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Four Continents Reporter’s Notebook: Not-so-stationary lift yields shock result in ice dance

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Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue arrived in Anaheim, Calif. for the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships riding a white-hot winning streak that included their two Grand Prix events, the Grand Prix Final and their second consecutive U.S. Championships.

Their tango rhythm dance in Anaheim went pretty much as planned. Despite the loss of a few points on their steps, they narrowly led the field, including training partners Madison Chock and Evan Bates, heading into the free dance.

On Sunday, the skaters were all smiles as they left the ice after their routine to “Romeo + Juliet.” As they nestled into the kiss-and-cry next to coaches Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon, they thought, Hubbell later said, that they had won.

“There are not too many times we feel so strongly (about) a performance,” she said. “We left it all out there.”

Then, their score flashed up: 119.71 points, just fourth-best in the free dance. It dropped them to fourth overall with 201.66 points.

Chock and Bates, who train alongside Hubbell and Donohue in Montreal, performed a highly entertaining free dance to a medley of Michael Buble’s rendition of “Fever” and Elvis Presley’s “Burning Love,” highlighted by eye-catching and unique lifts, to win the free dance and their first Four Continents title with 207.42 points.

So, what happened?

Hubbell and Donohue open their free dance with a stationary lift: Donohue holding Hubbell aloft while rotating in place. As it turns out, it was not stationary enough, and the technical panel dropped it to base level, meaning it earned only a single point. That’s more than four points less than Hubbell and Donohue were counting on.

“It’s a lift we’ve done over and over again this season. They (the technical panel) saw it all week in practice,” Hubbell said. “It was definitely shocking to hear they did not count it as a stationary lift. It’s certainly unfortunate, we would have loved to stand on top of that podium. But we’re incredibly proud of our performance, that mark doesn’t change that.”

Replay of the lift shows Donohue traveling, and the technical panel – including Helena Gordon-Poltarak, chair of the ISU ice dancing technical committee – determined that was enough to drop the element down.

“We were told that it initially got called a Level 4 (the highest level), but upon review we were told that a stationary lift traveled just enough to not be called stationary, so it was dropped to base value,” Hubbell said. “That’s what we know so far.”

The couple also lost about two points or so on their spin, which gained just Level 2.

It’s a safe bet that Lauzon, a noted taskmaster, will be drilling the U.S. champions in these elements, as well as their rhythm dance step sequences, upon their return to Montreal.

The couple are putting a positive spin on the loss.

“We already know the (technical) panel who is going to be at the world championships and its tough,” Hubbell said. “This is kind of a good wake-up call.”

“My favorite thing is proving people wrong,” Donohue said.

Four Continents reporter’s notebook: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4

As a reminder, you can watch 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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Eliud Kipchoge sets next marathon

Eliud Kipchoge
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Eliud Kipchoge will race the London Marathon on April 26 before he is expected to defend his Olympic title in Japan on Aug. 9, which would mark the shortest break between marathons of his career.

Kipchoge, who in his last 26.2-mile effort became the first person to break two hours at the distance, won all four of his London Marathon starts, including breaking the course record in 2016 and 2019.

His time this past April 28 — 2:02:37 — is the third-fastest time in history. Kipchoge has the world record of 2:01:39 set at the 2018 Berlin Marathon. His sub-two-hour marathon in Vienna on Oct. 12 was not in a record-eligible race.

Kipchoge’s previous shortest break between marathons came in 2016, when he also ran London and the Olympics. The Olympics will be two weeks earlier in 2020 than in 2016.

Kipchoge, 35, has won 11 of 12 marathons since moving to road racing after failing to make Kenya’s 2012 Olympic track team.

He has yet to race the two most prestigious marathons in the U.S. — Boston and New York City — but has said they are on his bucket list.

MORE: Eliud Kipchoge opines on shoe technology debate

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Canadians become first female doubles luge team in World Cup

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WHISTLER, British Columbia (AP) — Caitlin Nash and Natalie Corless made luge history Saturday, becoming the first female team to compete in a World Cup doubles race.

The 16-year-olds from Whistler combined to finish 22nd in a field of 23 sleds, though that seemed largely irrelevant. There have been four-woman teams in what is typically called four-man bobsledding, but luge has never seen a pairing like this until now.

The German sled of Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken won the race in 1 minute, 16.644 seconds. Germany’s Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt finished second and the Russian team of Vsevolod Kashkin and Konstantin Korshunov placed third for their first medal of the season.

The U.S. team of Chris Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman placed 11th.

But the story was the Canadian teens, who qualified for the World Cup event on Thursday. They were nearly a half-second behind any other finisher and almost 2.7 seconds back of Eggert and Benecken. But they’ll forever be able to say that they were winning the race at one point — a technicality because they were the first ones down the hill at the Whistler Sliding Center, but accurate nonetheless.

The only sled they beat was the Italian team of Ivan Nagler and Fabian Malleier, who crashed in the second heat.

There are women’s singles and men’s singles races on the World Cup luge circuit, but there is no rule saying doubles teams must be composed of two men. There have been more female doubles racers at the junior level in recent years, and it was generally considered to be just a matter of time before it happened at the World Cup level.

That time became Saturday.

Canada had the chance to qualify a second sled into the doubles field because some teams typically on the circuit chose to skip this weekend’s stop, and Nash and Corless got into by successfully finishing a Nations Cup qualifying race on Thursday.

They were 11th in that race out of 11 sleds, more than a full second behind the winner and nearly a half-second behind the closest finisher. But all they had to do was cross the line without crashing to get into Saturday’s competition, and earned their spot in the luge history books as a result.

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MORE: Top U.S. bobsled driver pregnant, to miss season