Shoma Uno
AP

Japan Open sees return of one star, rise of another to ignite figure skating season

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Mao Asada reportedly noticed Shoma Uno at a public rink in Nagoya, Japan, when Uno was 5 years old and Asada was 12 or 13.

Some 12 years later, they shared victory over most of the world’s best skaters at the Japan Open on Saturday.

Asada, the 2010 Olympic silver medalist competing for the first time since winning her third World title in March 2014, topped the free skate-only, team event over countrywoman and 2015 World silver medalist Satoko Miyahara.

“Although it was the best first competition [of a season] I’ve ever had, I didn’t achieve my goal,” Asada said, according to icenetwork.com. “I was aiming to at least recover to the level I was at during 2014 Worlds. I think I can do much, much better, so I think I can only give myself 55 [out of 100].”

The 2015 World champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva of Russia was third, followed by Adelina Sotnikova in her first international event since winning surprise Sochi Olympic gold.

U.S. champion Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold, who was fourth at the Olympics and the 2015 Worlds, were fifth and sixth at the Japan Open.

Asada, 25, opened her skate by landing her signature triple Axel. Tuktamysheva, who won eight international competitions last season and talked about adding a quadruple jump, fell on her opening triple Axel on Saturday. Wagner and Gold also fell.

Miyahara, Gold and 2014 Olympic team event star Yulia Lipnitskaya headline Skate America in Milwaukee in two weeks, the start of the Grand Prix season. NBC Sports will have coverage all season.

Japan Open Results
1. Mao Asada (JPN) — 141.70
2. Satoko Miyahara (JPN) — 134.67
3. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS) — 128.34
4. Adelina Sotnikova (RUS) — 118.81
5. Ashley Wagner (USA) — 117.84
6. Gracie Gold (USA) — 114.53

Performance Videos: Asada | Miyahara | Tuktamysheva | Sotnikova | Wagner | Gold

Perhaps more noteworthy was Uno, who landed two quadruple jumps en route to topping the men’s standings over 2015 World champion Javier Fernandez and three-time World champion Patrick Chan.

Yuzuru Hanyu, the 2014 Olympic and World champion, was not in the field.

Uno, 17, finished second to Hanyu at last season’s Japanese Championships, was not entered at the senior World Championships but did win the World Junior title. He’s entered in Skate America, where he’ll face Olympic bronze medalist Denis Ten and U.S. champion Jason Brown.

“I didn’t expect that I could get such a high score at all,” Uno said, according to icenetwork.com. “But, I would only rate my performance 80 out of 100, because I think I can do better in other elements besides jumps. … I don’t want to be satisfied with this result, but I want to aim higher.”

Uno’s performance marked an improvement from his season opener at the U.S. Classic in Salt Lake City two weeks prior. Uno was ninth in that short program but scored highest in the free skate to finish fifth overall against a weaker field.

On Saturday, Chan, who took the 2014-15 season off from competition, put his hands on the ice twice to keep from falling on jump landings. Fernandez fell on a quadruple Salchow attempt.

They both outscored four-time U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott, who is taking this season off from competition.

Japan Open Results
1. Shoma Uno (JPN) — 185.48
2. Javier Fernandez (ESP) — 176.24
3. Patrick Chan (CAN) — 159.14
4. Jeremy Abbott (USA) — 153.72
5. Daisuke Murakami (JPN) — 145.77
6. Brian Joubert (FRA) — 105.51

Performance Videos: Uno | Fernandez | Chan | Abbott

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Helen Maroulis to miss world championships, eyes still on defending Olympic title

Helen Maroulis
United World Wrestling
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Helen Maroulis, the lone U.S. female wrestler to win an Olympic title, sat out this past weekend’s world team trials, which means she will not compete at the world championships in September.

Maroulis is working her way back from blowing out her right shoulder in a first-round loss at worlds on Oct. 24, after she returned from a concussion. She underwent surgery in November and was cleared to return earlier this spring before tweaking the shoulder again.

Maroulis said Friday she was cleared again to compete at trials but chose rest, recovery and her long-term health given what happened in 2018.

“It’s not coming from a place of fear,” she said. “I’m just not ready yet.

“If trials were end of June, everything would be perfect. I’m still feeling good and confident for 2020.”

As Maroulis stressed at 2018 Worlds, she prioritizes health over wrestling.

“Not just for myself, but to set an example because I get a lot of messages from kids on Instagram — I have a concussion, or my teammate has a concussion.” Maroulis said in October. “There’s this wrestler mindset to just push through — you’re the toughest, find a way to win. But there’s just a lot more to it.”

Maroulis, 27, put together one of the most dominant stretches in sport from 2015-17, going 78-1 overall among three different weight classes and going unscored upon at two world championships.

In between, she beat Saori Yoshida in the Rio Olympic 53kg final, preventing the Japanese legend from a record fourth Olympic title.

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Ex-partner of deceased figure skater John Coughlin says she was abused

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — One of the former skating partners of two-time U.S. pairs champion John Coughlin has accused him in a series of social media posts of sexually assaulting her over a 2-year period.

Bridget Namiotka said on Facebook that Coughlin, who died by suicide in January, hurt “at least 10 people including me.” She skated with Coughlin from 2004, when she was 14, through the 2007 season.

Namiotka’s attorney confirmed to The Associated Press that the comments were made by her.

The U.S. Center for SafeSport and U.S. Figure Skating had given Coughlin, who became a coach and TV commentator after his retirement, an interim suspension for unspecified conduct. He was barred from attending events and activities sanctioned by the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Coughlin was found dead Jan. 18 at his father’s home in Kansas City, Missouri.