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Jason Brown added as Grand Prix Final replacement

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U.S. men make up half of the field at the most exclusive event in figure skating, two months before the Olympics.

Jason Brown was added to next week’s six-skater Grand Prix Final after Jin Boyang of China withdrew, the International Skating Union said Friday.

Jin said before finishing fourth at last week’s Skate America that he had two sprained ankles, according to Icenetwork.com, but the ISU did not provide a reason for Jin’s withdrawal.

Brown, a Sochi Olympian and the 2015 U.S. champion, joins 2016 U.S. champion Adam Rippon and 2017 U.S. champion Nathan Chen in the Grand Prix Final at Nagoya, Japan.

The last time the U.S. had three men in the Grand Prix Final was 2009 — Evan LysacekJeremy Abbott and Johnny Weir, who went on to make up the Olympic team two months later.

The Grand Prix Final, usually the single biggest indicator of Olympic medal prospects two months before the Winter Games, is lacking serious star power this year.

Jin, who took bronze at the last two world championships, is the latest absentee.

Yuzuru HanyuJavier Fernandez and Patrick Chan, who combined to win the last seven world championships, won’t be in Nagoya, either.

Hanyu (ankle) and Chan withdrew from their second fall Grand Prix series starts. Fernandez was shockingly sixth in his Grand Prix opener, reportedly slowed by a stomach bug, denting his shot at making the Final even though he won his second start.

The Grand Prix Final field is headlined by world silver medalist Shoma Uno of Japan and Chen, who rank Nos. 1 and 2 in the world this season. Chen won silver at this event last season in his international breakout.

The 22-year-old Brown goes to his first Grand Prix Final after a few agonizing misses.

In 2014, Brown was the youngest U.S. Olympic male singles skater since 1976. Later that year, Brown missed the Grand Prix Final by .16 of a point. He took silver at his first qualifier but stumbled to fifth at his second event.

In 2015, Brown would have made the Grand Prix Final with a runner-up finish at the Grand Prix of Japan. But he withdrew before the event with a back injury.

Then last season, Brown would have made the Grand Prix Final by placing third at the Grand Prix of Japan. But he was seventh, slowed by right leg soreness that eventually developed into a stress fracture.

This season, Brown again set himself up well with a runner-up at his first Grand Prix. But he missed the podium at his second event and ended up the first alternate.

Russians Mikhail Kolyada and Sergei Voronov round out the Grand Prix Final field.

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Kristoffersen topples Hirscher to win giant slalom at worlds

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ARE, Sweden — Norwegian skiing is in safe hands, even with its beloved king now in retirement.

Henrik Kristoffersen gave Norway its second individual gold medal of the world championships by toppling an under-the-weather Marcel Hirscher to win the giant slalom on Friday.

With Kjetil Jansrud also victorious in the downhill last week, Norway appears in great shape heading into the post-Aksel Lund Svindal era.

Svindal signed off his illustrious career with a silver medal behind Jansrud in the downhill, and said he was leaving behind a strong generation of Norwegian skiing talent.

Kristoffersen is at the forefront of that — especially now that he has ended his long wait for a medal at a world championship.

The 24-year-old Kristoffersen had finished fourth in his last three races at the worlds — the giant slalom and slalom in 2017 and the slalom in 2015 — and headed into his second run of the GS in third place behind leader Alexis Pinturault and Hirscher, the favorite and one of skiing’s all-time greats.

However, Kristoffersen produced an aggressive run under the lights, his speed and flow particularly apparent in the bottom section, to win by 0.20 seconds over Hirscher. Pinturault won the bronze medal, 0.42 seconds back.

“It was about time to get a medal,” said Kristoffersen, who wasn’t necessarily expecting it to come in GS.

Kristoffersen’s last win in the discipline came at Meribel in 2015 and he has been consistently behind Hirscher, the seven-time overall World Cup winner and defending Olympic and world GS champion. He finished second to Hirscher at last year’s Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Kristoffersen was without a win in any discipline for a year but said he gained confidence from the course being doused with salt to maintain the snow surface amid unseasonably warm weather. The temperature in Are for the first leg was 8 C (46 F).

“There’s no one that skis on salt as much as Norwegians do,” he said. “Even though I haven’t trained on salt in GS in a long, long time, I have it from childhood.”

Hirscher’s preparations for the race were affected by a bout of flu that kept him in bed for much of the past two days. He acknowledged after the race that the likelihood of him lining up on the starting gate wasn’t high on Thursday.

“Normally,” Hirscher said, “if you have regular work on those days, you normally tell your boss I’m done for the day.”

Yet he managed to be only 0.10 seconds behind Pinturault after an error-free first run, keeping Hirscher on course for a record-tying seventh gold medal at the worlds. But he went wide at two gates in the top section of his second run, causing him to lose 0.41 seconds on Kristoffersen in the middle section.

“Second place is the first loser but Henrik had an amazing day with two great runs,” Hirscher said. “Henrik is at the top for such a long time. He was more than ready for a world title.”

Hirscher, who was noticeably sniffing after the race, added that he was “looking forward to getting back to bed again” to rest up ahead of Sunday’s slalom.

When Pinturault crossed the finish line in third place, Kristoffersen clenched his fists before walking into the finish area, crouching on one knee and acknowledging the jubilant Norwegian fans in the grandstand.

For Pinturault, it was his second medal of the championships after winning the Alpine combined on Monday.

Wesenberg wins first U.S. skeleton World Cup medal in two years

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With a bronze medal in Lake Placid earlier today, Kendall Wesenberg became the first American to reach the World Cup podium in skeleton in two years.

Wesenberg, who finished 17th at her first Olympics in PyeongChang, had a combined time of 1:51.10 in Lake Placid. Prior to today, her last podium finish at the World Cup was in St. Moritz in January 2017.

“This has never been my strongest track, so we really broke it down piece by piece, and I think it paid off,” Wesenberg said, according to USA Bobsled and Skeleton. “The second run, I kind of tried to throw it away at the top there. By the time I made it to corner 10, I was just thinking ‘build speed, build speed.”

Wesenberg, 28, grew up in California’s Central Valley, but her interest in sliding sports piqued while watching the 2010 Vancouver Games. When the commentators discussed the athletic backgrounds of the athletes, Wesenberg realized she played some of the same sports growing up. A quick Google search brought her to the USA Bobsled and Skeleton page. She told her siblings she was thinking of trying skeleton. They said she’d never do it. Challenge accepted.

Wesenberg emailed a U.S. coach and signed up for a combine and driving training in January 2011. Seven years later, she was sliding on Olympic ice.

Sliding coverage continues today on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA, with women’s bobsled live at 3:15 p.m. ET and men’s bobsled live at 4:15.