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.”

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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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Mo Farah focused on Chicago Marathon defense, not ruling out 10,000m double

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Mo Farah said all of his training focus is on defending his Chicago Marathon title on Oct. 13, but the British star also said Tuesday that he can wait until “the last minute” to change his mind and also enter the world championships 10,000m on Oct. 6.

“I am a reigning world champion, so I do get an automatic spot anyway,” Farah said of the 10,000m, where he is a three-time reigning world champion.

Farah transitioned to road racing after the 2017 season and was thought to be done with major track championships. Farah was the distance king for more than a half-decade, sweeping the 5000m and 10,000m at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.

Farah said Tuesday that he didn’t know what the deadline would be to enter the world championships 10,000m.

“I really don’t know. I think the last minute,” he said. “As I said, I get an automatic spot anyway. I don’t know. My main target is to defend my [marathon] title, come out to Chicago. All the training is geared toward the marathon.”

An IAAF spokesperson said Farah must be entered as part of the British team by Sept. 16 to be eligible for worlds.

British Athletics said Wednesday that its team will be selected Sept. 2.

“Should Mo wish to race the 10,000m in Doha, he would need to advise the selection panel prior to this date,” a spokesperson said.

Farah enticed his followers about the 10,000m in a July 27 Instagram with the hashtag #doha10k, referencing the site of world championships in Qatar. Farah was asked Tuesday why he included the hashtag.

“Anything is possible,” he said. “I’m a reigning champion. I get an automatic spot. There’s nothing I have to do. I just thought why not?”

It’s not an unprecedented type of move to race a 10,000m one week before a marathon. Former training partner Galen Rupp placed fifth in the 2016 Olympic 10,000m on Aug. 13, then took bronze in the marathon on Aug. 21.

Farah said he hasn’t set any major racing plans beyond Chicago. He finished what he called a disappointing fifth in the London Marathon in 2:05.39 on April 28, three minutes behind winner Eliud Kipchoge. Farah said a satisfying result in Chicago would be a win above worrying about a specific time. The last man to repeat as Chicago champ was Kenyan Sammy Wanjiru in 2010.

The 2020 London Marathon is three and a half months before the Tokyo Olympic marathon, a tight turnaround.

“I think I can get back in form for the London Marathon before the Olympics, and then the Olympics, I guess, but I haven’t decided,” Farah said. “My main target now is just Chicago, then work from there.”

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Race Imboden, Gwen Berry get probation for Pan Am Games podium protests

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DENVER (AP) — The letter went to the two protesters. The message was meant for a much wider audience.

The CEO of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee sent letters of reprimand to hammer thrower Gwen Berry and fencer Race Imboden for protesting on the medals stand last week at the Pan American Games, but the 12-month probations that came with the letters also included a none-too-subtle signal for anyone vying for next year’s Olympics.

“It is also important for me to point out that, going forward, issuing a reprimand to other athletes in a similar instance is insufficient,” Sarah Hirshland wrote in the letters sent Tuesday. The Associated Press obtained copies of the documents.

Neither Berry’s raised fist nor Imboden’s kneel-down on the Pan Am medals stand were met with immediate consequences, in part because they happened at the tail end of the Games that were wrapping up in Lima, Peru.

Hirshland’s letter was as clear a sign as possible that athletes who try the same next year in Tokyo could face a different reaction.

It’s the IOC’s role to discipline athletes who break rules that forbid political protest at the Olympics — much the way the IOC triggered the ouster of John Carlos and Tommie Smith after their iconic protest in 1968 — though national federations can get into the mix, too. Before going to the Olympics, athletes sign forms stating they’re aware of the rules and won’t break them.

“We recognize that we must more clearly define for Team USA athletes what a breach of these rules will mean in the future,” Hirshland wrote. “Working with the (athletes and national governing body councils), we are committed to more explicitly defining what the consequences will be for members of Team USA who protest at future Games.”

Neither athlete immediately returned messages sent to them by AP via their social media accounts and agents.

Both will be eligible for the Olympics next summer, when the United States will be in the heat of a presidential campaign.

In a tweet sent shortly after his team’s medals ceremony at the Pan Am Games, Imboden said: “Racism, gun control, mistreatment of immigrants, and a president who spreads hate are at the top of a long list” of issues that need to be addressed.

Berry said she was protesting social injustice in America, and that it was “too important to not say something.”

Hirshland said she respected the perspectives of the athletes and would work with the IOC “to engage on a global discussion on these matters.”

“However, we can’t ignore the rules or the reasons they exist,” she wrote.

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