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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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Larry Nassar judge, Olympians back USOC oversight push in Congress

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DENVER (AP) — The judge who sentenced former sports doctor Larry Nassar to prison and a group of Olympians are backing an effort to create a commission to look into the operations of the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Michigan Judge Rosemarie Aquilina joined the athletes and Colorado’s U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette in Denver on Monday to announce the planned introduction of the bipartisan bill Tuesday in the House. It mirrors one introduced in January by Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner in the Senate, a standard practice in Congress. It would set up a panel of 16 people, half of them Olympians or Paralympians, with subpoena power.

Aquilina urged people to ask their congressional representatives to support the legislation and add their names as co-sponsors. Aquilina said she became involved because this wasn’t a partisan issue, but a “human thing. This is justice for everybody. Isn’t that what judges are supposed to be — about equal justice?”

“It’s troubling for me to hear that money and medals are valued more than the safety of athletes. We have to flip that script,” added Aquilina, who sentenced Nassar to what equates to life in prison. “How is it that the Olympics do not protect their athletes? That’s their company. That’s their bread and butter.”

The latest legislation to establish the commission comes six months after a congressional report in the wake of the Nassar sex-abuse case that recommended a review of the law that governs the USOC and how the USOC can use its authority to more actively protect athletes.

USOC spokesman Mark Jones said in a statement they will “continue to work constructively with both the House and the Senate to create healthy and safe environments for the American athletes we serve.”

Among the panel’s duties would be to evaluate how responsive the national governing bodies of each Olympic sports are to the athletes, and whether the U.S. Center for SafeSport has proper funding to effectively respond to any future reports of harassment and sexual assault. In addition, the panel would review the diversity of the USOC’s board members, its finances and whether it’s achieving its stated goals.

Gardner said he’s talked to former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice about serving on the panel. “That’s likely the kind of caliber that we need,” Gardner said.

Olympic champions Nancy Hogshead-Makar, BJ Bedford and Norm Bellingham, along with Paralympic gold medalist Sarah Will were among those in attendance.

“No amount of gold medals are worth putting the health and safety of our athletes at risk,” DeGette said. “When the very body that Congress created to care for our athletes becomes more concerned about winning and protecting a brand than the athletes themselves — it’s time for change.”

Rob Koehler said he believes this will be a big step forward for athletes. He’s the director general of a group called Global Athlete, which is designed to help athletes gain a more represented voice.

“It’s time to make sure there is independent oversight, that the government takes a brave leadership role, not only for the United States but as an example for other countries, that it’s no longer acceptable for sport to self-govern itself,” Koehler said. “It’s all about the athletes. We lose focus of that. This movement is about celebrating athletes’ victories, and the growth potential is there.”

MORE: ‘This is not Burger King’: Nassar request denied by Aquilina

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Luca Urlando breaks Michael Phelps butterfly record

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Luca Urlando, the grandson of an Italian Olympic hammer thrower, appears to be the U.S. successor to Michael Phelps in the 200m butterfly.

Urlando, 17, broke Phelps’ national 17-18 age group record in Phelps’ trademark event on Friday night, clocking 1:53.84 at a Tyr Pro Series meet in Clovis, Calif. Phelps’ mark (1:53.93) was set in 2003, when it doubled as the world record. Urlando previously broke high school age group records held by Phelps and Caeleb Dressel in 25-yard pools.

Urlando is now the third-fastest American in history in the 200m butterfly behind Phelps and Tyler Clary. He also ranks third in the world this year behind Hungarians Kristof Milak and Tamas Kenderesi.

But Urlando will not be at July’s world championships as that team was decided in 2018.

Last summer, Urlando was the highest-ranking U.S. swimmer not to make the Pan Pacific Championships team, though it was initially announced that he did make it.

Had Urlando made Pan Pacs and then swum .17 faster there than he did at nationals, he would have made the team for July’s world championships. Urlando went to Junior Pan Pacs instead last summer and did not swim faster than at nationals.

Should Urlando make the Tokyo Games, he is in line to be the youngest U.S. Olympic male swimmer since 2000, when a 15-year-old Phelps made his Olympic debut.

His grandfather, Giampaolo Urlando, threw the hammer for Italy at the 1976, 1980 and 1984 Olympics with a best finish of seventh. He originally was fourth at Los Angeles 1984 before being disqualified for testosterone.

Luca’s father, Alessandro Urlando, holds the University of Georgia school record in the discus. Luca, a rising Sacramento high school senior, is committed to Georgia.

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