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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Dan Hicks, Rowdy Gaines call backyard pool swim race

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Dan Hicks and Rowdy Gaines covered swimming together at the last six Olympics, including every one of Michael Phelps‘ finals, but they’ve never called a “race” quite like this.

“We heard you were looking for something to commentate during the down time….might this short short short course 100 IM help?” tweeted Cathleen Pruden, posting a video of younger sister Mary Pruden, a sophomore swimmer at Columbia University, taking individual medley strokes in what appeared to be an inflatable backyard pool.

“Hang on,” Gaines replied. “This race of the century deserves the right call. @DanHicksNBC and I are working some magic!”

Later, Hicks posted a revised video dubbed with commentary from he and Gaines.

They became the latest commentators to go beyond the booth to post calls on social media while sports are halted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

NBC Sports hockey voice Doc Emrick (who has also called Olympic hockey and water polo) did play-by-play of a windshield wiper installation.

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Which athletes are qualified for the U.S. Olympic team?

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Soon after Tokyo Olympic qualifying events began getting postponed, the International Olympic Committee announced that all quota places already allocated to National Olympic Committees and athletes will remain with those NOCs and athletes.

The IOC repeated that position over the last week, after the Tokyo Games were postponed (now to open July 23, 2021). What does that mean for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee?

Well, 76 athletes qualified for the U.S. Olympic team before the Olympic postponement was announced. That full list is here.

Those 76 athletes can be separated into two categories.

  • Athletes who earned Olympic spots BY NAME via International Federation (i.e. International Surfing Association or International Aquatics Federation) selection procedures.
  • Athletes named to the U.S. Olympic team by their national governing body (i.e. USA Swimming or USA Track and Field) and confirmed by the USOPC using NGB selection procedures after the NGB earned a quota spot.

When the IOC says “all quota places already allocated to National Olympic Committees and athletes will remain with those NOCs and athletes,” it means just that. USA Softball still has 15 athlete quota spots from qualifying a full team via international results. Surfer Kolohe Andino still has his Olympic spot from qualifying BY NAME via the International Surfing Association selection procedures route.

USA Softball named its 15-player Olympic roster last fall. Those 15 athletes did not earn Olympic quota spots for themselves. Unlike Andino (and 13 other American qualifiers across all sports), the 15 softball players had to be nominated by USA Softball and confirmed by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

Unless and until the USOPC confirms that any of those other 62 athletes remain qualified, for now the list of U.S. Olympic qualifiers is these 14 who qualified BY NAME:

Karate (1)
Sakura Kokumai

Modern Pentathlon (2)
Samantha Achterberg
Amro Elgeziry

Swimming (3)
Haley Anderson
Ashley Twichell
Jordan Wilimovsky

Sport Climbing (4)
Kyra Condie
Brooke Raboutou
Nathaniel Coleman
Colin Duffy

Surfing (4)
Caroline Marks
Carissa Moore
Kolohe Andino
John John Florence

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