Yevgenia Medvedeva wins Grand Prix Final; U.S. women miss medals

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Russian Yevgenia Medvedeva ran away with the Grand Prix Final title, the biggest senior-level victory of the 16-year-old’s budding career, in Barcelona on Saturday.

Medvedeva, who also won Skate America in October, totaled a personal-best 222.54 points, shaking a stuffed animal when her score came up in the kiss-and-cry area.

“I didn’t really expect this result here, but I worked really hard for it,” Medvedeva said through a translator, according to The Associated Press. “I am very pleased with my first senior season.”

The reigning World junior champion beat Japan’s Satoko Miyahara by 13.69 points, the second-largest women’s margin at the Grand Prix Final under the decade-old scoring system. Russian Yelena Radionova earned bronze.

Americans Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold finished fourth and fifth in the six-skater field.

Three-time World champion Mao Asada of Japan was sixth, erring on jumps, including stepping out of the landing of her opening triple Axel.

NBC will air Grand Prix Final coverage Dec. 20 from 4-6 p.m. ET. The Grand Prix Final is the most prestigious annual competition outside of the World Championships.

Medvedeva, 16, landed seven triple jumps, including two triple-triple combinations, without any major errors.

She became the fifth-youngest women’s Grand Prix Final winner behind Tara Lipinski (twice), Asada and Michelle Kwan. Asada holds the margin of victory record from 2012.

Wagner beat her personal-best free skate by 7.98 points and improved from sixth after the short program. She just missed becoming the first U.S. woman to make four straight Grand Prix Final podiums.

“I can’t afford to have horrific skates and then have to try to make it up in the long program,” Wagner said, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “This sport isn’t about being a long program or a short program skater, it’s about being the whole package. That’s my mission.”

Gold, the top qualifier into her first Grand Prix Final, had a disastrous free skate with numerous jumping errors. The 2014 U.S. champion twice put her hands on the ice and singled a planned triple jump. She was also fifth after the short program.

Gold has seven times finished between fourth and sixth in individual standings at the Olympics, Worlds, Grand Prix Final and Four Continents Championships, earning zero individual medals at any of those competitions.

“We’ll have to reevaluate the jump content of my programs because I’ve only done one clean program this season,” Gold said, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “At this point, you should be skating clean programs. I’m pretty far behind in that regard, and my consistency is lacking.”

Wagner and Gold will go head-to-head at the U.S. Championships in St. Paul, Minn., in January.

Earlier Saturday, Canadian ice dancers Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje won their second straight Grand Prix Final, topping the free dance after they also had the best short dance Friday.

They totaled 182.66 points, beating U.S. Olympians Madison Chock and Evan Bates by 5.11.

Italitan 2014 World champions Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte took bronze.

The competition was missing the reigning Olympic gold and silver medalists Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White and Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, both sitting out their second straight season, and reigning World champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France due to Papadakis’ concussion.

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IOC gives more time to pick 2030 Olympic host, studies rotating Winter Games

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The 2030 Winter Olympic host, expected to be Salt Lake City or Sapporo, Japan, is no longer targeted to be decided before next fall, the IOC said in announcing wider discussions into the future of the Winter Games, including the possibility of rotating the Games within a pool of hosts.

The IOC Future Host Commission was granted more time to study factors, including climate change, that could impact which cities and regions host future Winter Olympics and Paralympics. The 2030 Winter Games host is not expected to be decided before or at an IOC session next September or October.

Hosts have traditionally been chosen by IOC members vote seven years before the Games, though recent reforms allow flexibility on the process and timeline. For example, the 2024 and 2028 Games were awarded to Paris and Los Angeles in a historic double award in 2017. The 2032 Summer Games were awarded to Brisbane last year without a traditional bid race.

There are three interested parties for the 2030 Winter Olympics, the IOC said Tuesday without naming them. Previously, Salt Lake City, Sapporo and Vancouver were confirmed as bids. Then in October, the British Columbia government said it would not support a Vancouver bid, a major setback, though organizers did not say that decision ended the bid. All three cities are attractive as past Winter Games hosts with existing venues.

U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee officials have said Salt Lake City is a likelier candidate for 2034 than 2030, but could step in for 2030 if asked.

The future host commission outlined proposals for future Winter Olympics, which included rotating hosts within a pool of cities or regions and a requirement that hosts have an average minimum temperature below freezing (32 degrees) for snow competition venues at the time of the Games over a 10-year period.

The IOC Executive Board gave the commission more time to study the proposals and other factors impacting winter sports.

The IOC board also discussed and will continue to explore a potential double awarding of the 2030 and 2034 Winter Olympic hosts.

Also Tuesday, the IOC board said that Afghanistan participation in the 2024 Olympics will depend on making progress in safe access to sports for women and young girls in the country.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch urged the IOC to suspend Afghanistan until women and girls can play sport in the country.

In a press release, the IOC board expressed “serious concern and strongly condemned the latest restrictions imposed by the Afghan authorities on women and young girls in Afghanistan, which prevent them from practicing sport in the country.” It urged Afghanistan authorities to “take immediate action at the highest level to reverse such restrictions and ensure safe access to sport for women and young girls.”

The IOC board also announced that North Korea’s National Olympic Committee will be reinstated when its suspension is up at the end of the year.

In September 2021, the IOC banned the North Korean NOC through the end of 2022, including banning a North Korean delegation from participating in the Beijing Winter Games, after it chose not to participate in the Tokyo Games.

North Korea, formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, was the only one of 206 National Olympic Committees to withdraw from Tokyo. The country made its choice in late March 2021, citing a desire “to protect our athletes from the global health crisis caused by the malicious virus infection.”

The IOC said in September 2021 that it “provided reassurances for the holding of safe Games and offered constructive proposals to find an appropriate and tailor-made solution until the very last minute (including the provision of vaccines), which were systematically rejected by the PRK NOC.”

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Olympic champion Justine Dufour-Lapointe leaves moguls for another skiing discipline

Justine Dufour-Lapointe
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Justine Dufour-Lapointe, the 2014 Olympic moguls champion, is leaving the event to compete in freeriding, a non-Olympic skiing discipline.

“After three Olympic cycles and 12 years on the World Cup circuit, I felt that I needed to find a new source of motivation and had to push my limits even more so I can reach my full potential as a skier,” the 28-year-old Montreal native said in a social media video, according to a translation from French. “Today, I am starting a new chapter in my career. … I want to perfect myself in another discipline. I want to connect with the mountain differently. Above all, I want to get out of my comfort zone in a way I’ve never done before.”

Dufour-Lapointe said she will compete on the Freeride World Tour, a series of judged competitions described as:

There‘s a start gate at the summit and a finish gate at the bottom. That’s it. Best run down wins. It truly is that simple. Think skiers and snowboarders choosing impossible-looking lines through cornices and cliff-faces and nasty couloirs. Think progressive: big jumps, mach-speed turns and full-on attack. Think entertaining.

Dufour-Lapointe has retired from moguls skiing, according to a Freeride World Tour press release, though she did not explicitly say that in social media posts Tuesday.

At the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, Dufour-Lapointe denied American Hannah Kearney‘s bid to become the first freestyle skier to repeat as Olympic champion. Older sister Chloé took silver in a Canadian one-two.

Dufour-Lapointe also won the world title in 2015, then Olympic silver in 2018 behind Frenchwoman Perrine Laffont.

Chloé announced her retirement in September. A third Dufour-Lapointe Olympic moguls skier, Maxime, retired in 2018.

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