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

Asbel Kiprop, Olympic 1500m champ, banned four years

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Kenyan Asbel Kiprop, the 2008 Olympic 1500m champion and a three-time world champ, was banned four years after testing positive for EPO in November 2017, according to track and field’s doping watchdog organization.

The ban is backdated to Feb. 3, 2018, when the 29-year-old was provisionally suspended after the failed test.

Kiprop repeatedly denied doping since last May, when he first acknowledged the positive test. Most recently, a 3,000-word defense from his lawyer was posted on Kiprop’s Facebook page.

Kiprop’s defenses included saying he was a victim of extortion and that he was offered “a reward” of becoming an anti-doping ambassador if he admitted guilt. The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), the IAAF’s independent organization to monitor doping and corruption, denied the latter last May.

A disciplinary panel dismissed six defenses from exonerating him, including the possibility his sample was spiked, in handing out the four-year ban.

Kiprop, the pre-eminent 1500m runner of the last decade, can appeal the ban.

At 19, he finished second in the Beijing Olympic 1500m but was upgraded to gold a year later after Bahrain’s Rashid Ramzi failed a drug test. He is the youngest Olympic 1500m medalist of all time, according to the OlyMADMen.

Kiprop went on to earn three straight world titles in the 1500m in 2011, 2013 and 2015, matching the feats of retired legends Noureddine Morceli and Hicham El Guerrouj.

He struggled in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, finishing last in the London final with a hamstring injury and sixth in the Rio final won by American rival Matthew Centrowitz.

Kiprop has targeted El Guerrouj’s world record of 3:26:00, missing the mark by .69 of a second in 2015.

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Maggie Nichols is second woman in 20 years to repeat as NCAA all-around champ

Maggie Nichols
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Oklahoma junior and world champion gymnast Maggie Nichols became the first woman to repeat as NCAA all-around champion in 12 years, returning from a heel injury to compete on all four events for the first time since January on Friday.

Nichols, a Rio Olympic hopeful before being beset by a torn meniscus in 2016, joined 2004 Olympic silver medalist Courtney Kupets as the only women to win back-to-back NCAA all-arounds in the 2000s.

A junior, Nichols can next year join Jenny Hansen as the only women to three-peat in NCAA history.

Oklahoma goes for a third team title in four years on Saturday night against UCLA (featuring Olympic champions Madison Kocian and Kyla Ross), LSU and Denver.

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NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships Individual Results
All-Around
1. Maggie Nichols (Oklahoma) — 39.7125
2. Lexy Ramler (Minnesota) — 39.6625
2. Kyla Ross (UCLA) — 39.6625
4. Sarah Finnegan (LSU) — 39.65
5. Kennedi Edney (LSU) — 39.6

Vault
1. Kennedi Edney (LSU) — 9.95
1. Derrian Gobourne (Auburn)
1. Maggie Nichols (Oklahoma)
1. Kyla Ross (UCLA)

Uneven Bars
1. Sarah Finnegan (LSU) — 9.95

Balance Beam
1. Natalie Wojcik (Michigan) — 9.95

Floor Exercise
1. Alicia Boren (Florida) — 9.95
1. Lynnzee Brown (Denver)
1. Brenna Dowell (Oklahoma)
1. Kyla Ross (UCLA)