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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.

Sports execs oppose esports in Olympics, survey shows

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — A global survey of sports industry executives shows 57 percent oppose Olympic status for video gaming.

Audit firm PwC says more than 400 sports industry professionals from 42 countries answered an online questionnaire for its annual survey. The findings were discussed Tuesday at the Olympic Museum, where the IOC hosted an esports conference in July on possible Olympic status for the booming games market.

The PwC survey asked “Is esports an Olympic sport?“: 28 percent said, “no, because esports does not qualify as ‘sport,’” and 29 percent said esports should grow independently of the Olympics.

A further 26.7 percent said esports must first unify under a single governing body, and 10.4 percent said esports should join “as soon as possible.” Almost 6 percent said they did not know or abstained.

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Annemiek van Vleuten, back from horrific Rio Olympic crash, leads Dutch sweep at cycling worlds

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Dutchwoman Annemiek van Vleuten led the first medal sweep by one nation in a world road cycling championships elite time trial, repeating as gold medalist two years after a horrific crash at the Rio Olympics.

Van Vleuten, 35, clocked 34 minutes, 25.36 seconds on the 17-mile course in Innsbruck, Austria.

She bettered Olympic road race champion Anna van der Breggen by 28.99 seconds, matching their one-two finish from 2017 Worlds. Ellen van Dijk, the 2013 World champ, completed the Dutch sweep with bronze, 1:25.19 back.

Van Dijk edged Canadian Leah Kirchmann by 1.62 seconds. The top American was Leah Thomas in fifth. Full results are here.

Worlds continue Wednesday with the men’s time trial on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and NBC Sports Gold. A full broadcast schedule is here.

In the Rio Olympic road race, van Vleuten suffered three small spine fractures and a concussion when her brakes appeared to lock, and she flipped into a ditch. Van Vleuten was alone in the lead at the time with about seven miles to go of the 87-mile course.

She was eventually hospitalized in intensive care.

Van der Breggen went on to win the Olympic title.

Van Vleuten wasn’t out long. She raced at the October 2016 World Championships, placing a career-high fifth in the time trial. She then won La Course in 2017 and 2018 and the Giro Rosa in July, in addition to the 2017 World time trial.

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