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Alina Zagitova surpassed by Sofia Samodurova for European title

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Reigning European champion and Olympic gold medalist Alina Zagitova of Russia was far from her best on Friday in the free skate, and she was surpassed for the title by countrywoman Sofia Samodurova. Samodurova defeated Zagitova by no less than 15.5 points. Finland’s Viveca Lindfors rose from fourth after the short program to claim the bronze medal, 19.54 points behind the winner.

Season after season, Russia seems to propel a new wonder to the sky of skating, and once more a first-year senior skater wins the European championships. Only Yevgenia Medvedeva could stay two years on top in the recent years.

Results: Ladies’ final

The ice Samodurova found as she entered was literally flooded with the plush toys that were sent to Zagitova, who had skated just before her. Samodurova had to start to land a first jump as if she were skating in a public session. That didn’t distract her, however, and she embarked into her program with poise and determination. As soon as Samodurova started her program, it became obvious that nothing could happen to her.

She landed a perfectly centered triple flip, triple toe combination. She had an edge call on her triple Lutz, but she then unfolded her program in the way it had been planned. Each one of her jumps from then on, loop, Salchow, double Axel, triple toe combination, flip, was punctuated by applause and “woos” from the audience. She struggled with her double Axel, double toe, double loop combination, but she was already in the steps of the winner. The audience then clapped for every step and every spin rotation. Samodurova even took the time to request more applause between her two final spins. The audience followed her request.

At the end of her program, she had overcome a 2.12-point deficit from the short program to tally a new season’s best free skate of 140.96 points for a total score of 213.84 points and the gold medal.

“I’m overwhelmed by emotions now, I can’t find words to describe what I’m feeling now,” Samodurova said as she left the ice. My coach [Alexei Mishin] told me to stop crying, but I can’t!”

Many wondered if Zagitova could hold on to the short victory she had taken in the short program. She skated fourth of the last group, and a forest of Russian banners and thunderous applause rose from the stands as she stepped on the ice. The opening double Axel of her “Carmen” routine and her subsequent triple Lutz were fantastic. The combined triple toe that followed started her nightmare.

Zagitova fell, then two-footed the landing of her triple Lutz, and turned out of the triple flip in combination with a single toe. Her triple flip, double toe, double toe looked so frail at the end. The audience supported her throughout, however, and hundreds of Carmen-red heart plush toys poured over the ice as soon as she ended her routine. Zagitova managed 123.34 points in the free skate, giving her 198.34 points overall to claim the silver.

“The audience and my friends really supported me during my whole performance, and I am very grateful to them,” she said afterwards. “I apologize not to have given them a better performance. The silver medal is good, still, considering I could have ended without any medal today. I could have skated a better performance, but so it is for now.”

Both Zagitova and Samodurova are 16, though Samodurova is a few months younger than Zagitova. The wheel kept turning again at the head of European skating.

Finland’s Viveca Lindfors had given an exquisite short program two days before. She offered an equally delightful and smooth performance to “Les Misérables.” Her opening triple Lutz, triple toe combination and triple flip were clear-cut. She wobbled landing her triple loop and doubled the toe of her second planned triple Lutz, triple toe combination. As she skated, Lindfors seemed to suspend her skate prior to any jump, as if to be completely focused and element, and present in the moment. She received 194.40 points, enough for a first European podium finish.

“This is a big victory for me,” she offered at the post-event press conference. “Skating has evolved so much since Finland won its last medal, so I feel very accomplished to have been able to reach the top at the European Championship,” she said.

Fourth overall, but second of the free, Russia’s third skater, Stanislava Konstantinova, delivered a powerful rendering to her “Anna Karenina” music. All her jumps earned positive GOEs, except her triple flip.

“I didn’t want to let it go after the short program,” she offered as she left the ice. “I don’t particularly associate myself to the character of Anna Karenina, but I tried to portray someone who lost everything she had. Well, that was a bit of my own story through these championships,” she said through an interpreter.

Unlike her heroine, however, she revived at the end – Konstantinova received 132.96 points for her free program and 189.72 points overall for fourth place.

MORE: Behind the scenes on day 3 of the European Championships

As a reminder, you can watch the European Championships live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating 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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Breanna Stewart to miss entire WNBA season with Achilles injury

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Breanna Stewart, the world’s top female basketball player and one of the most dominant athletes of 2018, is expected to miss the entire upcoming WNBA season after rupturing an Achilles playing in Europe on Sunday, according to the Seattle Storm.

“The situation is still a shock to me,” was posted on Stewart’s social media. “I’m feeling every emotion possible at this point but just know that the bounce back will be real and I’ll be back better than ever.”

Stewart, 24, skyrocketed in this Olympic cycle.

The Storm’s franchise player went from playing the second-fewest minutes on the 2016 Olympic team as its youngest player to leading the U.S. per game in points (16.3) and minutes (27) at the 2018 World Championship tournament.

Stewart earned MVP honors at worlds, matching her WNBA season and Finals honors. She became the first player to earn all three MVPs in one year.

Stewart is still expected to be in play for the 2020 Olympic team, given the Storm expect her to make a full recovery by the start of the following WNBA season next spring.

Tamika Catchings made the 2008 Olympic team after tearing her right Achilles in September 2007.

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Caster Semenya leads Olympians in Time 100; streak hits 16 years

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An Olympian has made the Time 100 Most Influential list every year since its annual inception in 2004. South African runner Caster Semenya, soccer players Alex Morgan and Mo Salah and LeBron James kept the streak going in 2019.

It’s the fourth appearance for James (2005, 2013, 2017), extending his record for an athlete, and the first for Semenya, Morgan and Salah. Semenya made it in the “icons” category, while the other three are “titans.”

Two-time Olympic 400m hurdles champion Edwin Moses penned an essay about the two-time Olympic 800m champion Semenya, who is fighting a legal battle with the IAAF over a potential rule change limiting women’s testosterone levels in her events. If the rule goes into effect, Semenya’s dominance (three years undefeated at 800m) is expected to vanish.

“Caster Semenya has taught us that sex isn’t always binary, and caused us to question the justness of distributing societal benefits according to “male” and “female” classifications,” Moses wrote. “Ultimately, this incredibly difficult issue is a political one for sport to resolve. But however it is addressed, Semenya will have already made a singular historical contribution to our understanding of biological sex.”

Here are Olympians and Paralympians on past Time 100 lists, counting only athletes who competed in the Games before being listed:

2018 — Kevin Durant, Roger Federer, Chloe Kim, Adam Rippon
2017 — Simone Biles, LeBron James, Neymar
2016 — Usain BoltCaitlyn JennerKatie LedeckySania MirzaRonda Rousey
2015 — Abby Wambach
2014 — Cristiano Ronaldo, Serena Williams
2013 — LeBron James, Li Na, Lindsey Vonn
2012 — Novak DjokovicLionel MessiOscar Pistorius
2011 — Lionel Messi
2010 — Yuna KimSerena Williams
2009 — Rafael Nadal
2008 — Andre Agassi, Lance Armstrong, Oscar Pistorius
2007 — Roger FedererChien Ming-Wang
2006 — Joey CheekSteve Nash
2005 — LeBron James
2004 — Lance Armstrong, Paula Radcliffe, Yao Ming
2000 (20th Century) — Muhammad Ali

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