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Grand Prix figure skating: 10 male skaters to watch

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Ten men to watch this fall as the Grand Prix figure skating season starts this week …

Yuzuru Hanyu
Japan
2014 Olympic champion, two-time world champion
Grand Prix Starts: Russia, Japan

Will be the first man to go into a Winter Games as reigning Olympic and world champion since Dick Button in 1952. Hanyu also owns the highest recorded scores under a 13-year-old judging system. But he’s vulnerable, especially early in the season. Hanyu has never won his opening Grand Prix in seven tries.

Shoma Uno
Japan
2017 World silver medalist
Grand Prix Starts: Canada, France

Younger (19 years old) and shorter (5 feet, 3 inches) than countryman Hanyu, but with just as much jumping firepower, if not more. Hanyu owns the three highest scores of all time. Uno has Nos. 4 and 5, set at last season’s worlds and his opening, lower-level event this season. Will try to beat Hanyu for the first time in December, either at the Grand Prix Final, Japanese Nationals or both. If he does, Uno could go into the Olympics as the favorite.

Jin Boyang
China
Two-time world bronze medalist
Grand Prix Starts: China, U.S.

Bronze at the last two worlds for Jin, who like Uno turns 20 in the Olympic season. Also a noted quadruple-jump practitioner, Jin is erratic. He was fifth at last season’s Skate America, failing to make the six-man Grand Prix Final. He was also fifth at the Four Continents Championships in February before rising back to the podium against tougher competition at the world championships a month later.

Grand Prix Capsules: Men | Women | Pairs | Ice Dance | TV Schedule

Javier Fernández
Spain
Two-time world champion
Grand Prix Starts: China, France

Missed a historic bronze medal for Spain in Sochi because he repeated a jump at the end of his free skate and earned zero points for the element. Became clutch on the global stage in 2015 and 2016, overtaking Hanyu’s short-program leads to win both world titles. But then did the opposite at 2017 Worlds, squandering a short-program lead and finishing fourth. Trains with Hanyu in Toronto under double Olympic silver medalist Brian Orser.

Nathan Chen
U.S.
2016 Grand Prix Final silver medalist
Grand Prix Starts: Russia, U.S.

A phenom in his first senior season last year. Chen outscored Hanyu in the Grand Prix Final free skate, then beat the Japanese megastar at the Four Continents Championships at the PyeongChang Olympic venue. In between, he became the first man to land seven quads at an event in winning the U.S. title at age 17. Chen ended up sixth at worlds, where he attempted eight quads overall skating on duct-taped boots. His sophomore Grand Prix season opens with a showdown with Hanyu in Moscow.

Patrick Chan
Canada
Three-time world champion
Grand Prix Starts: Canada, Japan

The Olympic favorite going into the Grand Prix season four years ago. Chan won the 2011, 2012 and 2013 World titles before taking silver behind Hanyu in Sochi. He rested for a year and beat Hanyu in his Grand Prix return in 2015, but Chan has so far been unable to match the men listed above in quadruple jumps. Fifth at the last two worlds.

Jason Brown
U.S.
Fourth at 2015 Worlds
Grand Prix Starts: Canada, Japan

A respectable ninth in Sochi as the youngest U.S. Olympic male singles skater since 1976. Brown won his first U.S. title a year later but struggled with injuries the last two seasons. He has also never landed a fully rotated quadruple jump, which has put him a tier below the six above men. Still, has a great shot to make the three-man Olympic team after placing seventh at worlds last season.

Vincent Zhou
U.S.
2017 World junior champion
Grand Prix Starts: China, France

Zhou has the quadruple jumps to contend. The 16-year-old actually was second to Chen at last season’s nationals but did not compete at senior worlds because he had zero senior international experience. He won junior worlds instead, with three quads in his free skate, to post the highest score ever by somebody his age. For now, it’s Zhou who is the top threat to Chen at nationals in January.

Adam Rippon
U.S.
2016 U.S. champion
Grand Prix Starts: Japan, U.S.

A decade older than training partner Chen and Zhou. Rippon will try for a third time to make his first Olympic team. He looked on his way after winning his first U.S. title in 2016, but a broken foot kept him from defending that last year as the two teens ascended. Now, Rippon will likely need to master a quad or two if he wants to control his own destiny to earn a spot in PyeongChang.

Mikhail Kolyada
Russia
2016 Russian champion
Grand Prix Starts: Russia, China

Yevgeny Plushenko‘s retirement left a gaping hole in Russian men’s skating. The 22-year-old Kolyada was fourth at his first senior worlds in 2016 but dropped to eighth last year, continuing the unpredictable results of the country’s next-in-line skaters.

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MORE: Figure skating season broadcast schedule

April Ross, Alix Klineman back atop Olympic beach volleyball qualifying

April Ross, Alix Klineman
FIVB World Tour
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Two-time Olympic medalist April Ross and new partner Alix Klineman moved back on top of the U.S. Olympic beach volleyball qualifying standings by winning an event in Itapema, Brazil this week.

Ross, who split from Kerri Walsh Jennings in 2017, and Klineman beat Canadians Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes 25-23, 18-21, 15-10 in Sunday’s final for their third title in 11 FIVB World Tour tournaments together.

“Every victory is important, but this counts for more,” Klineman said, according to the FIVB. “We want to send a message and we want to be consistently the best.

Ross and Klineman supplanted Walsh Jennings and her new partner, Brooke Sweat, for the lead in the early U.S. Olympic qualifying rankings with still more than a year of events ahead.

1. Ross/Klineman – 3,240 (5 events played)
2. Walsh Jennings/Sweat – 3,100 (7 events)
3. Day/Flint – 2,180 (5 events)
4. Hughes/Ross — 2,000 (4 events)
5. Larsen/Stockman — 1,840 (5 events)
6. Sponcil/Claes — 1,600 (3 events)

Each team’s 12 best results from Sept. 1, 2018, to June 14, 2020, go into the Olympic qualifying rankings. That means Ross and Klineman are comfortably in front, having played two fewer events than Walsh Jennings and Sweat, who lost in the quarterfinals in Itapema.

The top two U.S. pairs come June 15, 2020, provided they’re ranked high enough internationally, will qualify for Tokyo. Most of the qualifying events, including the ones with the most points available, are still to come this summer.

Ross, 36, picked up Klineman, 29, after Walsh Jennings didn’t join her in signing a domestic AVP contract in 2017. The 6-foot-5 Klineman primarily played indoor the previous decade, including at Stanford from 2007-10 after being the Gatorade National Player of the Year coming out of high school.

MORE: Brazil volleyball star faints during courtside interview

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Katie Ledecky extends 5-year win streak

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Katie Ledecky extended a five-year domestic win streak by taking the 200m freestyle at the Tyr Pro Swim Series at Bloomington on Saturday.

In her last full meet before July’s world championships, Ledecky clocked 1:55.80 to beat training partner Simone Manuel by 1.44 seconds for her second win in as many days. Ledecky is also entered in Sunday’s 800m free on the last day of the meet.

Ledecky, who also cruised to a 400m free victory on Friday, ranks third in the world in the 200m free this year, behind Australian Ariarne Titmus and Swede Sarah Sjöström (the Olympic silver medalist who is not expected to race the 200m free at worlds).

Ledecky, a five-time Olympic champion, hasn’t lost a 200m, 400m, 800m or 1500m free final at a domestic meet since Allison Schmitt beat her in a 200m free on Jan. 18, 2014 when Ledecky was 16 years old.

BLOOMINGTON: Full Results

But Ledecky lost the two biggest 200m frees of this Olympic cycle so far, at the 2017 World Championships and the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships. Italian veteran Federica Pellegrini handed Ledecky her first individual final defeat at a major international meet at 2017 Worlds.

Ledecky dropped to third in the 200m free at Pan Pacs in Tokyo last year, beaten by younger swimmers Taylor Ruck of Canada and Rikako Ikee of Japan.

Ruck, who like Ledecky trains at Stanford, is in Bloomington, but she chose not to swim the 200m free on Saturday. She instead swam the 200m backstroke about 45 minutes after the 200m free and was upset by 17-year-old Regan Smith. Smith won in 2:06.47, moving to No. 3 in the world this year.

In other events Saturday, Ella Eastin captured the 400m individual medley in 4:37.18, taking 1.25 seconds off her personal best and moving to fifth in the world this year. Eastin is not on the world championships team after an untimely bout with mono before qualifying meets last summer.

Blake Pieroni won the men’s 200m free in 1:47.25. No American ranks in the top 20 in the world this year. World silver medalist Townley Haas did not enter Bloomington.

MORE: Olympic breaststroke champion faces ban for missed drug tests

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