Mao Asada, Javier Fernandez win Cup of China

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In 2005, a 15-year-old named Mao Asada made her Grand Prix series debut at Cup of China and finished second, ahead of countrywoman Shizuka Arakawa.

Arakawa would go on to win the Olympic title in Torino three months later. Asada was too young to be eligible for those Winter Games.

Asada, though, had started a career that has now become one of the most prolific in the sport’s history.

Now 25, she came back from a one-season break from competition to win Cup of China on Saturday — her 15th career Grand Prix series title (the most among active skaters, and she’s the only singles skater to win all of the current Grand Prix events) to go along with her three World titles and an Olympic silver medal.

World champion Javier Fernandez of Spain took the men’s title ahead of a Chinese teen who in his free skate attempted four quadruple jumps and two triple Axels in his senior Grand Prix debut (landing five of the six jumps, though not all clean).

NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra will have Cup of China coverage Sunday from 12-1:30 p.m. ET.

Asada led by 5.94 points after Friday’s short program but struggled to place third in the free skate, though it was still enough to edge countrywoman Rika Hongo by 1.72. Russian Yelena Radionova, the World bronze medalist, improved from sixth after the short to finish third.

Asada landed her trademark triple Axel for a second straight night but fell on the back half of a triple flip-triple loop combination among other jumping errors.

Her total score — 197.48 — would have placed third at Skate America two weeks ago (behind Russian Yevgenia Medvedeva and American Gracie Gold) and second at Skate Canada (behind Ashley Wagner).

“I didn’t feel satisfied with the long program today, but I will make myself to the Grand Prix Final,” said Asada, who is in strong shape to qualify for the six-skater Grand Prix Final in December, should she make the podium at NHK Trophy in Japan in three weeks. “We have something to improve in the future.”

On the men’s side, Fernandez landed two quads and fell on a third in his free skate but still had the highest score, as he did in the short program. Fernandez totaled 270.55 points, beating China’s Jin Boyang by 9.22.

Watch Fernandez’s free skate here.

“It’s a hard day a little bit,” Fernandez said. “I fought it through from beginning to end. … It’s still early in the season. There are a lot of things to improve.”

Jin, the 18-year-old World junior silver medalist in his Grand Prix debut, laid out an ambitious free skate after a technically strong short program Friday.

On Saturday, he landed a quadruple Lutz, toe quadruple toe loops (one in combination, stepping out of the landing of one), fell on a quadruple Salchow and landed two triple Axels. On Friday, he landed two quads, including one in combination (the highest-scoring element of all time, according to Icenetwork).

The Grand Prix season continues next weekend with the fourth of six events before the Grand Prix Final, Trophée Bompard in Bordeaux, France. It will feature World champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, U.S. Olympian Gracie Gold and three-time World champion Patrick Chan.

MORE: Why Mao Asada returned to figure skating

WOMEN
1. Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS) — 206.01 (Skate America)
2. Gracie Gold (USA) — 202.80 (Skate America)
3. Ashley Wagner (USA) — 202.52 (Skate Canada)
4. Mao Asada (JPN) — 197.48 (Cup of China)
5. Rika Hongo (JPN) — 195.76 (Cup of China)
6. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS) — 188.99 (Skate Canada)
7. Satoko Miyahara (JPN) — 188.07 (Skate America)

MEN
1. Patrick Chan (CAN) — 271.14 (Skate Canada)
2. Javier Fernandez (ESP) — 270.55 (Cup of China)
3. Jin Boyang (CHN) — 261.23 (Cup of China)
4. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 259.54 (Skate Canada)
5. Max Aaron (USA) — 258.95 (Skate America)
6. Shoma Uno (JPN) — 257.43 (Skate America)
7. Daisuke Murakami (JPN) — 252.25 (Skate Canada)

Diana Taurasi says 2024 Paris Olympics ‘on my radar’

Diana Taurasi
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Diana Taurasi said immediately after winning her fifth Olympic gold medal in Tokyo that she might try for a record sixth in Paris.

It’s still on her mind 17 months out of the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“It’s something that it’s on my radar,” Taurasi told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday after the first day of a USA Basketball training camp in Minnesota, her first national team activity since Tokyo. “I’m still competitive, still driven, still want to play, I still love being a part of USA Basketball.”

Taurasi will be 42 at the time of the Paris Games — older than any previous Olympic basketball player — but said if she’s healthy enough she’d like to give it a go.

“If the opportunity comes to play and be a part of it, it’s something I’ve always taken a lot of pride in,” said Taurasi, who shares the record of five Olympic basketball gold medals with the retired Sue Bird. “When you get to my age at this point in my career, you just try to win every day. Right now this is a good opportunity to be part of this team moving forward we’ll see what happens.”

She said she would have played at the FIBA World Cup last year in Australia, but had a quad strain that kept her out of the end of the WNBA season.

“I got hurt a little bit before. I had a good conversation with Coach (Cheryl) Reeve and (USA Basketball CEO Jim) Tooley. I felt like I hadn’t played enough basketball to be out there and help,” Taurasi said. “That’s the biggest thing with USA Basketball is being able to help the team win.”

Reeve said Monday that when she succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach a few months after Tokyo, she wasn’t sure whether Taurasi would play for the national team again. That was before her conversation with Taurasi.

“I look forward to having a chance to have her be around and be, as I told her, a great voice,” Reeve said. “Obviously, the competitive fire that she competes with is something that we all do well with.”

In Tokyo, Taurasi started all six games and averaged 18.8 minutes per game, sixth-most on the team (fewer than backup guard Chelsea Gray). Her 5.8 points per game were her fewest in her Olympic career, though she was dealing with a hip injury.

Taurasi is an unrestricted free agent although she is expected to return back to Phoenix where she’s spent her entire career since getting drafted No. 1 overall in 2003.

“Phoenix still has things they need to work out,” the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer said.

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Alexis Pinturault wins world championships combined; American in fourth

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France’s Alexis Pinturault won the world Alpine skiing championships combined at his home venue after defending world champion Marco Schwarz blew a lead in the final seconds of his slalom run.

Pinturault, a 31-year-old who hadn’t won a race in nearly two years (the longest drought of his distinguished career), prevailed by one tenth of a second over the Austrian Schwarz in Courchevel, France.

“I hope to enjoy it because it was pretty difficult some months ago,” Pinturault said.

Austrian Raphael Haaser took bronze in an event that combined times from a morning super-G run and an afternoon slalom run, one day after his older sister took bronze in the women’s combined.

River Radamus was fourth, a quarter of a second from becoming the first U.S. man to win an Alpine worlds medal since 2015. Radamus’ best event is the giant slalom, which is scheduled for Feb. 17 at worlds.

“It’s nice, but honestly, you don’t come to world championships hoping to get fourth,” Radamus said.

Five skiers finished within 2.98 seconds of the winner in an event that has been dropped from the annual World Cup schedule and is under review to remain on the Olympic program.

ALPINE WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Pinturault had the fastest super-G run by six hundredths over Schwarz. Schwarz, a slightly better slalom skier than Pinturault, erased that deficit early in the slalom and had a three tenths lead at the last intermediate split.

He gave it all away about six gates from the finish, slamming on the brakes. Moments later, he crossed the finish line one tenth behind Pinturault, who reacted by pumping his fists in the air.

The Frenchman earned his first race victory since the March 2021 World Cup Finals giant slalom, where he clinched his first World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing. Last season, Pinturault went winless on the World Cup for the first time since he was a teenage rookie in 2011, plus went medal-less at the Olympics.

Pinturault, who grew up in Courchevel and now co-owns the family’s five-star Hotel Annapurna there, had retirement cross his mind in the offseason, according to Eurosport. He skipped a pre-worlds Sunday press conference due to illness.

Nonetheless, Pinturault was on the front page of French newspapers this week, including L’Equipe on Tuesday. In a sports cover story for Le Figaro, Pinturault said that, given the circumstances, it would be almost a “nice surprise” to go for a medal at these worlds.

Olympic champion Johannes Strolz of Austria skied out of the slalom after tying for 29th in the super-G.

Olympic silver and bronze medalists Aleksander Aamodt Kilde of Norway and Jack Crawford of Canada were among the speed specialists who did not start the slalom. They essentially used the event as a training run for Thursday’s super-G.

Worlds continue Wednesday with the women’s super-G, where Mikaela Shiffrin is a medal contender but not the favorite. She can tie the modern-era records for individual world championships gold medals (seven) and total medals (12).

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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