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U.S. keeps dominating Paralympics with 7 more snowboard medals

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Make it a leading 30 medals for the U.S. Paralympic team. Second place? The Neutral Paralympic Athletes from Russia with 20 medals.

The Americans, who placed third at Sochi 2014 with 18 medals (just two golds) and last topped a medal standings at a Winter Games it didn’t host in 1992, go into the last two days of competition ahead of the field in PyeongChang.

Thank the snowboard team’s performance Friday. The U.S. bagged seven of the 15 banked slalom medals awarded, including three of the five golds (first-time Paralympians Brenna HuckabyMike Minor and Noah Elliott).

Nordic skiers Oksana Masters and Dan Cnossen added their fourth and fifth medals of the Games, respectively, with silvers in biathlon.

The U.S. can see the finish line through 64 of 80 medal events in South Korea.

The team’s 30 total medals mark its most since 43 in Salt Lake City 2002 (when there were 92 events). The 11 golds are its most since 13 in Nagano 1998 (when there were 122 events).

It’s a big swing from four years ago, when Russia broke the Winter Paralympic record with 80 medals plus 30 golds, more than three times the runner-up nation in each standings.

Russia topped the Winter Paralympic medal standings at the last three editions but trails in PyeongChang with a depleted roster of 43 neutral athletes due to the nation’s sanctions for its poor anti-doping record. The U.S. has a leading 81 athletes.

A closer look at the three U.S. gold medalists on Friday: Elliott went one-two with U.S. flag bearer Mike Schultz, four days after Schultz won gold with Elliott taking bronze in snowboard cross in their classification.

Elliott, then 16, was motivated to start snowboarding after watching the 2014 Paralympics from his hospital bed while undergoing treatment for bone cancer. His left leg was later amputated above the knee.

“Now I am out here ripping it with the same guys I saw on TV,” Elliott said Friday.

Minor, a 27-year-old born without a right forearm, added gold to his snowboard cross bronze, 27 months after making his international debut in the sport (which he also won).

Huckaby, a 22-year-old with a 20-month-old daughter, Lilah, made it two golds in two events in her Paralympic debut. Huckaby, like Elliott, had a leg amputated due to bone cancer.

Brittani Coury and Evan Strong (silvers) and Amy Purdy (bronze) rounded out the U.S. medals Friday.

The snowboarders’ competition in PyeongChang is finished. What’s next?

“I’m going to go get baby snuggles,” Huckaby said.

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MORE: PyeongChang Paralympics TV, streaming schedule

Cyclist in induced coma after Tour of Poland crash

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Dutch cyclist Fabio Jakobsen was put into an induced coma Wednesday after suffering injuries in a crash on the final stretch of the Tour of Poland, organizers said.

A massive crash at the finish of the first stage resulted in Dylan Groenewegen‘s disqualification from the race.

Leading a bunch sprint, Groenewegen veered toward the right barrier, pinching countryman Jakobsen, who barreled into the barrier meters from the finish line.

Jakobsen went head over heels, his bike went airborne and the barriers exploded onto the road, causing more cyclists to crash.

Jakobsen was airlifted to a hospital in serious condition and was put into an induced coma, the Tour de Pologne press office said.

Doctor Pawel Gruenpeter of the hospital in Sosnowiec said Jakobsen suffered injuries to the head and chest but that his condition was stable at the intensive care unit. Jakobsen will need surgery to his face and skull, Gruenpeter told state broadcaster TVP Sport.

Groenewegen crossed the finish line first but was disqualified, giving Jakobsen the stage win, according to the stage race website.

Groenewegen, a 27-year-old Jumbo-Visma rider, owns four Tour de France stage wins among the last three years.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) “strongly condemned” Groenewegen’s “dangerous” and “unacceptable” behavior. It referred Groenewegen’s actions to a disciplinary commission for possible sanctions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Figure skating Grand Prix Series will be held as ‘domestic’ competitions

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Figure skating’s Grand Prix Series will go ahead as scheduled this fall, with modifications due to the coronavirus pandemic, the International Skating Union decided Monday.

Each of the series’ six tops around the globe will be “a domestic run event,” limited to skaters of the event’s host country, who regularly train in the host country and from a respective geographical area. The number of disciplines and skaters at each event are to be worked out.

The Grand Prix Series, held annually since 1995, is a six-event fall season, qualifying the top six skaters and teams per discipline to December’s Grand Prix Final. The annual stops are in the U.S., Canada, China, France, Russia and Japan, leading up to the Final, which is held at a different site each year.

The Final is the second-biggest annual competition after the world championships, which are typically in late March. The Final is still scheduled for Beijing, though whether or when it can be held will be discussed.

The series begins in late October with Skate America, which debuted in 1979 and has been held every year since 1988 as the biggest annual international competition in the U.S. Skate America’s site is Las Vegas, just as it was in 2019.

Skaters typically compete twice on the Grand Prix Series (three times if they qualify for the Final). ISU vice president Alexander Lakernik said skaters will be limited to one start in the six-event series before the Final, according to a Russian media quote confirmed by Phil Hersh.

The ISU has not confirmed or denied Lakernik’s assertion.

Most, if not all, top-level U.S. skaters train in the U.S. or Canada. That makes the first two Grand Prix stops — Skate America and Skate Canada — likely destinations. Grand Prix assignments have not been published.

“I appreciate the ISU is open to adapting competitive formats and is working to give athletes opportunities to compete,” Evan Bates, a U.S. ice dance champion with Madison Chock who trains in Montreal, wrote in a text message to Hersh. “This announcement gives reassurance that the ISU is doing their best to ensure a season will still take place. Of course, it’s hard to predict what will happen, and we’re not sure about what country we would compete in. It would probably depend on what the quarantine rules are at that time.”

The January 2021 U.S. Championships are scheduled for San Jose, Calif. The March 2021 World Championships are set for Stockholm.

In July, the ISU canceled the Junior Grand Prix Series for skaters mostly ages 13 to 18, including two-time U.S. champion Alysa Liu, who cannot enter the senior Grand Prix until 2021.

Other early season senior international competitions scheduled for September were also canceled or postponed.

U.S. Figure Skating said in a statement that it will have more details on the Grand Prix Series in the coming weeks after collaborating with an ISU-appointed group.

“This is a great example of the figure skating community coming together to ensure that the world’s premier figure skating series will continue during these challenging times,” the statement read. “Figure skaters want to compete and figure skating fans from all around the world want to see their favorite athletes skate, and this format will ensure just that.”

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