Adam Rippon gets second as Russians sweep NHK Trophy (video)

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What a 28th birthday for Adam Rippon.

The 2016 U.S. champion took second in his first top-level competition in 11 months, emphatically returning from a broken foot that kept him out last winter.

Rippon landed an under-rotated quadruple Lutz plus eight triples in his free skate at NHK Trophy on Saturday. He tallied 261.99 points, finishing 9.13 behind Russian winner Sergei Voronov.

“Being 28 rocks!” Rippon said after his skate in Osaka, Japan.

It was a Russian sweep of the singles titles at the fourth of six Grand Prix events this fall.

Olympic super favorite Yevgenia Medvedeva fell in a free skate at a second straight Grand Prix and still extended her two-year winning streak.

NHK TROPHY: Scores | Figure Skating TV Schedule

Conversely, Voronov used a personal best by 18.57 points, along with two quads in his free skate, to win his first Grand Prix in his 12th season. The 30-year-old became the oldest man to win a Grand Prix event by nearly three years (Daisuke Takahashi, 2013 NHK Trophy).

Voronov and Rippon will both compete at Skate America in two weeks, eyeing berths in December’s Grand Prix Final, which takes the top six men from the fall Grand Prix season.

Jason Brown, a 2014 U.S. Olympian and 2015 U.S. champion, saw a great opportunity to all but book his first Grand Prix Final berth slip through his fingers this weekend. Brown, third after the short program, fell on both of his triple Axels in the free skate and ended up fourth.

Brown went into NHK as the leading man after the withdrawals of Olympic gold and silver medalists Yuzuru Hanyu and Patrick Chan.

A runner-up would have put Brown in all-but-safe position to make the Grand Prix Final. Now, he must wait and watch the results of the next two Grand Prix events to see where he stands.

Medvedeva tallied 224.39 points, beating Olympic bronze medalist Carolina Kostner of Italy by 12.15 points. Both Medvedeva and Kostner qualified for December’s six-skater Grand Prix Final, the second-biggest annual event.

Kostner, 30, broke American Todd Eldredge‘s record as the oldest singles skater to qualify for a Grand Prix Final.

Russian Polina Tsurskaya was third, followed by American Mirai Nagasu. Nagasu boosted her resume for Olympic consideration with the highest Grand Prix score by a U.S. woman this season.

U.S. bronze medalist Mariah Bell was ninth after she placed sixth at her previous Grand Prix. Neither Nagasu nor Bell qualified for the Grand Prix Final.

Also Saturday, Chinese Sui Wenjing and Han Cong won their second Grand Prix in as many weeks. The world champions prevailed by a comfortable 11.79 over Russians Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov.

Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Christopher Knierim, the favorites to grab the one U.S. Olympic pairs spot, finished fifth with a score 11.11 points better than any other Americans this season.

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

NHK Trophy Results
Men

1. Sergey Voronov (RUS) — 271.12
2. Adam Rippon (USA) — 261.99
3. Alexei Bychenko (ISR) — 252.07
4. Jason Brown (USA) — 245.95

Women
1. Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS) — 224.39
2. Carolina Kostner (ITA) — 212.24
3. Polina Tsurskaya (RUS) — 210.19
4. Mirai Nagasu (USA) — 194.46
9. Mariah Bell (USA) — 166.04

Pairs
1. Sui Wenjing/Han Cong (CHN) — 234.53
2. Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov (RUS) — 222.74
3. Kristina Astakhova/Alexei Rogonov (RUS) — 203.64
5. Alexa Scimeca Knierim/Christopher Knierim (USA) — 192.51

Rewind: Australia’s Steven Bradbury gains gold and lasting fame after pileup takes out Apolo Ohno

Steven Bradbury
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Heading into the 2002 Winter Olympics, young American Apolo Ohno was a phenom with a legitimate shot at multiple medals in short-track speedskating.

The 1999 world junior champion and future “Dancing with the Stars” champion had finished first in the World Cup season standings in all three individual disciplines in the 2000-01 season. In the 2001 world championships, he took gold in the relay and the 3,000m (a non-Olympic event), silver in the 1,000m and fourth in the 1,500m.

Australia’s Steven Bradbury was at the other end of his career, enduring all sorts of misfortune in the years that followed — a 1995 accident in which he needed more than 100 stitches after a skate blade sliced his thigh, then a 2000 accident in which he broke two vertebra in his neck. 

The highlights of Bradbury’s career were relay world championships medals — gold in 1991, bronze in 1993, silver in 1994. He and his relay teammates also took Olympic bronze in 1994.

Bradbury barely advanced to one individual final, the 1,000m in 2002. He advanced from the quarterfinal when Canadian favorite Marc Gagnon was disqualified. He advanced from the semifinal when multiple skaters fell.

In the final, Bradbury was matched up against three outstanding skaters, including Ohno and Li Jiajun of China, who won this event and the overall title at the 2001 world championships. Ohno and Li had finished 1-2 in the 1,000m World Cup standings in 2001.

Bradbury couldn’t keep up. The other four skaters were in a pack, making dangerous passes among each other, while Bradbury fell further and further behind.

Those dangerous passes finally caught up to the rest of the field in the final turn. Li bumped into Ohno, which would lead to Li’s disqualification. After the lead pack jockeyed for position through the entire race, all four tumbled to the ice.

Bradbury, the last man standing, crossed the finish line first.

 

From the tangled pile-up, Ohno managed to fling himself, skate-first, across the finish line to take silver. Canada’s Mathieu Turcotte made it across for bronze.

Ohno wasn’t done in Salt Lake City. He won the 1,500m gold after the disqualification of Kim Dong-Sung, a controversial decision that made Ohno the object of South Korean derision.

Less controversially, Ohno won three more individual world championship events from 2005 to 2009, plus two relay golds, and the overall world title in 2008. In the Olympics, he took six more medals, including gold in the 500m in 2006 and silver in the 1,500m in 2010.

Bradbury missed the finals in the other two events in Salt Lake City, but his name lives on in the Urban Dictionary and elsewhere as a synonym for an improbable and even accidental victory. He embraced his unique place in history to carve out a career as a motivational speaker delivering more than 1,000 speeches in 19 countries, according to the International Skating Union and has even seen his win commemorated in Legos.

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Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier form new figure skating pair

Brandon Frazier
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A few weeks after her husband and skating partner, Chris Knierim, stepped away from competitive figure skating, Alexa Scimeca Knierim has a new partner.

Brandon Frazier, who was also looking for someone to form a new pair after longtime partner Haven Denney stepped away from competition, at least temporarily, will join Scimeca Knierim on the ice whenever they’re able to train and compete again.

Frazier is a longtime friend of Chris Knierem. Scimeca Knierim told U.S. Figure Skating’s FanZone that Frazier had played a pivotal role in kindling the Knierem’s off-ice romance.

Denney and Frazier won the U.S. championship in 2017 and finished 20th in the world championships that year. They finished third in their two Grand Prix assignments last fall — Skate America and the Internationaux de France. They were runners-up in the 2019 U.S. championships and fifth this year, when they revived their “Lion King” free skate.

The Denney-Frazier pair took an unusual path to figure skating, starting as roller skaters.

The Knierims won their third U.S. championship in January but handed their slot in the world championships to Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson when Chris Knierim, struggling with his form and depression, decided he was unable to continue beyond the Four Continents Championship. The world championships were later canceled due to the spread of the coronavirus.

READ: Resilient Knierims withdraw from world championships

The couple had earned attention for their romance and for their inspirational returns from illness and injury. Their U.S. championship win earlier this year was their third.

Skate America, the first event on the Grand Prix circuit, is scheduled to start Oct. 23 in Las Vegas.

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