Max Aaron
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Surprise U.S. leader at Skate America

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A U.S. champion is in great position to end the home drought at Skate America, but it’s neither Gracie Gold nor Jason Brown.

Max Aaron, the 2013 U.S. champion who just missed the Sochi Olympics, cleanly landed all of his jumps, including a quadruple toe loop in combination, to lead after the short program in Milwaukee on Friday.

“I’ve been waiting for it to happen,” Aaron said in a U.S. Figure Skating video. “I just changed my mental game around, my competing around. I want to be back on top. I want to make the World [Championships] team again. I want to be that guy that’s reliable.”

The Olympic team bronze medalists Gold and Brown erred on jumps and were second and eighth, respectively, in the women’s and men’s standings.

NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra will air the women’s free skate Saturday from 5-6 p.m. ET. The men’s free skate is later Saturday. NBCSN will air coverage Sunday from 10-11:30 p.m. ET.

Aaron scored a personal-best 86.67 points and leads by .14 of a point over China’s Han Yan in the Grand Prix series opener. It’s a step toward a comeback for the 23-year-old former hockey player.

Aaron set himself up to make his first Olympic team by winning the 2013 U.S. title but fell to third at the 2014 U.S. Championships, missing the two-man Sochi team, and fourth at last season’s U.S. Championships, missing the three-man World Championships team.

Now Aaron could notch the biggest international victory of his career and the first Grand Prix title for an American man since 2011. The last U.S. man to win Skate America was Evan Lysacek in 2009.

The pre-competition favorites all faltered in the men’s short program.

Shoma Uno, the World junior champion from Japan, and Denis Ten, the Olympic and World bronze medalist from Kazakhstan, both fell on quadruple toe loops and sit fourth and sixth, respectively.

Brown, the reigning U.S. champion who was fourth at Worlds, singled the second half of a jump combination and is in eighth place.

“I look at it as a learning experience,” Brown said in a U.S. Figure Skating video. “Now I’m going to take it with me.”

Gold doubled a planned triple flip and is 5.53 points behind reigning World junior champion Evgenia Medvedeva of Russia.

“I think maybe I just lost a little bit of my attack,” Gold told media. “Really been working on coming out of the gate strong. I do clean shorts in practice … just a slip-up.”

VIDEOS: Evgenia Medvedeva | Gracie Gold

World silver medalist Satoko Miyahara of Japan was third, followed by U.S. bronze medalist Karen Chen and Yulia Lipnitskaya, the Russian darling of the Sochi Olympic team event.

Gold, 20, and Chen, 16, are trying to become the first U.S. woman to win Skate America since Ashley Wagner in 2012.

The reigning Olympic and World champions on the men’s and women’s sides — Yuzuru HanyuJavier FernandezAdelina Sotnikova and Elizaveta Tuktamysheva — are not competing at Skate America.

MORE FIGURE SKATING: Full 2015-16 broadcast schedule

Chinese swimmer Sun Yang gets rare open hearing in doping case

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The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) said Monday it will hear the World Anti-Doping Agency’s case against three-time Olympic gold medalist Sun Yang on Nov. 15 in front of reporters — possibly even live-streamed — at the Fairmont Le Montreux Palace in Montreux, Switzerland.

The hearing won’t be completely open. Registration will be required, and photographers and videographers “will be invited to leave the hearing room after the opening,” CAS said in a statement. But those outside the room may still get a glimpse of the proceedings.

“With the agreement of all parties, it is intended to live stream all or parts of the hearing on the CAS website,” CAS said.

CAS noted that it has only held one prior hearing that wasn’t in a private setting — the 1999 case involving Irish swimmer Michelle Smith de Bruin, who won three gold medals in the 1996 Olympics but was banned for four years for tampering with a urine sample, a case that still prompts soul-searching in the Irish media. De Bruin lost the appeal.

Sun is accused of smashing a vial of blood at a drug test last fall. FINA allowed him to continue to compete, but the WADA has appealed, seeking a substantial suspension.

The Chinese swimmer won two gold medals at the world championships this summer and snubbed by some rivals at each medal ceremony, leading to a confrontation with British swimmer Duncan Scott.

RECAP AND VIDEO: Sun taunts Scott after medal ceremony

Sun has won 11 world individual titles in several freestyle distances but also has a long history of controversies ranging from a prior positive drug test and confrontations with other swimmers.

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U.S. women’s volleyball team ends year with surprise loss to Dominican Republic

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The Dominican Republic surprised the U.S. women’s volleyball team in the final of the NORCECA (North, Central America and Caribbean) women’s continental championship Sunday in San Juan, Puerto Rico, winning the first two sets and regrouping after a U.S. rally to win the fifth set.

The final score of the back-and-forth match: 25-19, 25-23, 15-25, 20-25, 15-9. The U.S. women had defeated the Dominican Republic in three previous finals: 2011, 2013 and 2015. The Dominican Republic won a semifinal matchup on its way to the 2009 title.

In group play, the U.S. team had beaten the Dominican Republic in straight sets. The U.S. also breezed past Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico in group play and swept past Canada in the semifinals.

The loss doesn’t affect Olympic qualification. The U.S. women had already qualified for the 2020 Olympics by winning a qualification tournament in August in Bossier City, La.

MORE: U.S. women rally to qualify

Semifinalists Canada and Puerto Rico qualified for a last-chance Olympic qualifier that the Dominican Republic will host in January. Mexico defeated Cuba in the NORCECA fifth-place game to be the last of the four teams vying for one spot.

The Dominican Republic has had some success in women’s volleyball, finishing fifth in the 2014 world championships and reaching the 2012 Olympic quarterfinals before falling to the U.S. The team also won this year’s Pan Am Games, to which the U.S. did not send its top players. Currently, the team is ranked 10th in the world.

Earlier this year, the U.S. women had defeated the Dominican Republic in two tournament finals — the Pan American Cup and the NORCECA Champions Cup. The U.S. also won a matchup in the World Cup last month, but the Dominican Republic won another five-set match in the Nations League preliminary round in Italy.

The U.S. finishes the year with a 44-7 record in tournament play, including a first-place finish in the Nations League and second place in the World Cup.

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