Surprise leaders after U.S. Championships pairs short program

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Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea topped the U.S. Figure Skating Championships pairs short program on Thursday, looking to dethrone the defending champions.

Kayne and O’Shea, the reigning U.S. bronze medalists, tallied 69.61 points to lead in St. Paul, Minn. They landed side-by-side triple Salchows.

Defending champions Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim, who skated to Metallica, scored 67.35 points and trail after Knierim fell on their side-by-side triple Salchows. Scimeca and Knierim’s score is 6.66 points fewer than their 2015 Nationals short program total.

Sochi Olympic team event bronze medalist Marissa Castelli and her new partner, Mervin Tran, are in third place going into Saturday’s free skate (3 p.m. ET, NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra).

This competition is missing 2015 U.S. silver medalists Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier, due to Denney’s spring knee surgery.

Both 2014 U.S. Olympic pairs teams are no longer together.

The U.S. pairs champions will earn a berth into the World Championships in Boston in two months. A U.S. Figure Skating committee will choose a second pair to join them, likely the U.S. silver medalists.

Scimeca and Knierim finished seventh at the 2015 World Championships, the best placement by a U.S. pair at Worlds or the Olympics since 2011. This season, they qualified for December’s Grand Prix Final, the first American pair to do so since 2007, and finished in seventh and last place.

The U.S. Championships continue with the women’s short program at 9 p.m. ET, streamed on Icenetwork.com for subscribers.

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Valencia Marathon produces historic times in men’s, women’s races

2022 Valencia Marathon
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Kenyan Kelvin Kiptum and Ethiopian Amane Beriso won the Valencia Marathon and became the third-fastest man and woman in history, respectively.

Kiptum, a 23-year-old in his marathon debut, won the men’s race in 2 hours, 1 minute, 53 seconds. The only men to ever run faster over 26.2 miles are legends: Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge (2:01:09 world record, plus a 2:01:39) and Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele (2:01:41).

Kipchoge made his marathon debut at age 28, and Bekele at 31.

Beriso, a 31-year-old whose personal best was 2:20:48 from January 2016, stunned the women’s field Sunday by running 2:14:58. The only women to have run faster: Kenyans Brigid Kosgei (2:14:04) and Ruth Chepngetich (2:14:18).

Ethiopian Letesenbet Gidey finished second in 2:16:49, the fastest-ever time for a woman in her marathon debut. Gidey is the world record holder at 5000m and 10,000m.

Valencia is arguably the top annual marathon outside of the six World Marathon Majors. The next major marathon is Tokyo on March 5.

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Aleksander Aamodt Kilde wins Beaver Creek downhill

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BEAVER CREEK, Colo. — Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde won his second straight World Cup downhill race to start the season, despite feeling under the weather.

Although dealing with an illness all week in training, Kilde powered through the challenging Birds of Prey course Saturday in a time of 1 minute, 42.09 seconds. It was enough to hold off Marco Odermatt of Switzerland by 0.06 seconds. James Crawford of Canada was third to earn his second career World Cup podium finish.

Kilde also won the opening downhill last weekend in Lake Louise, Alberta.

“It’s been a tough week,” Kilde said after the race. “I caught the flu in Lake Louise after a very, very nice weekend. It really hit me hard. Then I got a couple of days to rest and take it easy. … I felt OK. Still feeling it a little bit in my system.”

The Beaver Creek crew members had the course in solid shape a day after a downhill race was canceled due to high wind and snowfall.

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Kilde reached speeds around 75 mph in picking up his eighth World Cup downhill victory. That tied him with Kjetil Jansrud for the third-most downhill wins in the World Cup discipline among Norwegian men. The total trails only Aksel Lund Svindal (14) and Lasse Kjus (10).

“I found a really, really good set-up with my equipment and also with my skiing,” Kilde explained. “I believe in myself. I trust in myself. I have a good game plan. When I stand on the start, I don’t dwell on anything. I know that this plan is what I do and when I do that it’s going to be fast.”

Odermatt has been on the podium in all four World Cup races this season as he tries to defend his overall World Cup title. The 25-year-old finished third in the opening downhill of the season last weekend. He’s also won a giant slalom race and a super-G.

Ryan Cochran-Siegle wound up in seventh place for the top American finish. He was ninth in the downhill in Lake Louise.

“It’s been solid,” Cochran-Siegle said of his strides in the discipline. “A couple of little things here and there that pushed me off that top three. You have to ski with a lot of intensity and ski without abandon, in a sense. Today was a good step.”

Switzerland’s Beat Feuz, who won the Olympic downhill gold medal at the Beijing Games last February, tied for ninth.

The Beaver Creek stop on the circuit comes to a close Sunday with a super-G race. Odermatt will be the favorite after holding off Kilde in the opening super-G last weekend.

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