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Rika Kihira wins Four Continents; American dance teams poised for medals

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Grand Prix Final champion Rika Kihira from Japan took the ladies’ title at the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships in Anaheim, Calif. on Friday.

“I was hardly able to practice my triple Axel in this rink but I was determined, very focused, and kept my concentration,” Kihira said, according to the Associated Press. “I was able to leave yesterday’s mistake behind. During this season, I learned how to keep my concentration in my free skating no matter what happens in my short program.”

She scored 153.14 points in her free skate — which included one triple Axel — for a total overall score of 221.99 points. Countrywoman Mai Mihara has a gold, silver, and bronze medal from the past three editions of the Four Continents Championships after placing third this year.

Kazakhstan’s Elizabet Tursynbaeva earned the silver medal with 207.46 total points and notched an honorable mention with a quad Salchow attempt in her free skate. She plans on continuing to try the quad in future competitions, she said, including the world championships next month.

Bradie Tennell, who was first after the short program, fell to fifth after a few under-rotation calls in the free skate. She scored 128.16 in the free skate for a total overall score of 202.07.

“I love skating for a home crowd, the energy is so great,” Tennell said through U.S. Figure Skating. “I am grateful to all the fans for showing their support.”

Mariah Bell sat third after the short program on Thursday but dropped to sixth after a subpar free skate, which scored 123.92 points for 193.94 points overall. The third American woman in the field, 16-year-old Ting Cui, finished 11th.

“I was surprised by the fall on the [triple] loop and then I kind of had a hard time refocusing after that,” Bell said. “You live and learn, and Worlds will be better.”

Friday’s results: Pairs’ short program | Ice dance rhythm dance | Ladies’ free skate

U.S. national ice dance champions Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue hold a slim lead over U.S. silver medalists and their training partners, Madison Chock and Evan Bates. Hubbell and Donohue’s 81.95 points, tallied earlier Friday, is just 0.78 points ahead of Chock and Bates’ total.

“We’re very pleased,” Hubbell said. “I think we’ve been putting so much work this season, and we’ve improved so much, and it’s testament to that.”

“We’ve done a lot of work to prepare for three competitions in a short period of time, this being the third, and I feel like we’re building each time we compete,” Bates said. “This rhythm dance is the best of the year so far.”

Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje are in third with 80.56 points. They competed just once this fall and elected to skip the Grand Prix Series to tour in shows.

The third American team in the field, Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, are fifth with 74.42 points.

The free dance is Sunday.

Four Continents reporter’s notebook: Day 1 | Day 2

Earlier Friday, Olympic silver medalists Sui Wenjing and Han Cong returned to international competition after taking the fall off. However, Sui and Han sit behind Canadians Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro, who hold a 0.47-point lead over the Chinese pair. Sui missed her side-by-side triple toe and fell, costing the team. China’s Cheng Peng and Jin Yang are in third with 69.48 points. The American teams in the field sit in fourth, fifth, and seventh place.

The pairs’ free skate is Saturday, along with the men’s free skate.

MORE: How to watch Four Continents

As a reminder, you can watch Four Continents and the world 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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Italy’s Sofia Goggia gets World Cup downhill win

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Fresh off world championships, the women’s Alpine World Cup tour returned to the Swiss Alps for a bit of speed in the form of the downhill.

After finishing well off the world championship downhill podium in 15th, Italy’s Sofia Goggia was the fastest on the day in Crans-Montana.

Goggia who won the 2017-18 World Cup downhill title, was forced to put this season on ice after she injured her ankle in training ahead of the first event.

Today’s results are her best since her return to racing when she finished second in both the downhill and Super-G last month in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

Despite her world championship downhill woes, Goggia didn’t leave Are empty handed, claiming silver in the Super-G.

Joining Goggia on the podium in Crans-Montana were two athletes skiing on home snow — Switzerland’s Joana Haehlen and Lara Gut-Behrami. The second place finish for Haehlen is the first World Cup podium appearance of her career, and for the two-time Olympian Gut-Behrami, her third podium finish of the 2018-19 season.

The newly-crowned world champion in women’s downhill, Slovenia’s Ilka Stuhec took a hard fall as the first skier out of the gate today. For the superstitious it should be noted that Stuhec finished 13th in both her downhill training runs in Crans-Montana and drew bib #1 for today’s race, but it was the woman wearing bib #13 who ended up on top of the podium.

 

The women return to racing tomorrow with the Alpine super combined, with the first run starting at 4:30 a.m. ET and the second at 7:30 a.m. ET. Watch live on Olympic Channel, OlympicChannel.com and NBC Sports Gold. Check out the schedule below for ways to watch this weekend’s remaining races.  

The men’s Super-G in Bansko, Bulgaria was cancelled earlier today after a storm swept in and dropped nearly a foot of new powder on the race course. Organizers will attempt to ready the mountain for Sunday’s giant slalom. Watch the first run live at 3:30 a.m. ET on OlympicChannel.com or using an NBC Sport Gold Snow Pass. The second run can be seen live on TV and streaming on Olympic Channel at 6:30 a.m. ET, as well as on NBC Sports Gold.

ALPINE SKIING WORLD CUP — Bansko, Bulgaria; Crans-Montana, Switzerland

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Sunday 3:30 a.m. Men’s Giant Slalom (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
4:30 a.m. Women’s Combined (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
6:30 a.m. Men’s Giant Slalom (Run 2) Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
7:30 a.m. Women’s Combined (Run 2) Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
10:30 p.m. Women’s Combined (Run 2)* NBCSN

*Same-day delay

Norway’s Therese Johaug wins gold in return to world champs

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Norway’s seven-time world champion Therese Johaug won her first world title today since 2015 in the women’s Skiathlon at the 2019 Nordic World Ski Championships in Seefeld, Austria. Johaug crossed the finish line with a time of 36 minutes 54.5 seconds.

Johaug returned to racing this season after being served an 18-month drug suspension for testing positive for the steroid clostebol in 2016.

Johaug said the infraction was unintentional, and due to her use of a lip cream to treat a cold sore which, unknown to her, included the banned substance. The mistake would be costly for the three-time Olympic medalist, who had won gold in Vancouver in 2010 as well as a silver and bronze medal four years later in Sochi.  

Banned from competition, Johaug’s suspension forced her to miss the entire 2017-18 World Cup season, the 2017 World Championships as well as the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Games.

Johaug has been making up for lost time this season on the World Cup. Each time the 30-year-old Norwegian has appeared on the podium, she’s been at the top, winning nine races so far this season. And now she can add a world title to her list of accomplishments in 2019.

“I’ve been looking forward for this championship for over two years,” an emotional Johaug said after the race in Seefeld. “The last time I was in a championship was in Falun, four years ago. I’m training so much and working so hard for this, and all the team around me have helped me every time, so I’m really happy.”

Johaug crossed the finish line nearly a full minute ahead of silver medalist, and her countrywoman, Norway’s Ingvlid Flugstad Oestberg. Russia’s Natalia Nepryaeva finished off the podium, taking bronze.

Full results are here.

The men’s Skiathlon came down to a three-way battle with just 2km to go in the 30km race. Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby made a late push to jump ahead of Russia’s Alexander Bolshunov on an uphill climb. Another Norwegian, Sjur Roethe was also keeping pace with the lead group. But as the trio neared the end, Sunby lost his lead when Roethe’s skis ran faster on a downhill section leading into the final stretch.

With all three racers within a ski’s length of one another, Roethe crossed the finish line first, just a tenth of a second ahead of Bolshunov who was able to overtake a gassed Sundby in the final push to the finish.

Check out this weekend’s remaining schedule for the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships and watch live on TV on Olympic Channel and online with OlympicChannel.com and NBC Sports Gold.

WORLD NORDIC SKIING CHAMPIONSHIPS — Seefeld, Austria

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Saturday 5:00 a.m. Cross-Country: Women’s 15km Skiathlon OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
6:30 a.m. Cross-Country: Men’s 30km Skiathlon OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
8:30 a.m. Cross-Country: Women’s 15km Skiathlon* Olympic Channel
8:30 a.m. Ski Jumping: Men’s LH Final OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
9:30 a.m. Cross-Country: Men’s 30km Skiathlon* Olympic Channel
10:30 a.m. Ski Jumping: Men’s LH Final* Olympic Channel
Sunday 4:30 a.m. Nordic Combined: Team LH OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
5:30 a.m. Cross-Country: M & W Team Sprint Final OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
7:30 a.m. Nordic Combined: Team Sprint OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
8:45 a.m. Ski jumping: Men’s LH Team Final* OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
9:30 a.m. Nordic Combined: Team LH* Olympic Channel
10:30 a.m. Cross-Country: M&W Team Sprint Finals* Olympic Channel
2 p.m. Nordic Combined: Team Sprint* Olympic Channel
3 p.m. Ski Jumping: Men’s LH Team Final Olympic Channel
11:30 p.m. Cross-Country: Women’s Team Sprint Final* NBCSN

*Same-day delay