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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

Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis eyeing Grand Slam record

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Serena Williams travels with “like 50 masks” and has been a little bit of a recluse since early March and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t have full lung capacity, so I’m not sure what would happen to me,” Williams said Saturday, two days before the start of the WTA’s Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky., her first tournament since playing Fed Cup in early February. “I’m sure I’ll be OK, but I don’t want to find out.”

Williams, 38, has a history of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms. She faced life-threatening complications following her Sept. 1, 2017, childbirth that confined her to a bed for six weeks. She said her daily routine was surgery and that she lost count after the first four.

More recently, Williams enjoyed “every part” of the last six months at home in Florida, her longest time grounded since her teens.

“I’ve been a little neurotic, to an extent,” on health and safety, she said. “Everyone in the Serena bubble is really protected.”

Williams is entered to play next week in Lexington and at consecutive tournaments in New York City later this month — the Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open, the latter starting Aug. 31.

Williams is the highest-ranked player in the Lexington field at No. 9. Others include 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, older sister Venus Williams and 16-year-old Coco Gauff.

She has been bidding ever since having daughter Olympia to tie Margaret Court‘s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, albeit many of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and, notably at the Australian Open, against small fields lacking the world’s best players. Williams reached the last two Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals, losing all of them.

She showed her seriousness in committing early to this year’s U.S. Open by installing a court at home with the same surface. Three of the top 10 female singles players already said they will skip the U.S. Open due to travel and/or virus concerns, including No. 1 Ash Barty.

“Tennis is naturally a socially distanced sport, so it was kind of easy to go back and just walk on my side of the court and have my hitter walk on his side of the court,” Williams said.

The French Open starts two weeks after the U.S. Open ends. Williams was asked if she will fly to Europe for tournaments this autumn.

“I see myself doing it all, if it happens,” she said.

The Tokyo Olympics are too far away to make plans.

“We’ll have to kind of wait to see what happens in the fall,” she said. “One thing I have learned with this pandemic is don’t plan.”

MORE: Past U.S. Open champions get wild cards

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Conseslus Kipruto tests positive for coronavirus, canceling world-record bid

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Conseslus Kipruto, the Olympic and world 3000m steeplechase champion, tested positive for the coronavirus without symptoms, which will keep him from a world-record chase on Friday, according to his social media.

The Kenyan was to race in the first in-person Diamond League meet of the year in Monaco on Friday.

“Our World is going through a challenging period and we all have to take our responsibilities,” was posted. “Unfortunately my covid-19 test, as part of the Monaco-protocol, came back positive and therefore I can’t be part of the Monaco Diamond League.

“I don’t have any symptoms and I was actually in great shape. I was planning to go for the WR: it has stayed too long outside Kenya. As the World & Olympic Champion I feel strongly its something I should go for as well.”

Kipruto, 25, is the 14th-fastest steepler in history with a personal best of 8:00.12. The world record is 7:53.63, set by Kenyan-born Qatari Saif Saaeed Shaheen in 2004.

Last year, Kipruto won the world title by .01, extending a streak of a Kenyan or Kenyan-born man winning every Olympic or world title in the event since the 1988 Seoul Games. He was sidelined by a stress fracture in his left foot until opening his season extremely late on Aug. 24.

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Our World is going through a challenging period and we all have to take our responsibilities. Unfortunately my covid-19 test, as part of the Monaco-protocol, came back positive and therefore I can’t be part of the Monaco Diamond League on August 14th. I don’t have any symptoms and I was actually in great shape. I was planning to go for the WR: it has stayed too long outside Kenya. As the World & Olympic Champion I feel strongly its something I should go for as well. Wish to thank Monaco for all the work they have done and I wish them and my colleagues a wonderful competition. Athletics is back and I will be back as well. Anyone willing to organise a steeple once I can be cleared? @diamondleaguemonaco #nike #quarantine #WR #Kenya

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