Elizaveta Tuktamysheva leads Skate Canada; Yevgenia Medvedeva struggles

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Yevgenia Medvedeva reacted by pointing two gloved fingers, in the shape of a gun, at her forehead and blowing. Seconds later came her Skate Canada short program score.

“Ugh,” new coach Brian Orser said. Medvedeva, sitting to his right in the kiss and cry, shook her head, exhaled and put her chin down.

The Olympic silver medalist and two-time world champion is in seventh place going into Saturday’s free skate at her first top-level competition since starting a new skating life in Toronto following disappointment in PyeongChang.

It’s Medvedeva’s first time outside the top three in any program in four seasons as a senior skater.

Her knee just about grazed the ice on a downgraded triple flip, and she put a hand down. She also did not have a jumping combination.

So Medvedeva scored 60.83 points, trailing leader and countrywoman Elizaveta Tuktamysheva by 13.39 in Laval, Quebec.

SKATE CANADA: TV/Stream Schedule | Results

Tuktamysheva, the 2015 World champion who missed Russia’s Olympic team, landed a triple Axel with a positive grade of execution for the first time since December 2015. Tuktamysheva was the Russian superstar before Medvedeva turned senior and won every major competition in the 2016 and 2017 seasons.

Alina Zagitova passed both of them last year, Olympic champion in her first season as a senior.

Now Tuktamysheva is on the rise. Medvedeva is facing a fourth straight defeat since she returned from a broken bone in her foot in January, following the longest stretch of dominance by a female skater since Katarina Witt in the 1980s.

She wasn’t the only favorite to struggle Friday.

Fellow Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno fell into the boards on a triple Axel and trails Canadian Keegan Messing by 6.18 points going into the free. Messing, who was 12th in PyeongChang, opened his clean short with a quadruple toe loop-triple toe loop combination.

“Disappointment and regret, those are the emotions about my performance,” Uno said, according to the International Skating Union. “It is not about me taking a high risk, I just can’t do triples.”

American Jason Brown, who missed PyeongChang after placing ninth in Sochi, is 11th of 12 skaters. Brown fell on an under-rotated triple Axel at his first Grand Prix since joining Orser’s training group in Toronto.

In ice dance, U.S. champions and world silver medalists Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue became the first couple to crack 80 points in a rhythm dance this season. Hubbell and Donohue are set to clinch a spot in December’s Grand Prix Final after winning Skate America last week.

In pairs, world bronze medalists Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès of France posted the world’s best short program score this season — 74.51. They lead Chinese Peng Cheng and Jin Yang by 2.51 points.

The 2017 U.S. champions Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier are in eighth and last place after she fell on their side-by-side triple Salchows and throw triple loop.

As a reminder, you can watch the ISU Grand Prix Series live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. GO HERE to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season…NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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MORE: New-look Jason Brown returns after missing Olympic team

WATCH LIVE: U.S. Figure Skating Championships rhythm dance, women’s free skate

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Can Bradie Tennell hold off 14-year-old Alysa Liu? The U.S. Figure Skating Championships crowns its female medalists on Friday, live on NBC Sports.

Action starts with the rhythm dance at 4:30 p.m. ET for NBC Sports Gold subscribers, with NBCSN broadcast coverage joining in at 5. The women start at 7:25 on Gold, with NBC TV coverage starting at 8.

LIVE STREAM: Rhythm dance — Gold | NBCSN | Skate Order
LIVE STREAM: Women’s free skate — Gold | NBC | Skate Order

Tennell topped Thursday’s short program with a clean slate of jumps, plus the highest artistic score.

She bettered Liu in the short program last year, too, but fell in the free skate to take silver. Liu, meanwhile, landed two triple Axels to win by 3.92 points and become the youngest U.S. champion in history.

Another skater to watch is Gracie Gold, the two-time U.S. champion competing at nationals for the first time in three years. Gold, lauded for her return from an eating disorder, depression and anxiety, struggled with jumps in the short and is in 13th place of 18 skaters.

In the rhythm dance, past U.S. champions Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue and Madison Chock and Evan Bates are expected to begin a duel that should come down to Saturday’s free dance.

Key Skate Times
5:32 p.m. — Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue
5:38 — Kaitlin Hawayek/Jean-Luc Baker
5:44 — Madison Chock/Evan Bates
8:07 — Gracie Gold
10:03 — Karen Chen
10:11 — Amber Glenn
10:27 — Bradie Tennell
10:35 — Mariah Bell
10:43 — Alysa Liu

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NATIONALS: TV Schedule | Full Results

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

Iran’s only female Olympic medalist, who defected, eyes Tokyo Games as German or refugee

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LÜNEN, Germany (AP) — Iran’s only female Olympic medalist said Friday she wants to compete for Germany after defecting from her native country.

Kimia Alizadeh is trying to rebuild her life and career after she announced this month she had left Iran, citing sexism on the part of officials there.

“Even if I do not make it to the Olympics, it does not matter because I have made up my mind,” Alizadeh said at a meeting with journalists at a taekwondo club.

“I am sure that I will be judged by many, but I am just 21 years old and can attend world tournaments and future Olympics. However, I will spare no effort to get the best result at this time as well.”

She added she doesn’t expect ever to compete in Iran again.

Alizadeh was just 18 when she won bronze in taekwondo at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, catapulting her to instant fame at home. Despite Iran’s long history of victories in men’s wrestling and weightlifting, no Iranian woman had ever won a medal before.

However, Alizadeh was frustrated with life in Iran despite her Olympic success. In an Instagram post this month announcing she had left Iran, she accused Iranian officials of sexism and criticized wearing the mandatory hijab headscarf.

Alizadeh hasn’t given up hope of being able to compete at this year’s Olympics in Tokyo. However, getting there would require highly unusual exemptions from the usual rules on nationality switches and qualification, regardless of whether she tries to represent Germany or the International Olympic Committee’s refugee team.

Alizadeh spent time in the Netherlands before heading to Germany this week to meet with taekwondo officials there. The German Taekwondo Union has spoken up in favor of Alizadeh staying in the country in what it calls a first step toward her gaining nationality and becoming eligible to compete for Germany.

“If the German government assists me and I can go through this process as fast as possible, I might be able to make it to the Olympics, too,” she said.

In recent years, many Iranian athletes have left their country, citing government pressure. In September, the former world judo champion Saeed Mollaei moved to Germany after walking off the Iranian team at the world championships in Japan. He said Iranian officials had tried to force him to withdraw so as not to compete against an Israeli opponent.

Alireza Faghani, an Iranian international soccer referee, also left Iran for Australia last year.

Alizadeh said she just wants “a peaceful life,” and she’s not looking back.

“I have a great feeling to have made a decision for my life that would definitely change my future,” she said. “I think it is not even clear enough now and. in the years to come, I will understand what a good decision I made.”

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MORE: Full list of U.S. athletes qualified for Tokyo Olympics