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Russian women sweep European Figure Skating Championships medals; Papadakis, Cizeron upset

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Russia dominated the European Figure Skating Championships, winning every gold medal and sweeping the medals in the women’s and pairs’ events.

Alena KostornaiaAnna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova went gold-silver-bronze, just as they did at the Grand Prix Final in December against the world’s other top female skaters.

The Russian Troika, all 15 or 16 and in their first senior international seasons, each fell in the free skate. No matter, no other skater was within 32 points of them. That’s because of their technical content. Kostornaia landed two triple Axels; Shcherbakova a quadruple Lutz and quad flip and Trusova a quad toe.

They go into March’s world championships favored to give Russia the first medal sweep at that event since the U.S. did it in 1991 with Kristi Yamaguchi, Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan

Earlier, Dmitry Aliev won the men’s title and Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitriy Kozlovskiy topped the pairs’ event.

A stunner happened in ice dance. French Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron lost to a couple other than retired Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir for the first time since December 2014.

Russians Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov overtook them in Saturday’s free dance, winning by .14 of a point.

Papadakis and Cizeron are the Olympic silver medalists and two-time reigning world champions. Sinitsina and Katsalopov, last year’s world silver medalists, ended the French couple’s record streak of five straight European titles. A rematch is on top for worlds in Montreal in March.

It’s the first time one nation swept the men’s, women’s, pairs’ and ice dance titles at Europeans since Russia in 2006.

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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.

Salwa Eid Naser, world 400m champion, provisionally banned

Salwa Eid Naser
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Salwa Eid Naser, the world 400m champion of Bahrain, was provisionally suspended for missing three drug tests in a 12-month span.

“I’ve never been a cheat. I will never be,” Naser, 22, said in an Instagram live video. “I only missed three drug tests, which is normal. It happens. It can happen to anybody. I don’t want people to get confused in all this because I would never cheat.”

Naser said “the missed tests” came before last autumn’s world championships, where she ran the third-fastest time in history (48.14 seconds) and the fastest in 34 years.

“This year I have not been drug tested,” she said. “We are still talking about the ones of last season before the world championships.”

The Athletics Integrity Unit, which handles doping cases for track and field, did not announce whether Naser’s gold medal could be stripped.

“Hopefully, it’ll get resolved because I don’t really like the image, but it has happened,” she said. “It’s going to be fine. It’s very hard to have this little stain on my name.”

Naser, the 2017 World silver medalist, upset Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas for the world title in Doha on Oct. 3.

The only women who have run faster than Naser, who was born Ebelechukwu Agbapuonwu in Nigeria to a Nigerian mother who sprinted and a Bahraini father, were dubious — East German Marita Koch (47.60) and Czechoslovakia’s Jarmila Kratochvilova (47.99).

“I would never take performance-enhancing drugs,” Naser said. “I believe in talent, and I know I have the talent.”

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When Laurie Hernandez winked at the Olympics

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Blink, and you may have missed one of the social-media-sensation moments of the Rio Olympics.

Laurie Hernandez, then 16, was the youngest woman on the U.S. Olympic team across all sports. She was about to start arguably the most important floor exercise routine of her life.

So, she winked.

“The amazing thing about the Olympics is that you feel so many different emotions in the span of a few days, and they are all intense,” she wrote in her 2017 book, “I Got This,” a nod to what she told herself before her balance beam routine earlier that night. “So it was nice to have at least one totally playful moment.”

The U.S., on its fourth and final rotation, already had the team gold all but locked up. Knowing she was nervous, Hernandez’s teammates confirmed to her that they were a few points ahead.

Then Hernandez heard the beep, and it was time to go. She was in the view of an out-of-bounds judge at the Rio Olympic Arena.

“Well, I looked straight at her and suddenly felt this surge of confidence to wink,” she wrote. “Later, a woman came up to me while I was watching Simone [Biles] and Aly [Raisman] compete in their all-around finals and she said, ‘Wow, I just want you to know that when you winked at the judge, it really worked.’ I didn’t know how to respond, so I just said, ‘Thank you. That’s very nice of you to say.’ That’s when she told me she was the out-of-bounds judge! All I could say was ‘Oh my goodness.'”

Hernandez, a New Jersey native, finished the Olympics with a team gold and balance beam silver.

She took more than two years off before making a comeback in earnest last year, announcing she planned to return to competition this spring under new coaches in California. Now that’s on hold given the coronavirus pandemic, which pushed the Tokyo Olympics to 2021.

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