Alina Zagitova, Russia’s newest skating star, wins Cup of China (video)

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 Alina Zagitova of Russia, last season’s world junior champion, announced herself as an Olympic podium contender by winning Cup of China in her senior Grand Prix debut.

The 15-year-old trains with two-time world champion Yevgenia Medvedeva, a fellow Russian teen who is a heavy favorite for gold in PyeongChang. Zagitova finished second behind Medvedeva (who didn’t compete at Cup of China) at the most recent Russian national championships.

With a program that strategically placed all of her jumping passes in the second half to receive additional bonus points, Zagitova outscored a field that included Canada’s Gabrielle Daleman, the 2017 world bronze medalist and the leader after the short program.

After the short program, the top three — Daleman, Japan’s Wakaba Higuchi and Russia’s Yelena Radionova — were separated by just .17, while Zagitova was about a point behind the leaders after a fall.

Higuchi and Radionova held onto their second and third place positions, respectively, while Daleman dropped to sixth due to a near-fall on her final jump.

The lone American in the field, Amber Glenn, finished 10th. Gracie Gold was originally slated to compete at this Grand Prix event, but withdrew last month after announcing she was in treatment for depression, anxiety and an eating disorder.

Russia earned three Olympic berths in ladies’ figure skating. Medvedeva is all but assured to claim one. and with today’s Grand Prix win Zagitova looks likely to claim another. Among those fighting for the third spot will be Radionova, Maria Sotskova (who won silver at Skate Canada), and Anna Pogorilaya, who won bronze at last season’s Grand Prix final but seriously struggled at both the 2017 Worlds and her first Grand Prix event last week.

In the men’s event, Russia’s Mikhail Kolyada held onto his lead from the short program to claim the gold medal. Eighth and fourth at the last two world championships, Kolyada won his first ever major international competition today over top competitors Javier Fernandez, the two-time world champion from Spain, world bronze medalist Jin Boyang from China, and world junior champion Vincent Zhou from the U.S.

Kolyada, Fernandez and Boyang all had error-filled free skates, with Kolyada and Boyang falling once each and Fernandez putting his hand down on two landings. That left the door open for another American, Max Aaron, to claim a bronze medal after he cleanly landed three quads in his free skate and earned a personal best score. Zhou, who also suffered a fall, finished fourth.

There were fewer surprises in the ice dance competition, which saw the top three teams after the short dance all finish in the same spots after the free dance. France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron won gold, Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates earned silver and Russia’s Yekaterina Bobrova and Dmitry Soloviyev claimed bronze.

Papadakis and Cizeron are the 2015 and 2016 world champions, but fell to silver behind Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir at the 2017 Worlds. At last weekend’s Skate Canada, Virtue and Moir won with the highest total score ever recorded, 199.86. Their record didn’t last long, however, as Papadakis and Cizeron earned a total score of 200.43 here and became the first ice dance team ever to earn over 200 total points.

The standings in the pairs competition also stayed mostly consistent from the short program to the free program, with Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, the world champions from China, staying in the lead to win gold.

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Cup of China
Women
Gold: Alina Zagitova (RUS) — 213.88
Silver: Wakaba Higuchi (JPN) — 212.52
Bronze: Yelena Radionova (RUS) — 206.82
10. Amber Glenn (USA) — 151.14

Men
Gold: Mikhail Kolyada (RUS) — 279.38 S
Silver: Jin Boyang (CHN) —264.48
Bronze: Max Aaron (USA) — 259.69
4. Vincent Zhou (USA) — 256.66
6. Javier Fernandez (ESP)
9. Grant Hochstein (USA)

Ice dance
Gold: Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron (FRA) — 200.43 WR
Silver: Madison Chock/Evan Bates (USA) — 184.50
Bronze: Yekaterina Bobrova/Dmitry Soloviyev (RUS) — 182.84
5. Lorraine McNamara/Quinn Carpenter (USA) — 157.61
7. Elliana Pogrebinsky/Alex Benoit (USA) — 150.47

Pairs
Gold: Sui Wenjing/Han Cong (CHN) — 231.07
Silver: Yu Xiaoyu/Zhang Hao (CHN) — 205.54
Bronze: Kirsten Moore-Towers/Michael Marinaro (CAN) – 194.52
6. Ashley Cain/Tim LeDuc (USA) — 154.36

How to watch Olympic sports on NBC Sports this week

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Mikaela Shiffrin‘s pursuit of her 50th World Cup win highlights this week’s winter sports coverage on NBC Sports and Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and streaming on NBC Sports Gold.

Shiffrin, with 48 World Cup wins, is slated to race two of the four women’s World Cup events this week — a giant slalom and slalom in Courchevel, France, on Friday and Saturday. She is sitting out a downhill on Tuesday and a super-G on Wednesday in Val Gardena, Italy.

Only Lindsey Vonn (82), Annemarie Moser-Pröll (62) and Vreni Schneider (55) have more World Cup wins among women. Vonn is out until January after injuring a knee in a November training crash.

Shiffrin, a two-time Olympic champion, has five wins in the first nine events this season, including the last three in a row. With a slalom win Saturday, she will tie childhood idol Marlies Schild for the female record in the discipline with 35 victories.

U.S. Olympians are also in action among biathlon, freestyle skiing, Nordic combined and snowboarding World Cups.

ALPINE SKIING WORLD CUP — Austria, France, Italy

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Tuesday 6:30 a.m. Women’s Super-G Olympic Channel NBC Sports Gold
Wednesday 4 a.m. Men’s Giant Slalom (Run 1) Olympic Channel | NBC Sports Gold
5:30 a.m. Women’s Super-G Olympic Channel NBC Sports Gold
7 a.m. Men’s Giant Slalom (Run 2) Olympic Channel | NBC Sports Gold
12:30 p.m.* Men’s Giant Slalom Olympic Channel
Thursday 4 a.m. Men’s Slalom (Run 1) Olympic Channel | NBC Sports Gold
7 a.m. Men’s Slalom (Run 2) Olympic Channel NBC Sports Gold
Friday 4:30 a.m. Women’s Giant Slalom (Run 1) Olympic Channel | NBC Sports Gold
7:30 a.m. Women’s Giant Slalom (Run 2) Olympic Channel NBC Sports Gold
12 p.m.* Women’s Giant Slalom NBCSN
Saturday 4:30 a.m. Women’s Slalom (Run 1) Olympic Channel | NBC Sports Gold
7:30 a.m. Women’s Slalom (Run 2) Olympic Channel NBC Sports Gold
9:45 a.m. Men’s Slalom (Run 1) Olympic Channel | NBC Sports Gold
12:30 p.m. Men’s Slalom (Run 2) Olympic Channel NBC Sports Gold
2:30 p.m.* Women’s Slalom NBCSN
Sunday 2:30 p.m.* Women’s GS and Slalom NBC

*Delayed broadcast
All races stream live on NBC Sports Gold for “Snow Pass” subscribers and will have a replay of the event. Click here for more info.

BIATHLON WORLD CUP — Nove Mesto, Czech Republic

Day Time (ET) Event TV Live stream
Thursday 11:30 a.m. Men’s 10km Sprint Olympic Channel | NBC Sports Gold
3 p.m.* Olympic Channel
Friday 11:30 a.m. Women’s 7.5km Sprint Olympic Channel | NBC Sports Gold
1 p.m.* NBCSN
Saturday 9 a.m. Men’s 12.5.km Pursuit Olympic Channel | NBC Sports Gold
11 a.m. Women’s 10km Pursuit Olympic Channel | NBC Sports Gold
2 p.m.* Men’s 12.5km Pursuit Olympic Channel
3 p.m.* Women’s 10km Pursuit Olympic Channel
6:30 p.m.* Men’s 12.5km Pursuit NBCSN
Sunday 5:45 a.m. Men’s 15km Mass Start Olympic Channel | NBC Sports Gold
8:30 a.m. Women’s 12.5km Mass Start Olympic Channel | NBC Sports Gold
1 p.m.* Men’s 15km Mass Start Olympic Channel
2 p.m.* Women’s 12.5km Mass Start Olympic Channel

*Same-day delay
All races stream live on NBC Sports Gold for “Snow Pass” subscribers and will have a replay of the event. Click here for more info.

FREESTYLE SKIING WORLD CUP — China, Italy

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Friday 7:20 a.m. Ski Cross Olympic Channel | NBC Sports Gold
10 p.m. Halfpipe Olympic Channel
Saturday 5:05 a.m. Ski Cross Olympic Channel | NBC Sports Gold

All events stream live on NBC Sports Gold for “Snow Pass” subscribers and will have a replay of the event. Click here for more info.

NORDIC COMBINED WORLD CUP — Ramsau, Austria

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Saturday 6 a.m. HS98 NBC Sports Gold
8:45 a.m. 10km NBC Sports Gold
Sunday 4:30 a.m. HS98 NBC Sports Gold
6:30 a.m. 10km NBC Sports Gold

All events stream live on NBC Sports Gold for “Snow Pass” subscribers and will have a replay of the event. Click here for more info.

SNOWBOARD WORLD CUP — China, Italy

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Thursday 8:30 p.m. Halfpipe Olympic Channel
12 a.m. Slopestyle Olympic Channel
Friday 5:30 a.m. Snowboard Cross Olympic Channel | NBC Sports Gold
Saturday 5:30 a.m. Snowboard Cross Olympic Channel | NBC Sports Gold

All races stream live on NBC Sports Gold for “Snow Pass” subscribers and will have a replay of the event. Click here for more info.

South Korea Olympic star alleges concussion, sabotage at hands of coach

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Shim Suk-Hee, an Olympic short track speed skating champion, said that her now-banned, ex-coach gave her a concussion that caused her to faint during the Olympics, according to South Korean media.

Shim’s former coach, Cho Jae-Beom, received a life ban from the Korean Skating Union and in September was sentenced to 10 months in jail for assaulting athletes between 2011 and 2018, according to the International Skating Union.

“Before the PyeongChang Olympics, he kicked and punched me so hard that I thought I was going to die,” a tearful Shim testified Monday in Cho’s trial appealing the sentence, according to a Yonhap News Agency translation. “I had a concussion afterward, and I fainted and fell down during the Olympics because of that.”

Cho was first suspended in January, less than a month before the PyeongChang Winter Games, after allegations arose. Shim reportedly said Monday that, among years of abuse, Cho secretly changed her skate blades before World Cup races leading up to the Olympics to improve the chances of another South Korean skater.

“When I was in fourth grade, I suffered broken fingers after getting struck by an ice hockey stick,” Shim said of Cho, whose attorneys called her allegations “preposterous,” according to Yonhap. “Once I got into middle school, he became even more violent. He dragged me into confined spaces to beat me up mercilessly, and other athletes suffered ruptured eardrums and other injuries.

“I hope he will be punished so severely so he won’t be able to do these things again.”

Shim earned relay gold medals at the last two Olympics, plus individual silver and bronze medals in Sochi. She was the 2014 World overall champion and the overall silver and bronze medalist the last two years.

She struggled in individual events in PyeongChang. In her lone final, she was disqualified after crashing with countrywoman Choi Min-Jeong on the last lap. Shim has a best individual finish of fourth in two World Cup stops this season.

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