Gracie Gold improves at Four Continents, misses podium

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U.S. champion Gracie Gold rebounded from her worst short program in three years, jumping four places to finish fifth at the Four Continents Championships in Taiwan on Saturday.

“I feel OK about it,” Gold said. “It was a respectable performance, and at least the quality of what I did was nice.”

Japanese World silver medalist Satoko Miyahara won the competition, a World Championships tune-up absent of the top Russians, with 214.91 points, a personal best.

Gold scored 178.39 points, staying on her feet in the free skate after falling twice in her short program Thursday.

“Knowing that I can skate a free program at least that well, after what happened in the short, I feel hopeful about Worlds,” Gold said. “I think anyone has a chance at that World podium, you just have to go two clean skates. This was just a trial run for me, to get the bad luck out.”

Mirai Nagasu, a 2010 Olympian who won’t compete at Worlds in Boston next month, beat Gold and finished second with a personal-best 193.86 points, her best result in a top-level international event since November 2011.

Nagasu was fourth at the U.S. Championships in January, missing the three-woman Worlds team.

Full Four Continents results are here.

Gold, 20, has never made the individual podium at an Olympics, Worlds, Grand Prix Final or Four Continents, but has eight times placed between fourth and sixth at those competitions.

On Thursday, Gold posted her lowest short-program score in more than three years, falling on her first two of three jumps and placing ninth.

“I made a goal not to pop anything,” Gold said of her jumps. “I didn’t exactly achieve that in the sense that I wanted to, but there’s something to be said for what I did here.”

Gold’s teammates for this year’s Worlds — Wagner and Polina Edmunds — opted not to compete at Four Continents.

“I came into this competition knowing that I’ve had a lot of struggles with the event,” said Gold, who took fourth at the 2015 Four Continents, with a lower total score. “I don’t feel as comfortable with this event as I do for a lot of the other competitions, with the amount of time between competing at Nationals and competing here. I came here knowing I feel this way, and I wanted to see how I could do with that.”

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Federica Brignone passes Mikaela Shiffrin for World Cup overall lead

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Italian Federica Brignone passed an absent Mikaela Shiffrin for the World Cup overall standings lead by winning a combined in Switzerland on Sunday.

Brignone prevailed by .92 of a second adding times from super-G and slalom runs in Crans-Montana. Full results are here.

Brignone moved 73 points ahead of Shiffrin in the overall through 29 of 40 scheduled races. A race winner receives 100 points on a descending scale through the 30th-place finisher. The season runs through March 22.

Shiffrin, the three-time reigning World Cup overall champion, has not competed since the unexpected death of her father on Feb. 2. She has not announced if or when she will return this season.

Brignone, 29, is having a career season with five wins and 10 podiums across four disciplines.

Brignone’s best previous World Cup overall standings finish was fifth. She earned giant slalom medals at the 2018 Olympics (bronze) and 2011 World Championships (silver).

She could become Italy’s first female World Cup overall champion. The last Italian male winner was Alberto Tomba in 1995.

The women’s Alpine skiing World Cup moves to La Thuile, Italy, for a super-G and a combined next Saturday and Sunday.

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Jade Carey on brink of becoming first gymnast to qualify for U.S. Olympic team

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The U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials aren’t until late June, but Jade Carey is in position to qualify for the Tokyo Games in March.

Carey, seeking an individual Olympic gymnastics spot outside of the team competition, earned the maximum points in a World Cup series that is one path to Olympic qualification.

Carey has three wins each on floor exercise and vault with two World Cups left in March. Carey will mathematically clinch an Olympic spot if no other gymnasts win three times on one of the apparatuses to force a tiebreaker.

So far, no other gymnast has two wins on floor. One gymnast has two wins on vault. A gymnast’s top three finishes across the eight-stop series count in Olympic qualifying. If Carey finishes atop the floor or vault standings, she goes to the Olympics.

Carey picked up those third wins on floor and vault at the sixth World Cup in Melbourne, Australia, this weekend.

The one downside to qualifying this route: Carey would not be able to compete in the team competition at the Olympics. Those four spots will be determined at and after June’s trials in St. Louis, with Simone Biles likely grabbing one of them.

“I knew I would be giving up being on the team,” Carey said in October of going the World Cup route, “but I think, for me, it made sense to just go for it.”

Carey is a world medalist on vault and floor, but she doesn’t have the all-around credentials of Biles and some other U.S. gymnasts.

Olympic team event roster sizes were cut from five to four for Tokyo, putting a greater onus on all-around prowess given a team must put three gymnasts on each apparatus in the Olympic final.

The U.S. is the deepest country in women’s gymnastics, so the only truly safe pick to make the four-woman Olympic team event roster is Biles.

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