Javier Fernandez overtakes Yuzuru Hanyu for repeat World title

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How did Spain’s Javier Fernandez repeat as World champion?

He only put down the best program of his career to erase the largest Olympic or Worlds lead ever and overtake the greatest skater of all time in Boston on Friday night. And he did it after being unable to skate the day before due to a heel injury.

Fernandez landed three quadruple jumps over a clean free skate, 13 minutes after training partner, Olympic champion and world-record holder Yuzuru Hanyu finished a shockingly error-filled performance.

Fernandez scored 216.41 points in the free skate, the second-highest since this system was implemented in 2005 behind Hanyu’s record 219.48 at the Grand Prix Final in December. Fernandez’s overall total: 314.93.

“I knew to have a chance to beat Yuzu, I need to do the best program of my life,” Fernandez said.

Hanyu was well off his best, scoring 184.61 in the free skate after flawed jump landings that included putting his hands down, turning out and even falling. His total: 295.17.

“I want to do it over,” Hanyu said after falling to silver behind Fernandez at Worlds for a second straight year.

And with that, Fernandez easily overcame a 12.04-point deficit after Wednesday’s short program. Hanyu’s lead going into the free skate was the largest-ever for any man, woman, pair or ice dance couple at an Olympics or Worlds under the 12-year-old system.

Jin Boyang took bronze, China’s first men’s medal at an Olympics or Worlds, after being in fifth place after the short program. The quadruple-jump prince is 18 years old and made his Worlds debut.

Three-time World champion Patrick Chan of Canada fell into the TD Garden boards and from third to fifth.

The U.S. trio of Adam RipponMax Aaron and Grant Hochstein all recorded personal-best free skates in international competition, finishing sixth, eighth and 10th, respectively, to thunderous standing ovations.

“I’ve never been to an Olympic Games, but if this is anything like the Olympic Games, I can’t tell you how much fun I would have out there if I can make it,” Aaron said.

It’s the first time three U.S. men finished in the top 10 at Worlds since 2005, but it wasn’t enough to keep the U.S. at three men’s spots for 2017 Worlds. The top two U.S. men’s finishes needed to add up to 13 or fewer to keep three spots. Rippon and Aaron added up to 14.

Back to the champion.

Last year, Fernandez said he believed Spain had nine ice rinks, not including the Madrid sheet on which he learned to skate, which became the site of a restaurant.

Now, Fernandez is a two-time World champion and four-time European champion. His first World crown last year knocked soccer off the Spanish sports newspaper Marca front page. He has become a hope for a nation with two Winter Olympic medals, both in Alpine skiing and the last in 1992.

“It’s out of your mind,” said Fernandez, who finished an agonizing fourth at the Sochi Olympics and felt like he let Spain down.

The World Championships conclude Saturday with coverage of the pairs and women’s free skates on NBCSN, NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra beginning at 2 p.m. ET. A full broadcast schedule is here.

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April Ross, Alix Klineman back atop Olympic beach volleyball qualifying

April Ross, Alix Klineman
FIVB World Tour
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Two-time Olympic medalist April Ross and new partner Alix Klineman moved back on top of the U.S. Olympic beach volleyball qualifying standings by winning an event in Itapema, Brazil this week.

Ross, who split from Kerri Walsh Jennings in 2017, and Klineman beat Canadians Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes 25-23, 18-21, 15-10 in Sunday’s final for their third title in 11 FIVB World Tour tournaments together.

“Every victory is important, but this counts for more,” Klineman said, according to the FIVB. “We want to send a message and we want to be consistently the best.

Ross and Klineman supplanted Walsh Jennings and her new partner, Brooke Sweat, for the lead in the early U.S. Olympic qualifying rankings with still more than a year of events ahead.

1. Ross/Klineman – 3,240 (5 events played)
2. Walsh Jennings/Sweat – 3,100 (7 events)
3. Day/Flint – 2,180 (5 events)
4. Hughes/Ross — 2,000 (4 events)
5. Larsen/Stockman — 1,840 (5 events)
6. Sponcil/Claes — 1,600 (3 events)

Each team’s 12 best results from Sept. 1, 2018, to June 14, 2020, go into the Olympic qualifying rankings. That means Ross and Klineman are comfortably in front, having played two fewer events than Walsh Jennings and Sweat, who lost in the quarterfinals in Itapema.

The top two U.S. pairs come June 15, 2020, provided they’re ranked high enough internationally, will qualify for Tokyo. Most of the qualifying events, including the ones with the most points available, are still to come this summer.

Ross, 36, picked up Klineman, 29, after Walsh Jennings didn’t join her in signing a domestic AVP contract in 2017. The 6-foot-5 Klineman primarily played indoor the previous decade, including at Stanford from 2007-10 after being the Gatorade National Player of the Year coming out of high school.

MORE: Brazil volleyball star faints during courtside interview

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Katie Ledecky extends 5-year win streak

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Katie Ledecky extended a five-year domestic win streak by taking the 200m freestyle at the Tyr Pro Swim Series at Bloomington on Saturday.

In her last full meet before July’s world championships, Ledecky clocked 1:55.80 to beat training partner Simone Manuel by 1.44 seconds for her second win in as many days. Ledecky is also entered in Sunday’s 800m free on the last day of the meet.

Ledecky, who also cruised to a 400m free victory on Friday, ranks third in the world in the 200m free this year, behind Australian Ariarne Titmus and Swede Sarah Sjöström (the Olympic silver medalist who is not expected to race the 200m free at worlds).

Ledecky, a five-time Olympic champion, hasn’t lost a 200m, 400m, 800m or 1500m free final at a domestic meet since Allison Schmitt beat her in a 200m free on Jan. 18, 2014 when Ledecky was 16 years old.

BLOOMINGTON: Full Results

But Ledecky lost the two biggest 200m frees of this Olympic cycle so far, at the 2017 World Championships and the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships. Italian veteran Federica Pellegrini handed Ledecky her first individual final defeat at a major international meet at 2017 Worlds.

Ledecky dropped to third in the 200m free at Pan Pacs in Tokyo last year, beaten by younger swimmers Taylor Ruck of Canada and Rikako Ikee of Japan.

Ruck, who like Ledecky trains at Stanford, is in Bloomington, but she chose not to swim the 200m free on Saturday. She instead swam the 200m backstroke about 45 minutes after the 200m free and was upset by 17-year-old Regan Smith. Smith won in 2:06.47, moving to No. 3 in the world this year.

In other events Saturday, Ella Eastin captured the 400m individual medley in 4:37.18, taking 1.25 seconds off her personal best and moving to fifth in the world this year. Eastin is not on the world championships team after an untimely bout with mono before qualifying meets last summer.

Blake Pieroni won the men’s 200m free in 1:47.25. No American ranks in the top 20 in the world this year. World silver medalist Townley Haas did not enter Bloomington.

MORE: Olympic breaststroke champion faces ban for missed drug tests

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