Gracie Gold

Gracie Gold medal-less going into Grand Prix Final

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Gracie Gold goes into next week’s Grand Prix Final, the most prestigious annual figure skating competition outside of the World Championships, as the top qualifier but with zero Grand Prix series medals this season.

“I did really well at both of my Grand Prix [events], but I don’t technically have a medal from either,” she said Wednesday. “One being my own fault.”

Gold, who finished fourth at the 2014 Olympics and the 2015 Worlds, finished second at Skate America in October. A woman stepped on her glass silver medal while Gold posed for a photo with fans later that evening, she said.

“I glued it all together, kind of,” said Gold, who is hoping for a replacement medal.

On Nov. 13, Gold skated a personal-best short program and led by 7.69 points at Trophée Bompard in Bordeaux, France.

Later that night, terrorist attacks rocked Paris, which is 350 miles northeast of Bordeaux. Gold said she was woken by a phone call from her father back in the U.S. and turned on CNN, learning of the attacks.

“It was unsettling, for sure,” she said. “It was shocking for all of us. Bordeaux is several hours away, but I don’t think it mattered where you were in the world. I think we all kind of felt the horror of that night.”

Gold went to morning practice a few hours later, still prepared to perform in the free skate later that day. Soon after her morning practice, the International Skating Union announced the free skates were canceled. Gold agreed with the decision.

“It just seemed so silly to be worried or sad that we couldn’t do a free program or finish a Grand Prix in light of the terrorist attacks,” she said.

The move made qualifying for the Grand Prix Final unclear. The competition takes the top six skaters per discipline from the Grand Prix season, adding each skater’s two finishes.

But Gold had only one official finish — that runner-up at Skate America.

The ISU took nine days after the Bompard cancellation to announce that the Bompard short program results would count as final results for Grand Prix Final qualifying — and that Gold was definitely into the Grand Prix Final.

“I definitely didn’t want to be making that decision because, whichever way it went, you’re never going to get that Grand Prix back,” Gold said. “It’s easy for me to say that I am glad that they just took the short program results, because I had a great short program.”

Gold said she flew from France to the U.S. the day after the Bompard cancellation, with a “quite magical” overnight in Rome in between.

She will compete in the Grand Prix Final in Barcelona for the first time, after withdrawing before the event last year due to injury. She’s the top qualifier into the competition, with first- and second-place Grand Prix series finishes and a tiebreaker over Russian Yevgenia Medvedeva.

Six times, Gold has finished between fourth and sixth in individual standings at the Olympics, Worlds and Four Continents Championships. A Grand Prix Final medal could be a breakthrough.

As for eventually receiving a Bompard medal for her short program?

“I don’t know if we’ll get one,” she said. “Your guess is as good as mine.”

MORE: Ashley Wagner eyes U.S. history at Grand Prix Final

Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal rekindle record bids at French Open

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Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal will play on the same day at the French Open through the quarterfinals, assuming each advances that far and the weather doesn’t wreak havoc. Each time they walk on the crushed red clay, the legends move closer to tying all-time records.

Williams, in her 10th bid since returning from childbirth to tie Margaret Court‘s 24 Grand Slam singles titles, battled and then rolled past 102nd-ranked countrywoman Kristie Ahn 7-6 (2), 6-0.

“I just need to play with more confidence, like I’m Serena,” she said of the difference between a 74-minute first set and a 27-minute second set. “I love the clay, and I started playing like it, opening the court and moving and sliding.”

Nadal, in his second major since moving within one of Roger Federer‘s male record 20 Slam titles, swept 83rd-ranked Belarusian Egor Gerasimov 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.

“Six months without playing a single tennis match is not easy,” said Nadal, who skipped the U.S. Open and then lost his third match at his comeback tournament in Rome. “I had to stop playing tennis for more than two months, so situation is difficult.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Their pursuits are very different.

Williams is already the greatest player in history by many measures, especially considering most of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and some at the Australian Open without the world’s best players.

Williams has lost all four of her major finals since her life-threatening childbirth. But she is not the favorite in Paris, despite the absence of 2019 champion Ash Barty of Australia and recent U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka. Williams hasn’t made the quarterfinals at Roland Garros in four years and just went 16 months between competitive matches on clay.

She’s also battling an Achilles injury that affected her during a U.S. Open semifinal run three weeks ago. She’s spent most of her preparation time in France rehabbing.

“A ton of prayer,” she said, noting coming early to a post-match press conference to maximize her subsequent time handling the Achilles. “I’m doing so much for it.”

None of Williams’ potential first three opponents have ever beaten her. Next up: Bulgarian and fellow mom Tsvetana Pironkova, a rematch of their three-set U.S. Open quarterfinal three weeks ago.

Like Williams, Nadal next plays on Wednesday. He gets Mackenzie McDonald, one of six American men to so far reach round two, the most since 1998.

For more than a decade, followers have debated the greatest male player in history between Nadal and Federer (and now Novak Djokovic). But not until winning the 2019 U.S. Open did Nadal move within one Slam of Federer’s total.

Now, Nadal can tie Federer and pass the Swiss if he wins the next two French Opens (and Federer doesn’t win the next Australian Open).

Nadal is going for his 13th crown in Paris, as usual downplaying his favorite status. This time, he’s noting the cool, slow, autumnal conditions and a new brand of tennis ball that is disadvantageous.

“Conditions here probably are the most difficult conditions for me ever in Roland Garros,” Nadal said last week. “The conditions are a little bit extreme to play an outdoor tournament.”

Federer is not playing after two knee operations. Nadal, who at 34 is five years younger than Federer, has the opportunity in the coming matches and months to tip the scales in his favor. And help deny Djokovic, who is 33 with 17 Slams.

Nadal is not one to engage in that GOAT debate. Turns out, neither is Williams.

“You can’t compare two people that are equally great,” she said of Nadal and Federer. “I don’t understand why people want to pit who’s this, who’s that? They both have spectacular careers that 99 percent of people can only dream of and they both deserve.”

Earlier Monday, newly crowned U.S. Open champion Dominic Thiem rolled 2014 U.S. Open winner Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.

Thiem, the 2018 and 2019 French Open runner-up, next gets American Jack Sock, a former top-10 player now ranked No. 310.

Sock took out countryman Reilly Opelka 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 for his first main draw win at the French Open in four years.

MORE: Halep, Comaneci and the genesis of a Romanian friendship

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World silver medalist opts out of figure skating Grand Prix

Elizabet Tursynbaeva
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Elizabet Tursynbayeva, the 2019 World silver medalist, said she will not compete in figure skating’s upcoming Grand Prix Series, according to Kazakhstan’s Olympic Committee.

Tursynbayeva noted in stating her decision that world ranking points will not be awarded in the series, which starts with Skate America from Oct. 23-25.

Fields for the six Grand Prix events, held on consecutive weekends through November, have not been released.

Skaters will be restricted to one Grand Prix start — halved from the usual two — and to the event in their home nations or closest to their training locations.

Tursynbayeva trains in Russia, one of six nations to host Grand Prix events.

Previously, Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu announced he would not compete on the Grand Prix due to coronavirus pandemic-related travel risks.

Russian Olympic gold medalist Alina Zagitova, who announced an indefinite break from competition last December, is also not expected to compete. She is hosting a Russian skating-themed TV show but has not announced her future competition plans.

Tursynbayeva took silver behind Zagitova at the most recent world championships in 2019, a surprise given her 12th-place finish at the PyeongChang Olympics. Tursynbayeva withdrew before her 2019 Grand Prix events, reportedly after suffering an injury.

Last season’s top skaters were all first-year seniors — Russians Alena Kostornaya, Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova. The world championships were not held due to the pandemic.

Two-time U.S. champion Alysa Liu will not be old enough for the Grand Prix until the 2021-22 Olympic season.

MORE: Orser reacts to Medvedeva’s coaching switch

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