Gracie Gold, Ashley Wagner
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Ashley Wagner, Gracie Gold renew rivalry on new stage at Skate America

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Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold have gone head-to-head 10 times in major competition. Five times Wagner finished higher. Five times Gold finished higher.

The tie will be broken at Skate America this weekend in Hoffman Estates, Ill., (broadcast schedule here) in their first meeting on the Grand Prix level.

Wagner has embraced the rivalry angle the last few years, calling it beneficial for the sport’s popularity.

“I would love to establish myself as the leading U.S. lady,” Wagner said last week when asked of a goal for Skate America.

One could argue Wagner already accomplished that with her silver medal at the world championships last spring, ending a 10-year U.S. women’s podium drought. Gold was fourth at worlds, dropping from first after the short program.

Wagner and Gold each performed once already this season at the free-skate-only Japan Open on Oct. 1. Wagner placed third out of six skaters — which she called a success as she wasn’t yet in competition shape. Gold was sixth.

So Wagner may have an edge over Gold, but that wasn’t the case not too long ago.

Gold finished higher than Wagner at the 2014 Olympics, 2014 World Championships and 2015 World Championships, plus outscored Wagner in three straight programs before her free-skate free-fall at worlds on April 2.

A U.S. woman hasn’t won Skate America, the biggest annual international competition in the U.S., since 2012, matching the host nation’s longest drought in the history of the event that started in 1981.

Wagner and Gold each was runner-up in her last Skate America appearance — Gold last year and Wagner in 2013.

The opportunity is there for either to break through. The field includes no other woman who finished in the top six at worlds the last two years.

Japan’s Mao Asada, a three-time world champion, is the star name of the group, but Asada is a question after not attempting her trademark triple Axel at a lower-level competition two weeks ago (and finishing second).

The Skate America men’s field is led by the world’s two best teens — 2015 World bronze medalist Jin Boyang of China and 2015 Grand Prix Final bronze medalist Shoma Uno of Japan.

Jin is the first skater to land four quadruple jumps in an international program. Uno is the first to land a quadruple flip.

If Jin and Uno are on their game, the top Americans — 2015 national champion Jason Brown and 2016 national champion Adam Rippon — might be fighting for bronze.

Reigning U.S. champions Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea and Maia and Alex Shibutani highlight the pairs and ice dance fields, respectively.

MORE: Ashley Wagner: ‘I’m in the last couple of years of my career’

Federica Brignone passes Mikaela Shiffrin for World Cup overall lead

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Italian Federica Brignone passed an absent Mikaela Shiffrin for the World Cup overall standings lead by winning a combined in Switzerland on Sunday.

Brignone prevailed by .92 of a second adding times from super-G and slalom runs in Crans-Montana. Full results are here.

Brignone moved 73 points ahead of Shiffrin in the overall through 29 of 40 scheduled races. A race winner receives 100 points on a descending scale through the 30th-place finisher. The season runs through March 22.

Shiffrin, the three-time reigning World Cup overall champion, has not competed since the unexpected death of her father on Feb. 2. She has not announced if or when she will return this season.

Brignone, 29, is having a career season with five wins and 10 podiums across four disciplines.

Brignone’s best previous World Cup overall standings finish was fifth. She earned giant slalom medals at the 2018 Olympics (bronze) and 2011 World Championships (silver).

She could become Italy’s first female World Cup overall champion. The last Italian male winner was Alberto Tomba in 1995.

The women’s Alpine skiing World Cup moves to La Thuile, Italy, for a super-G and a combined next Saturday and Sunday.

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Jade Carey on brink of becoming first gymnast to qualify for U.S. Olympic team

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The U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials aren’t until late June, but Jade Carey is in position to qualify for the Tokyo Games in March.

Carey, seeking an individual Olympic gymnastics spot outside of the team competition, earned the maximum points in a World Cup series that is one path to Olympic qualification.

Carey has three wins each on floor exercise and vault with two World Cups left in March. Carey will mathematically clinch an Olympic spot if no other gymnasts win three times on one of the apparatuses to force a tiebreaker.

So far, no other gymnast has two wins on floor. One gymnast has two wins on vault. A gymnast’s top three finishes across the eight-stop series count in Olympic qualifying. If Carey finishes atop the floor or vault standings, she goes to the Olympics.

Carey picked up those third wins on floor and vault at the sixth World Cup in Melbourne, Australia, this weekend.

The one downside to qualifying this route: Carey would not be able to compete in the team competition at the Olympics. Those four spots will be determined at and after June’s trials in St. Louis, with Simone Biles likely grabbing one of them.

“I knew I would be giving up being on the team,” Carey said in October of going the World Cup route, “but I think, for me, it made sense to just go for it.”

Carey is a world medalist on vault and floor, but she doesn’t have the all-around credentials of Biles and some other U.S. gymnasts.

Olympic team event roster sizes were cut from five to four for Tokyo, putting a greater onus on all-around prowess given a team must put three gymnasts on each apparatus in the Olympic final.

The U.S. is the deepest country in women’s gymnastics, so the only truly safe pick to make the four-woman Olympic team event roster is Biles.

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