Gracie Gold tops World Championships short program

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Gracie Gold skated the best short program of her international career at an opportune time and is in position to end a nine-year U.S. women’s medal drought at the World Championships.

Gold leads after scoring an American record 76.43 points in Boston on Thursday, going into the free skate Saturday (9 p.m. ET, NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra).

“We’re only halfway through, but I can kind of see the light at the end of the tunnel, that maybe the drought is ending, which would be amazing,” said Gold, the two-time U.S. champion who was fourth at the 2014 Olympics and 2015 Worlds.

She was 2.45 better than Russian runner-up Anna Pogorilaya, nailing all of her jumps at TD Garden, including a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination.

After finishing, Gold covered her hands on top of her blond hair at center ice while receiving a standing ovation as the penultimate skater.

“It was a really magical moment,” said the 20-year-old Gold, who was born in nearby Newton, Mass., raised in Illinois and resides in California. “Everything fell into place. … It felt like there was something in the arena.”

Russian pre-Worlds favorite Yevgenia Medvedeva is third, 2.7 points behind after not landing all of her jumps crisply.

“I certainly could show more potential and hoping to do that in the free skate,” Medvedeva, the 2015 World junior champion skating in her first senior Worlds, said through a translator. ‘When I stepped out and saw the full stands and the spectators so close to the ice, I realized that this is a big stage.”

Three-time U.S. champion Ashley Wagner is in fourth after a personal-best short program, after which she tripped and fell on her behind on the ice.

It’s also Wagner’s best placement after an Olympics or Worlds short program in her seventh appearance, one year after she battled back from 11th place in the Worlds short to finish fifth.

“I’m so excited to finally get over that hump of the short program at Worlds,” Wagner said. “My biggest difficulty when I skate a clean short is separating it going into the long. … Now it’s up to me to do something similar to today.”

Gold is the first U.S. woman to lead a World Championships short program since Mirai Nagasu in 2010. Nagasu also skated Thursday, in her first Worlds since 2010, placing 10th (video here).

The last time a U.S. woman earned a World Championships medal was 2006, when Kimmie Meissner took gold and Sasha Cohen bronze. The nine-year U.S. women’s medal drought is their longest in the Winter Olympic era.

“Regardless of the drought or how many years it’s been, it would mean a lot just to be on the podium in your home country,” Gold said. “I want to do it for myself, for my support system, for U.S. Figure Skating, for Boston.”

Japanese medal hopes Satoko Miyahara and three-time World champion Mao Asada sit sixth and ninth, respectively.

The World Championships continue with the free dance on Thursday at 8 ET (NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra).

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Women’s Short Program 
1. Gracie Gold (USA) — 76.43
2. Anna Pogorilaya (RUS) — 73.98
3. Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS) — 73.76
4. Ashley Wagner (USA) — 73.16
10. Mirai Nagasu (USA) — 65.74

World Alpine Skiing Championships on for 2021 after request to delay rejected

Alpine Skiing World Championships
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GENEVA (AP) — A request by the organizers of next year’s skiing world championships in Italy to postpone the event by one year was rejected Thursday by the International Ski Federation.

FIS ruled that the event will go ahead from Feb. 9-21, 2021, in Cortina d’Ampezzo — the highlight of an Alpine season that faces challenges to find safe protocols for international travel and attending races in Europe, North America and China.

The Veneto region of northern Italy was hit hard by the coronavirus and the season-ending World Cup races in Cortina in mid-March were canceled. That week-long event was to be a test for the 2021 worlds.

“The last month of efforts to come to this solution demonstrates the strong collaborative spirit of the ski family and stakeholders.” FIS president Gian-Franco Kasper said.

Organizers in Italy have said they expect losses of about 30 million euros ($34 million) if the worlds are also canceled. They asked for a postponement to March 2022, which would be only weeks after the Beijing Olympics.

“But we will be ready in any case and we will show that these world championships can change the history of a region despite the current difficulties,” Alessandro Benetton, president of the Cortina organizing committee, said in a statement.

Italian racer Sofia Goggia, the 2018 Olympic downhill champion, said she was “happy for Cortina because it will host the first major international event after the coronavirus epidemic.”

Cortina, which hosted the 1956 Olympics, will co-host the 2026 Winter Games with Milan and use the worlds as a showcase for the resort.

The women’s World Cup downhill on the Olympia delle Tofane course each January is one of the most scenic in the sport with a signature jump between tall outcrops of jagged rock.

The Dolomites venue was awarded the 2021 worlds by FIS after missing out as a candidate four straight times from 2013-19.

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Russia track and field athlete clearance frozen due to unpaid fine

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MONACO (AP) — The program allowing Russian track athletes to compete internationally will be frozen because the country’s federation failed to pay a fine on time, World Athletics said Thursday.

The Russian track federation, known as RusAF, owes a $5 million fine and another $1.31 million in costs for various doping-related work and legal wrangles. World Athletics said RusAF missed Wednesday’s deadline to pay.

World Athletics said it would freeze the work of the Doping Review Board, which vets Russian athletes who want the “authorized neutral athlete” status that allows them to compete internationally, and its taskforce monitoring RusAF’s anti-doping reforms.

World Athletics said both bodies will be “put on hold” until its council meets to discuss the situation at the end of July.

“RusAF is letting its athletes down badly,” World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said in a statement. “We have done as much as we can to expedite our ANA process and support RusAF with its reinstatement plan, but seemingly to no avail.”

RusAF president Yevgeny Yurchenko earlier told the Tass state news agency that his federation’s finances were damaged by the coronavirus pandemic and that it had asked for more time to pay.

World Athletics’ statement didn’t directly address that issue, but said Russia hadn’t indicated when it would pay.

Russia was fined $10 million by World Athletics in March, with $5 million suspended for two years, after the federation admitted to breaking anti-doping rules and obstructing an investigation.

The Athletics Integrity Unit said fake documents were used under the previous management to give an athlete an alibi for missing a doping test.

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