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

Tommy Ford ends U.S. men’s World Cup drought at Beaver Creek

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Tommy Ford earned his first World Cup win at age 30 and ended the U.S. men’s longest victory and podium droughts in two decades.

Ford won the giant slalom in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday, the last North American race on tour this season. He prevailed by eight tenths of a second combining times over two runs.

“It doesn’t beat doing it here. I’ve been working hard,” Ford, in his 86th World Cup start dating to 2009, said on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA. “No secret, just kept it simple and really trusted what I was doing.”

Norwegians Henrik Kristoffersen and Leif Kristian Nestvold-Haugen were second and third. American Ted Ligety, fourth after the opening run, finished 11th.

Full results are here.

Ford became the first U.S. man to win a World Cup since Travis Ganong took a downhill on Jan. 27, 2017. He also became the first U.S. male podium finisher since Ligety in January 2018. Both were the longest droughts for the program since the late 1990s.

Ford, a 2010 and 2018 Olympian who missed the 2014 Olympics due to a broken femur, had been working toward this moment.

He finished a World Cup career-high fourth at the season-opening giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, on Oct. 27. Last season, the Oregon native and former Dartmouth student had a pair of fifths.

The men’s World Cup moves to Val d’Isere, France, next weekend for a giant slalom and slalom.

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Katie Ledecky wins race by 30 seconds, takes back No. 1 ranking

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In her last race of the year, Katie Ledecky ensured she would finish 2019 as the world’s fastest 1500m freestyler.

Ledecky clocked 15:35.98 at the U.S. Open in Atlanta, winning the longest event on the Olympic pool program by 29.97 seconds. Typical for Ledecky, who owns the nine fastest times in history. This one came in at No. 8. Full meet results are here.

Ledecky scratched the 1500m free final at the summer world championships due to illness. Italian Simona Quadarella went on to win that title in 15:40.89, which was the world’s fastest time this year until Saturday night.

“I didn’t have time on my mind at all today. I just wanted to have a consistent swim,” Ledecky, undefeated in 1500m free finals for nine years, said on NBCSN. “That’s probably the best mile that I’ve had in a while.”

The women’s 1500m freestyle debuts at the Olympics in Tokyo. Ledecky is expected to add that to her Rio Olympic individual lineup of 200m, 400m and 800m frees, assuming she is top two in each event at the June Olympic trials.

In other events Saturday, Erika Brown handed Simone Manuel a rare defeat in the 100m freestyle. Brown, a University of Tennessee senior, clocked 53.42 and lowered her personal best by .71 between prelims and the final. Brown moved from sixth to fourth in the U.S. rankings this year, upping her stock as a contender to make the Olympic 4x100m free relay pool via a top-six finish at trials.

Brown previously lowered her personal best in the 50m free on Thursday. She ranks third in the U.S. this year in that event.

Emily Escobedo dealt Lilly King a rare domestic defeat in the 200m breaststroke. Escobedo lowered her personal best by .87 and clocked 2:22.00, moving to seventh fastest in the world this year and remaining fourth among Americans.

In the men’s 200m breast, Olympic champion Dmitriy Balandin of Kazakhstan was beaten by Cody Miller, the Olympic 100m breast silver medalist. Both were slower than their best times this year.

The next significant swim meet is a Tyr Pro Series stop in Knoxville, Tenn., from Jan. 16-19.

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