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Hubbell and Donohue ahead of ice dance field at U.S. International Classic

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Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue sit in first place in the ice dance field after their rhythm dance (formerly known as the short dance) scored 79.11 points at Fridays U.S. International Classic in Salt Lake City, Utah. It’s the first true weekend of figure skating competition for the 2018-19 season.

Last season, Hubbell and Donohue won the national title, finished fourth at the Olympics and won silver medals at the world championships.

“We’re reaching a new level in our partnership. It’s fun to play with the dynamics of a new program in competition. More so than the points, we were focused on being one on the ice and feeling each other while creating our own moment,” Donohue said.

Hubbell and Donohue lead fellow Americans Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko, who scored 68.61 points, and Canadians Haley Sales and Nikolas Wamsteeker, who earned 54.11 points.

RESULTS: RHYTHM DANCE | LADIES’ SHORT | PAIRS’ FREE | MEN’S FREE

Also Friday, 2018 world bronze Satoko Miyahara from Japan held a slight edge over the rest of the field, scoring 67.53 points. Her triple Lutz, triple toe combination was called under-rotated, as was her triple flip. South Korea’s Eunsoo Lim sits in second with 64.85 points and Olympic team gold medalist Gabrielle Daleman from Canada is third with 63.28 points.

Americans Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc extended their lead on the pairs’ field, winning the event with a total score of 173.05. Despite Cain’s fall on the throw triple Lutz in Thursday’s short program, she saved the landing in the free skate and the element was called clean.

Nam Nguyen from Canada landed two clean quads in the free skate for a total score of 213.52, good enough to hold his lead on the men’s field and win the event. Czech skater Michal Brezina totaled 208.27 points  for second place, while Team USA’s Jimmy Ma held on for bronze with 206.10 points.

Ma’s teammate Vincent Zhou moved up from sixth after the short program to fourth overall after scoring 204.62 points. Both of the 2018 Olympian’s attempted quads were called under-rotated, as well as two of his triples.

“Every competition is a learning experience,” Zhou said. “Whether it’s good or bad, there’s always something to learn. Obviously, this is just the start of my season. I’ve had a difficult summer but have been battling through. I’m really happy just to be here competing and skating. Today I was able to skate for myself and enjoy myself out on the ice.”

Competition continues Saturday in Salt Lake with the ladies’ free skate and free dance, streaming live on NBC Sports’ Gold Figure Skating Pass (more on that here).

At Lombardia Trophy in Italy on Friday, 2015 world champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva from Russia handily won the ladies’ event with 206.07 points. She attempted her trademark triple Axel, but was given negative Grades of Execution on the element, likely for stepping out of the landing. Russians Natalia Zabiiako and Alexander Enbert won the pairs’ event, tallying 196.15 points. The men’s and dance events conclude Saturday in Italy.

Bernard Lagat commits to Olympic marathon trials, eyes age record

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Bernard Lagat, a 44-year-old, five-time Olympian, reportedly said he will race the Olympic marathon trials on Feb. 29 in a bid to break his own record as the oldest U.S. Olympic runner.

“I feel like I can still improve,” Lagat said, according to Runner’s World. “I’m going to give it my best.”

Lagat, a two-time Olympic 1500m medalist, moved to the marathon after becoming the oldest U.S. Olympic runner in history at the Rio Games, placing fifth in the 5000m.

He clocked 2:17:20 in his 26.2-mile debut at the 2018 New York City Marathon. He lowered it to 2:12:10 at the Gold Coast Marathon in Australia on July 7 but did not previously commit to entering the trials.

If Lagat finishes in the top three at the marathon trials, he is in line to become the third-oldest U.S. Olympic track and field athlete in history. The oldest are race walker John Deni (49 years old in 1952) and hammer thrower Matt McGrath (48 years old in 1924), according to the OlyMADMen.

Lagat ranks outside the top 20 among U.S. marathoners in this Olympic cycle. The fastest are Galen Rupp (2:06:07), Leonard Korir (2:07:56, from Sunday’s Amsterdam Marathon) and Scott Fauble (2:09:09).

No American has competed in six Olympics in track and field. Lagat’s first two Olympic appearances were for Kenya.

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MORE: Olympic marathon moved from Tokyo to another Olympic host city

Natalie Geisenberger, Olympic luge champion, will not race this season

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For the first time in eight years, there will be a new World Cup women’s luge champion.

Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger — the seven-time defending champion and two-time defending Olympic singles gold medalist — announced that she isn’t sliding this season because she and her husband are expecting their first child in April.

“Our happiness is on the way,” Geisenberger said on her Facebook page.

Geisenberger plans to return next season and still has hopes to compete at the 2022 Beijing Olympics, where she could match fellow German great Georg Hackl’s feat of winning three consecutive singles golds.

With Geisenberger not sliding this season, the top returning women from last year’s World Cup standings now are Julia Taubitz of Germany and Summer Britcher of the U.S. — second and third, respectively, in 2018-19.

Geisenberger has a luge record-tying four Olympic golds in all, being part of Germany’s victories in the team relays in Sochi in 2014 and Pyeongchang in 2018 as well.

Her 49 World Cup singles wins are another record, and she’s one of two sliders to win seven consecutive World Cup titles — Austria’s Markus Prock took the men’s championships each year from 1990-91 through 1996-97.

Geisenberger’s break from sliding only adds to how the World Cup standings — and the German roster — will look very different this season. Dajana Eitberger, who was fourth in last season’s World Cup standings, is also pregnant and expecting a baby in February. And Tatjana Huefner, who was sixth overall last season, has retired.

Huefner won five consecutive World Cup titles before Geisenberger took over and began her seven-year streak of championships. Geisenberger earned medals 11 times in 12 singles races last year — six golds, four silvers and one bronze.

“We are so happy for you even though we will miss you this season!” two-time Olympic singles gold medalist Felix Loch of Germany wrote in a message to Geisenberger on Instagram.

Geisenberger has been in the top three of the World Cup standings in 12 consecutive seasons. She was third in 2007-08, finished second in each of the next four seasons, and then began her title streak in 2012-13.

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MORE: U.S. luge star adds doubles after Olympic singles medal