Getty Images

Cup of China preview, broadcast schedule

Leave a comment

After a world silver medal and a Skate America victory, the demanding question of Ashley Wagner is, can she be better?

In a way, Wagner faces less pressure at Cup of China this weekend than at worlds last season and Skate America in October.

Combined with the latter win, Wagner will clinch a spot in December’s Grand Prix Final with any podium placement in Beijing. Perhaps even if she finishes fourth or fifth.

The Grand Prix Final is the second-biggest annual competition, and the most exclusive. Only six skaters per discipline qualify via their two results on the six-event Grand Prix series. Cup of China is the fifth of six events.

Wagner said she left points on the table at the first event, Skate America, noting the need to work on her spins. She also singled the back end of a jump combination and under-rotated two more jumps in her free skate in Hoffman Estates, Ill.

It showed in the scores. Wagner won with 196.44 points, a total that would not have won any of the next three Grand Prix events leading up to Cup of China.

Though Wagner is the only skater in this weekend’s women’s field who boasts a Grand Prix victory this season, another skater owns a higher score. That’s Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond, who took runner-up at Skate Canada with a personal-best 206.45 points, more than 10 clear of Wagner from Skate America.

The field is deep, including 2015 World gold and bronze medalists Elizaveta Tuktamysheva and Yelena Radionova and rising Japanese 17-year-old Mai Mihara.

Another American, Courtney Hicks, can push into Grand Prix Final contention for the first time if she can reach the podium.

Three U.S. men with Grand Prix Final aspirations will be intently watching the results in Beijing. Adam Rippon, Jason Brown and Nathan Chen are all in contention to become the first U.S. man to make the final since Jeremy Abbott in 2011.

But none of them are competing this week. Rippon was third in both of his Grand Prix events, while Brown and Chen skate at next week’s NHK Trophy in Japan.

They should all be rooting for Canadian Patrick Chan to win Cup of China. Chan already has a victory from Skate Canada, so he is one foot into the Grand Prix Final like Wagner.

China’s Jin Boyang is of greater concern. The world bronze medalist took fifth at Skate America, so he pretty much needs to win Cup of China to have a shot at the Grand Prix Final. Jin, the first skater to land four quadruple jumps in an international program, certainly has the skill.

If Jin finishes second or lower, Rippon will be ahead of him in the Grand Prix standings, which will pretty much assure that the U.S. men’s Grand Prix Final drought ends.

Also in China, world silver medalists Maia and Alex Shibutani will become the third U.S. ice dance couple to qualify for the Grand Prix Final with any podium finish.

MORE: Full figure skating season broadcast schedule

[twitter-follow screen_name=’nzaccardi’ show_count=’yes’ text_color=’00ccff’]

Cup of China broadcast schedule (all times Eastern)

Friday Short dance 2:30 a.m. Icenetwork.com
Friday Women’s short program 4:10 a.m. Icenetwork.com
Friday Men’s short program 6:05 a.m. Icenetwork.com
Friday Pairs short program 8 a.m. Icenetwork.com
Friday Women’s, men’s short programs 8-10 p.m. UniHD
Saturday Free dance 1:30 a.m. Icenetwork.com
Saturday Women’s free skate 3:30 a.m. Icenetwork.com
Saturday Men’s free skate 5:45 a.m. Icenetwork.com
Saturday Pairs free skate 8 a.m. Icenetwork.com
Saturday Free dance, pairs free 9-11 p.m. UniHD
Sunday Cup of China 11 p.m.-12:30 a.m. NBCSN, NBC Sports app

Key Short Program Start Times Friday (ET)
Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA) — 2:36 a.m.
Courtney Hicks (USA) — 4:17 a.m.
Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN) — 4:24 a.m.
Ashley Wagner (USA) — 4:37 a.m.
Yelena Radionova (RUS) — 5:17 a.m.
Patrick Chan (CAN) — 6:12 a.m.
Jin Boyang (CHN) — 6:59 a.m.
Max Aaron (USA) — 7:12 a.m.

Top Grand Prix Season Scores
Men
1. Javier Fernández (ESP) — 292.98 (Rostelecom Cup)
2. Javier Fernández (ESP) — 285.38 (Trophée de France)
3. Shoma Uno (JPN) — 285.07 (Rostelecom Cup)
4. Shoma Uno (JPN) — 279.34 (Skate America)
5. Denis Ten (KAZ) — 265.26 (Trophée de France)
6. Jason Brown (USA) — 268.38 (Skate America)
7. Adam Rippon (USA) — 267.53 (Trophée de France)
8. Patrick Chan (CAN) — 266.95 (Skate Canada)
9. Nathan Chen (USA) — 264.80 (Trophée de France)
10. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 263.06 (Skate Canada)

Women
1. Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS) — 221.54 (Trophée de France)
2. Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS) — 220.65 (Skate Canada)
3. Anna Pogorilaya (RUS) — 215.21 (Rostelecom Cup)
4. Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN) — 206.45 (Skate Canada)
5. Maria Sotskova (RUS) — 200.35 (Trophée de France)
6. Ashley Wagner (USA) — 196.44 (Skate America)
7. Yelena Radionova (RUS) — 195.60 (Rostelecom Cup)
8. Wakaba Higuchi (JPN) — 194.48 (Trophée de France)
9. Gabrielle Daleman (CAN) — 192.10 (Trophée de France)
10. Satoko Miyahara (JPN) — 192.08 (Skate Canada)

Pairs
1. Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford (CAN) — 218.30 (Skate Canada)
2. Aliona Savchenko/Bruno Massot (GER) — 210.59 (Trophée de France)
3. Aliona Savchenko/Bruno Massot (GER) — 207.89 (Rostelecom Cup)
4. Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 206.94 (Trophée de France)
5. Yu Xiaoyu/Zhang Hao (CHN) — 202.08 (Skate Canada)
6. Vanessa James/Morgan Cipres (FRA) — 198.58 (Trophée de France)
7. Natalya Zabiyako/Alexander Enbert (RUS) — 197.77 (Rostelecom Cup)
8. Julianne Séguin/Charlie Bilodeau (CAN) — 197.31 (Skate America)
9. Haven Denney/Brandon Frazier (USA) — 192.65 (Skate America)
10. Natalya Zabiiako/Alexander Enbert (RUS) — 192.56 (Trophée de France)

Ice Dance
1. Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron (FRA) — 193.50 (Trophée de France)
2. Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir (CAN) — 189.06 (Skate Canada)
3. Madison Chock/Evan Bates (USA) — 188.24 (Skate Canada)
4. Yekaterina Bobrova/Dmitry Soloviyev (RUS) — 186.68 (Rostelecom Cup)
5. Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA) — 185.75 (Skate America)

6. Piper Gilles/Paul Poirier (CAN) — 182.57 (Skate Canada)
7. Madison Chock/Evan Bates (USA) — 182.13 (Rostelecom Cup)
8. Anna Cappellini/Luca Lanotte (ITA) — 180.35 (Skate Canada)
9. Kaitlyn Weaver/Andrew Poje (CAN) — 178.57 (Rostelecom Cup)
10. Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue (USA) — 175.77 (Skate America)

 

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

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Israel baseball turned to Shlomo Lipetz for the biggest out in program history

[twitter-follow screen_name=’nzaccardi’ show_count=’yes’ text_color=’00ccff’]

Russia boxers to boycott Olympics if sanctions not lifted

Getty Images
2 Comments

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.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: IOC strips Olympic status from boxing body AIBA

[twitter-follow screen_name=’nbcolympictalk’ show_count=’yes’ text_color=’00ccff’]