Gracie Gold, Ashley Wagner trail after Grand Prix Final short program

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U.S. champions Gracie Gold and Ashley Wagner are at the bottom of the standings, trailing Russian leader Yevgenia Medvedeva after the Grand Prix Final short program in Barcelona on Friday.

Medvedeva, the reigning World junior champion, cleanly landed all of her jumps and scored a personal-best 74.58 points going into Saturday’s free skate.

“I skated the maximum that I can do,” Medvedeva said through a translator at a press conference, adding, according to the International Skating Union, “I tried to perfect what I do and it has worked, I have started to skate better and more like an adult.”

Gold, the 2014 U.S. champion in her first Grand Prix Final, doubled a planned triple flip and two-footed another jump landing. She scored 66.52 points for fifth place of six skaters.

“It wasn’t what I wanted to do here,” Gold said, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “I still feel strong going into the long program knowing that my free skate is one of the best. This wasn’t my goal.”

Wagner, a three-time U.S. champion seeking her fourth straight Grand Prix Final podium, fell on the second jump of a triple-triple combination. She tallied 60.04 points and is in last place after the short program for a second straight Grand Prix Final.

“Today was sloppy,” Wagner said, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “The great thing about the Grand Prix Final is that it’s a bonus to be here, which means it’s a bonus to be able to compete.”

Last year, Wagner improved from sixth after the short program to earn bronze at the Grand Prix Final, the most prestigious annual figure skating competition outside of the World Championships.

“I would love to be able to do something very similar to what I pulled off last year,” Wagner said. “I’m up against a very difficult field, and tomorrow is another day. I’m also getting sick of saying that tomorrow is another day.”

Japan’s Mao Asada, seeking to become the first singles skater to win five Grand Prix Finals, was in great shape until her last jump. She singled a planned triple Lutz and is in third place with 69.13 points, behind Medvedeva and another Russian, Yelena Radionova.

“I made one major mistake today, and I regret that, but overall performance I don’t think it was too bad,” Asada said through a translator at a press conference.

Icenetwork.com will provide live coverage of Saturday’s free skates (ice dance at 11:25 a.m. ET, women at 1:45 p.m., men at 3 p.m.) for subscribers. NBC will air coverage Dec. 20 from 4-6 p.m. ET.

Earlier Friday, Russian Olympic pairs silver medalists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov recorded the second-highest pairs free skate score in the decade-old scoring system en route to gold.

They posted 154.60 points, .06 shy of the mark set by fellow Russians Tatyana Volozoshar and Maksim Trankov at 2013 Skate America.

Stolbova and Klimov, who also topped Thursday’s short program, finished 12.77 points ahead of Canadian World champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford. Russians Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov took bronze.

Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim, the first U.S. pair to make a Grand Prix Final since 2007, finished in last place (seventh overall) after they both fell in their free skate.

In the short dance, Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje scored 72.75 to lead by 1.11 over U.S. rivals Madison Chock and Evan Bates. They went one-two at last year’s Grand Prix Final.

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Eliud Kipchoge sets next marathon

Eliud Kipchoge
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Eliud Kipchoge will race the London Marathon on April 26 before he is expected to defend his Olympic title in Japan on Aug. 9, which would mark the shortest break between marathons of his career.

Kipchoge, who in his last 26.2-mile effort became the first person to break two hours at the distance, won all four of his London Marathon starts, including breaking the course record in 2016 and 2019.

His time this past April 28 — 2:02:37 — is the third-fastest time in history. Kipchoge has the world record of 2:01:39 set at the 2018 Berlin Marathon. His sub-two-hour marathon in Vienna on Oct. 12 was not in a record-eligible race.

Kipchoge’s previous shortest break between marathons came in 2016, when he also ran London and the Olympics. The Olympics will be two weeks earlier in 2020 than in 2016.

Kipchoge, 35, has won 11 of 12 marathons since moving to road racing after failing to make Kenya’s 2012 Olympic track team.

He has yet to race the two most prestigious marathons in the U.S. — Boston and New York City — but has said they are on his bucket list.

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Canadians become first female doubles luge team in World Cup

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WHISTLER, British Columbia (AP) — Caitlin Nash and Natalie Corless made luge history Saturday, becoming the first female team to compete in a World Cup doubles race.

The 16-year-olds from Whistler combined to finish 22nd in a field of 23 sleds, though that seemed largely irrelevant. There have been four-woman teams in what is typically called four-man bobsledding, but luge has never seen a pairing like this until now.

The German sled of Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken won the race in 1 minute, 16.644 seconds. Germany’s Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt finished second and the Russian team of Vsevolod Kashkin and Konstantin Korshunov placed third for their first medal of the season.

The U.S. team of Chris Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman placed 11th.

But the story was the Canadian teens, who qualified for the World Cup event on Thursday. They were nearly a half-second behind any other finisher and almost 2.7 seconds back of Eggert and Benecken. But they’ll forever be able to say that they were winning the race at one point — a technicality because they were the first ones down the hill at the Whistler Sliding Center, but accurate nonetheless.

The only sled they beat was the Italian team of Ivan Nagler and Fabian Malleier, who crashed in the second heat.

There are women’s singles and men’s singles races on the World Cup luge circuit, but there is no rule saying doubles teams must be composed of two men. There have been more female doubles racers at the junior level in recent years, and it was generally considered to be just a matter of time before it happened at the World Cup level.

That time became Saturday.

Canada had the chance to qualify a second sled into the doubles field because some teams typically on the circuit chose to skip this weekend’s stop, and Nash and Corless got into by successfully finishing a Nations Cup qualifying race on Thursday.

They were 11th in that race out of 11 sleds, more than a full second behind the winner and nearly a half-second behind the closest finisher. But all they had to do was cross the line without crashing to get into Saturday’s competition, and earned their spot in the luge history books as a result.

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