Surprise leader at Cup of China (video)

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The men’s leader at Cup of China isn’t two-time world champion Javier Fernandez. It’s not world bronze medalist Jin Boyang. Not American Vincent Zhou, the world junior champion, either.

Instead, it’s Mikhail Kolyada, who shattered his Russian record for a short program score in Beijing on Friday.

The 22-year-old tallied 103.13 points, buoyed by a quadruple Lutz, plus a quadruple toe loop in combination. Full scores are here.

Kolyada, eighth and fourth at the last two world championships, has never won a top-level international event.

He goes into Saturday’s free skate with a 9.24-point lead over Jin, who also attempted two quads but had trouble with landings on both. The Cup of China broadcast schedule is here.

Fernandez, who has won five straight Grand Prix events, erred on his opening combination. He performed a triple-double combo, while Kolyada and Jin both did quad-triples.

U.S. Olympic hopefuls are further down the standings. Max Aaron (fifth), the 2013 U.S. champion, attempted two quads but didn’t land either cleanly.

Grant Hochstein (seventh), fourth at the last two U.S. Championships, stepped out of the landing of his opening quad toe.

Zhou (eighth), 17 and the No. 2 U.S. man behind Nathan Chen last season, fell twice in his senior Grand Prix debut.

Three U.S. men will be named to the U.S. Olympic team following nationals in January.

Chen is a huge favorite for one spot. Zhou, Jason Brown and Adam Rippon have been the other top men the last two seasons.

Also Friday, surprise world bronze medalist Gabrielle Daleman of Canada topped the women’s short program. The top three — including Japanese Wakaba Higuchi and Russian Yelena Radionova — are separated by .17.

Daleman is trying to keep pace with world gold and silver medalists Yevgenia Medvedeva and Kaetlyn Osmond, who won the first two Grand Prix events the previous two weeks.

In the short dance, France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron posted the third-best score under an eight-year-old system.

Papadakis and Cizeron won world titles in 2015 and 2016 but last season fell behind Canadian’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who came back from a two-year break to relegate the French to silver at worlds.

While Virtue and Moir aren’t at Cup of China, Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates are. Chock and Bates, two-time world medalists, trail the French by 8.54 points after the short dance.

Chock and Bates’ score — 72.66 — is points shy of what the other top Americans — Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue — tallied in their Grand Prix season debuts the last two weeks.

The U.S. can send three couples to the Olympics, with one likely to earn medals along with Virtue and Moir and Papadakis and Cizeron.

As expected, world champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong distanced themselves in the pairs short, by 8.77 points.

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MORE: Nathan Chen sees ‘pretty high chance’ of Olympic gold

Cup of China Short Programs
Men
1. Mikhail Kolyada (RUS) — 103.13
2. Jin Boyang (CHN) — 93.89
3. Javier Fernandez (ESP) — 90.57
5. Max Aaron (USA) — 83.11
7. Grant Hochstein (USA) — 80.55
8. Vincent Zhou (USA) — 80.23

Women
1. Gabrielle Daleman (CAN) — 70.65
2. Wakaba Higuchi (JPN) — 70.53
3. Yelena Radionova (RUS) — 70.48
10. Amber Glenn (USA) — 52.61

Ice Dance
1. Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron (FRA) — 81.10
2. Madison Chock/Evan Bates (USA) — 72.66
3. Yekaterina Bobrova/Dmitry Soloviyev (RUS) — 72.34
5. Lorraine McNamara/Quinn Carpenter (USA) — 63.65
7. Elliana Pogrebinsky/Alex Benoit (USA) — 59.32

Pairs
1. Sui Wenjing/Han Cong (CHN) — 80.14
2. Yu Xiaoyu/Zhang Hao (CHN) — 71.37
3. Nicole Della Monica/Matteo Guarise (ITA) — 63.76
7. Ashley Cain/Tim LeDuc (USA) — 53.15

Olympic flame to travel by sea for Paris 2024, welcomed by armada

Paris 2024 Olympic Torch Relay Marseille
Paris 2024
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The Olympic flame will travel from Athens to Marseille by ship in spring 2024 to begin the France portion of the torch relay that ends in Paris on July 26, 2024.

The torch relay always begins in the ancient Olympic site of Olympia, Greece, where the sun’s rays light the flame. It will be passed by torch until it reaches Athens.

It will then cross the Mediterranean Sea aboard the Belem, a three-masted ship, “reminiscent of a true Homeric epic,” according to Paris 2024. It will arrive at the Old Port of Marseille, welcomed by an armada of boats.

Marseille is a former Greek colony and the oldest city in France. It will host sailing and some soccer matches during the Paris Olympics.

The full 2024 Olympic torch relay route will be unveiled in May.

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Paris 2024 Olympic Torch Relay Marseille
Paris 2024

Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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