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Vincent Zhou stumbles at U.S. International Classic

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Canada’s Nam Nguyen sits in first place after the short program at the U.S. International Classic competition in Salt Lake City, Utah on Thursday, marking the first true weekend of figure skating competition for the 2018-19 season. Nguyen totaled 80.28 points under the newly-implemented scoring system, which uses a Grade of Execution scale of -5 to +5. The previous scale, such as the one used in PyeongChang, was -3 to +3.

He leads Michal Brezina of the Czech Republic who scored 79.57 points and Ukraine’s Yaroslav Paniot with 74.97 points.

Jimmy Ma leads the American men, sitting fourth with 73.21 points. Vincent Zhou, who finished sixth at the PyeongChang Olympics, is sixth after scoring 61.72 points. Zhou invalidated two jumps in his program – a popped Salchow and a popped Axel – which received zero credit, and under-rotated the quad Lutz in his combination.

“The jumps weren’t really there today but I think the performance was good and I gave it my best efforts as I always do. I’m just starting my season so hopefully tomorrow goes better,” Zhou said, though his program featured three spins which all achieved Level 4s.

Earlier Thursday, Americans Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc took the lead in the pairs’ short program with 59.10 points. Cain called her fall on the throw triple Lutz a “weird mistake.”

LeDuc didn’t hold back on the team’s goals for the season.

“We’ve worked really hard this offseason to be ready to do everything that we want to do. We want to be U.S. champions, we want to get the two spots back for Team USA at Worlds,” he said, in reference to the single allotted spot for a Team USA pair at the 2019 World Championships.

Friday’s action from Salt Lake includes 2018 Worlds silver medalist ice dancers Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue in the rhythm dance (formerly short dance), plus the ladies’ short program and pairs’ and men’s free skates. All of the action is streaming live on NBC Sports’ Gold Figure Skating Pass (more on that here).

Also this weekend in the figure skating world, competition was underway at the Lombardia Trophy in Italy. After Thursday’s short programs, Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno from Japan leads the men’s field with 104.15 points and 2015 world champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva of Russia leads the ladies with 65.69 points. Russians Natalia Zabiiako and Alexander Enbert are currently first in the pairs’ field with 72.50 points. Competition in Bergamo continues Friday and Saturday.

Athletes, anti-doping leaders issues statement on RUSADA status

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More Olympic athletes and anti-doping leaders have come out in protest of the possible reinstatement of Russia’s anti-doping agency.

Members of the athletes committees from the World Anti-Doping Agency and the U.S. Olympic Committee, along with a group of international anti-doping leaders and a key supporter of a Russian whistleblower, released statements Tuesday urging WADA’s executive committee not to reinstate RUSADA when it meets later this week.

Jim Swartz, a supporter of former Moscow anti-doping lab director Grigory Rodchenkov, said “WADA has undermined its own moral and regulatory authority” by proposing a weakened version of the roadmap to bring RUSADA back into compliance.

The agency has been suspended for nearly three years in the wake of what investigators said was a state-sponsored doping scandal designed to win Olympic medals.

The WADA athletes’ group is led by Beckie Scott, who resigned her position on WADA’s compliance review committee after it recommended RUSADA’s reinstatement last week.

Italy’s focus for 2026 bid now on Milan, Cortina d’Ampezzo

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ROME (AP) — Italy’s three-pronged bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics has been reduced to a two-city candidacy featuring Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo.

Following Turin’s exclusion, the Italian Olympic Committee is sending a delegation featuring Milan and Cortina representatives to meet with IOC leaders on Wednesday.

The move comes after government undersecretary and sports delegate Giancarlo Giorgetti told the Senate on Tuesday that the three-city proposal “is dead.”

Turin’s exclusion follows infighting between Milan Mayor Giuseppe Sala and Turin counterpart Chiara Appendino, who had been arguing over the bid’s leadership and naming rights.

Peliminary bids are due to be presented at IOC meetings in Buenos Aires next month.

“The candidacy needs to be saved, so we’re open to moving forward together,” Veneto region president Luca Zaia and Lombardy region president Attilio Fontana said in a joint statement.

“If Turin is withdrawing, which upsets us, at this point two realities remain, and they are called Veneto and Lombardy. So we are moving forward with the Lombardy-Veneto Olympics.”

Under the revised plan, hockey and speedskating — which had been slotted for venues built for the 2006 Turin Games — would be held in Milan. Alpine skiing would be held in 1956 host Cortina, while biathlon would be slated for nearby Anterselva — a regular stop on the biathlon World Cup circuit.

Three other bids remain in contention for 2026: Stockholm, Sweden; Calgary, Canada; and Erzurum, Turkey.

The Japanese city of Sapporo dropped its bid on Monday following a recent earthquake.

International Olympic Committee members will pick the host in Milan in October 2019. While IOC rules have long prevented bids from the host country of an IOC session, new rules have created more leeway.

Italy is anxious to bring a bid through the entire process after two Rome candidacies were withdrawn.

Two years ago, Italy was forced to end Rome’s bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics because of staunch opposition from the city’s mayor. And in 2012, then-premier Mario Monti scrapped the city’s bid for the 2020 Olympics because of financial concerns.