Russians top NHK Trophy short program (video)

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Yevgenia Medvedeva is once again ahead at a Grand Prix event, but she’s not the only Russian leader.

Medvedeva and Sergey Voronov topped Friday’s short programs at NHK Trophy in Osaka, Japan, the fourth of six Grand Prix events this fall.

Medvedeva, the two-time world champion undefeated for two years, had her typical clean program will all of her jumps in the second half for a 10 percent bonus.

She tallied 79.99 points. Medvedeva is the only female skater to break 80 under the 13-year-old scoring system.

The overwhelming PyeongChang favorite goes into Saturday’s free skate with a 5.42-point lead over Olympic bronze medalist Carolina Kostner of Italy.

NHK: Broadcast Schedule | Scores

Kostner, 30, is in great position to become the oldest singles skater to qualify for December’s Grand Prix Final, breaking American Todd Eldredge‘s record from 2001.

Americans Mirai Nagasu and Mariah Bell are fifth and ninth, respectively, in what could be their final competition before the U.S. Championships in January.

Nagasu landed a fully rotated triple Axel but was given a negative grade-of-execution score. She under-rotated two other jumps.

Bell, the top-scoring U.S. woman on the Grand Prix series so far this fall, had trouble with her opening triple-triple combination and also doubled a planned triple flip.

Nagasu and Bell are among the top contenders to make the three-woman Olympic team, along with 2017 U.S. gold and silver medalists Karen Chen and Ashley Wagner.

In the men’s event, Voronov took the lead in the absence of Olympic gold and silver medalists Yuzuru Hanyu and Patrick Chan, who withdrew last week and Friday morning, respectively.

Hanyu suffered an ankle injury in a Thursday practice fall (video here).

Voronov landed a quadruple toe loop in a clean short program to tally 90.06 points. The 30-year-old has been competing on the Grand Prix since 2006 but has zero wins (six podium finishes, though).

He leads Israel’s Alexei Bychenko by 4.54 going into Saturday’s free skate.

Jason Brown and Adam Rippon, the 2015 and 2016 U.S. champions, are third and fourth.

Brown lost points by performing a triple-double combination rather than a triple-triple. Rippon, like Brown, did not attempt a quadruple jump.

Both Americans could qualify for their first Grand Prix Final, the second-biggest annual event after worlds. The Final takes the top six skaters from the Grand Prix season based on combined results in each skater’s two Grand Prix starts.

Brown already has a runner-up finish from last month. A podium finish Saturday will likely be enough to make the Final in Nagoya in December.

Rippon, sixth at last year’s Grand Prix Final before breaking his foot, has his second Grand Prix at Skate America in two weeks.

Also Friday, Chinese Sui Wenjing and Han Cong topped the pairs short by 4.38 points over Russians Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov.

Sui and Han, the reigning world champions, are seeking their second Grand Prix win in as many weeks.

Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Christopher Knierim, the favorites to grab the one U.S. Olympic pairs spot, are fourth after tallying the best short program score by Americans this season by 2.6 points.

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MORE: U.S. Olympic figure skating picture at Grand Prix midpoint

NHK Trophy Short Programs
Men

1. Sergey Voronov (RUS) — 90.06
2. Alexei Bychenko (ISR) — 85.52
3. Jason Brown (USA) — 85.36
4. Adam Rippon (USA) — 84.95

Women
1. Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS) — 79.99
2. Carolina Kostner (ITA) — 74.57
3. Polina Tsurskaya (RUS) — 70.04
5. Mirai Nagasu (USA) — 65.17
9. Mariah Bell (USA) — 57.25

Pairs
1. Sui Wenjing/Han Cong (CHN) — 79.43
2. Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov (RUS) — 75.05
3. Kristina Astakhova/Alexei Rogonov (RUS) — 70.47
4. Alexa Scimeca Knierim/Christopher Knierim (USA) — 65.86

Germany denied gold-medal sweep of world luge championships races

Jonas Muller
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Austrian Jonas Müller denied Germany’s bid to sweep all nine races at the world luge championships.

Müller, a 25-year-old who was not on Austria’s Olympic team, won the men’s event by .104 of a second over German Max Langenhan at worlds in Oberhof, Germany, combining times from two runs. Another Austrian, 2018 Olympic champion David Gleirscher, earned bronze.

Three-time Olympian Tucker West was the top American in 13th. Chris Mazdzer, the 2018 Olympic silver medalist, skipped worlds as he raced a limited schedule this season.

Germany won the first seven of eight singles and doubles races on Friday and Saturday, including sprint events that aren’t on the Olympic program. After its defeat in the men’s event, it won the team relay to close the championships later Sunday with golds in eight of the nine events.

Its last gold-medal sweep at worlds was in 2013, when there were four events on the program. Germany also swept the Olympic golds in 2014 and 2022.

Müller, the 2020 World silver medalist who dropped out of Austria’s top three men last season, said his sled broke in a crash at a World Cup two weeks ago in Sigulda, Latvia.

“I flew home the next day and unpacked the old sled again,” he said, according to the International Luge Federation. “As you can see, the old sled doesn’t seem so bad.”

While Germany has dominated women’s and doubles events, this marked the third consecutive worlds with a non-German men’s winner, its longest drought since the mid-1990s.

Johannes Ludwig retired after winning last year’s Olympics. Felix Loch, a two-time Olympic champion and record six-time world champion, placed fourth on Sunday.

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Mikaela Shiffrin barely denied in first bid to tie Alpine skiing World Cup wins record

Mikaela Shiffrin
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Mikaela Shiffrin was denied in her first bid to tie the Alpine skiing World Cup wins record by six hundredths of a second.

Shiffrin, trying to tie Ingemar Stenmark‘s 86 World Cup victories, led by 67 hundredths over German Lena Duerr after the first of two slalom runs in Spindleruv Mlyn, Czech Republic, on Sunday.

The last racer to go in the second run, Shiffrin’s lead over Duerr dwindled as she neared the finish line. It was down to 15 hundredths at the last intermediate split with 10 seconds left of the course.

Shiffrin crossed the finish line, saw that she ended up six hundredths behind, opened her mouth, rocked her head and put her hand to her helmet. It was the closest slalom defeat of her career, which has included a record 52 World Cup slalom victories.

“I felt like the first run I skied really well, and I actually skied quite well in the second as well,” Shiffrin told Austrian broadcaster ORF. “Six tenths is not actually so much time. … Lena has been strong all season, and she deserves to win.”

ALPINE SKIING: Full Results | Broadcast Schedule

Duerr, 31, earned her second World Cup win, 10 years to the day after her first. Shiffrin won 82 World Cup races in that span.

“It took me a while,” Duerr said. “Crazy that today’s the day.”

Shiffrin’s next bid to tie Stenmark, the Swedish legend of the 1970s and ’80s, won’t be until March.

Next up are the world championships in France, starting Feb. 6, which are separate from the World Cup.

Shiffrin’s next planned World Cup races are either speed races in Kvitfjell, Norway, the first weekend of March or a giant slalom and slalom in Stenmark’s home nation at Åre, Sweden, from March 10-11 ahead of her 28th birthday on March 13.

“I don’t have any expectations going into it,” said Shiffrin, whose first World Cup win came in Åre in 2012. “It’s just like every race of the season, just trying to take it all in and enjoy my skiing, enjoy when the other athletes are skiing better, too, because there’s always some to learn from that.”

Shiffrin began last week tied with Lindsey Vonn for second place on the career wins list at 82. She then rattled off victories on Wednesday and Thursday in giant slaloms in Kronplatz, Italy, and Saturday in the first slalom in Spindleruv Mlyn, site of her World Cup debut in 2011 at age 15.

She has 11 wins in 23 starts this season, her best campaign since her record 17-win 2018-19 season.

She did break one record on Sunday — clinching her seventh World Cup slalom season title with two races left in the discipline.

She broke her tie with Vreni Schneider, a Swiss star of the 1980s and ’90s, for most women’s World Cup slalom season titles. Stenmark won eight and is tied with Vonn (downhill) for the most season titles in any discipline.

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