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Surprising U.S. results in world championships short dance

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Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir reset their short-dance world record, while the three U.S. couples finished in a surprising order at the world figure skating championships in Helsinki on Friday.

Virtue and Moir, undefeated this season after taking two years off following a Sochi Olympic silver medal, tallied 82.43 points, beating their previous record by 1.97. Virtue and Moir now own the four highest short-dance scores of all time, achieved at their last four international competitions dating to November.

“I don’t think we’ve taken the ice at a world championship so prepared,” said Virtue, who seeks her third world title with Moir and first since 2012. “The reasons why we decided to come back, and it’s moments like that on the ice.”

They lead by 5.54 points over France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, who are seeking to become the first dancers to win three straight world titles in 20 years. The gap between first place and second place is greater than the gap between second and ninth.

The shakeup came after those first two couples.

Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue are the top-scoring U.S. couple for the first time in their careers. They received 76.53 points, just .36 behind the French and a personal best by nearly three points. The top three couples all train under the same coaches in Montreal.

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Hubbell and Donohue finished third at each of the last three U.S. Championships, but on Friday were better than Madison Chock and Evan Bates and Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani, the last two world silver medalists.

“We’re just ecstatic,” Hubbell said. “We really changed our mindset and didn’t limit ourselves in what we [thought we] were capable of and really wrapped our minds around the possibility of being the very best in the world.”

Chock and Bates are in fourth and the Shibutanis in fifth going into Saturday’s free dance (coverage on NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app at 2:30 p.m. ET).

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Short Dance
1. Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir (CAN) — 82.43
2. Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron (FRA) — 76.89
3. Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue (USA) — 76.53
4. Madison Chock/Evan Bates (USA) — 76.25
5. Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA) — 74.88

Erin Hamlin to run New York City Marathon

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Erin Hamlin, the first U.S. Olympic singles luge medalist and Team USA flag bearer at the PyeongChang Olympic Opening Ceremony, will run the New York City Marathon on Nov. 4.

Hamlin, a 2014 Olympic bronze medalist who retired after her fourth Olympics in PyeongChang at age 31, is running to fundraise for the Women’s Sports Foundation. So is Marlen Esparza, who in 2012 became the first U.S. Olympic women’s boxing medalist (flyweight bronze).

Hamlin has no marathon experience, according to the Women’s Sports Foundation.

“Being challenged in sport is something I am very familiar with,” Hamlin said in a mass email Wednesday, according to TeamUSA.org. “Long distance running is something I most certainly am not!! It will be difficult, mentally and physically daunting, but a way to test my abilities in a sport so far out of my comfort zone.”

Many Olympians in non-running sports have raced the New York City Marathon.

Bill Demong, the 2010 U.S. Olympic Closing Ceremony flag bearer and only U.S. Olympic Nordic combined champion, ran the 2014 NYC Marathon in 2:33:05, crushing eight-time Olympic medalist Apolo Ohno‘s 3:25:14 from 2011.

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Softball set to return to Olympics as first event on Tokyo 2020 schedule

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Softball, returning to the Olympics after a 12-year absence, is scheduled to kick off the 2020 Tokyo Games, two days before the Opening Ceremony.

The preliminary master schedule for the Tokyo Olympics was published Wednesday, with the first softball game scheduled for 10 a.m. local time on the Wednesday before the Opening Ceremony.

The first game is scheduled to be held in Fukushima, the site of 2011 nuclear plant meltdowns caused by an earthquake and tsunami 155 miles north of Tokyo. The International Olympic Committee and Tokyo organizers have been eager to use the Games as a symbol of recovery from the 2011 disaster

Traditionally, soccer has been the first sport to have action at a Summer Olympics, one or two days before the Opening Ceremony. While soccer is again scheduled to have matches that same Wednesday, they start later than 10 a.m.

The Tokyo 2020 schedule is subject to change and certainly not a final version — swimming, diving and synchronized swimming schedules are still to be determined, but those sports do not typically start before the Opening Ceremony.

Softball was added in 1991 to the Olympic program to debut at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The U.S. won the first three gold medals before softball and baseball were narrowly voted off the Olympic program in 2005/06 (a 52-52 IOC vote for softball, with a majority needed to stay in the Olympics), with the 2008 Beijing Games being the last edition. Japan won the last Olympic softball gold medal 10 years ago.

Then on Aug. 3, 2016, baseball and softball were among five sports added for the 2020 Tokyo Games only, at the request of Tokyo Olympic organizers. Baseball and softball are not guaranteed to remain on the Olympic program in Paris in 2024.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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