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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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Hayley Wickenheiser is 7th woman elected to Hockey Hall of Fame

Hayley Wickenheiser
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Hayley Wickenheiser, arguably the greatest female hockey player of all time who retired in 2017, will be the seventh female player in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The six-time Canadian Olympian (once in softball) was elected in her first year of eligibility. Wickenheiser is joined by Sergei Zubov, who earned gold at the 1992 Albertville Games with the Unified Team, two-time Czech Olympic medalist Václav Nedomanský and 1980s and ’90s NHLer Guy Carbonneau, among others.

The induction ceremony is Nov. 18 in Toronto.

Wickenheiser is the fifth Canadian female player elected after Angela James (2010), Geraldine Heaney (2013), Danielle Goyette (2017) and Jayna Hefford (2018). Americans Cammi Granato (2010) and Angela Ruggiero (2015) are also Hall of Famers.

Wickenheiser, now the Toronto Maple Leafs’ assistant director of player development, earned four golds and one silver in the first five Olympic women’s hockey tournaments. She played 23 years for the Canadian national team, earning seven world titles and being named Olympic tournament MVP in 2002 and 2006.

She also carried the Canadian flag at the Sochi 2014 Opening Ceremony and recited the Athletes’ Oath at the Vancouver 2010 Opening Ceremony. She was elected to the International Olympic Committee Athletes’ Commission in 2014.

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Breaking provisionally added for 2024 Olympics

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Breaking (don’t call it break dancing) was provisionally added to the Olympics for the 2024 Paris Games.

The IOC also announced Tuesday that skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing were provisionally added to the 2024 Olympic program. Those three sports will debut at Tokyo 2020 but were not assured places on the Olympic program beyond next year.

“They contribute to making the program more gender balanced and more urban, and offer the opportunity to connect with the younger generation,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in a press release. “The proposed sports are in line with these principles and enhance Paris 2024’s overall dynamic Games concept, which focuses on inclusivity, inspiring a new audience and hosting socially responsible Games.”

The IOC Executive Board will make the final decision on the Paris 2024 event program in December 2020, but no more sports can be proposed for inclusion. That means baseball and softball, which return to the Olympics next year, will not be on the 2024 Olympic program. Those sports can still be added for the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

Breaking debuted at the Youth Olympics last year, where the U.S. did not have any athletes. Sergei “Bumblebee” Chernyshev of Russia and Ramu Kawai of Japan took gold medals.

Breaking had never previously been up for a vote for Olympic inclusion, but the World DanceSport Federation is recognized by the IOC.

Teenagers, some of whom went by nicknames like Bad Matty, Senorita Carlota and KennyG, went head-to-head in dance battles at the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires last year. They performed on a mat atop an outdoor basketball court to a musical beat and emcees.

Judges determined winners using six criteria: creativity, personality, technique, variety, perfomativity and musicality.

“Breaking (also called b-boying or b-girling) is an urban dance style,” according to the Youth Olympics. “The urban dance style originated during the mid 1970s in the Bronx borough of New York City.”

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