Anna Shcherbakova wins third consecutive Russia figure skating title

Anna Shcherbakova
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Anna Shcherbakova won a third consecutive Russian figure skating title, doing so as the third skater in a row to land two quadruple jumps in Saturday’s free skate.

Shcherbakova, 16, hit a quad Lutz and a quad flip to improve her lead from Friday’s short program and total 264.10 points, beating 14-year-old Kamila Valiyeva by 10.09. Full results are here.

Shcherbakova’s free skate score — 183.79 — was 17.17 points higher than the top score in history, though scores from domestic competitions (often inflated) don’t count for record purposes and the scoring system is tweaked from season to season.

Valiyeva, who is too young for March’s senior world championships but is now a 2022 Olympic medal contender, landed two quad toe loops just before Shcherbakova skated. A TV camera showed 2002 Olympic champion Aleksey Yagudin appearing to wipe away tears in a commentary position.

Aleksandra Trusova, a 16-year-old who placed third, landed a pair of quad Lutzes in Chelyabinsk.

Shcherbakova became the first Russian woman to win three consecutive national titles since Irina Slutskaya from 1999-2001. She kept Valiyeva from becoming the youngest Russian women’s champion since Adelina Sotnikova in 2010 (Sotnikova, the 2014 Olympic champion, won her first senior national title at age 12 in 2008).

Shcherbakova, Trusova and Aliona Kostornaya, who missed nationals as she returns from a positive coronavirus test, dominated skating last season as all debuted on the senior international level.

Shcherbakova and Trusova appear destined for worlds in Stockholm in March.

The third and final spot on the Russian women’s team could go to Kostornaya, the world’s top skater last season. Or the next-highest ranked, age-eligible skater from nationals — Yelizaveta Nugumanova, who placed sixth overall. Or Yelizaveta Tuktamysheva, the 2015 World champion who dropped from fifth after the short program to seventh but just .38 behind Nugumanova.

Notably absent from nationals: Olympic gold and silver medalists Alina Zagitova (indefinite break from competition) and Yevgenia Medvedeva (working her way back from weeks-long hospitalization for illness).

Earlier, Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov won their third national pairs’ title, edging European champions Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitriy Kozlovskiy by 3.24 points.

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Brigid Kosgei, world record holder, to miss London Marathon

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World record holder Brigid Kosgei withdrew before Sunday’s London Marathon due to a right hamstring injury that has bothered her for the last month.

“My training has been up and down and not the way I would like to prepare to be in top condition,” was posted on Kosgei’s social media. “We’ve decided it’s best I withdraw from this year’s race and get further treatment on my injuries in order to enter 2023 stronger than ever.”

Kosgei, a 28-year-old Kenyan mother of twins, shattered the world record by 81 seconds at the 2019 Chicago Marathon. She clocked 2:14:04 to smash Brit Paula Radcliffe‘s record from 2003.

Since, Kosgei won the 2020 London Marathon, took silver at the Tokyo Olympics, placed fourth at the 2021 London Marathon and won this past March’s Tokyo Marathon in what was then the third-fastest time in history (2:16:02).

Ethiopian Tigist Assefa moved into the top three by winning the Berlin Marathon last Sunday in 2:15:37.

The London Marathon women’s field includes Kenyan Joyciline Jepkosgei, a winner in New York City (2019) and London (2021), and Yalemzerf Yehualaw, who was the Ethiopian record holder until Assefa won in Berlin.

The men’s field is headlined by Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest male marathoner in history, and Brit Mo Farah, a four-time Olympic champion on the track.

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Dmitriy Balandin, surprise Olympic swimming champion, retires

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Dmitriy Balandin, the Kazakh swimmer who pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the 2016 Rio Olympics, retired at age 27.

“Today I would like to announce the end of my sports career,” Balandin said last week, according to Kazakhstan’s Olympic Committee. “I am still inspired. A new phase of my life begins. I have a lot of cool projects in my head that will soon be implemented.”

Balandin reportedly has coaching aspirations.

In 2016, he won the Olympic men’s 200m breaststroke out of lane eight as the last qualifier into the final. He edged American Josh Prenot by seven hundredths of a second and became Kazakhstan’s first Olympic swimming medalist.

He followed that up with 11th- and 17th-place finishes in the breaststrokes in Tokyo last year.

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