With screams, Canadians repeat as World champions in pairs

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Meagan Duhamel said she had no words, only screams as Eric Radford lifted her for the last time during their World Championships free skate in Boston on Saturday.

“It was an out-of-body experience,” she said.

The Canadians performed out of their minds, easily posting personal-best free skate and total scores to overtake a Chinese pair and repeat as World champions.

“How did we just do that?” Duhamel said coming off the ice, before seeing their totals in the kiss-and-cry area. “It’s like a dream.”

They tallied 231.99 points, beating Chinese short-program leaders Sui Wenjing and Han Cong by 7.52 to keep the same one-two as last year’s World Championships.

Germans Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot took bronze in their Worlds debut.

Russian Olympic champions Tatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov plummeted from third to sixth after their lowest-scoring free skate in more than four years, finishing outside the top two for the first time in 19 top-level international competitions.

Duhamel said that last fall she wouldn’t have predicted a medal of any color for her and Radford. They won both of their Grand Prix series starts and earned silver at the Grand Prix Final, but they were unsatisfied with their performances.

“It’s been frustration after frustration after frustration for us this season,” said Duhamel, who suffered a stomach flu at their most recent competition in February and withdrew after that short program. “You work so hard, and that frustration, it hurts you so deeply. It just feels so good when it all comes together. I can’t keep anything inside of me. I was waiting for him to put up that last lift, because I was going to explode.”

Experts tapped the Russians or Chinese as pre-Worlds favorites. Radford was cognizant of those predictions.

“I think people kind of drawn a conclusion based on our season that we weren’t quite as strong contenders,” he said. “It’s difficult not to doubt yourself when everybody else has that expectation of you.”

But they were overjoyed not only after but also during their free skate. Radford saw Duhamel pump her first after a throw triple Lutz before the scream on the last lift.

“When you can have like those sort of bursts of a moment in the middle of a program like that, it’s just like surreal,” Radford said.

Sui and Han couldn’t say the same Saturday. Their flawed skate was punctuated by a fall on a throw quadruple Salchow, ending hopes of a first World title.

“We left many regrets in this competition,” Han said through a translator. “We probably have thought so much before going into the free skate, and that led to the mistakes.”

Savchenko is no stranger to the podium. She won five World titles with former partner Robin Szolkowy, who retired after their last crown in 2014.

When she partnered with the Frenchman Massot, it took more than a year before they were cleared to compete together as a German pair.

“After all what happened, I just live my dream,” Savchenko said. “If it’s a dream come true, it’s amazing. This all emotions coming out. I’m really, really happy that I continue and I can enjoy what I love to do. Unbelievable happy.”

The two U.S. pairs — Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim and Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea — both struggled for the second straight day and finished ninth and 13th. The last U.S. pairs medal at Worlds or the Olympics came in 2002.

“I was the problem, I messed up on everything,” Scimeca said. “I don’t have proof, but I felt like my right blade kept slipping every time I was on the outside edge.”

The World Championships conclude with the women’s free skate on NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra on Saturday at 9 p.m. ET.

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World Championships Pairs
GOLD: Duhamel/Radford (CAN) — 231.99
SILVER: Sui/Han (CHN) — 224.47
BRONZE: Savchenko/Massot (GER) — 216.17
9. Scimeca/Knierim (USA) — 190.06
13. Kayne/O’Shea (USA) — 178.23

At U.S. Open swim meet, teens make a splash with Olympic trials on horizon

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While Olympic and world champions Katie LedeckySimone Manuel and Chase Kalisz notched expected victories at the U.S. Open on Thursday, a trio of teenagers lowered personal bests to further establish their Tokyo Olympic hopes.

At the top domestic meet of the winter, Alex WalshCarson Foster and Kieran Smith each earned runner-up finishes, but their performances stood out in the big picture: looking at June’s Olympic trials, where the top two per individual event make the team.

Walsh, a rising Nashville high school senior, took 2.23 seconds off her 200m individual medley best. She clocked 2:09.01, overtaken by .17 by Melanie Margalis, the Rio Olympic and 2019 World Championships fourth-place finisher.

Full meet results are here.

Walsh moved from fifth-fastest in the U.S. this year to No. 2 behind Margalis, passing Olympic and world championships veterans Ella EastinKathleen Baker and Madisyn Cox. Of those swimmers, only Eastin was also in Thursday’s final.

Walsh joined her younger sister, Gretchen, in Olympic qualifying position based on 2019 times. Gretchen, 16, ranks fourth in the U.S. in the 100m free this year. The top six in that event at trials are in line to make the Olympic 4x100m free relay pool.

The Walshes could become the third set of sisters to make the same U.S. Olympic swim team, and the second to do it in pool swimming after Dana and Tara Kirk in 2004.

Foster, 18, continued his ascent Thursday in taking second to Kalisz in the men’s 200m IM. The world junior champion lowered his personal best in the prelims and the final, getting down to 1:57.59. Foster passed Ryan Lochte, who is nearly twice his age, in Thursday’s final and in the 2019 U.S. rankings. Only Kalisz and Michael Andrew have been faster among Americans this year.

Foster is trying to become the youngest U.S. Olympic male swimmer since 2000, when a 15-year-old Michael Phelps made his Olympic debut. Foster, who has been breaking Phelps national age-group records since he was 10, committed to the University of Texas in March 2018, two years before he graduates high school in Ohio.

Then there’s Kieran Smith, now a prime candidate to fill a huge void in the 400m freestyle. Zane Grothe is the only American ranked in the top 20 in the world this year.

Smith, a 19-year-old from the University of Florida, took 2.29 seconds off his lifetime best on Thursday to jump from outside the top 10 to No. 2 in the U.S. on the year. Smith was already ranked No. 2 in the country in the 200m free.

Two more runners-up in the 50m freestyles — Erika Brown to Manuel and Zach Apple to Brazilian Bruno Fratus — lowered personal bests to move to No. 3 in each U.S. ranking list this year.

The U.S. Open continues Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. ET with live coverage on NBCSN and streaming on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

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Nathan Chen distances Yuzuru Hanyu in Grand Prix Final short program

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A brilliant Nathan Chen outscored a flawed Yuzuru Hanyu for a fourth straight head-to-head program, taking a 12.95-point lead at the Grand Prix Final in Turin, Italy, on Thursday.

Chen, the two-time reigning world champion, tallied 110.38 points going into Saturday’s free skate. He landed a quadruple Lutz, triple Axel and quad toe loop-triple toe loop combination.

It’s the highest short program score in the world this season, leading the American to say “wow” in the kiss-and-cry area. His coach, the often-gruff Rafael Arutyunyan, banged his knee against his pupil’s.

Hanyu, the two-time reigning Olympic champion, hit a quadruple Salchow and triple Axel but then stepped out of a quad toe landing. He therefore failed to include a required jumping combination and ended up in second place.

“I wanted to do a great performance and do a good competition against [Chen], but that didn’t happen this time,” Hanyu, who was without longtime coach Brian Orser, or any other coach, said through a translator. Hanyu said Orser was busy last week, so he chose to use his lone accreditation on another coach who had travel delays.

Hanyu is not out of title contention. His world-leading free skate score this season is 16.61 points better than Chen’s best free skate from the fall Grand Prix Series.

Chen is undefeated since placing fifth at the PyeongChang Olympics, but this is just his second head-to-head with Hanyu in that span. Chen defeated Hanyu at March’s world championships, where the Japanese megastar was likely affected by an ankle injury.

After Thursday’s program, Chen repeated what he said before the competition: he still feels like he’s chasing Hanyu.

“Yuzu is like the goat, he’s the greatest of all time, really,” Chen said. “So, to have this opportunity to be able to share the ice with a guy like that, someone that I’ve looked up to for a long time, someone that I’ve watched grow up through the junior ranks when I was like a baby, it’s really cool to be able see him now. It’s really cool to even just be able to see him person.”

The Grand Prix Final, the biggest annual event outside the world championships, continues Friday with the rhythm dance, women’s short and pairs’ free skate. A full TV and live stream schedule is here.

Earlier in pairs, Chinese Sui Wenjing and Han Cong took their first step toward a first Grand Prix Final title. The Olympic silver medalists tallied 77.50, leading Russians Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitriy Kozlovskiy by .85 going into Friday’s free skate.

Sui and Han were imperfect, with Sui putting her hand down on a throw triple flip landing. They are undefeated in this Beijing Olympic cycle and own the world’s top total score this season.

The U.S. failed to qualify a pair for the six-team Final for the 11th time in the last 12 years.

Grand Prix Final
Men’s Short Program
1. Nathan Chen (USA) — 110.38
2. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 97.43
3. Kevin Aymoz (FRA) — 96.71
4. Dmitriy Aliyev (RUS) — 88.78
5. Alexander Samarin (RUS) — 81.32
6. Jin Boyang (CHN) — 80.67

Pairs’ Short Program
1. Sui Wenjing/Han Cong (CHN) — 77.50
2. Aleksandra Boikova / Dmitriy Kozlovskiy (RUS) — 76.65
3. Daria Pavliuchenko/Denis Khodykin (RUS) — 75.16
4. Anastasia Mishina/Aleksandr Galliamov (RUS) — 71.48
5. Peng Cheng/Jin Yang (CHN) — 69.67
6. Kirsten Moore-Towers/Michael Marinaro (CAN) — 67.08

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