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Alysia Montaño finds little joy after Russian stripped of medals

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NEW YORK — U.S. 800m runner Alysia Montaño is set to earn her first two world outdoor championships medals, four and six years after she ran those races. She wasn’t in a celebratory mood about the news Saturday evening.

Russian Maria Savinova, the 2012 Olympic 800m champion, was stripped of results from 2010 to 2013 and given a four-year ban due to doping derived from biological passport evidence on Friday.

That means Savinova loses her 2011 World Championships 800m gold medal and 2013 Worlds silver medal. Montaño was fourth in both of those races and stands to be upgraded to a pair of bronze medals, pending a Savinova appeal.

Montaño has been outspoken against track and field’s issues in recent years, specifically the widespread doping problem. Savinova was first implicated more than two years ago.

So when Montaño learned the Savinova news while traveling to New York on Friday to race in the Millrose Games on Saturday, it wasn’t exactly a relief or joyous. She found out via Twitter mentions.

“I took it the same way I’ve taken every other type of news of this caliber and didn’t really think that much of it until I got to look it up myself,” Montaño said after finishing second in an indoor 500m race Saturday, her first since falling in the Olympic Trials 800m final on July 4. “I feel like for the past three years people have been tweeting me, good job, congratulations, and no news has come out.”

Montaño said the more overriding feeling was a bummer that she was in New York without her family. And it must be said she was exhausted and in need of fresh air after her race, not exactly the best environment to discuss the matter at hand.

“Here’s my moment, woo,” she said without excitement in her voice. “I should not be finding out from everybody else in Twitter mentions. There was nothing in my inbox from the federation.”

There has always been a part of Montaño that believed medals would never be redistributed. Now, she’s one step closer to receiving them.

On Friday, a post on her Facebook account read, “2 Medals from the 2011 & 2013 World Championships,” with a link to a Savinova article.

“It’s hard to say what it’s going to feel like,” to get the medals, she said. “Feelings are feelings. I only feel them when I have them.”

MORE: Russia track and field ban set for world champs

Rewind: Australia’s Steven Bradbury gains gold and lasting fame after pileup takes out Apolo Ohno

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Heading into the 2002 Winter Olympics, young American Apolo Ohno was a phenom with a legitimate shot at multiple medals in short-track speedskating.

The 1999 world junior champion and future “Dancing with the Stars” champion had finished first in the World Cup season standings in all three individual disciplines in the 2000-01 season. In the 2001 world championships, he took gold in the relay and the 3,000m (a non-Olympic event), silver in the 1,000m and fourth in the 1,500m.

Australia’s Steven Bradbury was at the other end of his career, enduring all sorts of misfortune in the years that followed — a 1995 accident in which he needed more than 100 stitches after a skate blade sliced his thigh, then a 2000 accident in which he broke two vertebra in his neck. 

The highlights of Bradbury’s career were relay world championships medals — gold in 1991, bronze in 1993, silver in 1994. He and his relay teammates also took Olympic bronze in 1994.

Bradbury barely advanced to one individual final, the 1,000m in 2002. He advanced from the quarterfinal when Canadian favorite Marc Gagnon was disqualified. He advanced from the semifinal when multiple skaters fell.

In the final, Bradbury was matched up against three outstanding skaters, including Ohno and Li Jiajun of China, who won this event and the overall title at the 2001 world championships. Ohno and Li had finished 1-2 in the 1,000m World Cup standings in 2001.

Bradbury couldn’t keep up. The other four skaters were in a pack, making dangerous passes among each other, while Bradbury fell further and further behind.

Those dangerous passes finally caught up to the rest of the field in the final turn. Li bumped into Ohno, which would lead to Li’s disqualification. After the lead pack jockeyed for position through the entire race, all four tumbled to the ice.

Bradbury, the last man standing, crossed the finish line first.

 

From the tangled pile-up, Ohno managed to fling himself, skate-first, across the finish line to take silver. Canada’s Mathieu Turcotte made it across for bronze.

Ohno wasn’t done in Salt Lake City. He won the 1,500m gold after the disqualification of Kim Dong-Sung, a controversial decision that made Ohno the object of South Korean derision.

Less controversially, Ohno won three more individual world championship events from 2005 to 2009, plus two relay golds, and the overall world title in 2008. In the Olympics, he took six more medals, including gold in the 500m in 2006 and silver in the 1,500m in 2010.

Bradbury missed the finals in the other two events in Salt Lake City, but his name lives on in the Urban Dictionary and elsewhere as a synonym for an improbable and even accidental victory. He embraced his unique place in history to carve out a career as a motivational speaker delivering more than 1,000 speeches in 19 countries, according to the International Skating Union and has even seen his win commemorated in Legos.

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Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier form new figure skating pair

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A few weeks after her husband and skating partner, Chris Knierim, stepped away from competitive figure skating, Alexa Scimeca Knierim has a new partner.

Brandon Frazier, who was also looking for someone to form a new pair after longtime partner Haven Denney stepped away from competition, at least temporarily, will join Scimeca Knierim on the ice whenever they’re able to train and compete again.

Frazier is a longtime friend of Chris Knierem. Scimeca Knierim told U.S. Figure Skating’s FanZone that Frazier had played a pivotal role in kindling the Knierem’s off-ice romance.

Denney and Frazier won the U.S. championship in 2017 and finished 20th in the world championships that year. They finished third in their two Grand Prix assignments last fall — Skate America and the Internationaux de France. They were runners-up in the 2019 U.S. championships and fifth this year, when they revived their “Lion King” free skate.

The Denney-Frazier pair took an unusual path to figure skating, starting as roller skaters.

The Knierims won their third U.S. championship in January but handed their slot in the world championships to Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson when Chris Knierim, struggling with his form and depression, decided he was unable to continue beyond the Four Continents Championship. The world championships were later canceled due to the spread of the coronavirus.

READ: Resilient Knierims withdraw from world championships

The couple had earned attention for their romance and for their inspirational returns from illness and injury. Their U.S. championship win earlier this year was their third.

Skate America, the first event on the Grand Prix circuit, is scheduled to start Oct. 23 in Las Vegas.

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