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Yuzuru Hanyu injured in practice fall at Grand Prix (video)

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OSAKA, Japan (AP) — Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu fell during Thursday’s practice for the NHK Trophy, a potential setback in his preparations for the PyeongChang Olympics.

Hanyu fell while attempting a quadruple Lutz and favored his right ankle (video here) but did not leave practice. He skated during the run-through for his free skate, although he elected not to do any more jumps.

Hanyu, a two-time world champion, last month placed second at the Rostelecom Cup in Russia, where he skated well but wasn’t his dominant self.

The 22-year-old Hanyu didn’t attend an evening news conference ahead of Friday’s short program. The Japan Skating Federation said it wasn’t sure if Hanyu would be able to compete in the NHK Trophy.

If Hanyu were to pull out, he would not be able to qualify for next month’s Grand Prix Final in Nagoya, Japan.

Patrick Chan, the Olympic silver medalist, was scheduled to compete at the NHK but withdrew to focus on the Canadian Championships and the PyeongChang Winter Games. Another absentee will be Japanese Daisuke Murakami, who has withdrawn because of pneumonia and will be replaced by 2016 junior national champion Kazuki Tomono.

The other top men in the NHK field are past U.S. champions Jason Brown and Adam Rippon.

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MORE: How to watch NHK Trophy

World Cup Alpine season opener gets green light

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After checking the snow on the Rettenbach glacier in Soelden, Austria, FIS officials announced Thursday that the traditional World Cup season opener is set to go ahead as planned Oct. 26-27 with men’s and women’s giant slalom races.

Current conditions at Soelden show a solid 30 inches of snow at the summit. The race finishes at an altitude of 2,670 meters (8,760 feet), far above the currently snowless village.

The first races of the season are never guaranteed to have enough snow, though last year’s men’s race at Soelden had the opposite problem, being canceled when a storm blew through with heavy snowfall and high winds. 

France’s Tessa Worley won the women’s race last year ahead of Italy’s Frederica Brignone and U.S. skier Mikaela Shiffrin, who would go on to dominate the rest of the World Cup season.

The Soelden weekend is followed by three dormant weeks until the season resumes Nov. 23-24 in Levi, Finland. The World Cup circuits then switch to North America. The men will run speed events Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Lake Louise, Alberta, then head to Beaver Creek, Colo., for more speed events and a giant slalom Dec. 6-8. The women run slalom and giant slalom Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Killington, Vt., and head to Lake Louise the next weekend.

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Olympic marathon and race walk move from Tokyo to Sapporo draws some pushback

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In the wake of a dropout-plagued set of world championship endurance races in Qatar, moving the 2020 Olympic marathons and race walks from Tokyo to the cooler venue of Sapporo is a quick fix for one problem, pending the potential for untimely heat waves.

But the move has drawn some opposition for a variety of reasons.

First, many organizers and politicians appear to have been caught by surprise. Tokyo’s governor, Yuriko Koike, was “taken aback” and Sapporo’s mayor, Katsuhiro Akimoto, learned about the move from the media, Kyodo News reported. Koike even sarcastically suggested that the races could move all the way northward to islands disputed by Russia and Japan.

South African sports scientist Ross Tucker suggested that running in heat and humidity poses an interesting challenge for athletes, some of whom may be able to catch up with faster runners by preparing for the conditions.

British marathoner Mara Yamauchi made a similar point, saying the move was unfair to those who already were preparing for the heat, humidity and other conditions.

Belgian marathoner Koen Naert said he will make the best of the change but complained that some of his preparation and every runner’s logistical planning would no longer apply.

The angriest athlete may be Canadian walker Evan Dunfee, who placed fourth in the 2016 Olympic 50km race and nearly claimed bronze as a Canadian appeal was upheld but then rejected. He says runners and walkers can beat the conditions if they prepare, which many athletes did not do for the world championships in Qatar.

“So why do we cater to the ill prepared?” Dunfee asked on Twitter.

The move also takes athletes out of the main Olympic city and takes away the traditional, tough less frequent in modern years, finish in the Olympic stadium.

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