French repeat as World ice dance champions; U.S. gets two medals

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France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron became the first ice dance couple to repeat as World champions since 2007, while Americans earned silver and bronze in Boston on Thursday night.

Papadakis and Cizeron, who last year became the youngest World ice dance champions in 40 years, posted the highest-scoring free dance in international competition under a scoring system implemented in 2005.

They easily distanced U.S. siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani by 6.03 points and Madison Chock and Evan Bates by 8.69.

“We didn’t expect these high marks at all,” Papadakis said. “It took us a moment at the end of our program to realize what we have achieved, and I still can’t believe it.”

The French also topped the short dance at TD Garden on Wednesday, capping a comeback from Papadakis’ August practice fall and concussion. She still experiences headaches.

Their total score, 194.46, marked the second-best under the current system. Only Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White‘s 195.52 from the Sochi Olympics was better, but Davis and White did cede their free-dance world record.

“I could not be happier to pass that along to them,” White said on Icenetwork.com. “I was just in awe the entire program. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

The top three went unchanged from the short dance.

The U.S. earned multiple medals in a single event at Worlds for the first time since 2011, when Davis and White took gold and the Shibutanis bronze in the siblings’ first season as senior skaters.

The Shibutanis had not earned an Olympic or Worlds medal since, bottoming out with a ninth-place finish in Sochi but re-emerging with their best performances this season. They won their first U.S. title in January and the Four Continents Championship in February.

“We’ve been able to really weather out this journey,” Maia said.

Chock and Bates earned their second straight Worlds medal after silver in 2015, when Papadakis and Cizeron overtook them in the free dance.

“Last year was the first time that we had ever been in medal contention at a World Championships, and I don’t think we really knew how to handle it very well,” Bates said. “Looking back, I don’t think we skated our best free dance. With that said, I think today we did skate our best free dance.”

The Shibutanis and Chock and Bates had scores in Boston that would have won the 2014 and 2015 World titles.

The U.S.’ third couple, Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, placed sixth. It’s the first time the U.S. put three couples that high at a Worlds since 1955.

It continued a U.S. ice dance renaissance. In 2005, Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto won the nation’s first World ice dance medal in 20 years.

Four different U.S. couples have combined to win 12 medals at the last 12 World Championships, while the U.S. has totaled seven medals overall across men’s, women’s and pairs in the same stretch.

The ice dance field is about to get stronger with the return of 2010 Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir next season. The Canadians haven’t competed since taking Sochi silver behind Davis and White, who also have been out since the Olympics but haven’t announced whether they will return.

Virtue and Moir used to train with Davis and White in Michigan but will be taught by new coaches in their comeback — Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon in Montreal.

Dubreuil and Lauzon’s star pupils? Papadakis and Cizeron. They’ll have to share.

“It’s going to be another challenge for us,” Papadakis said.

The World Championships continue Friday with the pairs short program and men’s free skate with coverage beginning at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra.

MORE: Meryl Davis, Charlie White wait for right feeling for possible return

World Championships Ice Dance
GOLD: Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron (FRA) — 194.46
SILVER: Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA) — 188.43
BRONZE: Madison Chock/Evan Bates (USA) — 185.77
6. Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue (USA) — 176.81

World champion wins doping case citing bodily fluids from boyfriend

AP
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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — A world champion canoeist won a doping case Monday after persuading a tribunal that her positive test was caused by bodily fluid contamination from her boyfriend.

The International Canoe Federation (ICF) ended its investigation into 11-time world champion Laurence Vincent Lapointe, who tested positive for a steroid-like substance in July. She faced a four-year ban and could have missed her event’s Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games.

The Canadian canoe sprint racer and her lawyer detailed in a news program that laboratory analysis of hair from her then-boyfriend showed he was likely responsible for a tiny presence of ligandrol in her doping sample.

“The ICF has accepted Ms. Vincent Lapointe’s evidence which supports that she was the victim of third-party contamination,” the governing body said in a statement, clearing her to return to competition.

The legal debate is similar to tennis player Richard Gasquet’s 2009 acquittal in the “cocaine kiss” case. The Court of Arbitration for Sport accepted Gasquet’s defense that kissing a woman who had taken cocaine in a Miami nightclub, after he had withdrawn injured from a tournament, caused his positive test.

The 27-year-old Vincent Lapointe was provisionally suspended for almost six months and missed the 2019 World Championships, which was a key qualifying event for the Tokyo Olympics. American 17-year-old Nevin Harrison won the 200m world title in her absence.

She can still qualify for the Olympic debut of women’s canoe sprint events with victory at a World Cup event in May in Germany.

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U.S. women’s soccer team begins Olympic qualifying, which should rest on one match

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The U.S. women’s soccer team has never been in danger in Olympic qualifying, but that doesn’t change this fact: It must win on Feb. 7 to reach the Tokyo Games.

The CONCACAF tournament begins Tuesday in Houston, where the world champion Americans face world No. 72 Haiti. The last two group games are against No. 68 Panama on Friday and No. 37 Costa Rica on Feb. 3. The top two nations from the group advance to Feb. 7 semifinals.

The U.S. roster, with 18 of its 20 players coming from the 2019 World Cup team, is here.

Since CONCACAF qualifies two nations to the Olympics, the semifinals are the deciding games.

Should the U.S. win its group, it would face the runner-up from the other group in a winner-goes-to-Tokyo match. The other group (world ranking):

Canada (8)
Mexico (37)
Jamaica (53)
St. Kitts and Nevis (127)

Chaos could result in the unlikely event that either the U.S. or Canada finishes second in its group, and the two North American powers play a semifinal.

The U.S. is undefeated in Olympic qualifying history, since the tournament format began in 2004 — 15-0 with a goal differential of 88-1 (not counting matches played once they’ve already clinched qualification). The lone goal allowed came in a group-stage match in 2008, when the U.S. was already assured a spot in the semifinals.

Still, the U.S. knows the feeling of one poor outing in an important match. In 2010, it lost to Mexico in a winner-to-the-World Cup match. The U.S. was forced to win a last-chance, home-and-home playoff against a UEFA team — Italy — for the last spot in the World Cup.

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