Javier Fernandez falls twice, still wins Grand Prix France (video)

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Javier Fernandez and Shoma Uno are Olympic medal contenders, but neither looked like it Saturday night.

Both skaters fell twice in their free skates at Grand Prix France and had more errors on jump landings.

Fernandez got the victory — thanks to a 13.94-point lead after Friday’s short program — bouncing back from a disastrous sixth-place finish at a Grand Prix two weeks ago.

The two-time world champion from Spain reportedly had a stomach bug at that opener.

Uno, the world silver medalist from Japan, had the highest-scoring free skate Saturday, but it was 35.57 points off the best score in the world this season that he owns.

Uno finished 10.39 behind Fernandez, with Uzbekistan’s Misha Ge in third.

GP FRANCE: Full Results

Americans Max Aaron and Vincent Zhou were seventh and ninth, respectively, after struggling with jumps.

Zhou, the U.S. silver medalist and world junior champion, fell four times between two programs, two weeks after falling three times at his senior Grand Prix debut.

Neither Aaron nor Zhou helped his case for the three-man Olympic team that will be named after nationals in January.

Nathan Chen is a runaway favorite to claim an Olympic spot. Past U.S. champions Jason Brown and Adam Rippon are also in the mix with Aaron and Zhou.

Uno joined Russian Mikhail Kolyada as the first two qualifiers for December’s six-skater Grand Prix Final, the biggest competition before the Olympics. Uno owns the two best total scores in the world this season, and the only scores above 300 points (though he managed much fewer, 273.32, in France).

Chen, who ranks No. 2 in the world behind Uno, will make his second Grand Prix Final if he finishes fourth or better at next week’s Skate America.

Incredibly, it looks like every active skater who owns a world title (and an individual Olympic medal) will not be at the Grand Prix Final.

Japanese Yuzuru Hanyu is out with an ankle injury. Canadian Patrick Chan skipped his second Grand Prix after he was fourth at Skate Canada. Fernandez needs some disasters from top skaters at Skate America to have a shot.

Brown and Rippon could both make the Grand Prix Final along with Chen depending on how Skate America shakes out.

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Internationaux de France
Men
1. Javier Fernandez (ESP) — 283.71
2. Shoma Uno (JPN) — 273.32
3. Misha Ge (UZB) — 258.34
7. Max Aaron (USA) — 237.20
9. Vincent Zhou (USA) — 222.21

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Richard Callaghan, figure skating coach, banned for life

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Richard Callaghan, a figure skating coach best known for helping Tara Lipinski earn 1998 Olympic gold, was ruled permanently ineligible for violations including sexual misconduct involving a minor.

Callaghan can still appeal the sexual misconduct violation, according to the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a watchdog for U.S. Olympic sports organizations that updated Callaghan’s status Wednesday.

He was first suspended in March 2018 pending an investigation into allegations first made against him more than 20 years ago.

Earlier this month, another former skater, Adam Schmidt, said in a lawsuit that he was sexually molested as a teenager by Callaghan starting in 1999.

Callaghan was previously accused of sexual misconduct in April 1999 by Craig Maurizi, one of his former students and later an assistant to him in San Diego and Detroit.

Maurizi told The New York Times that Callaghan had engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with him beginning when he was 15 years old. The alleged misconduct had begun nearly 20 years earlier. Callaghan denied the allegations.

In March 2018, Callaghan told ABC News: “That’s 19 or 20 years ago. I have nothing to say.”

Maurizi’s previous grievance against Callaghan with the U.S. Figure Skating Association, the precursor to U.S. Figure Skating, was dismissed on procedural grounds.

He was Callaghan’s assistant at the Detroit Skating Club until they split after Lipinski turned pro, left Callaghan and decided to train with Maurizi.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Pita Taufatofua, Tonga flag bearer, finishes last in kayak debut

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Pita Taufatofua, the Tonga Olympic flag bearer who went viral in Rio and PyeongChang, began his quest to make a third straight Olympics in a third different sport with a last-place finish in his opening-round heat at the world sprint kayak championships in Hungary on Wednesday.

The start of the heat appeared delayed as Taufatofua struggled to get his kayak into position in the water. He was left at the start as the other six kayakers raced out and finished between 33 and 40 seconds. Taufatofua took 58.19 seconds, the slowest of 53 finishers among seven total heats.

“Well that was slightly better than the first time I competed in Taekwondo or skiing,” was tweeted from Taufatofua’s account. “Would have liked to start facing the right way but that’s life.”

Taufatofua, 35, was the oldest athlete in the heat by nearly a decade. He is also entered in doubles races with Tonga canoe federation president Malakai Ahokava with heats Thursday and Friday.

Taufatofua hopes to compete at the Tokyo Olympics in taekwondo, where he competed in Rio, and in sprint kayak.

But he hasn’t competed in taekwondo in three years and just started training kayak this spring. At worlds, Taufatofua told the BBC he is still having trouble staying afloat in the water.

Taufatofua said in announcing the new sport in April that it would be “largely impossible” to qualify for Tokyo. He could be the first athlete to compete in a different sport in three straight Olympics (Summer and Winter) since the Winter Games began in 1924, according to the OlyMADMen.

“It’s certainly going to be the greatest challenge that I’ve ever had to embark on,” he said then.

Taufatofua’s results at worlds this week has little bearing on his Olympic qualifying prospects. Rather, he just needed to compete in Hungary to stay eligible for the Olympics.

The key will be an Oceania qualifying event early next year, where one Olympic bid is available. He will likely have to beat the best kayakers from Australia and New Zealand to grab it. Australian Stephen Bird placed eighth at the Rio Olympics and 11th at the 2018 World Championships.

If Taufatofua fails, he could receive a special tripartite invitation sometimes offered to smaller nations like Tonga.

Taufatofua became a social-media celebrity by marching into the Rio Olympic Opening Ceremony shirtless and oiled up. He then lost in the first round via mercy rule in his taekwondo tournament.

He made a quixotic bid for the PyeongChang Winter Games in cross-country skiing — and accomplished the feat, barely, in a sport that has lenient qualifying requirements for nations with a lack of Winter Games depth.

Taufatofua finished 114th out of 116 in his 15km Olympic cross-country skiing race, nearly 23 minutes behind the winner.

If Taufatofua is able to carry the Tongan flag at a third Opening Ceremony, he will definitely be shirtless again, in a similar outfit to what he wore in Rio and PyeongChang, he said last year.

MORE: Five-time Olympic kayak medalist banned four years

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