Virtue and Moir win NHK Trophy to book GP Final spot

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OSAKA, Japan (AP) – Three-time and reigning world champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir have won the ice dance event at the NHK Trophy to secure a place in the International Skating Union’s Grand Prix Final next month.

Virtue and Moir, who led after the short program, finished with an overall total of 198.64 points on Sunday to claim their second title of the season.

Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue of the United States were second with 188.35 points, with Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte of Italy placing third with 186.56.

Skating to “Tango de Roxanne” and “Come What May,” the Canadian duo combined powerful lifts with well-synchronized twizzles and smooth step sequences for 117.72 points in the free dance.

With the victory Virtue and Moir, who won their seventh Skate Canada title last month with a record score, booked their place at the Dec. 7-10 Grand Prix Final in Nagoya, Japan.

“We’ve made some improvements this week that we’re quite proud of from Skate Canada,” Moir said. “We only had one week. We’re looking to make the same sort of transition into the final. It’s a great stepping stone here for us.”

Hubbell and Donohue, with a bronze and a silver from their two competitions, will have to wait to see if they get to go to Nagoya.

“We felt like we did a really artistic performance of our program,” Hubbell said. “We left some points on the table, but we’ll be going home, working.”

The NHK Trophy is the fourth event in the ISU’s Grand Prix series. The next competition is the Nov. 17-19 Grand Prix of France.

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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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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