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Trophée de France preview, broadcast schedule

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As if Gracie Gold needed any more pressure, there’s this: she must beat the reigning world champion this weekend to have even a small chance to qualify for December’s Grand Prix Final.

Gold, three weeks after finishing a disappointing fifth at Skate America, will face a field that includes Russian world champion Yevgenia Medvedeva at Trophée de France in Paris on Friday and Saturday.

Gold reportedly said after Skate America, where she had her worst Grand Prix finish since her debut four years ago, that she needed to adjust her mental and physical shape.

She talked openly about still feeling depressed in the summer due to her world championships performance from April, when she dropped from first after the short program to fourth. She also mentioned taking weeks off from training in the summer and not being in ideal physical shape for Skate America.

Given that, Gold may not be focusing on a victory this week, or the Grand Prix Final, but rather steady progress and gearing up for the U.S. Championships in January.

But if you’re looking at the Grand Prix Final, Gold’s fifth-place finish at Skate America means she pretty much must win in Paris to have a shot at making the second-biggest annual event in the sport. Six skaters qualify based on their two finishes from the six-event Grand Prix series.

No female skater has qualified for the Grand Prix Final with fifth- and second-place finishes in their two starts in the last decade. A fifth and a first would give Gold a little hope, though a woman hasn’t made it outright with those results since 2012.

Trophée de France is the fourth of six Grand Prix Final qualifiers, so the six-skater fields won’t be known for two more weeks. The favorites are the top two finishers from each of the first three Grand Prix events — Medvedeva, Ashley Wagner, Anna PogorilayaKaetlyn OsmondYelena Radionova and Mariah Bell (should Bell be given a second Grand Prix assignment).

Gold qualified for the Grand Prix Final each of the last two seasons.

In 2015, Gold actually won this French qualifier against a field that included the reigning world champion, then Russian Elizaveta Tuktamysheva. The free skate was canceled due to the Paris terror attacks (the competition was held in Bordeaux), and Gold was leading after a personal-best short program.

However, Tuktamysheva struggled mightily in her follow-up season after a world title. Medvedeva has shown no signs of slowing down this season, winning Skate Canada with the highest total score of the Grand Prix season.

There are several more intriguing skaters in Paris this week.

Three-time world champion Mao Asada looks to bounce back from her worst Grand Prix finish (a sixth at Skate America) since 2010.

Nathan Chen, who last season became the youngest man to make the U.S. Championships top three since 1973, makes his top-level senior international debut at age 17.

Chen landed four quadruple jumps in his U.S. Championships free skate on Jan. 24, and finished third. But later that day he aggravated a hip injury in an exhibition skate, needed surgery and was replaced on the world championships team.

Chen lost little promise, though, as he opened this season by beating three-time world champion Patrick Chan at a small event in Finland one month ago. Chen attempted five quads in his free skate there, falling twice.

In Paris, Chen takes on the two-time reigning world champion, Javier Fernandez of Spain, and U.S. champion Adam Rippon.

In pairs, Germans Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot compete for a second straight week after winning Rostelecom Cup in Russia. They ended their free skate with a throw quad Salchow attempt, and though Savchenko fell on it, the move showed they are trying to challenge world champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada. Duhamel and Radford aren’t competing in Paris, though.

In ice dance, France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron compete for the first time since winning a second straight world title in April. Top rivals from the U.S. and Canada are all not skating in Paris.

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Trophée de France broadcast schedule (all times Eastern)

Friday Pairs short program 9:40 a.m. Icenetwork.com
Friday Short dance 11 a.m. Icenetwork.com
Friday Men’s short program 12:45 p.m. Icenetwork.com
Friday Women’s short program 2:40 p.m. Icenetwork.com
Friday Women’s, men’s short programs 8-10 p.m. UniHD
Saturday Pairs free skate 7:45 a.m. Icenetwork.com
Saturday Free dance 9:25 a.m. Icenetwork.com
Saturday Men’s free skate 12:20 p.m. Icenetwork.com
Saturday Women’s free skate 2:30 p.m. Icenetwork.com
Saturday Free dance, pairs free 8-10 p.m. UniHD
Sunday Trophée de France 4:30-6 p.m. NBCSN, NBC Sports app

Key Start Times (Friday ET)
Marissa Castelli/Mervin Tran (USA) — 9:54 a.m.
Aliona Savchenko/Bruno Massot (GER) — 10:27
Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue (USA) — 11:46
Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron (FRA) — 12:13 p.m.
Adam Rippon (USA) — 12:52
Javier Fernandez (ESP) — 1:32
Nathan Chen (USA) — 1:58
Gracie Gold (USA) — 2:47
Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS) — 2:54
Mao Asada (JPN) — 3:07

Top Grand Prix Season Scores
Men
1. Javier Fernandez (ESP) — 292.98 (Rostelecom Cup)
2. Shoma Uno (JPN) — 285.07 (Rostelecom Cup)
3. Shoma Uno (JPN) — 279.34 (Skate America)
4. Jason Brown (USA) — 268.38 (Skate America)
5. Patrick Chan (CAN) — 266.95 (Skate Canada)
6. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 263.06 (Skate Canada)
7. Adam Rippon (USA) — 261.43 (Skate America)

Women
1. Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS) — 220.65 (Skate Canada)
2. Anna Pogorilaya (RUS) — 215.21 (Rostelecom Cup)
3. Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN) — 206.45 (Skate Canada)
4. Ashley Wagner (USA) — 196.44 (Skate America)
5. Yelena Radionova (RUS) — 195.60 (Rostelecom Cup)
6. Satoko Miyahara (JPN) — 192.08 (Skate Canada)
7. Mariah Bell (USA) — 191.49 (Skate America)

Pairs
1. Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford (CAN) — 218.30 (Skate Canada)
2. Aliona Savchenko/Bruno Massot (GER) — 207.89 (Rostelecom Cup)
3. Yu Xiaoyu/Zhang Hao (CHN) — 202.08 (Skate Canada)
4. Natalya Zabiyako/Alexander Enbert (RUS) — 197.77 (Rostelecom Cup)
5. Julianne Séguin/Charlie Bilodeau (CAN) — 197.31 (Skate America)
6. Haven Denney/Brandon Frazier (USA) — 192.65 (Skate America)
7. Lubov Ilyushechkina/Dylan Moscovitch (CAN) — 190.22 (Skate Canada)

Ice Dance
1. Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir (CAN) — 189.06 (Skate Canada)
2. Madison Chock/Evan Bates (USA) — 188.24 (Skate Canada)
3. Yekaterina Bobrova/Dmitry Soloviyev (RUS) — 186.68 (Rostelecom Cup)
4. Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA) — 185.75 (Skate America)

5. Piper Gilles/Paul Poirier (CAN) — 182.57 (Skate Canada)
6. Madison Chock/Evan Bates (USA) — 182.13 (Rostelecom Cup)
7. Anna Cappellini/Luca Lanotte (ITA) — 180.35 (Skate Canada)

Adam Jones, five-time MLB All-Star, becomes Olympic eligible

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Should the U.S. qualify for baseball’s Olympic return, a five-time MLB All-Star could be eligible for its roster in Tokyo. And he has interest.

Outfielder Adam Jones signed with the Orix Buffaloes of Japan’s domestic league, which, unlike MLB, will take an Olympic break next summer to allow players to take part in the first Olympic baseball tournament in 12 years.

Jones, 34, made no mention of Olympic eligibility in a social media post announcing the signing. His Instagram avatar is a photo of him in a Team USA jersey from the World Baseball Classic.

Jones’ agent later said that Jones does have interest in playing for the U.S. in Tokyo, should an American team qualify in the spring.

“To play over in Japan has always been a desire of Adam’s, and the timing worked out that the Olympics happens to be played in Tokyo the first year of his contract,” Jones’ agent wrote in an email. “It wasn’t one of the factors on his decision BUT more of a [sic] addition to the overall package to decide to go.”

Jones called being part of the U.S.’ 2017 WBC title, “probably the best experience of my life so far, especially with sports,” according to The Associated Press. He was one of five players to be on the U.S. team at each of the last two World Baseball Classics.

The U.S. still faces a difficult task to qualify for the Tokyo Games. It lost to Mexico last month in its first of up to three chances at qualifying tournaments, using a roster of mostly double-A and triple-A caliber players.

Major Leaguers are not expected to be made available for qualifying or for the Tokyo Games.

The next two qualifying tournaments will be in late March (an Americas qualifier in Arizona) and early April (a final, global qualifying event in Chinese Taipei). It remains to be seen how MLB clubs will go about releasing minor leaguers for a tournament that will take place during spring training.

Jones could become the third player with prior MLB All-Star experience to compete at the Olympics from any nation, joining Australian catcher Dave Nilsson and Canadian pitcher Jason Dickson.

Jones made five All-Star teams during an 11-year stint with the Baltimore Orioles from 2008-18 before playing for the Arizona Diamondbacks last season.

Many players competed at the Olympics before making an MLB All-Star team, including Stephen Strasburg and Jason Giambi.

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Russia boxers to boycott Olympics if sanctions not lifted

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Russian boxers will only take part in the Tokyo Olympics if doping sanctions forcing them to compete as neutral athletes are overturned, the general secretary of the Russian Boxing Federation told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Umar Kremlev said he has spoken with the Olympic boxing team and they “unanimously” rejected the conditions laid out by the World Anti-Doping Agency as punishment for manipulating doping data.

The WADA sanctions, announced on Monday, ban the use of the Russian team name, flag or anthem at a range of major sports competitions over the next four years, including next year’s Olympics.

“They said we won’t go without our flag and anthem,” Kremlev said. “We aren’t going for medals, but for that feeling that I brought the highest honor home for my country.”

Separately, the speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament said Russia could create an alternative to the Olympics.

“This ruling show the clear crisis in international sports institutions. I believe that Russia could host its own games at home,” Valentina Matvienko said in comments reported by the Interfax news agency.

There is a precedent. After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Soviet Union refused to compete in the Olympics and hosted its own Spartakiads — named after the ancient rebel slave Spartacus — with a strong socialist slant. However, the Soviet Union began competing at the Olympics in 1952 and Russians generally take great pride in the country’s Olympic achievements since then.

If the sanctions aren’t overturned, Kremlev said Russian boxers would prefer to turn pro rather than compete at the Olympics.

“A world champion (in professional boxing) is better known than an Olympic champion,” Kremlev said, adding the Russian anthem would be played before pro title fights.

Kremlev said boxers are being asked to shoulder the blame for offenses committed in other sports. He said they would still stay at home even if Russia’s athletes in other sports decided to take part.

“If other sports are guilty and people have breached the WADA code, why are we punished?” he said. “We are for honest sport and against doping. We want our sport to be clean … If someone breaks the rules, we push them out.”

Russia is a major power in amateur and Olympic boxing. It hosted both men’s and women’s world championships this year, finishing at the top of the medals table at the women’s event and second in the men’s championships. The International Olympic Committee has taken direct charge of boxing at the Tokyo Olympics after criticizing chronic financial problems and infighting at the International Boxing Association.

Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov talked up Russia’s chances of overturning the WADA sanctions.

“I think that there is every basis to appeal the decision, because our experts have presented their position, and they have the same database as WADA does,” Kolobkov said in comments reported by state news agency TASS. “There is an answer to every question and the whole process is ahead of us.”

The official decision on whether to dispute the sanctions will be made on Dec. 19 by the Russian anti-doping agency’s supervisory board, but senior figures, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, have signaled their preference for taking the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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