Nathan Chen leads Grand Prix France, looking to extend remarkable win streak

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Nathan Chen is halfway to his eighth straight Grand Prix title, landing two quadruple jumps en route to a four-point lead at Internationaux de France on Friday.

Chen, a two-time world champion undefeated since a fifth-place PyeongChang Olympic finish, tallied 102.48 points in his “La Bohème” short program in Grenoble. Only two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, who is not competing in France, has scored higher this season.

All 11 skaters committed jumping errors Friday. Chen put both hands on the ice on a triple Axel landing. That was sandwiched between a quad toe loop-triple toe loop combination and a quad flip.

He scored .23 lower than his short program at Skate America two weeks ago.

“One week is difficult between competitions,” said Chen, who is skipping Yale sophomore classes to compete in France. “Two weeks, you have time to recover, rest and then start building back up. … But having one week, it’s like two days of travel, two days of travel, and then three days of actual training.”

Russian Alexander Samarin is second going into Saturday’s free skate (live streaming schedule here).

Japanese Shoma Uno, the Olympic silver medalist and two-time world silver medalist, fell on a quad toe loop and nearly faceplanted on a triple Axel. He is in fourth, 23.43 behind Chen.

Chen will qualify for December’s six-skater Grand Prix Final with a podium finish, setting the stage for a likely showdown with Hanyu for the first time since Chen beat him at last season’s worlds. No singles skater has won eight straight Grand Prix events since Yevgeny Plushenko at the turn of the century.

Later Friday, 16-year-old Alena Kostornaia landed an under-rotated triple Axel in her senior Grand Prix debut, tallied 76.55 and took a 2.31 lead over Olympic and world champion Alina Zagitova going into Saturday’s free skate.

Kostornaia is looking to become the third straight first-year senior Russian to win on the Grand Prix this season after 15-year-olds Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova, who landed quads at Skate America and Skate Canada, respectively.

Zagitova, 17, had the back end of her triple Lutz-triple loop combination called under-rotated.

Mariah Bell, seeking her first Grand Prix medal since her 2016 Skate America breakthrough silver, is in third after a relatively clean skate, just an unclear edge call on a triple flip. Her short program is to Britney Spears music (with lyrics), choreographed by former training partner Adam Rippon.

“I’m getting more into my skates with it,” Bell said.

World champions Gabriella Papapdakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France topped the rhythm dance with 88.69 points, best in the world this season.

Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates, who missed the last Grand Prix season due to Chock’s recovery from ankle surgery, skated into second with 80.69, their best score in three events this season.

“It was the best performance of this program we’ve had this season,” Bates said in audio provided by U.S. Figure Skating. “Room for improvement in the technical score still, particularly Finnstep, but overall really pleased.”

Papadakis and Cizeron haven’t lost to a couple other than recently retired world champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir in almost five years. Chock and Bates have their work cut out in Saturday’s free dance, but even a runner-up will put them in great position to qualify for the Grand Prix Final later this month.

“It really doesn’t feel like we’ve taken that much [time away],” Chock said. “It’s like riding a bike.”

Internationaux de France
Men’s Short Program
1. Nathan Chen (USA) — 102.48
2. Alexander Samarin (RUS) — 98.48
3. Kevin Aymoz (FRA) — 82.50
4. Shoma Uno (JPN) — 79.05
5. Moris Kvitelashvili (GEO) — 78.79
6. Romain Ponsart (FRA) — 77.48
7. Sergey Voronov (RUS) — 76.60
8. Daniel Samohin (ISR) — 70.84
9. Nicolas Nadeau (CAN) — 69.42
10. Tomoki Hiwatashi (USA) — 68.70
11. Anton Shulepov (RUS) — 63.67

Women’s Short Program
1. Alena Kostornaia (RUS) — 76.55
2. Alina Zagitova (RUS) — 74.24
3. Mariah Bell (USA) — 70.25
4. Starr Andrews (USA) — 66.59
5. Wakaba Higuchi (JPN) — 64.78
6. Kaori Sakamoto (JPN) — 64.08
7. Yuna Shiraiwa (JPN) — 63.12
8. Lee Serna (FRA) — 62.43
9. Mae Berenice Meite (FRA) — 56.35
10. Nicole Schott (GER) — 54.43
11. Maria Sotskova (RUS) — 50.38
WD. Laurine Lecavelier (FRA)

Rhythm Dance
1. Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron (FRA) — 88.69
2. Madison Chock/Evan Bates (USA) — 80.69
3. Charlene Guignard/Marco Fabbri (ITA) — 79.65
4. Olivia Smart/Adrian Diaz (ESP) — 76.09
5. Tiffani Zagorski/Jonathan Guerreiro (RUS) — 75.05
6. Natalya Kaliszek/Maksym Spodyriev (POL) — 74.19
7. Carolane Soucisse/Shane Firus (CAN) — 68.61
8. Julia Wagret/Pierre Souquet-Basiege (FRA) — 63.55
9. Marie-Jade Lauriault/Romain Le Gac (FRA) — 61.48
10. Allison Reed/Saulius Ambrulevicius (LTU) — 58.10

Pairs’ Short Program
1. Daria Pavliuchenko/Denis Khodykin (RUS) — 76.59
2. Anastasia Mishina/Aleksandr Galliamov (RUS) — 73.77
3. Haven Denney/Brandon Frazier (USA) — 68.65
4. Ashley Cain-Gribble/Timothy LeDuc (USA) — 66.12
5. Rebecca Ghilardi/Filippo Ambrosini (ITA) — 59.62
6. Minerva Hase/Nolan Seegert (GER) — 59.13
7. Camille Ruest/Andrew Wolfe (CAN) — 57.90
8. Miriam Ziegler/Severin Kiefer (AUT) — 57.30

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season 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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John Isner leaning toward skipping Olympics again

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John Isner, the highest-ranked U.S. male singles tennis player, is considering skipping the Olympics for a second straight time.

“I haven’t put a ton of thought into it, but as of right now, I think I’m leaning towards not playing,” the 19th-ranked player said at the Australian Open on Tuesday. “It’s about scheduling. I know the Olympics, it’s a fantastic honor. There’s no doubt about that. … Right now, at this stage in my career, it’s not a huge priority for me. So that’s probably the main reason I won’t be going. I certainly love playing in the summer in America, and I’m going to focus on that.”

The Tokyo Games take place the same week as a lower-level ATP Tour event in Atlanta that Isner, a former University of Georgia star, has won five times.

Other notable male players already said they will pass on Tokyo, including Sam Querrey, the top American in Olympic qualifying standings.

Austrian Dominic Thiem, a two-time French Open finalist, is prioritizing an ATP event in Kitzbühel the week of the Olympics. The U.S. doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan are not planning to play the Olympics in their final season before retirement, their manager said in November.

“The Olympics is very tough on the schedule … especially with Davis Cup,” Isner said in 2016, according to USA Today. “I think the fact that they have no [ATP ranking] points [at the Olympics], to be honest, was a pretty big factor as well. Obviously the Olympics is not about the money, but no points I think hindered me a bit.”

Isner, who turns 35 on April 26, is likely giving up his last chance to play Olympic singles. In his only Olympic participation, he reached the quarterfinals of the 2012 London Games, plus lost an opening-round doubles match there with Andy Roddick.

The top four U.S. men qualify for Tokyo, assuming they are among the top 60 overall qualifiers (maximum four per country) after this spring’s French Open.

Taylor FritzReilly Opelka, Steve Johnson and Tommy Paul are the U.S. men currently in Olympic qualifying position if excluding Querrey and Isner.

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Dominik Paris, world champion skier, suffers season-ending injury

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Italian Dominik Paris, the reigning world champion in the super-G, suffered a season-ending ACL tear in a training crash Tuesday ahead of this weekend’s speed races in Kitzbuehel, Austria.

Paris crashed in super-G training not far from the hallowed World Cup venue, slipping into a curve and damaging his right knee. He also suffered a fibula microfracture, according to the Italian federation.

“My season ends here,” he said, according to the International Ski Federation (FIS). “Unfortunately while I was sliding, the inside ski caught too much and the ligament broke. There is not much to add. In the next few days we will evaluate, together with the medical staff, how to proceed.”

Paris won his third Hahnenkamm downhill title last year and was one of the favorites for Saturday’s downhill, the most prestigious annual race in the sport. NBC Sports Gold streams live coverage for “Snow Pass” subscribers at 5:30 a.m. ET.

Paris, 30, won a pair of downhills in Bormio in December among five total podiums this season.

In his absence, Swiss Beat Feuz and German Thomas Dressen lead the podium contenders.

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