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

U.S. women’s basketball team, statistically greatest ever, rolls to FIBA World Cup title

FIBA Women's World Cup
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The revamped U.S. women’s basketball team may have been the greatest of all time.

The Americans completed, statistically, their most dominant global championship ever by routing China 83-61 in the FIBA World Cup final on Saturday in Sydney — giving them 60 consecutive wins between the Olympics and worlds dating to 2006.

It marked the largest margin of victory in a World Cup final since the event converted from a fully round-robin format in 1983.

For the tournament, the U.S. drubbed its opponents by an average of 40.75 points per game, beating its previous record between the Olympics and worlds of 37.625 points from the 2008 Beijing Games. It was just off the 1992 U.S. Olympic men’s Dream Team’s legendary margin 43.8 points per game. This U.S. team scored 98.75 points per game, its largest at worlds since 1994.

“We came here on a mission, a business trip,” tournament MVP A’ja Wilson said in a post-game press conference before turning to coach Cheryl Reeve. “We played pretty good, I think, coach.”

Since the U.S. won a seventh consecutive Olympic title in Tokyo, Sue Bird and Sylvia Fowles retired. Tina Charles ceded her national team spot to younger players. Brittney Griner was detained in Russia (and still is). Diana Taurasi suffered a WNBA season-ending quad injury that ruled her out of World Cup participation (who knows if the 40-year-old Taurasi will play for the U.S. again).

Not only that, but Cheryl Reeve of the Minnesota Lynx succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach, implementing a new uptempo system.

“There was probably great concern, and maybe around the world they kind of looked at it and said, ‘Hey, now is the time to get the USA,'” Reeve said Saturday.

The U.S. response was encapsulated by power forward Alyssa Thomas, the oldest player on the roster at age 30 who made the U.S. team for the first time in her career, started every game and was called the team’s glue and MVP going into the final.

Wilson and Tokyo Olympic MVP Breanna Stewart were the leaders. Guard Kelsey Plum, a Tokyo Olympic 3×3 player, blossomed this past WNBA season and was third in the league’s MVP voting. She averaged the most minutes on the team, scored 15.8 points per game and had 17 in the final.

“The depth of talent that we have was on display,” Reeve said. “What I am most pleased about was the trust and buy-in.”

For the first time since 1994, no player on the U.S. roster was over the age of 30, creating a scary thought for the 2024 Paris Olympics: the Americans could get even better.

“When you say best-ever, I’m always really cautious with that, because, obviously, there are great teams,” Reeve said when asked specifically about the team’s defense. “This group was really hard to play against.”

Earlier Saturday, 41-year-old Australian legend Lauren Jackson turned back the clock with a 30-point performance off the bench in her final game as an Opal, a 95-65 victory over Canada for the bronze. Jackson, who came out of a six-year retirement and played her first major tournament since the 2012 Olympics, had her best scoring performance since the 2008 Olympics.

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IOC looks for ways Russian athletes ‘who do not support war’ could compete as neutrals

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GENEVA (AP) — Russian athletes who do not endorse their country’s war in Ukraine could be accepted back into international sports, competing under a neutral flag, IOC president Thomas Bach said in an interview published Friday.

“It’s about having athletes with a Russian passport who do not support the war back in competition,” Bach told Italian daily Corriere della Sera, adding, “We have to think about the future.”

Most sports followed IOC advice in February and banned Russian teams and athletes from their events within days of the country’s military invasion of Ukraine.

With Russians starting to miss events that feed into qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics, an exile extending into next year could effectively become a wider ban from those Games.

In an interview in Rome, Bach hinted at IOC thinking after recent rounds of calls with Olympic stakeholders asked for views on Russia’s pathway back from pariah status.

“To be clear, it is not about necessarily having Russia back,” he said. “On the other hand — and here comes our dilemma — this war has not been started by the Russian athletes.”

Bach did not suggest how athletes could express opposition to the war when dissent and criticism of the Russian military risks jail sentences of several years.

Some Russian athletes publicly supported the war in March and are serving bans imposed by their sport’s governing body.

Olympic gold medalist swimmer Yevgeny Rylov appeared at a pro-war rally attended by Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Gymnast Ivan Kuliak displayed a pro-military “Z” symbol on his uniform at an international event.

Russian former international athletes are being called up for military service in the current mobilization, according to media reports. They include former heavyweight boxing champion Nikolai Valuev and soccer player Diniyar Bilyaletdinov.

Russians have continued to compete during the war as individuals in tennis and cycling, without national symbols such as flags and anthems, even when teams have been banned.

Bach told Corriere della Sera it was the IOC’s mission to be politically neutral and “to have the Olympic Games, and to have sport in general, as something that still unifies people and humanity.”

“For all these reasons, we are in a real dilemma at this moment with regard to the Russian invasion in Ukraine,” he suggested. “We also have to see, and to study, to monitor, how and when we can come back to accomplish our mission to have everybody back again, under which format whatsoever.”

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