Yevgenia Medvedeva misses Grand Prix Final

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Yevgenia Medvedeva missed the podium for the first time in her senior international career and failed to qualify for December’s Grand Prix Final, placing fourth at Internationaux de France on Saturday.

The Olympic silver medalist’s struggles continued as she nearly fell twice spinning out of jump landings in the free skate. Medvedeva dropped from third place after Friday’s short program to fourth, 13.11 points behind Japanese winner Rika Kihira.

“It’s 100 percent a mental issue,” Medvedeva said, according to the Olympic Channel. “I just wanted it so much. I pushed too hard.”

GP FRANCE: Full Results | TV/Stream Schedule

Medvedeva went undefeated for two years from 2015 to 2017 but hasn’t won in more than a year, placing second, third or fourth at her last five events since missing last season’s Grand Prix Final with a broken bone in her foot.

Training partner Alina Zagitova edged Medvedeva for gold in PyeongChang by 1.31 points, after which Medvedeva moved from Moscow to Toronto to train under Brian Orser.

Kihira, a 16-year-old in her senior international debut season, is headed to her first Grand Prix Final after landing a triple Axel at a second straight Grand Prix, though this one was under-rotated. She could be the top threat to Zagitova, who is undefeated in three events this season.

Medvedeva, after placing third at Skate Canada last month, needed to finish second in France to make the Grand Prix Final. The Final will be an all-Russian and Japanese affair, also including two-time world medalist Satoko Miyahara and 2015 World champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva.

The Final will not include an American woman for a third straight year. U.S. champion Bradie Tennell needed to win this week to get in, and she ended up third, jumping from sixth after the short program.

Later Saturday, Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres routed the pairs’ field, beating 2016 U.S. champions Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea by 14.34 points. Kayne and O’Shea’s silver medal marked the best U.S. pairs’ finish at a Grand Prix outside the U.S. in a decade.

While James and Cipres lead the Grand Prix Final qualifiers, the U.S. failed to put a pair into the Final for a third straight year. None of the PyeongChang Olympic pairs’ medalists are competing in the Grand Prix Series.

Grand Prix Final Qualifiers
Women
1. Alina Zagitova (RUS) — 30 points
2. Rika Kihira (JPN) — 30 points
3. Satoko Miyahara (JPN) — 28 points
4. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS) — 26 points
5. Kaori Sakamoto (JPN) — 24 points
6. Sofia Samodurova (RUS) — 24 points

Pairs
1. Vanessa James/Morgan Cipres (FRA) — 30 points
2. Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 30 points
3. Natalya Zabiyako/Alexander Enbert (RUS) — 30 points
4. Peng Cheng/Jin Yang (CHN) — 26 points
5. Nicole Della Monica/Matteo Guarise (ITA) — 26 points
6. Daria Pavliuchenko/Denis Khodykin (RUS) — 22 points

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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Hirscher leads by 0.56 seconds after first run in World Champs slalom

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Marcel Hirscher swept into the finish area and wagged his finger triumphantly in front of the camera.

The message was clear: The ski king is back.

The Austrian produced an emphatic response to relinquishing his giant slalom title two days earlier at the world championships by taking a 0.56-second lead after the first run of the slalom on Sunday.

Only Alexis Pinturault of France was within a second of Hirscher, who was on course to win a record-tying seventh career gold medal at the worlds.

Marco Schwarz of Austria was in third place, 1.22 seconds off the lead.

Hirscher, the seven-time overall World Cup champion, showed no ill-effects from the cold that has been affecting him this week. After the giant slalom on Friday, he said he would be going straight back to bed to rest up for the slalom.

He looked in good working order on Sunday.

As the third skier on the course, Hirscher took 1.70 seconds off No. 2 starter Henrik Kristoffersen, who beat Hirscher to GS gold on Friday, and more than two seconds off Clement Noel, who came to the worlds in form after wins in Wengen and Kitzbuehel.

Save for Hirscher crashing, only Pinturault looks capable to denying the Austrian a third slalom gold at the worlds — something only the great Ingemar Stenmark has achieved. Pinturault was only 0.06 seconds behind Hirscher at the third checkpoint but he went wide at the first turn on the final descent and lost half a second.

“I’m still in the fight,” Pinturault said, “and still have a chance in the second leg. That’s the essential (thing).”

Daniel Yule of Switzerland was 0.28 behind Hirscher at the last split before falling at the start to the final descent.

Hirscher also won the slalom at the 2013 and 2017 worlds. A seventh career gold at the worlds would tie the men’s record held by compatriot Toni Sailer from the late 1950s.

Austria, a storied Alpine skiing nation, needs Hirscher to deliver in the final event to avoid finishing the world championships without a gold medal for the first time since Crans Montana, Switzerland, in 1987. The women’s team has already finished with no medals and that hasn’t happened since Schladming, Austria, in 1982.

Watch an encore presentation of the first run on NBCSN at 7:00 a.m. ET. The second and deciding run can be seen live starting at 8:00 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold.

Mikaela Shiffrin proving she’s in league of her own

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There are ski racers, and then there is Mikaela Shiffrin.

NBC Sports essayist Tim Layden calls Shiffrin the “rarest creature,” a prodigy who continues to get better with age.

Shiffrin’s stardom took off with her heart-stopping slalom gold medal in the 2014 Olympics. It looked like she would ascend to an even higher level four years later in PyeongChang when she claimed a gold medal in the giant slalom, but then she lost a battle with her nerves and failed to win a medal in the slalom. She did capture a silver in the combined event.

That Olympic disappointment has fueled her historic World Cup season. She became the youngest skier to pass the 50 win mark. She broke the women’s career record for slalom victories, and she became the first skier ever to win four-straight world championship titles in a single event.

A true prodigy indeed.