Shoma Uno tops Javier Fernandez in Rostelecom Cup short program

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Japan’s Shoma Uno continued his strong start to the figure skating season, easily bettering world champion Javier Fernandez in the Rostelecom Cup short program in Moscow on Friday.

Uno, 18, beat his personal best by 5.6 points, tallying 98.59 points, doing two quadruple jumps (putting his hand down on one landing).

The Spaniard Fernandez performed one quad and scored 91.55 points for second place. Max Aaron, the 2015 Skate America winner, fell on his quad attempt and put up 73.64 for eighth. Full results are here.

Uno scored 9.43 points higher than he did at Skate America two weeks ago, when he also topped the short program, albeit with a fall. Uno has won all three of his competitions this season, including beating Fernandez at the free-skate-only Japan Open on Oct. 1, which can be seen as a preseason exhibition.

Uno’s personal best Friday moved him from No. 8 to No. 3 all time in short program scores under the current points system. Only Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu and Fernandez have scored higher.

Later Friday, Russians took the top three spots in the women’s short program — 2016 World bronze medalist Anna Pogorilaya (73.93), 2015 World bronze medalist Yelena Radionova (71.93) and 2014 World silver medalist Yulia Lipnitskaya (69.25).

Two-time world medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates of the U.S. topped the short dance with 74.05 points. Russians Yekaterina Bobrova and Dmitry Soloviyev were second at 74.92.

Russians Natalya Zabiyako and Alexander Enbert were the surprise pairs short program leaders with 69.76 points, .25 better than world bronze medalists Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot. Savchenko and Massot both fell on triple Salchows.

Rostelecom Cup concludes with all of the free skates Saturday. A detailed schedule is here.

Uno and Chock and Bates will clinch berths in December’s Grand Prix Final, the second-biggest annual competition, if they hold on to win Saturday. Actually, Uno will clinch with any podium finish.

NBCSN and the NBC Sports app will air coverage Sunday from 10-11:30 p.m. ET.

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Justin Morneau nixes Olympic baseball qualifying return

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Justin Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP with the Minnesota Twins, was taken off Canada’s Olympic baseball qualifying roster before he would have played his first competitive game in more than two years.

Morneau, 38, experienced an unspecified setback in training and was replaced on Canada’s roster for next month’s Premier12. The global tournament marks the first opportunity for many world baseball powers to qualify for the sport’s return to the Olympics.

Morneau never played in the Olympics before baseball was cut from the Games after 2008; active MLB players have never competed in the Games. But he was on Canada’s roster at all four World Baseball Classics from 2006 through 2017.

At November’s Premier12, the top nation from North and South America will qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. Japan and Israel are already qualified. Those that do not qualify will get another chance next year.

Morneau could become the second Major League Baseball MVP to play Olympic baseball as a medal sport. The other was Jason Giambi, who made the U.S. team in 1992, the same summer he was drafted in the second round by the Oakland Athletics.

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Kolohe Andino is first U.S. Olympic surfing qualifier; Kelly Slater faces last chance

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Kolohe Andino is the first American to qualify for surfing’s Olympic debut, which leaves one spot left for 47-year-old Kelly Slater to chase at the final contest of the season.

Andino, a 25-year-old Californian whose first name means “rascal” in Hawaiian, clinched his place in Tokyo on Friday at the penultimate stop on the World Surf League Championship Tour in Portugal. He is ranked fifth in the world, trailing a trio of Brazilians.

One more American man will join Andino on the Olympic team. It will be one of Slater, the 11-time world champion, John John Florence, the 2016 and 2017 World champion, and rising 22-year-old Hawaiian Seth Moniz.

Slater was handed a golden opportunity to qualify when Florence announced in early July that he tore an ACL for the second time in 13 months. Florence had won two of the first five events this season.

Slater has been chasing the sidelined Florence in the standings ever since. But it has not been easy.

Slater hasn’t made the quarterfinals in any of his last seven contests going into December’s finale — the prestigious Billabong Pipeline Masters on the North Shore of Oahu.

“Ninth place, to me, used to be a pretty awful result. I’m used to at least a quarterfinal on for most of my career,” he said in July, noting a back injury. “I’m not horrified by my results, but I’m also not surprised. Maybe other people are because everyone focuses on my age and that kind of thing. It’s not like I’m going to all of a sudden forget how to do this thing, you know?”

Slater, who won the Pipe Masters seven times between 1992 and 2013, must reach the quarterfinals at this year’s event to have any chance of passing Florence to qualify for the Olympics.

Complicating matters: Florence said in August it was his “goal to get better for Pipeline in case I have to come back and compete and gain points,” according to ESPN.com. If Florence does return for the December contest, and makes the quarterfinals, Slater could only pass him with a victory.

Moniz goes into the finale ranked one spot behind Slater, meaning he, too, can grab that second and final Olympic spot with a win or a runner-up.

Slater, who turns 48 on Feb. 11, would be the oldest U.S. Summer Olympic rookie competitor in a sport other than equestrian, sailing or shooting (or art competitions!) in the last 100 years, supplanting Martina Navratilova, according to the OlyMADMen.

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