Chris Froome, hospitalized after crash, may be in line for 2011 Vuelta title

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PARIS (AP) — Chris Froome remained hospitalized in France on Thursday after the high-speed crash that left him with multiple fractures and shattered his hopes of going for a record-equaling fifth Tour de France title next month.

He also may now be in line to be the 2011 Vuelta a España winner after the International Cycling Union (UCI) announced original champion, the retired Juan José Cobo, was banned three years for biological passport abnormalities from 2009 and 2011.

The UCI did not say whether Cabo’s doping ban could affect his Vuelta title, won by 13 seconds over Froome, two years before Froome won the first of his six Grand Tours at the 2013 Tour de France.

If Froome gets the 2011 Vuelta, he will move into a tie for fourth on the all-time Grand Tour titles list with Fausto Coppi, Miguel Indurain and Alberto Contador. Only Eddy Merckx (11), Bernard Hinault (10) and Jacques Anquetil (eight) have more.

Froome was airlifted to Saint-Etienne hospital in central France and underwent surgery after he hit a wall at 34 miles per hour during a training ride before the fourth stage of the Criterium du Dauphine in Roanne on Wednesday.

The Dauphine is a traditional warmup race for the Tour de France, the three-week showpiece race Froome and his teammates have dominated in recent years.

The 34-year-old Froome broke his right femur, elbow and several ribs. He was in intensive care and underwent surgery for several hours. His Ineos Team, which already said the crash ruled him out of the Tour, is expected to give an update on his condition later Thursday.

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Team principal Dave Brailsford told the BBC that Froome was on a descent with teammate Wout Poels when he went to blow his nose and a gust of wind took out his front wheel, he lost control, and he hit the wall of a house.

Froome, who won the Tour de France in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017, has often crashed in his career but had never been so seriously injured.

Last year on the Tour, he crashed in the opening stage and hit the ground again on a cobbled stage in northern France. He was also forced out of the 2014 Tour after injuring his left wrist in crashes, and abandoned the 2015 Spanish Vuelta with a foot injury following yet another accident.

After his third-place finish in last year’s Tour, Froome had only one goal this season: matching the record of five wins shared by Anquetil, Merckx, Hinault and Indurain.

He had skipped the Giro to focus solely on cycling’s marquee event and was hoping to put the final touches to his preparations at the Dauphine.

“Chris had worked incredibly hard to get in fantastic shape and was on track for the Tour, which unfortunately he will now miss,” Brailsford said.

Froome’s absence will settle the leadership question within Ineos, with Geraint Thomas looking to defend his title in July without a rival in his squad.

“Such crap news!! It’s always horrible hearing about any bad crash, but even worse when it’s a good mate!!” Thomas wrote on Twitter after finding out about Froome’s accident.

The Tour de France starts on July 6 from Brussels, Belgium.

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Japanese pair edges Americans for historic Grand Prix Final figure skating title

Riku Miura, Ryuichi Kihara
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Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the biggest title ever for a Japanese figure skating pair, taking the Grand Prix Final and consolidating their status as the world’s top active team.

Miura and Kihara, last season’s world silver medalists, barely outscored world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier in Turin, Italy, in both Thursday’s short program and Friday’s free skate to win the six-pair event that is a preview of March’s worlds.

The Japanese totaled 214.58 points, distancing the Americans by a mere 1.3 points after Frazier erred on both of their side-by-side jumping passes in the free skate. Italians Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii took bronze.

“We had a very late start to our season than initially planned, so as we have been performing at each event, I see us getting stronger, improving things,” said Frazier, who with Knierim had their best short program and free skate scores of the autumn.

Knierim and Frazier didn’t decide to continue competing together this season until July.

“I feel a little personally disappointed tonight just for myself for my jumps,” Frazier continued. “I was a little all over the place and, normally, I can execute better, so I feel a little bad, but I’m very proud of us overall. We’ve done a great job of improving each competition and looking forward to the second half of the season where we can start tapping into our best skating.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Miura and Kihara, who partnered in June 2019 and train in Ontario, both waited with trepidation for their final score to be posted, worried that each’s separate mistake on jumps might cost them the title. When they learned they won, both burst into tears.

“This was the first time in eight years that I made a mistake with a Salchow, so I thought we might not get a good score, and it would be my fault,” Kihara said.

Miura and Kihara entered the competition ranked No. 1 in the world by best scores this season ahead of Knierim and Frazier, who in March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979.

Last season, Miura and Kihara became the second Japanese pair to make a Grand Prix podium and to earn a world championships medal. Their ascension helped Japan win its first Olympic figure skating team event medal in February (a bronze that could be upgraded to gold pending the Kamila Valiyeva case).

In Grand Prix Final history, Japan had won 11 gold medals and 40 total medals, all in singles, before this breakthrough.

Knierim and Frazier, already the first U.S. pair to compete in the Grand Prix Final since 2015, became the first U.S. pair to win a Grand Prix Final medal. The Final has been held annually since 1996, though it was canceled the last two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Miura and Kihara and Knierim and Frazier ascended to the top of the sport while the top five teams from the Olympics from Russia and China have not competed internationally since the Winter Games.

All Russian skaters are ineligible for international competition due to the war in Ukraine. China’s pairs, including Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, didn’t enter last March’s worlds and did not compete in the fall Grand Prix Series.

Later Friday, world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan led the women’s short program with 75.86 points, 1.28 ahead of countrywoman Mai Mihara. American Isabeau Levito, the 15-year-old world junior champion, was fifth of six skaters in her Grand Prix Final debut.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier topped the rhythm dance with 85.93 points, edging Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates by .44. Both couples are bidding for the biggest international title of their careers. None of the Olympic medalists competed internationally this fall.

The Grand Prix Final ends Saturday with the men’s and women’s free skates and free dance, all live on Peacock.

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A Winter Olympic medal still being decided, 10 months later

Fanny Smith, Daniela Maier
It's still unknown whether Fanny Smith (green) or Daniela Maier (blue) is the Olympic ski cross bronze medalist. (Getty)
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There is a second Winter Olympic medal result still in question, 10 months after the Games.

While the figure skating team event results are still unknown due to the Kamila Valiyeva case, the bronze medal in women’s ski cross is also in dispute.

Originally, Swiss Fanny Smith crossed the finish line in third place in the four-woman final at the Winter Games in February. Upon review by the International Ski Federation (FIS) jury, she was minutes later demoted to fourth place after making contact with German Daniela Maier near the end of the course. Maier, who originally was fourth, was upgraded to bronze.

“I tried to be OK with the fourth place. I was very disappointed, I have to say, [then] the jury was like this,” Maier said then. “I am really sorry for Fanny that it’s like this right now. … The jury decided like this, so accept it and be happy with the medal.”

Smith and the Swiss ski federation appealed. FIS reinstated Smith as the bronze medalist nine days after the race and six days after the Closing Ceremony. A FIS appeals commission met four times and reviewed video and written documentation for several hours before deciding that “the close proximity of the racers at that moment resulted in action that was neither intentional or avoidable.”

But that wasn’t the end. The case ended up reportedly going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), whose rulings are usually accepted as final. The CAS process is ongoing, European media reported this week.

CAS has not responded to a request for comment. A FIS contact said Friday, “There is currently no update to provide in regards to the bronze medal in ski cross. Should there be any update, we will inform you.”

Smith said there should be news soon regarding the case, according to Blick.

Maier still has the bronze medal at her home and enjoys looking at it, according to German media, which also reported that the German ski federation expects Maier to win the case and keep the medal. Smith and Maier spoke extensively about it in recent training sessions and cleared things up. Maier said the best outcome would be bronze medals for both of them, according to the report.

For now, FIS lists Smith as the bronze medalist. The IOC lists Maier as the bronze medalist.

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