Ashley Wagner, Evgenia Medvedeva, Anna Pogorilaya
AP

Five takeaways from World Figure Skating Championships

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1. U.S.’ most medals in 10 years

The U.S. earned three medals in Boston, including the most vital one in the women’s competition. It’s the nation’s best output since 2006, though it lacked the gold-medal performance of the last Worlds in the U.S. in 2009 (Evan Lysacek).

The U.S. women will go into the 2017-18 season with their best international standing in a decade.

Ashley Wagner is now a World silver medalist in addition to a three-time Grand Prix Final medalist.

Yes, Gracie Gold dropped from her short-program lead to finish fourth, but she leaves Boston the most consistent elite woman in the world the last three years.

That’s not to mention Polina Edmunds, who is younger than Wagner and Gold yet finished between them at the U.S. Championships before pulling out of Worlds with an injury.

The U.S. men all scored personal-best free skates in Boston, but Adam RipponMax Aaron and Grant Hochstein couldn’t quite meet the goal of keeping three spots for the 2017 Worlds.

Remember, the U.S. was the only nation that had three men’s skaters at Worlds, and they all placed in the top 10. Not bad at all.

The competition for two Worlds spots at the 2017 U.S. Championships should be compelling with the returns from injury of 2015 U.S. champion Jason Brown and 2016 U.S. bronze medalist Nathan Chen and perhaps two-time Olympian Jeremy Abbott.

The U.S. is the world’s best in ice dance. It earned two medals and put three couples in the top six for the first time since 1955. If Olympic champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White return for another Olympic run, they will be in for the toughest domestic competition of their career.

Pairs remains the weakest discipline. Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim‘s wheels fell off after they became the first U.S. pair to make a Grand Prix Final since 2007. They were last at the Grand Prix Final in December, then upset for the U.S. title in January and ninth in Boston, with a disastrous 12th-place free skate.

MORE: Gracie Gold gives emotional interview after Worlds

2. Staggering scores

In all four disciplines, World Championships points records were broken in either the short or long programs, or both.

The current scoring system was implemented a little over a decade ago, and scores have been generally rising in recent years, but the performance level in Boston was still staggering.

World records also fell in the women’s free skate (Yevgenia Medvedeva breaking Yuna Kim‘s 2010 Olympic mark) and free dance (Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron breaking Meryl Davis and Charlie White‘s 2014 Olympic mark).

Perhaps the craziest set of numbers came in the women’s free skate. The top seven scored at least 130 points and finished with more than 200. Before this year, the most to break either of those barriers at a single Worlds was three.

MORE: Charlie White blown away by French ice dance champs

3. Yuzuru Hanyu in perspective

When Hanyu is at his best, he is the greatest skater of all time. He showed that at NHK Trophy in November, the Grand Prix Final in December and in the short program on Wednesday.

But he is also susceptible to errors, especially with such difficult programs, evident in the free skate Friday.

Before Hanyu began his record-breaking binge in November, he had actually lost four of his last five top-level international competitions. That was overlooked in anointing him the biggest favorite of all disciplines heading into Boston, because Hanyu was so great at his two most recent international events.

Now Hanyu goes into the season before the Olympics facing more great men’s skaters than he’s ever seen. Not only the man who beat him again, Javier Fernandez, but also three-time World champ Patrick Chan and rising teens Jin Boyang and Shoma Uno.

More records from Hanyu won’t be a surprise, but defeats shouldn’t be shocking, either.

MORE: Hanyu: I want to redo free skate

4. The Russian factory

Here’s another stat: Of the 12 women’s medals awarded at the 2014 Olympics and 2014, 2015 and 2016 Worlds, half have been earned by six different Russians.

Yevgenia Medvedeva and Anna Pogorilaya were the latest to ascend Saturday night, following Adelina Sotnikova at the Olympics, Yulia Lipnitskaya at the 2014 Worlds and Elizaveta Tukstamysheva and Yelena Radionova at the 2015 Worlds.

That speaks to Russia’s utter dominance but also its incredible turnover at the top.

Sotnikova, Lipnitskaya and Tuktamysheva were sixth, seventh and eighth at the Russian Championships in December. They were followed in ninth by Alena Leonova, who sparked the Russian renaissance with silver at the 2012 Worlds, the nation’s first women’s medal since the 2006 Olympics.

Medvedeva must fight on two fronts to stay at the top, internationally against the Americans and Japanese but also domestically against those champions.

And more Russian talent is on the way. Polina Tsurskaya and Maria Sotskova, 14 and 15, went one-two at the Junior Grand Prix Final in December, then finished four-five in the senior division at the Russian Championships two weeks later.

MORE: Medvedeva describes World title with one English word

5. Comebacks fell short

Past World champions Patrick ChanMao Asada and the Russian pairs team of Tatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov all struggled in their first global championship in two years.

Chan, a three-time World champion in 2011, 2012 and 2013, was a respectable third in the short program but stumbled into the TD Garden boards in his eighth-place free skate. He finished fifth, his worst at Worlds since his debut as a 17-year-old in 2008.

Asada, also a three-time World champion, couldn’t keep up with women several years her junior in the short program or free skate. The 25-year-old was ninth and seventh, finishing seventh. That marked her worst result in 11 Olympic or Worlds appearances.

Even more surprising was the Russian pairs team of Volosozhar and Trankov, who unlike Chan and Asada were unbeatable this season coming into Worlds. However, they erred on their twist, side-by-side jumps and a throw across their two programs.

Volosozhar and Trankov had never finished worse than second in 18 top-level international competitions going into Worlds. They placed sixth in Boston.

MORE: Mao Asada looks ahead after rough Worlds

Amy Cragg to withdraw from U.S. Olympic marathon trials

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Defending champion Amy Cragg will miss the Feb. 29 U.S. Olympic marathon trials with an illness, according to her social media.

“The Trials are the reason I have shown up every day for the last four years, so this has been an extremely difficult decision,” was posted on her social media. Cragg later said she had Epstein-Barr virus, according to multiple reports.

Cragg, 36, was among the favorites to grab three Olympic spots at trials in Atlanta, despite not having competed over 26.2 miles since the February 2018 Tokyo Marathon.

She withdrew from the 2018 Chicago Marathon with a hamstring injury and also scratched a month before the 2019 Chicago Marathon, citing signs pointing to needing more time after the previous year’s injury.

Cragg, fourth at the 2012 Olympic trials, relegated Des Linden and Shalane Flanagan to second and third at the 2016 trials. Linden and Flanagan went on to win the Boston and New York City Marathons, respectively, ending long U.S. women’s victory droughts.

Cragg went on to finish ninth in Rio and earn a 2017 World bronze medal, the first world championships marathon podium finish for an American woman since the first worlds in 1983.

Cragg could still make the Tokyo Olympic team in the 10,000m if she races at track trials in June. She won the 2012 Olympic trials 10,000m but hasn’t raced the distance on the track since May 2017.

“Right now my only goal is to get healthy so that I can train at the level needed to be competitive,” Cragg said in an emailed message from her agent. “That being said, the reason I am still in this sport is because of the Olympic Trials and Olympics. It is what excites me more than anything, so it is something I would still love to do.”

With Cragg absent and Flanagan retired, Linden is the only woman in next week’s field with Olympic marathon experience.

Other favorites include Olympic 10,000m runner Molly Huddle, world championships 10,000m runner Emily Sisson and Jordan Hasay, the second-fastest U.S. female marathoner in history.

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Galen Rupp, after tumult, finds familiarity before Olympic marathon trials

Galen Rupp
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As Galen Rupp bids for a fourth Olympics, and perhaps become the first man or woman to win the Olympic marathon trials twice outright, he found some rare familiarity these days on the roads Feb. 8.

“Feeling like my old self again,” Rupp said Wednesday of winning a low-key half marathon in Mesa, Ariz., his first completed race in 16 months and since parting from now-banned, career-long coach Alberto Salazar. “It’s obviously been a long year and a half.”

Rupp clocked 61 minutes, 19 seconds on a downhill course. It’s faster than any half marathon by an American recorded by World Athletics since the start of 2019. Granted the downhill, but Rupp also said he was instructed by new coach Mike Smith to make it a controlled effort.

“He didn’t want me to run all-out, didn’t want me to really push and put myself in a big hole,” Rupp said, noting he was still in heavy training. “You don’t want to break that [training] up and put yourself in a deficit by having a massive effort.”

Mesa answered questions about Rupp’s readiness for the Olympic trials in Atlanta on Feb. 29 (NBC, 12-3 p.m. ET). Even to the two-time Olympic medalist himself. Rupp said he started the half marathon with a little bit of doubt — given recent left ankle and calf injuries — but felt early on that everything would be fine.

“It really put my mind at ease,” he said. “I’m going to be good for the marathon.”

His last two marathons did not go well.

At the 2018 Chicago Marathon, Rupp dropped from the leaders around mile 19 and finished fifth in a title defense. An Achilles injury flared up near the end. He underwent surgery later that month for two tears. Doctors said the ankle had been “a ticking time bomb.”

“They said I was really lucky to have as good of health as I had and manage it as I did,” Rupp said.

He went a full year before racing again, at the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 13, 12 days after Salazar’s ban was announced. Even that was a rushed comeback, Rupp said after dropping out around mile 23 with a calf injury.

“I’m not going to say it was a wake-up call,” Rupp said, “but I think I was a little bit stubborn before Chicago.”

Rupp said he ran through pain in training to get to the start line four months ago. He had trouble walking for several days after the abbreviated race and focused on physical therapy for about two months. He resumed normal, pain-free training in December.

By early January, Runner’s World reported that Oregon-based Rupp found a new Flagstaff-based coach in Smith, who leads a Northern Arizona University program that won the last three NCAA men’s cross-country titles.

“The biggest thing to me was Mike’s philosophy in coaching was very similar to the program that I was under for so many years,” said Rupp, who was for more than a decade part of the Nike Oregon Project, which was shut down last fall after Salazar’s ban for doping violations (which he appealed). Rupp wasn’t implicated by USADA and has a clean drug-testing record. “What I love most about it was Mike’s honesty and how forthright he was about everything. You could tell he wasn’t just saying what I wanted to hear or say, ‘We’re just going to do whatever you’ve been doing and try and replicate that.’ You’ve got to keep evolving and trying new things.”

Smith declined an interview request through NAU until after trials. He agreed to coach Rupp after about a month of communication and hard questions, according to Runner’s World.

“Because of its timing and the headlines I was reading like everyone else at the time, this was not a road I wanted to go down,” Smith said, according to the report. “To be honest, it was just easiest to turn it down. I’m actually — as crazy as this sounds — really proud I did not.

“What I found out by getting to know Galen was that there was much more going on than the picture portrayed of him, and I wish the world knew that. I have never seen someone more all-in in my life.”

Rupp, asked his toughest moment of the last two years, said he moves forward.

“Throughout any hardships and setbacks, I felt a lot of gratitude that I had as good of a run as I did with my health and everything going well for as long as I did,” he said. “It can be easy to get angry and get down, like why me, but I do believe that things always work out. There’s a reason behind all this stuff.”

Which brings Rupp to Atlanta next week for the first time in his life, aside from airport layovers. The race is unlike any other he has contested. The course is unusually hilly. The format — Americans only, top three make the Olympic team — makes for different tactics than the World Marathon Majors that Rupp is used to.

In 2016, Rupp entered as a favorite but without any marathon experience. He won convincingly, pulling away from now-retired Meb Keflezighi by 68 seconds.

The field is deeper this year. Seven Americans broke 2:11 in 2019. Only one did in 2015. But Rupp, at his best, is in his own class.

His personal best 2:06:07, from his last healthy marathon in 2018, is 1:49 faster than the second-fastest in the trials field in this Olympic cycle (Leonard Korir). The next-fastest, Scott Fauble, is more than three minutes behind by personal bests.

“I can confidently go in and say that I’ve put in the work for this, just like I know that I put in the work in 2016,” Rupp said. “Of course, you want to go in and have good races, feeling confident and being on a roll like I was several years ago. But I think that’s why that race in Mesa was so important to show, more to myself, that hey, you’re ready to go. You can still run well. You haven’t lost everything. Surgery didn’t wipe you out.”

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