Mariah Bell tops Skate America short program, eyes biggest win of career

Mariah Bell
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Wearing her free skate costume, Mariah Bell topped the short program at a Skate America like no other with a clean performance in front of no ticketed spectators at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas on Friday.

Bell, 24, landed a double Axel, triple flip-triple toe loop combination and a triple Lutz for 76.48 points in front of cardboard cutouts of fans.

“I kind of had to go back to revert to what it’s like to practice,” Bell, whose short program dress didn’t fit well, said on NBCSN. “We could hear clapping and stuff, but you look up, and the stands are completely empty.”

She edged 2018 U.S. Olympian and national champion Bradie Tennell by 3.19 points. Tennell had the back half of her triple Lutz-triple toe combination called under-rotated.

Audrey Shin, the 16-year-old, 2019 U.S. junior silver medalist who failed to qualify for last season’s senior nationals, is a surprising third at 69.77.

Two-time reigning U.S. champion Alysa Liu, 15, is too young for Skate America, but will be old enough next year in the Olympic season.

Skate America continues later Friday with the men’s and pairs’ short programs and the rhythm dance. The free skates are Saturday.

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Bell is looking to notch the biggest win of her career. She broke through at Skate America four years ago with a silver medal, was a 2018 Olympic alternate and, back in January, took silver at the U.S. Championships.

“I had a lot of great momentum coming off of last year,” said Bell, who added former training partner Adam Rippon to her coaching team in the last year. “I truly feel like I’m just coming into my prime.”

Gracie Gold, a two-time U.S. champion who was fourth at the 2014 Olympics and is on the comeback trail, was 12th of 12 skaters with 46.36 points.

Gold struggled on jumps, unable to complete any triples. She left figure skating before the 2018 Olympic season to receive treatment for an eating disorder, depression and anxiety.

Gold, 12th at January’s nationals with similar jump problems, rated her short “zero stars on Tripadvisor, would not do again.”

“I didn’t bring any energy out onto the ice,” she said. “Just really nervous.”

Gold also lamented her Las Vegas bubble experience amid the coronavirus pandemic. Like in other sports, accredited personnel are spending a vast majority of their time at the hotel or the competition venue.

“It kind of reminds me of when I was clinically depressed,” she said.

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Eliud Kipchoge, two races shy of his target, to make Boston Marathon debut

Eliud Kipchoge Berlin Marathon

World record holder Eliud Kipchoge will race the Boston Marathon for the first time on April 17.

Kipchoge, who at September’s Berlin Marathon lowered his world record by 30 seconds to 2:01:09, has won four of the six annual major marathons — Berlin, Tokyo, London and Chicago.

The 38-year-old Kenyan has never raced Boston, the world’s oldest annual marathon dating to 1897, nor New York City but has repeated in recent years a desire to enter both of them.

Typically, he has run the London Marathon in the spring and the Berlin Marathon in the fall.

Kipchoge’s last race in the U.S. was the 2014 Chicago Marathon, his second of 10 consecutive marathon victories from 2014 through 2019.

He can become the first reigning men’s marathon world record holder to finish the Boston Marathon since South Korean Suh Yun-Bok set a world record of 2:25:39 in Boston in 1947, according to the Boston Athletic Association.

In 2024 in Paris, Kipchoge is expected to race the Olympic marathon and bid to become the first person to win three gold medals in that event.

The Boston Marathon field also includes arguably the second- and third-best men in the world right now — Kipchoge’s Kenyan training partners Evans Chebet and Benson Kipruto. Chebet won Boston and New York City this year. Kipruto won Boston last year and Chicago this year.

American Des Linden, who won Boston in 2018, headlines the women’s field.

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2024 Tour de France to end with Nice time trial due to Paris Olympics

2024 Tour de France Nice

The 2024 Tour de France will end on the French Riviera instead of the French capital because of the Paris Olympics.

The finish of cycling’s marquee race leaves Paris for the first time since 1905.

Tour organizers said on Thursday the last stage of its 111th race will take place in the Mediterranean resort of Nice on July 21. Five days later, Paris opens the Olympics.

Because of security and logistical reasons, the French capital won’t have its traditional Tour finish on the Champs-Elysees. Parting with tradition of a sprint on the Champs-Elysees, the last stage will be an individual time trial along Nice’s famed Promenade des Anglais.

The start of the 2024 race, which will begin for the first time in Italy, was brought forward by one week, a customary change during an Olympic year. The Tour will start on June 29 in Florence.

Nice has hosted the Tour 37 times, including its start twice, in 1981 and in 2020. Two years ago, the start was delayed until Aug. 29 due to lockdowns and travels bans during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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