Jason Brown tops Nathan Chen in Grand Prix France short program

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Nathan Chen hasn’t been in the position in nearly two years — trailing at a Grand Prix event.

The world champion fell on an under-rotated quadruple flip in the Internationaux de France short program on Friday, putting him 9.47 points behind surprise leader Jason Brown going into Saturday’s free skate in Grenoble.

Brown, a Sochi Olympian who missed the U.S. team for PyeongChang, skated a clean, quad-less program and totaled 96.41.

Chen’s effort, landing one quad, garnered 86.94 for third place behind Brown and Russian Alexander Samarin. Chen attempted one more quad than he did at Skate America last month, where he tallied 90.58.

GP FRANCE: Full Results | TV/Stream Schedule

Friday marked Chen’s first fall in top-level competition since his disastrous, 17th-place short program at the PyeongChang Olympics. Since, he topped the Olympic free skate with a record six quads (five clean), won the world title by the largest margin in history and, after enrolling at Yale, won Skate America by the largest margin in history.

While Chen’s fall was surprising, to see Brown atop the standings was downright shocking.

The 2015 U.S. champion began his first season under new coach Brian Orser by missing the podium at a lower-level September event. He then placed 11th of 12 skaters in the short at his Grand Prix debut at Skate Canada last month, ending up sixth overall.

Brown’s score Friday ranks him fourth in the world this season in the short.

“Big step,” Orser told Brown just before his score came up, adding after the score, “You did it. This was you that did it.”

Skaters are competing this week for the last spots in December’s Grand Prix Final, which takes the top six per discipline from the fall Grand Prix Series. Brown must win Grand Prix France and have Chen finish outside the top five for any chance at the Final. Chen makes the final automatically with a top-five finish.

Later Friday, three-time world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron posted the world’s top short dance score this season — 84.13 — in their international season debut. While Papadakis and Cizeron are ineligible for the Grand Prix Final for missing their previous Grand Prix due to Cizeron’s back injury, fourth-place Americans Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker will qualify for their first Final if the standings hold through Saturday’s free dance.

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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Salwa Eid Naser, world 400m champion, provisionally banned

Salwa Eid Naser
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Salwa Eid Naser, the world 400m champion of Bahrain, was provisionally suspended for missing three drug tests in a 12-month span.

“I’ve never been a cheat. I will never be,” Naser, 22, said in an Instagram live video. “I only missed three drug tests, which is normal. It happens. It can happen to anybody. I don’t want people to get confused in all this because I would never cheat.”

Naser said “the missed tests” came before last autumn’s world championships, where she ran the third-fastest time in history (48.14 seconds) and the fastest in 34 years.

“This year I have not been drug tested,” she said. “We are still talking about the ones of last season before the world championships.”

The Athletics Integrity Unit, which handles doping cases for track and field, did not announce whether Naser’s gold medal could be stripped.

“Hopefully, it’ll get resolved because I don’t really like the image, but it has happened,” she said. “It’s going to be fine. It’s very hard to have this little stain on my name.”

Naser, the 2017 World silver medalist, upset Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas for the world title in Doha on Oct. 3.

The only women who have run faster than Naser, who was born Ebelechukwu Agbapuonwu in Nigeria to a Nigerian mother who sprinted and a Bahraini father, were dubious — East German Marita Koch (47.60) and Czechoslovakia’s Jarmila Kratochvilova (47.99).

“I would never take performance-enhancing drugs,” Naser said. “I believe in talent, and I know I have the talent.”

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When Laurie Hernandez winked at the Olympics

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Blink, and you may have missed one of the social-media-sensation moments of the Rio Olympics.

Laurie Hernandez, then 16, was the youngest woman on the U.S. Olympic team across all sports. She was about to start arguably the most important floor exercise routine of her life.

So, she winked.

“The amazing thing about the Olympics is that you feel so many different emotions in the span of a few days, and they are all intense,” she wrote in her 2017 book, “I Got This,” a nod to what she told herself before her balance beam routine earlier that night. “So it was nice to have at least one totally playful moment.”

The U.S., on its fourth and final rotation, already had the team gold all but locked up. Knowing she was nervous, Hernandez’s teammates confirmed to her that they were a few points ahead.

Then Hernandez heard the beep, and it was time to go. She was in the view of an out-of-bounds judge at the Rio Olympic Arena.

“Well, I looked straight at her and suddenly felt this surge of confidence to wink,” she wrote. “Later, a woman came up to me while I was watching Simone [Biles] and Aly [Raisman] compete in their all-around finals and she said, ‘Wow, I just want you to know that when you winked at the judge, it really worked.’ I didn’t know how to respond, so I just said, ‘Thank you. That’s very nice of you to say.’ That’s when she told me she was the out-of-bounds judge! All I could say was ‘Oh my goodness.'”

Hernandez, a New Jersey native, finished the Olympics with a team gold and balance beam silver.

She took more than two years off before making a comeback in earnest last year, announcing she planned to return to competition this spring under new coaches in California. Now that’s on hold given the coronavirus pandemic, which pushed the Tokyo Olympics to 2021.

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