Alexis Pinturault holds off unheralded Norwegian for GS win in Alta Badia

Alexis Pinturault
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ALTA BADIA, Italy — Alexis Pinturault held off a challenge from unheralded Norwegian skier Atle Lie McGrath to win the classic men’s World Cup giant slalom on the Gran Risa course Sunday.

After leading the first run, the Frenchman mastered the steep and technically demanding course in the Italian Alps for a second time to beat McGrath by seven hundredths.

“It was really close. It was a huge fight,” Pinturault said.

“The light was slowly going down because it started to be a little bit late. It made such a difference in the pitch. But I tried my best and pushed really hard and it paid off.”

Justin Murisier finished 0.24 seconds behind in third for the Swiss skier’s first career podium result.

Marco Odermatt and Filip Zubcic were in the top three after the opening run but dropped to fourth and 10th, respectively.

McGrath, who had not finished in the top 10 in 13 previous starts, was born in Burlington, Vermont. He is the son of Felix McGrath, a World Cup skier for the U.S. ski team in the 1980s and ’90s.

When Atle Lie was two years old, the family moved to Norway, the home country of his mother, the former cross-country skier Selma Lie.

Wearing bib 29, the 20-year-old McGrath surprised by posting the fourth fastest time in the first run, and he managed to improve on that by taking the lead in the second.

Pinturault started his final run with a buffer of 0.46 seconds over the Norwegian, but lost time at nearly every check point before narrowly holding on to his lead.

“This was really unbelievable,” McGrath said. “My goal today was to have fun. My first time skiing the Gran Risa from the top, such a nice day, the slope was beautiful. I told myself to enjoy the moment and ski as well as I can. It is so fun when you do your best and you really succeed.”

His father’s career best on the World Cup was coming runner-up at a slalom in Are, Sweden in March 1988.

“His best result was second place, so I tied him today. My goal now is to beat him,” McGrath said.

Pinturault gathered 15 of his 31 career World Cup wins in GS, but Sunday’s result marked his first podium in the discipline this season.

The four races so far had four different winners, with Lucas Braathen, Zubcic, and Odermatt triumphing in the previous races.

Braathen, a 20-year-old teammate of McGrath’s, finished 18th.

The result put Pinturault level with Italian great Alberto Tomba, who was attending the race, in fifth on the all-time GS winners list.

“That’s incredible, that’s special. I am very satisfied that I can have 15 wins in GS. This discipline is the most important for me,” Pinturault said.

Among active skiers, only American Ted Ligety has more GS wins with 24.

The win saw Pinturault return to the top of the overall standings, one point clear of defending overall champion Aleksander Aamodt Kilde.

Pinturault lost his lead in the rankings to Kilde after the Norwegian posted back-to-back wins in speed races in nearby Val Gardena on Friday and Saturday.

Pinturault trailed Kilde by 54 points last season, when the remaining six races were canceled because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The men’s World Cup remains in Italy for slaloms in Alta Badia on Monday and Madonna di Campiglio on Tuesday. A full TV and live stream schedule is here.

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Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier win U.S. figure skating pairs’ title in possible final nationals

Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier
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Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier haven’t decided if they’ll compete beyond this season, so Saturday may have been their farewell to the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

If so, they went out as dominant winners, the first pair in their 30s to win nationals in more than 50 years.

Knierim, 31, and Frazier, 30, took their second U.S. title together, totaling 227.97 points to prevail by 31.11 over Emily Chan and Spencer Howe. They led by a gaping 15.1 points after Thursday’s short.

Knierim and Frazier were solid after errors on their opening jumping combination in Saturday’s free skate. They broke their own pairs’ margin of victory record from the 2021 U.S. Championships under a scoring system implemented in 2006. Knierim appeared to wipe away tears backstage.

“As I get older, the longer I’m in this sport, the more gratitude I have for it,” Knierim, the oldest woman to win a U.S. figure skating title since 1995 (Renée Roca), said on USA Network. “After that music ended, I’m just thankful that Brandon’s by my side and I’m able to do what I love.”

Ellie Kam and Danny O’Shea bagged bronze to likely round out the three-pair team for March’s world championships.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Scores | Broadcast Schedule

Knierim and Frazier considered retiring after last season, after they missed nationals due to Frazier’s COVID-19, petitioned onto the Olympic team and posted the best Olympic finish for a U.S. pair (sixth) in 20 years.

They then became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979, beating a field that didn’t include any of the top five from the Olympics.

They returned in part to compete as world champions and rank second in the world this season (during which the top Olympic pairs also haven’t competed). They will likely go into March’s worlds in Japan as underdogs to Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara, who won their lone head-to-head this past fall at the Grand Prix Final.

Back in October, Knierim said this will probably be their last season competing together, though the pair also thought they were done last spring. They don’t expect to make a final decision until after a Stars on Ice tour this spring.

“This U.S. Championships for us was extra special because you’re just reflecting on the journey, and you know that there’s a good chance that this will be your last one,” Frazier said.

Knierim won her fifth U.S. title, tying the record for a pairs’ skater since World War II, joining Kyoka InaTai BabiloniaRandy GardnerKarol Kennedy and Peter Kennedy. Knierim’s first three titles, and her first Olympics in 2018, were with husband Chris, who retired in 2020.

Silver medalists Chan and Howe continued their recent surge. After placing fourth at last season’s nationals, they rank sixth in the world this season. That’s despite summer injuries that left them unable to practice lifts (his shoulder) and throws (her foot) for a while.

Kam, 18, and O’Shea, 31, made the podium four months after becoming a pair and less than two months after a car Kim was riding in was hit by a drunk driver while crossing an intersection. The car was totaled, but Kim and O’Shea still competed days later in Croatia.

O’Shea won the 2016 U.S. title with Tarah Kayne, retired after they split in late 2020, then came back in 2021 with Chelsea Liu. They ranked sixth in the U.S. going into 2022 Nationals, but withdrew beforehand due to concussions both suffered in a November competition fall, according to Figure Skaters Online.

NBC Sports’ Sarah Hughes (not the figure skater) contributed to this report.

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2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships scores, results

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Full scores and results from the 2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in San Jose …

Women
Gold: Isabeau Levito — 223.33
Silver: Bradie Tennell — 213.12
Bronze: Amber Glenn — 207.44
4. Starr Andrews — 188.24
5. Josephine Lee — 187.68
6. Lindsay Thorngren — 187.19
7. Clare Seo — 175.60
8. Gracie Gold — 173.98
9. Ava Ziegler — 167.70
10. Sonja Hilmer — 166.49
11. Gabriella Izzo — 166.40
12. Ting Cui — 161.27
13. Audrey Shin — 161.12
14. Lindsay Wang — 154.91
15. Michelle Lee — 145.28
16. Elsa Cheng — 138.13
17. Alexa Gasparotto — 129.41
WD. Hanna Harrell

Men’s Short Program
1. Ilia Malinin — 110.36
2. Jason Brown — 100.25
3. Tomoki Hiwatashi — 85.43
4. Liam Kapeikis — 82.27
5. Andrew Torgashev — 78.78
6. Maxim Naumov — 77.71
7. Jimmy Ma — 73.88
8. Goku Endo — 73.45
9. Samuel Mindra — 71.36
10. Yaroslav Paniot — 70.87
11. Camden Pulkinen — 69.47
12. Matthew Nielsen — 67.98
13. Joonsoo Kim — 67.45
14. Daniel Martynov — 64.04
15. Will Annis — 63.46
16. Dinh Tran — 60.63
17. Mitchell Friess — 59.14
18. Joseph Klein — 58.38

Pairs
Gold: Alexa Knierim/Brandon Frazier — 227.97
Silver: Emily Chan/Spencer Howe — 196.86

Bronze: Ellie Kam/Danny O’Shea — 184.01
4. Sonia Baram/Danil Tioumentsev —- 179.08
5. Valentina Plazas/Maximiliano Fernandez — 176.34
6. Katie McBeath/Nathan Bartholomay —- 172.74
7. Maria Mokhova/Ivan Mokhov —- 148.84
8. Nica Digerness/Mark Sadusky — 137.98
9. Grace Hanns / Danny Neudecker — 135.30
10. Nina Ouellette/Rique Newby-Estrella — 132.07
11. Linzy Fitzpatrick/Keyton Bearinger — 129.80

Ice Dance
Gold: Madison Chock/Evan Bates — 229.75
Silver: Caroline Green/Michael Parsons — 207.46
Bronze: Christina Carreira/Anthony Ponomarenko — 198.45
4. Emilea Zingas/Vadym Kolesnik — 198.13
5. Emily Bratti/Ian Somerville — 189.84
6. Lorraine McNamara/Anton Spiridonov — 189.15
7. Katarina Wolfkostin/Jeffrey Chen — 183.05
8. Eva Pate/Logan Bye — 182.61
9. Oona Brown/Gage Brown — 181.89
10. Isabella Flores/Ivan Desyatov — 177.31
11. Angela Ling/Caleb Wein — 167.87
12. Leah Krauskopf/YuanShi Jin — 133.93
13. Cara Murphy/Joshua Levitt — 129.85
14. Caroline Depietri/TJ Carey — 123.40
WD. Raffaella Koncius/Alexey Shchepetov

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Broadcast Schedule | New Era for U.S.

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