Allyson Felix

Allyson Felix wins 400m, breaks U.S. record for Worlds medals; Rio preview?

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Allyson Felix won her record-breaking ninth World Championships gold medal and 11th overall, but first in the 400m, taking the one-lap race in Beijing on Thursday night.

It may set her up for a daunting Rio Olympic double.

At the Bird’s Nest, Felix clocked a personal-best 49.26 seconds to break her tie with Carl Lewis and Michael Johnson for the most Worlds gold medals won by an American. She also broke her tie with Lewis and LaShawn Merritt for the most Worlds medals by an American. She also became the first woman to win World titles in the 200m (she has three) and the 400m.

Felix took gold over the Bahamas’ Shaunae Miller (49.67) and Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson (49.99).

“I never really thought I’d see this day,” Felix told Lewis Johnson on Universal Sports.

Felix, the Olympic 200m champion, had the option of racing the 200m, the 400m or both in Beijing. She chose the 400m solely, partly because she deemed the 200m-400m double wasn’t doable given the 200m semifinals and 400m final were about an hour apart Thursday.

She chose the 400m over her longtime trademark 200m because she wanted to challenge herself over the longer distance.

The challenge could have been greater. Neither Olympic 400m champion Sanya Richards-Ross nor the world’s fastest woman in the event before Thursday, Francena McCorory, made the team in the event at the U.S. Championships in June.

Felix ran the 200m and 400m at the 2011 World Championships, with one day off between events, and won silver in the 400m and then bronze in the 200m. For the 2012 Olympics, Felix chose the 100m to complement her 200m, finishing fifth in the 100m before capturing her first individual Olympic gold in the 200m.

Now that the three-time Olympian Felix has her individual Olympic title, she has more freedom to explore in 2016.

Felix has said her coach would voice his opinion to officials about the Rio Olympic track and field schedule, where the 200m first round and 400m final are a little more than an hour apart.

“If I’m fit enough to do it, I would [run the 200m and 400m at the Olympics],” Felix told Johnson on Universal Sports, later telling media in Beijing, “It has to be one of those perfect storm type of things.”

Felix said if she could run only one event at the Rio Olympics, she would choose the 200m.

If the Rio schedule could be changed to allow one day off between the 200m and 400m (as it was for Johnson to race the 200m and 400m in Atlanta 1996), Felix might be more inclined to attempt the 200m-400m double at the Olympics.

“I’ve put in my time,” Felix said, according to The New York Times. “But that’s all on the people in charge of the scheduling, and I understand that there are a lot of things that go into that. There are also some other great people who can do that double, as well. It’s a pretty common double, so I think for us and for the future, it would be a good thing for the sport.”

Two women have won the 200m and 400m at one Olympics (when there was at least one day off between events) — American Valerie Brisco-Hooks in 1984 and France’s Marie-Jose Perec in 1996.

Felix could earn two more medals in the 4x100m and 4x400m relays this weekend.

World Championships: Broadcast schedule | Video: South African stretchered off after 400m gold

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Alina Zagitova wins Rostelecom Cup; Gracie Gold withdraws

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Olympic champion Alina Zagitova dominated the Rostelecom Cup, while Gracie Gold withdrew before Saturday’s free skate at her first competition in 22 months, citing emotional stress.

Zagitova skated a flawed free, but still totaled 222.95 points and prevailed by 24.94 over countrywoman Sofia Samodurova. Zagitova qualified for December’s Grand Prix Final, the second-biggest annual international competition, which takes the top six skaters from the fall Grand Prix Series.

Gold, coming back from treatment for anxiety, depression and an eating disorder, was in last place of 10 skaters after struggling with jumps in Friday’s short program.

Gold, a Sochi Olympian and two-time U.S. champion, later tweeted that she withdrew because competing in the free skate would be damaging to her mental health and confidence.

“It was a difficult decision to make, but ultimately I need to put my mental health first and focus on the big picture,” was tweeted from Gold’s account. “Looking forward, I need to keep improving both my physical and mental condition. I thought checking into treatment last fall was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, but skating my short program last night might have topped it. I do not want to undo the tremendous progress I’ve made in these last few months.”

The Grand Prix season continues next week with Nathan Chen headlining Internationaux de France, the last event before the Grand Prix Final.

ROSTELECOM CUP: Results | TV/Stream Schedule

Zagitova, 16, is undefeated in three events this season and owns the world’s top overall score (238.43) by a whopping 14.12 points. However, Japanese 16-year-old Rika Kihira has the highest total on the Grand Prix of 224.31.

Zagitova struggled Saturday with the difficult triple Lutz-triple loop combination and doubled a flip at the end of her free skate.

Her primary rival last season, countrywoman Yevgenia Medvedeva, has finished second or third in her four competitions in the last year and likely must reach the podium next week in France for a chance at the Grand Prix Final and her first matchup with Zagitova since PyeongChang.

It’s likely that no U.S. woman makes the Grand Prix Final for a third straight year, after never previously going back-to-back years without a qualifier. U.S. champion Bradie Tennell likely must win in France to reach the Final.

Earlier Saturday, double Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu won the men’s event, hours after twisting his right ankle in a hard practice fall. Hanyu hopped on a crutch backstage and said he is uncertain for the Grand Prix Final and Japanese Nationals later in December. More here on Hanyu’s day.

Russian favorites Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov and Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin won the pairs’ and ice dance titles, respectively, qualifying for the Grand Prix Final.

Tarasova and Morozov, two-time world medalists, posted 220.25 points, moving up to No. 2 in the world behind French Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres, who were not in the Rostelecom field. None of the Olympic pairs’ medalists are competing this fall. Earlier Saturday, Tarasova received five stitches after cutting her chin in a practice crash into the boards.

In dance, Stepanova and Bukin tallied 199.43, keeping them close to U.S. champions Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue in the world rankings. Those two couples face off for the first time this season at the Grand Prix Final.

The top returning couple this season, French Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, competes next week at the top international level for the first time since winning a third world title in March. They are not eligible for the Grand Prix Final after withdrawing from last week’s NHK Trophy due to Cizeron’s back injury.

As a reminder, you can watch the ISU Grand Prix Series live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. GO HERE to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season…NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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MORE: Ashley Wagner on her competitive future, coaching

Yuzuru Hanyu wins Rostelecom Cup, hops on crutch to press conference

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Yuzuru Hanyu won Rostelecom Cup by nearly 30 points, then hopped on a crutch backstage.

The double Olympic champion twisted his right ankle in a hard practice fall Saturday morning, then several hours later had the highest-scoring free skate with three quadruple jumps.

Hanyu said he is uncertain for the Grand Prix Final in three weeks — and a showdown with Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno and, likely, world champion Nathan Chen according to The Associated Press.

“It really hurts,” Hanyu said, according to Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA. “This injury made me change my program, and sadly I couldn’t perform the way I wanted. I could have done better.”

ROSTELECOM CUP: Results | TV/Stream Schedule

Hanyu apologized to a TV camera following his free skate, after falling and popping an Axel on his last two jumps.

Last November, Hanyu damaged right ankle ligaments in a practice fall, forcing him off the ice for more than a month. He said this injury is not as bad. Still, coach Brian Orser said “it was a big question” whether Hanyu would withdraw before the free skate, according to Olympic Channel.

Hanyu endured, taking out the quadruple loop that he fell on in practice but still adding 10 points to his lead from Friday’s short program. For the first time in nine seasons, Hanyu won his two Grand Prix Series qualifying events, cruising into December’s exclusive, six-skater Grand Prix Final.

Georgian Morisi Kvitelashvili took second, followed by Japanese Kazuki Tomono.

Two other men who came to Moscow with Grand Prix Final hopes — Russian Mikhail Kolyada and Canadian Keegan Messing — struggled in Friday’s short program and could not get onto the podium, placing fourth and fifth. They won’t be at the Final, assuming Chen finishes in the top six at next week’s event in France.

Rostelecom Cup continues later Saturday with the free programs for ice dance, pairs and women, streaming live on NBC Sports Gold.

As a reminder, you can watch the ISU Grand Prix Series live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. GO HERE to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season…NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Ashley Wagner on her future, role as coach