Shoma Uno breaks through to win Four Continents Championships; Sui, Han take pairs’ title

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Shoma Uno from Japan took the men’s title at the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships in Anaheim, Calif. on Saturday.

This is the first major championship title for Uno: he is the Olympic silver medalist, two-time Worlds silver medalist, and he has been on the podium at the Grand Prix Final four times — though never in the top spot.

“I think I was able to do everything I can,” Uno said of his post-skate fall to the ice, according to the Associated Press. “There weren’t a lot of happy emotions when I collapsed, it was like ‘I really did it.’ I thought about how I was injured after Nationals and how I can bring my skating to the next level.”

Uno rallied from fourth after the short program with a 197.36-point free skate. His total score of 289.12 points was 15.61 points ahead of silver medalist Jin Boyang of China.

Vincent Zhou from Team USA held on for the bronze medal, though he fell from first place after the short program. Zhou scored 172.04 in the free skate for a total score of 272.22 points.

“I’m very proud of myself for continuing the upward trend I’ve put myself on,” Zhou said through U.S. Figure Skating. “The audience was absolutely incredible and they helped me feel good about how I skated.”

Full Saturday results: Men’s free skate | Pairs’ free skate

Jason Brown finished fifth overall with 258.89 points. He attempted a quadruple Salchow, but it was called under-rotated by the judges and he put a hand down on the landing. He has never landed a clean quad in competition; at the U.S. Championships last month, Brown doubled his planned quad attempt in the free skate.

“I’m so proud of my fight out there and scoring my season’s best today,” Brown said through U.S. Figure Skating. “I’ll keep building onto that momentum into Worlds.”

The third American man in the field, Timoki Hiwatashi, finished eighth with 236.79 points.

Earlier Saturday, China’s Sui Wenjing and Han Cong notched a come-from-behind victory in the pairs’ event. The Olympic silver medalists were second in the short program after Sui missed her side-by-side triple toe and fell. However, their 136.92 points in the free skate (despite another fall from Sui on their side-by-side triple Salchows) and 211.11 overall score was enough to surpass Canada’s Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro for gold by 0.06 points.

“To be honest, there are still some technical elements that we haven’t put into the program,” Han said, according to the Associated Press. “This competition is a good motivation for us to reflect and improve before the World Championships.”

China had two teams on the podium, with Cheng Peng and Jin Yang taking the bronze with 205.42 points.

The three American teams in the field finished fourth (Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc), fifth (Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier), and sixth (Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea).

Four Continents reporter’s notebook: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3

The Four Continents Championships wrap up Sunday with the free dance at 4 p.m. Eastern on NBC Sports Gold’s “Figure Skating Pass” and coverage on NBCSN beginning at midnight.

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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Chad le Clos seeks Sun Yang’s Olympic gold medal for doping case

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NAPLES, Italy (AP) — Chad le Clos believes he has a claim on Sun Yang’s gold medal from the Rio Olympics, with a verdict imminent on the Chinese swimmer’s latest doping case.

“He should be banned. It’s as simple as that,” Le Clos said in an interview with The Associated Press this week. “Anyone who tests positive should be banned. I should get my gold medal back from Rio.

“Not for the moment. I lost that. I don’t really care about that,” Le Clos added on Wednesday. “It’s just for my record. If I break my leg and I can’t swim again I want my record to say, ‘Two individual golds, two individual silvers.’ Because that’s what it should be.”

Le Clos’ Olympic record currently contains one gold medal and three silvers — including a second-place finish to Sun in the Rio Olympic 200m free

Odds are, though, that Sun won’t lose any Olympic titles when the Court of Arbitration for Sport issues its ruling over his alleged refusal to provide blood and urine in September 2018 in a visit by sample collectors to his home in China. During the late-night confrontation, a security guard used a hammer to smash a container holding Sun’s blood as the swimmer lit the scene with his mobile phone.

The World Anti-Doping Agency appealed after swimming federation FINA merely warned Sun and cited doubts about credentials shown by three sample collection officials.

A three-time Olympic champion, Sun could be banished from the sport for up to eight years but any ban likely won’t be backdated before September 2018 — meaning all of his Olympic medals seem safe.

But there’s also the fact that international swimming authorities worked to protect Sun from being banned, according to a Swiss supreme court document.

FINA has faced criticisms in the past for favoring Sun during his career. It did not announce Sun’s three-month ban for doping imposed by Chinese authorities until after it ended in 2014.

“I just hope the system and whatever we have is really accurate,” said Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszú, who won three golds in Rio. “I just hope the decisions they are making is fair and is for the sport and not for other reasons.”

The medals that Sun risks losing most are the two golds that he won at last year’s world championships in the 200m and 400m frees. At the event in Gwangju, South Korea, fellow medalists Mack Horton of Australia and Duncan Scott of Britain refused to stand with him on the podium.

Sun has denied any wrongdoing. Any ban imposed in the coming days would likely prevent him from competing at this year’s Tokyo Olympics.

“I have nothing against anybody. It’s not personal,” Le Clos said. “It’s just how the world should be. If you cheat or if you do something wrong, like if you false start, you get disqualified. It’s simple as that.”

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U.S. Olympic luger Emily Sweeney looks forward from depression bout

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Luge’s World Cup campaign ends this weekend in Germany, where most of the best 100 sliders in the sport will be looking to close their international seasons on a high note.

Emily Sweeney won’t be among them.

Her season ended a couple weeks ago, on her terms.

The U.S. veteran is officially two years into her recovery from a crash at the PyeongChang Olympics that she walked away from — even with a broken neck and broken back — and two years away, she hopes, from being a medal contender at the Beijing Games.

She decided to listen to her body and step away from the frantic end of the season, heading home instead to meet her sister’s new baby and formulate a plan for her offseason.

Here’s what she has learned: Fractures heal, but everything else takes time. So while her body still betrays her from time to time on the track, an additional focus on the mental game is what Sweeney hopes will get her to the medal podium in Beijing in 2022.

“I am very comfortable about thinking about my weaknesses because I failed so much early on,” Sweeney said. “I didn’t make two Olympic teams right in a row. I constantly had to look at myself and say ‘What’s wrong? What am I not like?’ I had to be creative with my training and with the whole process. And so, I think I’m pretty comfortable with challenges.”

That’s why, this season, when she felt like her body couldn’t do it anymore she simply went home. The decision was not easy: Her team is still competing, she has plenty of friends on the circuit and her longtime boyfriend — Italian star Dominik Fischnaller — is a serious contender to win the men’s World Cup overall title.

But a setback right now could throw a serious wrench into her Olympic plans. The problem was pressure, not in the sense of what’s comes with the prospects of winning or losing in competition, but the massive gravitational force that sliders feel and fight through when they are on the ice at speeds often topping 80mph. It takes tremendous strength, and Sweeney’s neck still isn’t always up to the challenge. So, with wear and tear of the season taking a toll, she headed home.

“It’s not a question of if I’m good enough,” said Sweeney, who won a medal at last season’s world championships — cementing her status as one of the fastest women on ice. “I see it in my splits. I would have first-place splits, then get to the pressure and I ended up 15th. I just couldn’t keep going through this cycle of pushing it, pushing it, pushing it and then losing all my speed as soon as I can’t hold my head up anymore.”

So she’s working on her body and her mind.

Sweeney is one of the most-upbeat sliders on the luge circuit; always smiling, always happy, and most of the time her good mood is genuine. After the crash, however, the good mood wasn’t always there, and it took Sweeney some time to realize that there was more wrong than just the fractures in her neck and back.

“I went into a depression,” Sweeney said. “It’s weird saying that. But it feels foreign to me to say I broke my neck and my back two years ago. And it feels dramatic to say, which I guess I need to just get more comfortable with that. But I think that just the way I was raised was like, ‘All right, brush it off and move on.’ And that’s why I think I appear a lot of times like it’s just sunshine and rainbows, but this one forced me to stop. But you have to. And the alternative is to stay at that low and that just becomes miserable.”

From therapy came a plan: Do one thing a day to feel better toward the ultimate goal of medaling in 2022.

Most days, she succeeds. When Sweeney is right, especially in sprint events, few women in the world have a chance of catching her. Her sliding career is peaking. Her mental game, she thinks, is catching up.

And now she’s got two years to put the whole package together.

“Being an Olympian was my dream since I was 7 years old,” Sweeney said. “And then I became an Olympian, and I said, ‘Well, that’s not enough. I want a medal.’”

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