Nathan Chen wins Grand Prix Final … barely (video)

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Nathan Chen goes into 2018 — the Olympic year — as the only undefeated male figure skater this season after notching the most prestigious victory by an American since the Sochi Olympics.

The 18-year-old U.S. champion won the Grand Prix Final, the second-biggest annual competition and the biggest pre-Olympic event this season.

The last American singles skaters to do so were Alissa Czisny in 2010 and Evan Lysacek in 2009, the latter en route to Olympic gold. In fact, four of the five men to win the Grand Prix Final in Olympic seasons later won the Winter Games, too.

“I’m very happy with the results,” Chen said, “not very happy with the performance.”

Chen prevailed despite being outscored in Friday’s free skate by Japanese Shoma Uno, the world silver medalist and top-ranked skater in the world this season. Both skaters had a few errors in Friday’s free skate.

But Chen’s lead from Thursday’s short program allowed him to edge Uno by half a point overall — 286.51 to 286.01 — in one of the closest finishes in elite-level figure skating under a 13-year-old points system.

Chen fell on a quadruple toe loop, doubled what could have been a quadruple Salchow and turned out of the landing of another jump. He landed four quads.

“I made a couple mistakes and a lot of things to work on, but I’m happy,” said Chen, who struggled even more in his free skate at Skate America two weeks ago. “Throughout the season I’ve been able to prove myself. I’ve got to continue doing that at the U.S. Championships.”

Adam Rippon and Jason Brown, the two U.S. champions before Chen, finished fifth and sixth in the six-man field after counting one fall each in the free skate.

Still, they’re positioned well going into nationals next month, after which the three-man Olympic team will be named.

The Grand Prix Final concludes Saturday with the pairs free, free dance and women’s free. Three U.S. couples are in the ice dance, led by Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani, who are in third place after Thursday’s short dance.

Grand Prix Final: Full Scores | TV Schedule

The Grand Prix Final is the single biggest indicator of Olympic medal prospects.

It takes the top six skaters per discipline from the fall Grand Prix series. However, this season’s men’s field was lacking.

The world’s other top skaters — world gold and bronze medalists Yuzuru Hanyu and Jin Boyang and two-time world champion Javier Fernandez — weren’t in Nagoya. Each dealt with illness or injury this fall but is expected to be fine for the Olympics, where they should join Chen and Uno as the medal favorites.

“Regardless of who’s there competitive-wise, you’re still going to have to do what you have to do,” Chen said. “So I think it really didn’t change too much in terms of my performance. But definitely in terms of practices, the environment of the competition, it does feel a little bit different.”

Chen broke out at last year’s Grand Prix Final in his first senior international season, topping the free skate to finish second overall behind Hanyu.

“Last year I wasn’t even expecting to be at the Grand Prix Final,” Chen said Friday. “This year I was able to win it.”

A month later, he became the youngest U.S. men’s champion since 1966 and the first man to land five quads in one program.

Then in February, he beat Hanyu and Uno at the Four Continents Championships at the Olympic venue. He entered worlds with medal hopes but finished sixth.

Earlier Friday, Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond topped a women’s short program that lacked Olympic favorite Yevgenia Medvedeva of Russia, who is out with a broken foot.

Osmond, the world silver medalist behind Medvedeva, led a group of six women who counted zero falls Friday. Her clean short included a triple flip-triple toe loop combination.

She leads another Russian, world junior champion Alina Zagitova, by .77 going into Saturday’s free skate. Zagitova ranks second in the world behind training partner Medvedeva this season.

There are no U.S. women in the Grand Prix Final for a second straight year.

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Grand Prix Final
Men’s Results
Gold: Nathan Chen (USA) — 286.51
Silver: Shoma Uno (JPN) — 286.01

Bronze: Mikhail Kolyada (RUS) — 282.00
4. Sergei Voronov (RUS) — 266.59
5. Adam Rippon (USA) — 254.33
6. Jason Brown (USA) — 253.81

Women’s Short Program
1. Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN) — 77.04
2. Alina Zagitova (RUS) — 76.27
3. Satoko Miyahara (JPN) — 74.61
4. Maria Sotskova (RUS) — 74.00
5. Wakaba Higuchi (JPN) — 73.26
6. Carolina Kostner (ITA) — 72.82

J’den Cox repeats as world wrestling champion; Kyle Snyder stunned

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If he wasn’t crowned already, it’s clear U.S. wrestling has a new king.

On a day when Rio Olympic champion Kyle Snyder was upset and London Olympic champ Jordan Burroughs rallied for another bronze medal, J’den Cox repeated as world champion in Kazakhstan.

Cox, the Rio Olympic 86kg bronze medalist, completed a perfect run through the 92kg division — not giving up a point in four matches — by dominating Iranian Alireza Karimi 4-0 in the final. He became the second U.S. man to win an Olympic or world title without surrendering a point in more than 30 years (joining Kyle Dake from last year).

“I don’t know why, but it feels like a ton better [than 2018],” said Cox, whose tattoos include one that reads in Latin, “If I cannot move heaven, I will raise hell.” “I made more sacrifices … I wanted to do it better.”

Earlier Saturday, Snyder was shocked by Azerbaijan’s Sharif Sharifov 5-2 in the 97kg semifinals, denying a third straight world final between Snyder and Russian Tank Abdulrashid Sadulayev. Sharifov, the 2012 Olympic 84kg champ, clinched his first world medal in eight years.

Snyder, who in Rio became the youngest U.S. Olympic wrestling champion at age 20, failed to make an Olympic or world final for the first time in his career. He will wrestle for bronze on Sunday, while Sharifov meets Sadulayev for gold.

Burroughs earned his seventh straight world championships medal and second straight bronze. Burroughs, the 2012 Olympic 74kg champion, rebounded from losing to Russian Zaurbeck Sidakov on Friday with a 10-0 technical fall over Japanese Mao Okui.

Burroughs gave up a lead on Sidakov with 1.3 seconds left in the semifinals, a year after Sidakov overtook him as time expired in the quarterfinals.

“A lot of people in 2016 called me a quitter,” said Burroughs, who tearfully missed the medals in Rio, “and I think that after watching the amount of devastation and heartbreak that I’ve taken over the last two years and still being able to come back and take third place is a testament.”

Burroughs, 31, shares third with Adeline Gray on the U.S. list of career world wrestling championships medals, trailing only Bruce Baumgartner and Kristie Davis, who each earned nine.

Burroughs’ bronze ensured he gets a bye into the 74kg final of the Olympic trials in April. But this will be the first time he goes into an Olympic year as anything other than a reigning world champion.

“At this juncture of my career, I feel I’m running out of time,” said Burroughs, who next year will be older than any previous U.S. Olympic wrestling champion. “That can be really scary.”

Dake marched to Sunday’s final in defense of his 2018 World title at 79kg (a non-Olympic weight) by going 23-4 over three matches. Dake, who at Cornell became the only wrestler to win NCAA titles at four weight classes or without a redshirt, gets Azerbaijan’s Jabrayil Hasanov in the final, a rematch of the 2018 gold-medal match.

Next year, Dake must move up to 86kg, where Cox will likely reside, or down to 74kg, where Burroughs has won every U.S. Olympic or world trials dating to 2011. There’s also David Taylor to reckon with. Taylor won the 86kg world title last year but missed this season due to injury.

“We’ve got a guy at 79 kilos that’s going to win a world championship tomorrow,” Burroughs said, smiling, of Dake, “I’m hopefully going to be waiting for [Dake at Olympic trials], healthy and prepared.”

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Alexandra Trusova, 15, becomes first woman to land three quadruple jumps

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Alexandra Trusova established herself as the world’s leading female figure skater … in her first senior international competition.

Trusova, the 15-year-old, two-time world junior champion from Russia, became the first woman to land three quadruple jumps in one international competition program, posting the world’s highest free skate and total scores on the early season.

Trusova previously landed three quads in the free skate at the Russian Federation’s test skates in early September.

She opened Saturday’s free skate with a quadruple Lutz, a quadruple toe loop-triple toe combination and another quad toe to run away from Japanese Olympian Kaori Sakamoto by 44.27 points. Video is here.

She won a lower-level event in Slovakia with 238.69 points, which would have beaten Japan’s top skater, Rika Kihira, and Olympic bronze medalist Yevgenia Medvedeva by more than 14 points at an event last week in Canada. However, judging panels can be more or less forgiving from event to event.

Still, Trusova established herself as a force going into next month’s Grand Prix season. She will face Kihira and Medvedeva at Skate Canada the last week of October.

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