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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April Ross, Alix Klineman back atop Olympic beach volleyball qualifying

April Ross, Alix Klineman
FIVB World Tour
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Two-time Olympic medalist April Ross and new partner Alix Klineman moved back on top of the U.S. Olympic beach volleyball qualifying standings by winning an event in Itapema, Brazil this week.

Ross, who split from Kerri Walsh Jennings in 2017, and Klineman beat Canadians Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes 25-23, 18-21, 15-10 in Sunday’s final for their third title in 11 FIVB World Tour tournaments together.

“Every victory is important, but this counts for more,” Klineman said, according to the FIVB. “We want to send a message and we want to be consistently the best.

Ross and Klineman supplanted Walsh Jennings and her new partner, Brooke Sweat, for the lead in the early U.S. Olympic qualifying rankings with still more than a year of events ahead.

1. Ross/Klineman – 3,240 (5 events played)
2. Walsh Jennings/Sweat – 3,100 (7 events)
3. Day/Flint – 2,180 (5 events)
4. Hughes/Ross — 2,000 (4 events)
5. Larsen/Stockman — 1,840 (5 events)
6. Sponcil/Claes — 1,600 (3 events)

Each team’s 12 best results from Sept. 1, 2018, to June 14, 2020, go into the Olympic qualifying rankings. That means Ross and Klineman are comfortably in front, having played two fewer events than Walsh Jennings and Sweat, who lost in the quarterfinals in Itapema.

The top two U.S. pairs come June 15, 2020, provided they’re ranked high enough internationally, will qualify for Tokyo. Most of the qualifying events, including the ones with the most points available, are still to come this summer.

Ross, 36, picked up Klineman, 29, after Walsh Jennings didn’t join her in signing a domestic AVP contract in 2017. The 6-foot-5 Klineman primarily played indoor the previous decade, including at Stanford from 2007-10 after being the Gatorade National Player of the Year coming out of high school.

MORE: Brazil volleyball star faints during courtside interview

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Katie Ledecky extends 5-year win streak

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Katie Ledecky extended a five-year domestic win streak by taking the 200m freestyle at the Tyr Pro Swim Series at Bloomington on Saturday.

In her last full meet before July’s world championships, Ledecky clocked 1:55.80 to beat training partner Simone Manuel by 1.44 seconds for her second win in as many days. Ledecky is also entered in Sunday’s 800m free on the last day of the meet.

Ledecky, who also cruised to a 400m free victory on Friday, ranks third in the world in the 200m free this year, behind Australian Ariarne Titmus and Swede Sarah Sjöström (the Olympic silver medalist who is not expected to race the 200m free at worlds).

Ledecky, a five-time Olympic champion, hasn’t lost a 200m, 400m, 800m or 1500m free final at a domestic meet since Allison Schmitt beat her in a 200m free on Jan. 18, 2014 when Ledecky was 16 years old.

BLOOMINGTON: Full Results

But Ledecky lost the two biggest 200m frees of this Olympic cycle so far, at the 2017 World Championships and the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships. Italian veteran Federica Pellegrini handed Ledecky her first individual final defeat at a major international meet at 2017 Worlds.

Ledecky dropped to third in the 200m free at Pan Pacs in Tokyo last year, beaten by younger swimmers Taylor Ruck of Canada and Rikako Ikee of Japan.

Ruck, who like Ledecky trains at Stanford, is in Bloomington, but she chose not to swim the 200m free on Saturday. She instead swam the 200m backstroke about 45 minutes after the 200m free and was upset by 17-year-old Regan Smith. Smith won in 2:06.47, moving to No. 3 in the world this year.

In other events Saturday, Ella Eastin captured the 400m individual medley in 4:37.18, taking 1.25 seconds off her personal best and moving to fifth in the world this year. Eastin is not on the world championships team after an untimely bout with mono before qualifying meets last summer.

Blake Pieroni won the men’s 200m free in 1:47.25. No American ranks in the top 20 in the world this year. World silver medalist Townley Haas did not enter Bloomington.

MORE: Olympic breaststroke champion faces ban for missed drug tests

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