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

Lindsey Vonn and her dog to host Amazing Race-like series

Lindsey Vonn
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Lindsey Vonn and one of her three dogs, Lucy, will host “The Pack,” an “Amazing Race”-like series where dogs and their humans compete in challenges across continents.

The Amazon Prime show filmed earlier this year and will premiere later in 2020. Production included a team of veterinarians and dog experts to ensure “a positive experience for everyone.”

Twelve teams vie for a prize of $500,000, plus $250,000 for the animal charity of their choice.

Vonn, the 2010 Olympic downhill champion and female record holder with 82 World Cup wins, retired after the February 2019 World Championships, four shy of the overall victories record held by Swede Ingemar Stenmark.

She traveled the last few years of her career with Lucy, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel that she got in Italy in January 2016. Lucy required German, Italian and American passports to accompany Vonn on the ski circuit.

Vonn previously adopted rescue dogs Leo, a brindle boxer to help her through recovery from knee surgery that kept her out of the 2014 Olympics, and Bear.

Vonn’s previous broadcast credits included a 2010 appearance as a secretary on “Law & Order,” two judge spots on “Project Runway” and an episode of “Running Wild with Bear Grylls” in 2016.

MORE: Lindsey Vonn’s mom is tough as nails

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London Marathon mass event canceled; Kipchoge, Bekele still to race

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The London Marathon will not hold a mass participation race of 40,000-plus runners, but will have an elites-only event featuring the fastest marathoners in history on a different course.

Organizers announced that the World Marathon Major, previously rescheduled for Oct. 4 from April 26, will be restricted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Elite runners, including world-record holders Eliud Kipchoge and Brigid Kosgei and Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest man in history, will instead race but not on the usual route around London landmarks.

They will run on an enclosed looped in St. James’s Park in a “secure biosphere” without spectator access. Elite wheelchair racers, including past champions David Weir and Manuela Schar, will also compete.

Before canceling, London Marathon organizers planned to use Bluetooth and wideband ranging to monitor every participant’s distance from each other, though they did not specify if the event would have still included more than 40,000 runners.

If a participant spent more than 15 minutes within a specified distance of anyone else, and if somebody had informed organizers they contracted the virus within two weeks after the race, he or she would have been contacted.

“Despite all our efforts, the fantastic support from all of our partners and the progress that has been made on planning for the return of smaller mass participation events that are not on the roads, it has not been possible to go ahead with a mass socially distanced walk or run,” event director Hugh Brasher said in press release.

Four of the other five annual World Marathon Majors this year were canceled — Berlin, Boston, Chicago and New York City. The earliest major, Tokyo, was held March 1 with elite runners only.

Kipchoge, the Olympic marathon champion from Kenya, and Bekele, a three-time Olympic track champion from Ethiopia, were previously announced as headliners for London in the winter, before the pandemic.

Kipchoge lowered the world record to 2:01:39 at the 2018 Berlin Marathon. Bekele clocked 2:01:41 in Berlin last September. They are the only men to ever break 2:02 in a marathon. Kipchoge also clocked 1:59:40 at a non-record-eligible event in Vienna on Oct. 12 instead of racing a fall marathon.

Kipchoge has won 11 of 12 marathons since moving to road racing after failing to make Kenya’s 2012 Olympic track team.

Bekele, the more accomplished track athlete with Olympic golds and world records at 5000m and 10,000m, has been a roller-coaster road runner.

Bekele owns two of the seven fastest marathons in history, recorded three years apart in Berlin. In between, he failed to finish two marathons and, in his last London start in 2018, clocked a pedestrian 2:08:53 for sixth place.

That was more than four minutes behind Kipchoge, who is undefeated in four London starts and has beaten by Bekele by at least 100 seconds in all four of their head-to-head marathons.

The Kenyan Kosgei took 81 seconds off Paula Radcliffe‘s 16-year-old women’s marathon world record on Oct. 13, clocking 2:14:04 to win the Chicago Marathon.

The 2021 London Marathon will also be held in October to give a better chance of holding a mass race than in April.

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MORE: U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials results