Alina Zagitova, Yuzuru Hanyu
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Alina Zagitova, Yuzuru Hanyu make Grand Prix Helsinki rarity; schedule

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Alina Zagitova and Yuzuru Hanyu are in this week’s Grand Prix of Helsinki field, marking the first top-level event with both reigning Olympic singles figure skating champions in 26 years.

The last was the 1992 World Championships with Kristi Yamaguchi and Viktor Petrenko.

The last time multiple Olympic singles champions (reigning or not) competed in the same event was when Brian BoitanoKatarina Witt and Petrenko came out of professional skating for the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Games (unless counting Yevgeny Plushenko and Yuna Kim at Sochi 2014, where Plushenko only did the team event).

Most gold medalists fade from competition after the Games, but both Zagitova and Hanyu have a full slate this season.

Each won lower-level events to start things off last month, but it begins in earnest at the first Grand Prix event ever held in Finland. NBC Sports Gold streams live coverage of every session starting Friday.

Day Time (ET) Event Network
Friday 9 a.m. Pairs’ Short NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK
10:45 a.m. Women’s Short NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK
12:45 p.m. Rhythm Dance NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK
Saturday 6:30 a.m. Men’s Short NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK
8:30 a.m. Pairs’ Free NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK
11:30 a.m. Women’s Free NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK
1:30 p.m. Free Dance NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK
Sunday 7 a.m. Men’s Free NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK
1 p.m. Highlights NBC | STREAM LINK

Neither PyeongChang gold medalist is untouchable this fall.

Zagitova proved mortal at the world championships in March, falling thrice in her free skate and finishing fifth, her only loss in a little more than a year of senior international competition. The 16-year-old won Nebelhorn Trophy a month ago with the world’s highest score this season by a whopping 17 points.

Only one other skater from this season’s top 10 is in the Helsinki field — Japanese Kaori Sakamoto, coming off her second straight Skate America silver medal.

Zagitova’s season ramps up in December, with likely showdowns with Olympic silver medalist and former training partner Yevgenia Medvedeva at the Grand Prix Final and Russian nationals.

Hanyu faces more of a test in Helsinki.

Though the Japanese megastar won his September opener in Canada, he ranks fifth in the world by scores on the young season. Among those he trails is Russian Mikhail Kolyada, the world bronze medalist who is in this week’s field.

As is Jin Boyang, the Olympic fourth-place finisher who competes for the first time since falling five times in the world championships free skate.

Hanyu may be targeting 280.57 points, the world-leading score posted by Nathan Chen at Skate America two weeks ago while attempting half his top-end number of quadruple jumps. He would do well to simply win his Grand Prix opener for the first time in his ninth season.

The Helsinki pairs’ and dance fields lack the singles star power with none of the top-five finishers from PyeongChang.

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: Medvedeva thanks Brian Orser for late-night Skate Canada talk

Gregorio Paltrinieri swims second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history

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Olympic champion Gregorio Paltrinieri swam the second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history, clocking 14:33.10 in his native Italy on Thursday.

Paltrinieri, 25, missed Chinese Sun Yang‘s world record from the 2012 Olympics by 2.08 seconds.

The Italian now owns the second- and third-fastest times in history, including his 14:34.10 from the 2016 European Championships, also held at the 2012 Olympic pool in London.

Paltrinieri is a versatile distance swimmer. At last year’s world championships, he finished sixth in the open-water 10km to qualify for the Olympics, then won the 800m free in the pool in a European record time and finished with 1500m bronze, just missing a third straight world title in that event.

German Florian Wellbrock won the 1500m in 14:36.54 at worlds, with Paltrinieri finishing 2.21 seconds back.

Sun, 28, was in February banned eight years stemming from destroying a drug-test sample with a hammer in September 2018. Sun, who focused more on the 200m and 400m frees in recent years, did not race the 1500m at the 2017 or 2019 Worlds.

Top-level swim meets in the U.S. are scheduled to resume in November with the Tyr Pro Series.

MORE: Michael Phelps qualifies for first Olympics at age 15

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Bianca Andreescu to miss U.S. Open

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Bianca Andreescu withdrew from the U.S. Open, citing “unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic” compromising her ability to prepare to defend her Grand Slam title.

“I have taken this step in order to focus on my match fitness and ensure that I return ready to play at my highest level,” Andreescu, a 20-year-old Canadian, posted on social media. “The US Open victory last year has been the high point of my career thus far and I will miss not being there. However, I realize that the unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic, have compromised my ability to prepare and compete to the degree necessary to play at my highest level.”

Andreescu’s absence means the U.S. Open, the first Grand Slam tournament since tennis resumed amid the coronavirus pandemic, will be without both 2019 male and female singles champions.

Rafael Nadal previously announced he would not defend his title, saying he would rather not travel given the global situation. Roger Federer is also out after knee surgery. Women’s No. 1 Ash Barty didn’t enter, either, citing travel concerns.

Last year, Andreescu made her U.S. Open title run as the 15th seed, sweeping Serena Williams in the final. Ranked 208th a year earlier, she became the first player born in the 2000s to win a Slam and the first teen Slam winner since Maria Sharapova at the 2006 U.S. Open.

Andreescu then missed the Australian Open in January due to rehab from a knee injury that forced her to retire during a match at the WTA Finals on Oct. 30. She also missed the French Open and Wimbledon in 2019 following a rotator cuff tear.

MORE: Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis competition

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