Alena Kostornaia defeats Alina Zagitova to win first Grand Prix in France

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Alena Kostornaia is now the third straight first-year senior Russian woman to win on the Grand Prix season. The past two weeks, 15-year-olds Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova did it while landing quads at Skate America and Skate Canada, respectively.

Kostornaia did it sans quads, but with three triple Axels across two programs Friday and Saturday in Grenoble, France.

Kostornaia, 16 and skating in her Grand Prix debut, opened her free skate with a clean triple Axel in combination, followed by a solo triple Axel and a double Axel. She was accompanied by music from the Twilight soundtrack and Muse.

Despite an edge call on a triple flip, she scored 159.45 points in the free skate for a total of 236.00 points.

“I can’t answer that question because Alina’s a great sportsman,” said Kostornaia, after being asked if she was happy she defeated Alina Zagitova (the interview was conducted in English and posted on Twitter). “She win[s] all competition you can imagine and I’m very happy that she can go to the podium.”

(Note for fans just getting acquainted with Kostornaia: She pronounces her first name “al-YON-ah,” while Zagitova’s first name is “ah-LEE-nah.”)

Kostornaia trains alongside Zagitova, the reigning world and Olympic champion. Zagitova scored 141.82 points in the free skate (actually third in the phase) for a total of 216.06 points and the silver medal. Zagitova is 17 and in her third season as a senior skater.

Zagitova skated to a “Cleopatra” medley and was called for three under-rotations: the opening triple Lutz (which also received an unclear edge call), her double Axel in combination with a triple toe, and her triple Lutz, triple loop combination.

Closing out the session, American Mariah Bell, 23, claimed her first Grand Prix medal since a breakout performance at 2016 Skate America. She held on to her bronze medal position after the short program to tally 142.64 points in the free skate (scoring ahead of Zagitova in the phase) for a total score of 212.89 points.

“I’ve gone last many times, but this time was a little more challenging,” Bell said in audio provided by U.S. Figure Skating following the event. “I sometimes feel like when I get off the ice it’s a dream. And I hope I don’t wake up. It’s such a good feeling.”

Bell was called for just one under-rotation on her triple Lutz, the final jump of her “Hallelujah” program.

The other American in the field, Starr Andrews, was fifth with 180.54 total points.

Russia’s two pair teams in Grenoble landed on the podium to close the event. Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov took home the gold with 207.58 total points while Daria Pavliuchenko and Denis Khodykin earned silver with 206.56 points.

U.S. pair team Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier won their second Grand Prix bronze medal of the season, matching their Skate America finish two week ago. This marks their best-ever Grand Prix season as a team.

“This was a tough one, this week,” Frazier said following the event in audio provided by U.S. Figure Skating. “It was different physically, mentally, coming off a pretty exciting competition from Skate America. It was a big test to see how we kept our composure in a different kind of pressured situation, which is what we’re trying to do more.

“We were competing for a medal spot with a very respectable team from our country,” he added. “We knew they were gonna bring it and we had to fight. That’s the kind of fight we’ll see at Nationals.”

Americans Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc, the 2019 national pair champions, finished in fourth place.

Earlier Saturday, Nathan Chen extended his Grand Prix winning streak to the longest in 18 years, and French ice dance couple Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron won their first Grand Prix of the season after a “Fame”/disco-themed rhythm dance.

Internationaux de France
Women
1. Alena Kostornaia (RUS) — 236.00

2. Alina Zagitova (RUS) — 216.06
3. Mariah Bell (USA) — 212.89
4. Kaori Sakamoto (JPN) — 199.24
5. Starr Andrews (USA) — 180.54
6. Wakaba Higuchi (JPN) — 174.12
7. Nicole Schott (GER) — 166.89
8. Lea Serna (FRA) — 166.02
9. Yuna Shiraiwa (JPN) — 161.71
10. Mae Berenice Meite (FRA) — 157.45
11. Maria Sotskova (RUS) — 144.89
WD. Laurine Lecavelier (FRA)

Pairs
1. Mishina/Galliamov (RUS) — 207.58

2. Pavliuchenko/Khodykin (RUS) — 206.56
3. Denney/Frazier (USA) — 199.40
4. Cain-Gribble/LeDuc (USA) — 195.78
5. Miriam Zielger/Severin Kiefer (AUT) — 181.26
6. Camille Ruest/Andrew Wolfe (CAN) — 166.15
7. Minerva Fabienne Hase/Nolan Seegert (GER) — 163.09
8. Rebecca Ghilardi/Filippo Ambrosini (ITA) — 157.92

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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Olympian Derrick Mein ends U.S. men’s trap drought at shotgun worlds

Derrick Mein
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Tokyo Olympian Derrick Mein became the first U.S. male shooter to win a world title in the trap event since 1966, prevailing at the world shotgun championships in Osijek, Croatia, on Wednesday.

Mein, who grew up on a small farm in Southeast Kansas, hunting deer and quail, nearly squandered a place in the final when he missed his last three shots in the semifinal round after hitting his first 22. He rallied in a sudden-death shoot-off for the last spot in the final by hitting all five of his targets.

He hit 33 of 34 targets in the final to win by two over Brit Nathan Hales with one round to spare.

The last U.S. man to win an Olympic trap title was Donald Haldeman in 1976.

Mein, 37, was 24th in his Olympic debut in Tokyo (and placed 13th with Kayle Browning in the mixed-gender team event).

The U.S. swept the Tokyo golds in the other shotgun event — skeet — with Vincent Hancock and Amber English. Browning took silver in women’s trap.

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Mo Farah withdraws before London Marathon

Mo Farah
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British track legend Mo Farah withdrew before Sunday’s London Marathon, citing a right hip injury before what would have been his first 26.2-mile race in nearly two years.

Farah, who swept the 2012 and 2016 Olympic track titles at 5000m and 10,000m, said he hoped “to be back out there” next April, when the London Marathon returns to its traditional month after COVID moved it to the fall for three consecutive years. Farah turns 40 on March 23.

“I’ve been training really hard over the past few months and I’d got myself back into good shape and was feeling pretty optimistic about being able to put in a good performance,” in London, Farah said in a press release. “However, over the past 10 days I’ve been feeling pain and tightness in my right hip. I’ve had extensive physio and treatment and done everything I can to be on the start line, but it hasn’t improved enough to compete on Sunday.”

Farah switched from the track to the marathon after the 2017 World Championships and won the 2018 Chicago Marathon in a then-European record time of 2:05:11. Belgium’s Bashir Abdi now holds the record at 2:03:36.

Farah returned to the track in a failed bid to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, then shifted back to the roads.

Sunday’s London Marathon men’s race is headlined by Ethiopians Kenenisa Bekele and Birhanu Legese, the second- and third-fastest marathoners in history.

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