Gracie Gold overtakes Polina Edmunds for second U.S. figure skating title

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Gracie Gold started her free skate needing a near-perfect performance to overcome her shaky short program.

She did just that with a sizzling rendition of “The Firebird” on Saturday night to win her second U.S. title.

“It was almost better going in that way knowing I couldn’t miss anything,” Gold said. “I needed every single point. Every ounce of firebird I had needed to be left out there.”

Gold had trailed Polina Edmunds by 7.69 points, but she landed seven triple jumps cleanly and earned high artistic marks to overtake the teenager.

“I know every single step and the whole rhythm of the program,” Gold said. “It’s like a necklace that is strung. … It’s so well-rehearsed that messing up feels out of character.”

Gold scored 147.96 points for a total of 210.46. The 17-year-old Edmunds had 137.32 points in her free skate for 207.51 total.

Three-time U.S. champion Ashley Wagner was cruising through her program with just one more jump to land when she did only one rotation of a planned triple lutz. In the end, those lost points didn’t matter — she would have finished third behind Gold and Edmunds even with them.

MORE: Visit NBC Sports’ U.S. Championships All-Access page

It was also a singled triple lutz that left Gold describing herself as “flummoxed” after her short program. But skating last Saturday, she fearlessly attacked each jump. When the final note had played, she threw her arms out and head back in triumph.

Edmunds, a 2014 Olympian seeking her first U.S. title, handled the pressure with poise but under-rotated one jump.

“I really think I showed a good champion mentality,” she said.

Tyler Pierce, another 17-year-old who was third after the short program, fell on her triple flip, lost points on a step sequence and earned low artistic scores to drop to fifth. Mirai Nagasu, a 2010 Olympian, was fourth.

Earlier, new champions were crowned in ice dance and pairs, with siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani and Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea each winning their first national title.

The Shibutanis overtook defending champs Madison Chock and Evan Bates with a rousing free dance. They trailed by .47 points after the short dance but earned a standing ovation for their program Saturday to “Fix You” by Coldplay, receiving 115.47 points for 190.14 total.

Kayne and O’Shea took the ice last in pairs, just needing to skate cleanly. Cautious but calm, they did what their rivals couldn’t and clinched a lopsided win with a record score.

They earned 142.04 points for the long program for 211.65 total, the highest mark ever at Nationals, beating defending champs Alexa Scimeca and Christopher Knierim.

MORE: Patrick Chan considered retiring after Grand Prix Final

 

Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis eyeing Grand Slam record

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Serena Williams travels with “like 50 masks” and has been a little bit of a recluse since early March and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t have full lung capacity, so I’m not sure what would happen to me,” Williams said Saturday, two days before the start of the WTA’s Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky., her first tournament since playing Fed Cup in early February. “I’m sure I’ll be OK, but I don’t want to find out.”

Williams, 38, has a history of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms. She faced life-threatening complications following her Sept. 1, 2017, childbirth that confined her to a bed for six weeks. She said her daily routine was surgery and that she lost count after the first four.

More recently, Williams enjoyed “every part” of the last six months at home in Florida, her longest time grounded since her teens.

“I’ve been a little neurotic, to an extent,” on health and safety, she said. “Everyone in the Serena bubble is really protected.”

Williams is entered to play next week in Lexington and at consecutive tournaments in New York City later this month — the Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open, the latter starting Aug. 31.

Williams is the highest-ranked player in the Lexington field at No. 9. Others include 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, older sister Venus Williams and 16-year-old Coco Gauff.

She has been bidding ever since having daughter Olympia to tie Margaret Court‘s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, albeit many of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and, notably at the Australian Open, against small fields lacking the world’s best players. Williams reached the last two Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals, losing all of them.

She showed her seriousness in committing early to this year’s U.S. Open by installing a court at home with the same surface. Three of the top 10 female singles players already said they will skip the U.S. Open due to travel and/or virus concerns, including No. 1 Ash Barty.

“Tennis is naturally a socially distanced sport, so it was kind of easy to go back and just walk on my side of the court and have my hitter walk on his side of the court,” Williams said.

The French Open starts two weeks after the U.S. Open ends. Williams was asked if she will fly to Europe for tournaments this autumn.

“I see myself doing it all, if it happens,” she said.

The Tokyo Olympics are too far away to make plans.

“We’ll have to kind of wait to see what happens in the fall,” she said. “One thing I have learned with this pandemic is don’t plan.”

MORE: Past U.S. Open champions get wild cards

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Conseslus Kipruto tests positive for coronavirus, canceling world-record bid

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Conseslus Kipruto, the Olympic and world 3000m steeplechase champion, tested positive for the coronavirus without symptoms, which will keep him from a world-record chase on Friday, according to his social media.

The Kenyan was to race in the first in-person Diamond League meet of the year in Monaco on Friday.

“Our World is going through a challenging period and we all have to take our responsibilities,” was posted. “Unfortunately my covid-19 test, as part of the Monaco-protocol, came back positive and therefore I can’t be part of the Monaco Diamond League.

“I don’t have any symptoms and I was actually in great shape. I was planning to go for the WR: it has stayed too long outside Kenya. As the World & Olympic Champion I feel strongly its something I should go for as well.”

Kipruto, 25, is the 14th-fastest steepler in history with a personal best of 8:00.12. The world record is 7:53.63, set by Kenyan-born Qatari Saif Saaeed Shaheen in 2004.

Last year, Kipruto won the world title by .01, extending a streak of a Kenyan or Kenyan-born man winning every Olympic or world title in the event since the 1988 Seoul Games. He was sidelined by a stress fracture in his left foot until opening his season extremely late on Aug. 24.

MORE: Trayvon Bromell’s road back through destruction, death

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Our World is going through a challenging period and we all have to take our responsibilities. Unfortunately my covid-19 test, as part of the Monaco-protocol, came back positive and therefore I can’t be part of the Monaco Diamond League on August 14th. I don’t have any symptoms and I was actually in great shape. I was planning to go for the WR: it has stayed too long outside Kenya. As the World & Olympic Champion I feel strongly its something I should go for as well. Wish to thank Monaco for all the work they have done and I wish them and my colleagues a wonderful competition. Athletics is back and I will be back as well. Anyone willing to organise a steeple once I can be cleared? @diamondleaguemonaco #nike #quarantine #WR #Kenya

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