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Nathan Chen extends Grand Prix win streak to longest in 18 years

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Yuzuru Hanyu hasn’t done it. Neither has Patrick Chan. Nor Yuna KimMao Asada or Yevgenia Medvedeva.

Nathan Chen became the first singles skater since Yevgeny Plushenko nearly two decades ago to win eight straight Grand Prix events, comfortably taking Internationaux de France in Grenoble on Saturday despite a few minor jumping errors in his free skate.

Chen padded his four-point lead from Friday’s short program to win by 32.06 over Russian Alexander Samarin. Chen, skipping Yale sophomore classes to compete, landed four quadruple jumps in his free skate to total 297.16 points.

He had wonky landings on three of the four quads — dinged for negative grades of execution — in his “Rocketman” skate while wearing a wrap around his left hand.

Chen, undefeated since placing fifth at the PyeongChang Olympics, still ranks second in the world this year, trailing two-time Olympic champion Hanyu’s score from Skate Canada last week of 322.59.

If all goes as planned, Chen and Hanyu will meet for the first time this season at the exclusive, six-skater Grand Prix Final in December.

“The goal for every season is to make the Final, so I’m happy that I accomplished that,” Chen told media in Grenoble. “The program that I did today was not great. A lot of mistakes. A lot of little bobbles on the landings.

“A lot of the mistakes [for all skaters] are due to the ice being harder. A lot of competition is not typically this cold. … That being said, we have to be able to adapt to the situation. We can’t use that as an excuse for our failures. We still have to man up.”

Internationaux de France concluded later Saturday with first-year senior Alena Kostornaia of Russia winning the ladies’ field and Americans Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier earning bronze in the pairs’ event for their best-ever Grand Prix season as a team.

Also Saturday, American Tomoki Hiwatashi improved from 10th after the short program to finish fifth in his senior Grand Prix debut. Hiwatashi, 19 and the world junior champion, landed a pair of quad toe loops.

Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno struggled in Grenoble, falling five times between two programs, including three times in Saturday’s free skate. His eighth-place finish was his worst in five years on the senior international level and his first time off the podium in 13 career Grand Prix starts.

Later Saturday, world champions Gabriella Papapdakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France extended their unbeaten streak since their Olympic silver medal, posting the world’s highest total ice dance score in their Grand Prix season debut.

Papadakis and Cizeron, who haven’t lost to a couple other than the recently retired Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir in nearly five years, tallied 222.24 to distance Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates by 17.4.

Chock and Bates earned their sixth straight Grand Prix runner-up finish (not counting Grand Prix Finals) after missing the last Grand Prix season due to Chock’s recovery from ankle surgery. They compete at Cup of China next week, bidding for another podium to have a strong chance at qualifying for a fifth Grand Prix Final.

“We really want to focus more on the performance and less on the technicality,” Bates said, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “Obviously this is a good result but we don’t have a lot of time to make changes before China, but we think that both of these programs are in a good place.”

Internationaux de France
Men
1. Nathan Chen (USA) — 297.16

2. Alexander Samarin (RUS) — 265.10
3. Kevin Aymoz (FRA) — 254.64
4. Moris Kvitelashvili (GEO) — 236.38
5. Tomoki Hiwatashi (USA) — 227.43
6. Sergey Voronov (RUS) — 220.98
7. Nicolas Nadeau (CAN) — 217.68
8. Shoma Uno (JPN) — 215.84
9. Romain Ponsart (FRA) — 215.64
10. Daniel Samohin (ISR) — 193.66
11. Anton Shulepov (RUS) — 183.98

Ice Dance
1. Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron (FRA) — 222.24

2. Madison Chock/Evan Bates (USA) — 204.84
3. Charlene Guignard/Marco Fabbri (ITA) — 203.34
4. Olivia Smart/Adrian Diaz (ESP) — 188.18
5. Tiffani Zagorski/Jonathan Guerreiro (RUS) — 184.44
6. Natalya Kaliszek/Maksym Spodyriev (POL) — 183.42
7. Carolane Soucisse/Shane Firus (CAN) — 175.80
8.  Marie-Jade Lauriault/Romain Le Gac (FRA) — 166.28
9. Julia Wagret/Pierre Souquet-Basiege (FRA) — 161.99
10. Allison Reed/Saulius Ambrulevicius (LTU) — 161.73

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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Justin Schoenefeld gets U.S.’ first men’s aerials World Cup win in 4 years

Justin Schoenefeld
U.S. Ski & Snowboard
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Justin Schoenefeld ended a four-year U.S. men’s aerials drought with his first World Cup win Saturday in Belarus.

Schoenfeld, 21, hit a double full-full-full in the super final to beat a field that included world champion Maxim Burov of Russia. Burov was fourth, one spot behind another American, Chris Lillis. Full results are here.

“I’m pretty speechless right now,” Schoenefeld said, according to U.S. Ski & Snowboard. “I’m just shocked. It just all came so quick, all of a sudden the two finals were over, and I was on top of the podium. I probably landed two of my training jumps yesterday, but I managed to land all of my comp jumps down to my feet.”

Schoenefeld’s best previous World Cup finish was fourth, in Belarus last season.

Lillis earned the U.S.’ last World Cup men’s aerials victory on Feb. 20, 2016, also in Belarus. The four-year gap between wins marked the longest for the U.S. men since aerials was added as an Olympic medal sport in 1994.

Schoenefeld also became the first American of either gender to win a World Cup aerials event in two years, since Kiley McKinnon on Jan. 6, 2018. That gap was the longest for the U.S. since 2005.

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Kaillie Humphries wins bobsled world title in first season for U.S.

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Two-time Olympic champion Kaillie Humphries won a bobsled world title in her first season since switching allegiance from Canada to the U.S., ending recent German dominance.

Humphries, with brakewoman Lauren Gibbs, edged German junior world champ Kim Kalicki by .37 of a second combining times from four runs between Friday and Saturday in Altenberg, Germany.

“I love this track. It’s very challenging, one of the hardest in the world,” Humphries said, according to U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton. “It demands a lot of focus, a lot of respect every minute you’re on that track. So to be able to win here, I know the Germans and the spectators, everybody, have worked so hard and this week, no exceptions. I’m proud of all of the girls.”

Canadian Christine de Bruin took bronze for a second straight year. Full results are here.

Humphries, who married a former U.S. bobsledder, was released by Canada in September after filing verbal abuse and harassment claims against a coach, saying she no longer felt safe with the program. As a Canadian, Humphries won 2010 and 2014 Olympic titles, plus 2012 and 2013 World titles.

Humphries joined German Sandra Kiriasis as the only female drivers to win three world titles. She is already the only female driver with multiple Olympic titles.

German Mariama Jamanka, the reigning Olympic champion and defending world champion, finished fourth in Altenberg.

Triple U.S. Olympic medalist Elana Meyers Taylor didn’t compete as she sits out the season due to pregnancy. Meyers Taylor and Gibbs teamed for silver in PyeongChang.

The world championships continue Sunday with the conclusion of the two-man competition. German Francesco Friedrich, eyeing his sixth straight world title, leads after the first two of four runs.

A full TV and live stream schedule is here.

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