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Satoko Miyahara to miss figure skating world championships

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Japanese champion Satoko Miyahara, the second-ranked women’s figure skater this season, will miss the world championships next week due to a hip injury.

The 2015 World silver medalist will be replaced on the three-woman Japanese team by Rika Hongo, the Japanese Skating Federation announced Monday, according to Japanese media.

Miyahara, 18, was the closest skater this season to Russian Yevgenia Medvedeva, who is a massive favorite to become the first woman to repeat as world champion since Michelle Kwan in 2000 and 2001. Medvedeva hasn’t lost a competition since November 2015.

Miyahara finished second to Medvedeva at December’s Grand Prix Final, the second-biggest annual competition behind worlds. Medvedeva won the event with 227.66 points.

Miyahara tallied a personal-best 218.33, the highest score in the world since the 2014 Olympics, save Medvedeva. Miyahara then won the Japanese Championships for a third straight time but withdrew ahead of February’s Four Continents Championships with the hip injury.

Miyahara’s absence from worlds should boost the U.S. women’s contingent of Ashley WagnerMariah Bell and Karen Chen. Hongo’s top score this season is 181.75 points, ranking 14th out of skaters in the worlds field.

The two best results out of Wagner, Bell and Chen must total to no more than 13 for the U.S. women to keep three spots for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics. For example, if Wagner finishes fifth and Bell finishes eighth, the U.S. would get three spots on the number.

With Miyahara out, the U.S. skaters’ rankings in the world championships field this season by best scores in international competitions:

Wagner: No. 8
Bell: No. 10
Chen: No. 17

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Chinese figure skating judges banned for biased Olympic scoring

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Two Chinese figure skating judges were suspended by the International Skating Union for biased judging at the PyeongChang Olympics.

Chen Weiguang and Huang Feng had “preferential marking” for top Chinese skaters Jin Boyang (fourth place in PyeongChang) and the silver medalist pairs’ team of Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, respectively, according to the ISU.

Chen was banned two years and excluded from the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Huang got a one-year ban.

Chen awarded her highest grades of execution scores of the men’s competition to Jin, as well as her second-highest program components scores, trailing only gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu. Both sets of scores, in both the short and long programs, were out of line with the other eight judges.

“There is evidence of preference for the Chinese skater and prejudice against his strongest competitors,” an ISU report read. “Her marks were completely unrealistic.”

The pairs’ judge Huang “obviously favored his pair also vis-à-vis the other top candidates for the Olympic gold medal,” the ISU said in a report, referencing inflated scores for Sui and Han and lower scores for gold and bronze medalists Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany and Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada.

Huang was warned one month before the Olympics by the ISU for biased judging at the December 2017 Grand Prix Final pairs’ event.

Both suspensions are subject to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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Javier Fernandez to skip Grand Prix, still compete next season

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Javier Fernandez, who in PyeongChang became the first Spanish Olympic figure skating medalist, will skip the fall Grand Prix series but return for January’s European Championships, which could be his final competition.

Europeans will be Fernandez’s focus for the season, his agent said Tuesday.

Fernandez, 26, added an Olympic bronze medal to his 2015 and 2016 World titles. He has said that his third Olympics in PyeongChang would be his last. But Fernandez did not say he would retire after the Winter Games, though he did skip the world championships in March.

Fernandez now plans to compete in his 13th straight European Championships in Minsk in January. He won the last six titles. It’s unknown if he will continue on to the world championships in Saitama, Japan, in March.

In Fernandez’s absence, the top male singles skaters in the fall Grand Prix season should be double Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, PyeongChang silver medalist Shoma Uno and American Nathan Chen, who was fifth at the Olympics after a disastrous short program but ran away with March’s world title by the largest margin in history.

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