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Figure skaters qualified for Grand Prix Final

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This season’s Grand Prix Final includes every reigning world champion and five American entries.

The Grand Prix Final is the second-biggest annual competition behind the world championships. It takes the top six per discipline from the fall’s Grand Prix series.

NBC, NBCSN and Universal HD will air Grand Prix Final coverage from Marseille, France, in two weeks, along with streaming on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

Here are the Grand Prix Final fields:

Men
Javier Fernández (ESP) — Won Rostelecom Cup and Trophée de France
Patrick Chan (CAN) — Won Skate Canada and Cup of China
Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — Won NHK Trophy, 2nd at Skate Canada
Shoma Uno (JPN) — Won Skate America, 2nd at Rostelecom Cup
Nathan Chen (USA) — 2nd at NHK Trophy, 4th at Trophée de France
Adam Rippon (USA) — 3rd at Skate America, 3rd at Trophée de France
(Alternates: Jin (CHN), Voronov (RUS), Bychenko (ISR))

The field includes every man who has won an Olympic or world title since 2011. Chan won the 2011, 2012 and 2013 World titles. Hanyu won the 2014 Olympic and World titles. Fernández is the two-time reigning world champion.

Chen and Rippon are the first American men’s singles skaters to qualify for a Grand Prix Final since 2011.

Women
Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS) — Won Skate Canada, Trophée de France
Anna Pogorilaya (RUS) — Won Rostelecom Cup, NHK Trophy
Yelena Radionova (RUS) — Won Cup of China, 2nd at Rostelecom Cup
Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN) — 2nd at Skate Canada, 2nd at Cup of China
Maria Sotskova (RUS) — 2nd at Trophée de France, 3rd at NHK Trophy
Satoko Miyahara (JPN) — 3rd at Skate Canada, 2nd at NHK Trophy
(Alternates: Wagner (USA), Tuktamysheva (RUS), Mihara (JPN))

Four Russian women qualified for the Grand Prix Final for the third time in four years. The world champion Medvedeva hasn’t lost in a year. Pogorilaya and Radionova own world championships medals. Sotskova is the current world junior silver medalist.

No U.S. woman qualified for the Grand Prix Final for the first time since 2008.

Pairs
Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford (CAN) — Won Skate Canada, NHK Trophy
Aliona Savchenko/Bruno Massot (GER) — Won Rostelecom Cup, Trophée de France (WITHDREW)
Yu Xiaoyu/Zhang Hao (CHN) — Won Cup of China, 2nd at Skate Canada
Peng Cheng/Jin Yang (CHN) — 2nd at Cup of China, 2nd at NHK Trophy
Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 2nd at Trophée de France, 3rd at Skate America
Julianne Séguin/Charlie Bilodeau (CAN) — Won Skate America, 5th at Rostelecom Cup
Natalia Zabijako/Alexander Enbert (RUS) — 2nd at Cup of Russia, 4th at Trophée de France
(Alternates: Denney/Frazier, Ilyushechkina/Moscovitch)

Savchenko, a five-time world champ with Robin Szolkowy, and French-born partner Massot made their Grand Prix series debut as a pair this season but withdrew from Marseille due to Savchenko’s ankle injury. Two-time world champs Duhamel and Radford were upset at the last year’s Grand Prix Final, but the Russians who beat them won’t be in Marseille.

Ice Dance
Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir (CAN) — Won Skate Canada, NHK Trophy
Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA) — Won Skate America and Cup of China
Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron (FRA) — Won Trophée de France, 2nd at NHK Trophy
Yekaterina Bobrova/Dmitry Soloviyev (RUS) — Won Rostelecom Cup, 3rd at Skate America
Madison Chock/Evan Bates (USA) — 2nd at Skate Canada, 2nd at Rostelecom Cup
Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue (USA) — 2nd at Skate America, 2nd at Trophée de France
(Alternates: Weaver/Poje, Gilles/Poirier, Cappellini/Lanotte)

Virtue and Moir, gold and silver medalists at the last two Olympics, posted the highest ice-dance score of all time this season in their return from a two-year break. They beat the two-time reigning world champions Papadakis and Cizeron at NHK Trophy. The U.S. put the same three couples into the Grand Prix Final in consecutive years.

MORE: U.S., world champion figure skaters join Mannequin Challenge

Dec. 8 Grand Prix Final: Men’s and Ladies Short 8-10 p.m. UniHD
Dec. 9 Grand Prix Final: Pairs Short, Short Dance 8-10 p.m. UniHD
Dec. 10 Grand Prix Final: Pairs Free 8:30-9:30 p.m. UniHD
Dec. 11 Grand Prix Final 8:30-11 p.m. NBCSN
Dec. 18 Grand Prix Final 4-6 p.m. NBC
Dec. 19 Grand Prix Final: NBC re-air 8-10 p.m. UniHD

Brigid Kosgei, Eliud Kipchoge herald new era of fast marathons

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Eliud Kipchoge‘s success in breaking the two-hour mark (final time: 1:59:40) for the marathon on Saturday was expected. He had come close before, and like Alex Honnold‘s unprecedented climb of El Capitan documented in the film Free Solo, the feat required meticulous planning — the ideal mix of pace-setters, course conditions and weather — to steer a once-in-a-lifetime talent to a once-in-a-lifetime accomplishment.

Brigid Kosgei‘s world record at the Chicago Marathon on Sunday was a far greater surprise. Kosgei had run fast times before, but her time of 2:14:04 took more than four minutes off her personal best earlier this year in London, which is typically a faster race than Chicago.

MORE: Chicago Marathon results

The two feats had some common threads. Both runners are Kenyan, no surprise in an event in which the top 100 men’s performances of all time are almost exclusively Kenyan and Ethiopian and the top of the women’s all-time list is similarly homogeneous aside from the presence of British runner Paula Radcliffe, whose time of 2:15:25 had stood as the world record for 16 1/2 years until Sunday. Radcliffe was present in Chicago to greet Kosgei when her record fell.

Kipchoge and Kosgei also wore the same shoes, Nike’s ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT%, thanks to Kosgei’s last-minute decision to switch. Earlier versions of those shoes, like the high-tech swimsuits that were eventually banned from competition or golf equipment whose advertising revels in their alleged illegality,

Both marathoners also had pace-setters running with them. Kipchoge’s effort took the concept to an extreme, with an all-star cast running pieces of the course in front of him, and will not be considered an official world record because it didn’t happen under race conditions. (The Atlantic ran a piece on the Kipchoge run with the headline “The Greatest, Fakest World Record,” though the piece itself was more inquisitive than judgmental.)

MORE: Kipchoge shakes off nerves to break barrier

Kosgei was running in an actual race and has already had her time touted as a world record by the international organizer IAAF, but because she was running in a mixed-gender race, she was able to run behind two hired guns, Geoffrey Pyego and Daniel Limo. They were easily distinguished from men’s race contenders by the singlets with the word “PACE” written in the space where a number or name would usually go.

But in general, marathoners are simply getting faster and faster. Perhaps it’s scientific, with specifically engineered shoes, pace-setters and refined training methods, or perhaps all the tinkering and lab experiments are simply a sign of increased focus on the race that traces its history to the myth of the Greek soldier Pheidippides running such a great distance to herald a momentous military victory before falling over dead.

Of the top 20 women’s times on the IAAF list, only five were run before 2012 — one by Catherine Ndereba, four by Radcliffe. Three were run in 2017, then six in 2018 (three in Berlin) and four this year. All 20 of the fastest men’s times have been posted this decade, eight of them in 2019 alone. Kipchoge, in addition to his unofficial best from this weekend, has the official record of 2:01:39 from the 2018 Berlin Marathon.

The all-time list also reminds us that, for all the controversy over the context of Kipchoge’s run, marathons aren’t really standard, anyway. Some courses are more difficult than others. Some races, like the Boston Marathon, aren’t eligible for record consideration for a variety of technical reasons. (Boston’s hilly course doesn’t lend itself to fast times, anyway — the men’s course record of 2:03:02, set by Geoffrey Mutai in 2011, would rank seventh all-time, but no other time would crack the top 100. The women’s course record is nowhere near the best ever.) London, Berlin and Dubai are the places to go for assaults on the record book.

No matter where the race takes place or how it was run, fast times in the marathon capture the imagination.

Purists may cling to romantic notions of long-haired, bearded runners pounding the Boston or New York pavement in shoes that didn’t even have a basic level of air cushioning. But the modern marathon era is built for speed.

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Danielle Perkins is first U.S. boxer to win world title in 3 years

Danielle Perkins
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Danielle Perkins became the U.S.’ first world champion boxer in this Olympic cycle, taking the heavyweight crown in Russia on Sunday.

Perkins, a 37-year-old who played college basketball at George Mason and St. John’s, improved from bronze in 2018 to earn her first world title, blanking defending world champion Yang Xiaoli of China 5-0 in Sunday’s final.

Video of the bout is here.

Perkins was slated to fight Yang in the 2018 World semifinals but withdrew due to medical reasons, according to USA Boxing.

The heavyweight division is 81+kg, but the heaviest Olympic weight division is capped at 75kg.

The last American to earn a world title was Claressa Shields in 2016, before she repeated as Olympic champion in Rio and moved to the professional ranks.

The Olympic trials are in December in Louisiana, after which winners will fight internationally in early 2020 in bids to qualify for the Tokyo Games.

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MORE: IOC strips Olympic status from boxing body AIBA