Patrick Chan outduels Yuzuru Hanyu at Skate Canada in comeback

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Patrick Chan kneeled, covered his face and took in the noise of the Alberta crowd and the wave of Canadian flags. He said he felt like the Chan of old.

The three-time World champion came all the way back after a one year-break, beating the man who kept him from Olympic gold and overtaking the short program leader to win Skate Canada on Saturday night.

“It’s been a battle,” Chan said in the kiss-and-cry area shortly before his score was announced — 271.14 total points, which would have won silver at last season’s World Championships.

Chan, who last skated at the top international level earning two silver medals at the Sochi Olympics, bettered Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu by 11.6 points for his fifth Skate Canada title and 12th overall in the Grand Prix series.

Short program leader Daisuke Murakami finished third, followed by U.S. silver medalist Adam Rippon and Canadian champion Nam Nguyen.

NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra will air Skate Canada coverage Sunday from 4:30-6 p.m. ET.

“A big relief,” Chan told CBC. “It was a challenging day, but I’m really pleased with the results. I didn’t think it would turn out this way. I had no expectations, results-wise.”

Chan said he covered his face after a clean, 4-minute, 30-second free skate because he couldn’t believe what had happened given how he felt just before taking the ice.

“I really was lost and didn’t know where to start and was really scared to go out and skate,” he said in a press conference. “Talked it through [with coach Kathy Johnson], stepped on the ice and really skated with no thought of who’s around and who’s watching, just really skating because it feels good.

“As vulnerable as it was and uncomfortable and kind of embarrassing, you’ve got to have those moments to take that next step sometimes,” he told CBC.

Chan was in second place behind Japan’s Daisuke Murakami after Friday’s short program, when he fell on a triple Axel and doubled a planned triple Lutz.

“Maybe in the short program I was thinking too much about, I want to show people that I’m back,” Chan said.

He cleaned up in the free skate, opening with a quadruple toe loop-triple toe loop combination and then nailing the triple Axel.

Hanyu, who was sixth in the short program due to receiving zero points on two of his three jumping passes, improved to pass everybody but Chan on Saturday. Hanyu landed three quadruple jumps and then fell on a triple Lutz.

“I felt more about skating my best and just showing what I’ve been doing at the practice rather than try and skate clean,” Hanyu said through a translator in a press conference.

The Grand Prix series continues with the Cup of China next week. Chan will next compete in Trophee Bompard in France the following week. Hanyu’s next competition is NHK Trophy in Japan in four weeks.

MORE FIGURE SKATING: Full season broadcast schedule

WATCH LIVE: U.S. Figure Skating Championships rhythm dance, women’s free skate

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Can Bradie Tennell hold off 14-year-old Alysa Liu? The U.S. Figure Skating Championships crowns its female medalists on Friday, live on NBC Sports.

Action starts with the rhythm dance at 4:30 p.m. ET for NBC Sports Gold subscribers, with NBCSN broadcast coverage joining in at 5. The women start at 7:25 on Gold, with NBC TV coverage starting at 8.

LIVE STREAM: Rhythm dance — Gold | NBCSN | Skate Order
LIVE STREAM: Women’s free skate — Gold | NBC | Skate Order

Tennell topped Thursday’s short program with a clean slate of jumps, plus the highest artistic score.

She bettered Liu in the short program last year, too, but fell in the free skate to take silver. Liu, meanwhile, landed two triple Axels to win by 3.92 points and become the youngest U.S. champion in history.

Another skater to watch is Gracie Gold, the two-time U.S. champion competing at nationals for the first time in three years. Gold, lauded for her return from an eating disorder, depression and anxiety, struggled with jumps in the short and is in 13th place of 18 skaters.

In the rhythm dance, past U.S. champions Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue and Madison Chock and Evan Bates are expected to begin a duel that should come down to Saturday’s free dance.

Key Skate Times
5:32 p.m. — Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue
5:38 — Kaitlin Hawayek/Jean-Luc Baker
5:44 — Madison Chock/Evan Bates
8:07 — Gracie Gold
10:03 — Karen Chen
10:11 — Amber Glenn
10:27 — Bradie Tennell
10:35 — Mariah Bell
10:43 — Alysa Liu

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NATIONALS: TV Schedule | Full Results

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating 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.

Iran’s only female Olympic medalist, who defected, eyes Tokyo Games as German or refugee

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LÜNEN, Germany (AP) — Iran’s only female Olympic medalist said Friday she wants to compete for Germany after defecting from her native country.

Kimia Alizadeh is trying to rebuild her life and career after she announced this month she had left Iran, citing sexism on the part of officials there.

“Even if I do not make it to the Olympics, it does not matter because I have made up my mind,” Alizadeh said at a meeting with journalists at a taekwondo club.

“I am sure that I will be judged by many, but I am just 21 years old and can attend world tournaments and future Olympics. However, I will spare no effort to get the best result at this time as well.”

She added she doesn’t expect ever to compete in Iran again.

Alizadeh was just 18 when she won bronze in taekwondo at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, catapulting her to instant fame at home. Despite Iran’s long history of victories in men’s wrestling and weightlifting, no Iranian woman had ever won a medal before.

However, Alizadeh was frustrated with life in Iran despite her Olympic success. In an Instagram post this month announcing she had left Iran, she accused Iranian officials of sexism and criticized wearing the mandatory hijab headscarf.

Alizadeh hasn’t given up hope of being able to compete at this year’s Olympics in Tokyo. However, getting there would require highly unusual exemptions from the usual rules on nationality switches and qualification, regardless of whether she tries to represent Germany or the International Olympic Committee’s refugee team.

Alizadeh spent time in the Netherlands before heading to Germany this week to meet with taekwondo officials there. The German Taekwondo Union has spoken up in favor of Alizadeh staying in the country in what it calls a first step toward her gaining nationality and becoming eligible to compete for Germany.

“If the German government assists me and I can go through this process as fast as possible, I might be able to make it to the Olympics, too,” she said.

In recent years, many Iranian athletes have left their country, citing government pressure. In September, the former world judo champion Saeed Mollaei moved to Germany after walking off the Iranian team at the world championships in Japan. He said Iranian officials had tried to force him to withdraw so as not to compete against an Israeli opponent.

Alireza Faghani, an Iranian international soccer referee, also left Iran for Australia last year.

Alizadeh said she just wants “a peaceful life,” and she’s not looking back.

“I have a great feeling to have made a decision for my life that would definitely change my future,” she said. “I think it is not even clear enough now and. in the years to come, I will understand what a good decision I made.”

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MORE: Full list of U.S. athletes qualified for Tokyo Olympics