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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April Ross, Alix Klineman back atop Olympic beach volleyball qualifying

April Ross, Alix Klineman
FIVB World Tour
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Two-time Olympic medalist April Ross and new partner Alix Klineman moved back on top of the U.S. Olympic beach volleyball qualifying standings by winning an event in Itapema, Brazil this week.

Ross, who split from Kerri Walsh Jennings in 2017, and Klineman beat Canadians Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes 25-23, 18-21, 15-10 in Sunday’s final for their third title in 11 FIVB World Tour tournaments together.

“Every victory is important, but this counts for more,” Klineman said, according to the FIVB. “We want to send a message and we want to be consistently the best.

Ross and Klineman supplanted Walsh Jennings and her new partner, Brooke Sweat, for the lead in the early U.S. Olympic qualifying rankings with still more than a year of events ahead.

1. Ross/Klineman – 3,240 (5 events played)
2. Walsh Jennings/Sweat – 3,100 (7 events)
3. Day/Flint – 2,180 (5 events)
4. Hughes/Ross — 2,000 (4 events)
5. Larsen/Stockman — 1,840 (5 events)
6. Sponcil/Claes — 1,600 (3 events)

Each team’s 12 best results from Sept. 1, 2018, to June 14, 2020, go into the Olympic qualifying rankings. That means Ross and Klineman are comfortably in front, having played two fewer events than Walsh Jennings and Sweat, who lost in the quarterfinals in Itapema.

The top two U.S. pairs come June 15, 2020, provided they’re ranked high enough internationally, will qualify for Tokyo. Most of the qualifying events, including the ones with the most points available, are still to come this summer.

Ross, 36, picked up Klineman, 29, after Walsh Jennings didn’t join her in signing a domestic AVP contract in 2017. The 6-foot-5 Klineman primarily played indoor the previous decade, including at Stanford from 2007-10 after being the Gatorade National Player of the Year coming out of high school.

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Katie Ledecky extends 5-year win streak

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Katie Ledecky extended a five-year domestic win streak by taking the 200m freestyle at the Tyr Pro Swim Series at Bloomington on Saturday.

In her last full meet before July’s world championships, Ledecky clocked 1:55.80 to beat training partner Simone Manuel by 1.44 seconds for her second win in as many days. Ledecky is also entered in Sunday’s 800m free on the last day of the meet.

Ledecky, who also cruised to a 400m free victory on Friday, ranks third in the world in the 200m free this year, behind Australian Ariarne Titmus and Swede Sarah Sjöström (the Olympic silver medalist who is not expected to race the 200m free at worlds).

Ledecky, a five-time Olympic champion, hasn’t lost a 200m, 400m, 800m or 1500m free final at a domestic meet since Allison Schmitt beat her in a 200m free on Jan. 18, 2014 when Ledecky was 16 years old.

BLOOMINGTON: Full Results

But Ledecky lost the two biggest 200m frees of this Olympic cycle so far, at the 2017 World Championships and the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships. Italian veteran Federica Pellegrini handed Ledecky her first individual final defeat at a major international meet at 2017 Worlds.

Ledecky dropped to third in the 200m free at Pan Pacs in Tokyo last year, beaten by younger swimmers Taylor Ruck of Canada and Rikako Ikee of Japan.

Ruck, who like Ledecky trains at Stanford, is in Bloomington, but she chose not to swim the 200m free on Saturday. She instead swam the 200m backstroke about 45 minutes after the 200m free and was upset by 17-year-old Regan Smith. Smith won in 2:06.47, moving to No. 3 in the world this year.

In other events Saturday, Ella Eastin captured the 400m individual medley in 4:37.18, taking 1.25 seconds off her personal best and moving to fifth in the world this year. Eastin is not on the world championships team after an untimely bout with mono before qualifying meets last summer.

Blake Pieroni won the men’s 200m free in 1:47.25. No American ranks in the top 20 in the world this year. World silver medalist Townley Haas did not enter Bloomington.

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