Alina Zagitova extends break from figure skating competition

Alina Zagitova
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Alina Zagitova, the reigning Olympic and world figure skating champion, is extending her indefinite break from major competition and will not enter any top-level events until 2021 at the earliest.

Zagitova, who in PyeongChang became the second-youngest Olympic women’s singles champion at age 15, will not compete in the Russian Championships in December, according to the Russian skating federation, confirming a TASS report from Monday.

That likely means that Zagitova will not be selected for the Russian team for the European Championships in January, nor the world championships in March. The top two spots go to the first- and second-place finishers at nationals. The third spot is subjectively chosen and could be filled by a skater who does not compete at nationals.

“Everything will depend on Alina’s form and readiness,” a Russian federation spokesperson said Wednesday.

Zagitova last competed at the December 2019 Grand Prix Final, finishing sixth in a six-skater field. Three younger Russian teens swept the podium with either triple Axels or quadruple jumps, neither of which Zagitova has attempted in competition.

She announced an indefinite break from skating on Dec. 13 and, this fall, has been hosting a Russian skating-themed TV show rather than entering the Grand Prix Series. Zagitova will not take part in nationals because she’s not participating in other competitions, according to Russia’s federation.

Zagitova said in December that she needed to find the motivation to compete again, would continue training and learn new elements.

“This is her decision, and, regretfully, it did not come out of thin air,” her coach Eteri Tutberidze said in December, according to TASS. “Alina has been talking about this for about 18 months.

“The past 18 months when she kept competing and fighting, were difficult.”

Since Katarina Witt won back-to-back Olympic titles in 1984 and 1988, one of the eight Olympic women’s singles gold medalists returned to defend her title — South Korean Yuna Kim, who took silver in Sochi in 2014. Even Kim took a break after gold in Vancouver in 2010, going about a year and a half between competitions from 2011 to 2012.

The Russian system produced a conveyor belt of female singles skaters in the last decade, with new teens constantly replacing past champions.

Adelina Sotnikova and Yuliya Lipnitskaya earned gold medals in Sochi, then stopped competing in 2016.

Elizaveta Tuktamysheva swept Grand Prix Final, European and world titles in 2014-15, but while competitive since has not returned to worlds or competed in an Olympics.

Yevgenia Medvedeva went undefeated for two years from 2015-17 before being supplanted by Zagitova in PyeongChang. She left Tutberidze’s group, took bronze behind Zagitova at 2019 Worlds under Brian Orser, then returned to Tutberidze last month while in Moscow during the pandemic, thousands of miles from Orser in Toronto.

All of the top Russians from last season — Alena Kostornaya, Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova — are entered in the Russian stop of the Grand Prix Series next month.

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12-year-old skateboarders earn medals at world championships

Chloe Covell
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At the world skateboarding championships, 12-year-olds Chloe Covell from Australia and Onodera Ginwoo from Japan earned silver and bronze medals, respectively, in Sunday’s street finals.

In the women’s event, Covell took silver behind Brazilian 15-year-old Rayssa Leal, who was a silver medalist herself at the Tokyo Games.

Frenchman Aurélien Giraud, a 25-year-old who was sixth in skateboarding’s Olympic debut in Tokyo, won the men’s final in the United Arab Emirates. Ginwoo was third behind Portugal’s Gustavo Ribeiro.

The top Americans were Olympic men’s bronze medalist Jagger Eaton in sixth and 15-year-old Paige Heyn in seventh in the women’s event.

Nyjah Huston, a six-time world champion who placed seventh in Tokyo, missed worlds after August surgery for an ACL tear.

Up to three men and three women per nation can qualify per event (street and park) for the 2024 Paris Games. World rankings come June 2024 determine which Americans qualify.

In Tokyo, four of the 12 skateboarding medalists were ages 12 or 13.

Japan’s Kokona Hiraki, then 12, won silver in women’s park to become the youngest Olympic medalist since 1936, according to Olympedia.org. Japan’s Momiji Nishiya, then 13, won women’s street and became the youngest gold medalist in an individual event since 1936.

Worlds conclude this week with the men’s and women’s park events. The finals are Saturday.

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Francesco Friedrich, most decorated bobsledder in history, rebounds for 12th world title

Francesco Friedrich
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A week after his first major championships defeat in seven years, German Francesco Friedrich returned to his winning ways to close the world bobsled championships on Sunday.

Friedrich’s four-man sled won the world title by 69 hundredths of a second over British and Latvian sleds that tied for silver, combining times from four runs over the last two days in St. Moritz, Switzerland. It marked Great Britain’s first world championships men’s bobsled medal since 1966.

Geoff Gadbois drove the lone U.S. sled in the field, finishing 18th.

Friedrich, the most decorated bobsledder in history, extended his records with a fifth consecutive world four-man title and 12th world championship between two- and four-man events.

Germany swept all four titles at bobsled worlds with four different drivers taking gold.

Friedrich had won 12 consecutive Olympic or world titles before taking two-man silver at worlds last week in St. Moritz, Switzerland. He was dethroned in that event by countryman Johannes Lochner.

Friedrich has been hampered recently by a muscle injury from sprint training in late December. Going into worlds, Lochner had won four consecutive World Cup two-man races, while Hall won the last two World Cups in four-man.

Friedrich, 32, said before this season that he plans to make the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games his final competition. Friedrich and push athlete Thorsten Margis can break the record of four career Olympic bobsled gold medals that they currently share with retired Germans Andre Lange and Kevin Kuske.

The World Cup season concludes with stops in Igls, Austria, and Sigulda, Latvia, the next two weekends.

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