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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.

MORE: Full figure skating season broadcast schedule

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)

Kristoffersen topples Hirscher to win giant slalom at worlds

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ARE, Sweden — Norwegian skiing is in safe hands, even with its beloved king now in retirement.

Henrik Kristoffersen gave Norway its second individual gold medal of the world championships by toppling an under-the-weather Marcel Hirscher to win the giant slalom on Friday.

With Kjetil Jansrud also victorious in the downhill last week, Norway appears in great shape heading into the post-Aksel Lund Svindal era.

Svindal signed off his illustrious career with a silver medal behind Jansrud in the downhill, and said he was leaving behind a strong generation of Norwegian skiing talent.

Kristoffersen is at the forefront of that — especially now that he has ended his long wait for a medal at a world championship.

The 24-year-old Kristoffersen had finished fourth in his last three races at the worlds — the giant slalom and slalom in 2017 and the slalom in 2015 — and headed into his second run of the GS in third place behind leader Alexis Pinturault and Hirscher, the favorite and one of skiing’s all-time greats.

However, Kristoffersen produced an aggressive run under the lights, his speed and flow particularly apparent in the bottom section, to win by 0.20 seconds over Hirscher. Pinturault won the bronze medal, 0.42 seconds back.

“It was about time to get a medal,” said Kristoffersen, who wasn’t necessarily expecting it to come in GS.

Kristoffersen’s last win in the discipline came at Meribel in 2015 and he has been consistently behind Hirscher, the seven-time overall World Cup winner and defending Olympic and world GS champion. He finished second to Hirscher at last year’s Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Kristoffersen was without a win in any discipline for a year but said he gained confidence from the course being doused with salt to maintain the snow surface amid unseasonably warm weather. The temperature in Are for the first leg was 8 C (46 F).

“There’s no one that skis on salt as much as Norwegians do,” he said. “Even though I haven’t trained on salt in GS in a long, long time, I have it from childhood.”

Hirscher’s preparations for the race were affected by a bout of flu that kept him in bed for much of the past two days. He acknowledged after the race that the likelihood of him lining up on the starting gate wasn’t high on Thursday.

“Normally,” Hirscher said, “if you have regular work on those days, you normally tell your boss I’m done for the day.”

Yet he managed to be only 0.10 seconds behind Pinturault after an error-free first run, keeping Hirscher on course for a record-tying seventh gold medal at the worlds. But he went wide at two gates in the top section of his second run, causing him to lose 0.41 seconds on Kristoffersen in the middle section.

“Second place is the first loser but Henrik had an amazing day with two great runs,” Hirscher said. “Henrik is at the top for such a long time. He was more than ready for a world title.”

Hirscher, who was noticeably sniffing after the race, added that he was “looking forward to getting back to bed again” to rest up ahead of Sunday’s slalom.

When Pinturault crossed the finish line in third place, Kristoffersen clenched his fists before walking into the finish area, crouching on one knee and acknowledging the jubilant Norwegian fans in the grandstand.

For Pinturault, it was his second medal of the championships after winning the Alpine combined on Monday.

Wesenberg wins first U.S. skeleton World Cup medal in two years

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With a bronze medal in Lake Placid earlier today, Kendall Wesenberg became the first American to reach the World Cup podium in skeleton in two years.

Wesenberg, who finished 17th at her first Olympics in PyeongChang, had a combined time of 1:51.10 in Lake Placid. Prior to today, her last podium finish at the World Cup was in St. Moritz in January 2017.

“This has never been my strongest track, so we really broke it down piece by piece, and I think it paid off,” Wesenberg said, according to USA Bobsled and Skeleton. “The second run, I kind of tried to throw it away at the top there. By the time I made it to corner 10, I was just thinking ‘build speed, build speed.”

Wesenberg, 28, grew up in California’s Central Valley, but her interest in sliding sports piqued while watching the 2010 Vancouver Games. When the commentators discussed the athletic backgrounds of the athletes, Wesenberg realized she played some of the same sports growing up. A quick Google search brought her to the USA Bobsled and Skeleton page. She told her siblings she was thinking of trying skeleton. They said she’d never do it. Challenge accepted.

Wesenberg emailed a U.S. coach and signed up for a combine and driving training in January 2011. Seven years later, she was sliding on Olympic ice.

Sliding coverage continues today on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA, with women’s bobsled live at 3:15 p.m. ET and men’s bobsled live at 4:15.