Yevgenia Medvedeva rallies, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva wins Skate Canada

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Brian Orser looked to his new pupil, Yevgenia Medvedeva, and said what so many skating fans had to be thinking.

“Been a long 24 hours, huh?”

“Oh yeah,” Medvedeva responded, a wreath of flowers sitting atop her head.

The Olympic silver medalist and two-time world champion recovered from the worst program of her senior career Friday with a strong but flawed free skate Saturday. It wasn’t enough to overtake countrywoman Elizaveta Tuktamysheva at Skate Canada.

Tuktamysheva fell on her triple Axel after hitting it in the short program but still totaled 203.32 points, topping Japan’s Mako Yamashita by .26.

Medvedeva jumped from seventh after the short to third with the top free skate, 5.41 behind Tuktamysheva overall.

“Today I felt like a wild animal,” Medvedeva said, according to Golden Skate. “When you feel sorry for yourself, it’s awful. For my mind and for my body also. I’m thankful to Brian for helping me with my mental health so, so much.”

MORE: Skate Canada Results | Grand Prix TV Schedule

It’s the first Grand Prix title for Tuktamysheva since 2015, when she was coming off sweeping every major event in the post-Olympic season. Medvedeva turned senior in 2015-16, when Tuktamysheva plummeted out of the top five of the deep Russian field, eventually missing the PyeongChang Olympics.

While Tuktamysheva may be rediscovering her form, Medvedeva faces her own smaller climb.

She’s been beaten in four straight events since returning in January from a broken bone in her foot. Then-training partner Alina Zagitova had her number in PyeongChang, after which Medvedeva split from their coach, Eteri Tutberidze, and moved from Moscow to Orser’s group in Toronto.

Earlier Saturday, Shoma Uno rallied to win the men’s title, overcoming a 6.18-point deficit to Canadian Keegan Messing from the short program. Uno fell on his final two free skate jumping passes but still landed four quads to Messing’s one to win with 277.25 points.

Messing got second, 12.8 behind, while 2014 U.S. Olympian Jason Brown moved from 11th after the short to sixth.

Uno’s rivals are Olympic and world champions Yuzuru Hanyu and Nathan Chen, whom he will not face before December’s Grand Prix Final.

U.S. champions and world silver medalists Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue were upset in the free dance but held on to win their second straight Grand Prix. They’re the first skaters in any discipline to qualify for the Grand Prix Final.

In pairs, world bronze medalists Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres won their first Grand Prix title. The French tallied the highest score in the world this season — 221.81 — and prevailed by a comfortable 20.73. James and Ciprès and Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov, who won Skate America last week, are the top pairs at the moment with none of the Olympic medalists competing this fall.

Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier, the 2017 U.S. champions, improved from eighth out of eight in the short program to sixth overall.

The Grand Prix series moves to Finland next week, headlined by Hanyu and Zagitova.

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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Simone Biles returns to the gym, going from mental drain to physical pain

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For Simone Biles, this was supposed to be the stretch run of a legendary career.

Instead, she returned to her gym on May 18 with long-term thoughts of waiting 14 months until the Tokyo Olympics. And the immediate aches of a world-class gymnast who just missed nearly two months of regular training.

“After that amount of time off, it kind of sucks because your body hurts and then you get really sore,” Biles said in a pre-recorded ESPNW interview that aired Thursday. “So you just have to get back into the swing of things. But it felt nice to see my coaches, my teammates, and just to be back on the equipment and in the environment.”

In that same Texas gym three months ago, Biles had a far different outlook. One that would have put fear into any gymnast who still harbored ambition of ending her near-seven-year win streak.

“I never felt more ready this early in the season,” she said. “I was so ready for the Olympics to be this year.”

Biles repeated in interviews the last two months that the Olympic postponement to 2021 was devastating. Thoughts zig-zagged: How do I go on another year, at age 23, in a sport recently dominated by (but not limited to) teenagers?

“I’m getting pretty old,” she said in the interview published Thursday. “Will I be at the top of my game?”

Biles proved the last two years — after a year off — that she can win — and comfortably — while not at her best. She grabbed the 2018 World all-around title by a record margin — with two falls. Last year, she became the most decorated gymnast in world championships history. In Tokyo, she can become the first woman to repeat as Olympic all-around champion, and the only one older than 20, in more than 50 years.

This for a gymnast whose early goal was to earn a college scholarship. Biles did, to UCLA, but had to give it up by turning professional.

“So I’ve exceeded that,” Biles said. “And then I wanted to go to world championships and Olympics, and I’ve been to five worlds and one Olympic Games. So, I’d be more than happy [to walk away].”

After gymnastics, Biles has another goal — to be a voice for foster kids. She was in foster care multiple times before being adopted at age 6 by grandparents Ron and Nellie.

Those plans, along with so much else for Biles and so many others, have been pushed back a full year.

“I was already being mentally drained and almost, not done with the sport, but just going into the gym and feeling tired and being like, OK, I’m going to get my stuff [done], get out,” she said. “We have this one end goal, and now that it’s postponed another [year], it’s just like, how are we going to deal with that? We’re already being drained, and so it’s to keep the fire in the sport within yourself alive.”

MORE: Top U.S. gymnasts disagree with Tokyo Olympic age rule

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2022 Pan Pacific Championships canceled as swimming calendar shifts

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The Pan Pacific Swimming Championships, a quadrennial major international meet, will not be held in 2022 “out of respect for the recent changes to the international sporting calendar,” according to a press release.

The Pan Pacs’ charter nations — the U.S., Australia, Canada and Japan — agreed to the move. The 2026 event will be held in Canada, which was supposed to be the 2022 host.

The decision came after the 2021 World Championships were moved to May 2022, following the Tokyo Olympics moving from 2020 to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The quadrennial multi-sport Commonwealth Games — which includes Australia and Canada, but not the U.S. or Japan — are scheduled for July 27-Aug. 7, 2022.

“Organizing a third major championships in that window presented several challenges,” according to the Pan Pacs release.

Pan Pacs mark the third-biggest major international meet for U.S. swimmers, held in non-Olympic, non-world championships years.

MORE: Caeleb Dressel co-hosts a podcast. It’s not about swimming.

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