualify up to two athletes per gender into Olympic sport climbing.

The sport debuted at the Youth Olympics in 2018 in Buenos Aires, but no Americans were entered.

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Danielle Williams cemented as world No. 1 hurdler in Birmingham

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The 100m hurdles has been one of the U.S.’ deepest events the last several years, but Jamaican Danielle Williams looks like the favorite at the world championships in early October.

Williams, who owns the world’s fastest time this year, easily beat world-record holder Kendra Harrison and Olympic champion Brianna McNeal at a Diamond League meet in Birmingham, Great Britain, on Sunday.

Williams crossed in 12.46 seconds despite hitting her knee on one hurdle, but still two tenths clear of Harrison, whose world record is 12.20. It marked Harrison’s first loss in nine meets this year and the first time a non-American has ever beaten her at a Diamond League stop.

It looked like Williams wouldn’t make it to worlds in Doha when she false started out of the Jamaican Championships. But the final was soon after strangely canceled, and Jamaican media reported last week that Williams, the 2015 World champion who failed to make the Rio Olympics, is eligible to be chosen next month by the federation.

The U.S. had at least the two fastest women in the world each of the previous six years. Then Williams re-emerged with a Jamaican record 12.32 on July 20.

The meet airs Monday on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA at 4 p.m. ET and NBCSN at 7 p.m. ET. The Diamond League moves to Paris on Saturday.

In other events Sunday, Olympic 400m champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo overtook Brit Dina Asher-Smith and Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce in the 200m in 22.24. Miller-Uibo extended her unbeaten streak to two years across all distances.

It appears Miller-Uibo will not be racing the 200m at worlds, given it overlaps with the 400m. She ranks third in the world this year at the shorter distance, trailing Jamaican Olympic champion Elaine Thompson, who clocked 22.00 on June 23 but was not in Sunday’s field. Miller-Uibo has ranked No. 1 at 400m four straight years.

Yohan Blake won the 100m in 10.07 seconds, holding off Brit Adam Gemili, who had the same time with a 2 meter/second tailwind. Blake, the second-fastest man in history with a personal best of 9.69, hasn’t been the same since suffering a series of leg injuries starting in 2013.

Sunday’s field lacked the world championships favorites — Americans Christian Coleman and Justin Gatlin, who clocked 9.81 and 9.87 on June 30.

Surprise U.S. champion Teahna Daniels placed third in her Diamond League 100m debut, clocking 11.24 seconds. The field lacked world championships favorites Thompson and Fraser-Pryce, who each ran 10.73 at the Jamaican Championships on June 21.

American record holder Ajeé Wilson won an 800m that lacked all three Rio Olympic medalists, who are barred from racing the event due to the IAAF’s new testosterone cap in middle distances. Wilson’s time, 2:00.76, was far off her 2019 world-leading time of 1:57.72 among eligible women.

Olympic and world heptathlon champion Nafi Thiam broke the Belgian long jump record twice, winning with a 6.86-meter leap. That ranks ninth in the world this year. The field lacked the last two Olympic champions, Americans Tianna Bartoletta and Brittney Reese.

A meeting of the last two Olympic pole vault champs went to Rio gold medalist Katerina Stefanidi of Greece, who cleared 4.75 meters in swirling wind. London 2012 champ Jenn Suhr was third but remains No. 1 in the world this year with a 4.91-meter clearance from March 30.

Croatian Sandra Perkovic, the 2012 and 2016 Olympic discus champion, lost her third straight Diamond League meet to start the season as she returns from injury. Perkovic, who placed third behind winner Cuban Yaimé Pérez, had not lost in back-to-back meets since returning from a six-month doping ban in 2011, according to Tilastopaja.org.

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