Gracie Gold’s progress stalled again after poor short program at U.S. Championships

ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating - Skate America
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With her characteristic and often searing honesty, Gracie Gold had minced no words in evaluating her dismayingly poor performances at Skate America in October.

“Terrible today and yesterday,” Gold said after finishing dead last of 12 competitors in both the short program and free skate, with the lowest free skate and overall scores of her eight years in senior competition.

“We have to salvage what we can from the wreckage,” she said. “I’m a little worse off than I thought.”

And the two-time U.S. champion had to reassemble herself in barely a month for what became a virtual qualifying competition to earn a place for this week’s U.S. Championships.

She made it to nationals but wound up feeling the same way after Thursday’s short program as she had at Skate America.

“It was pretty terrible. There’s not much else to say,” Gold said.

None of her three jumping passes was clean, and she fell on the final one. Gold wound up 12th with 53.88 points.

She thought the Skate America debacle was behind her. But this was another unexpected new setback for Gold, whose comeback from depression and eating disorders looked on track after her solid free skate at the 2020 U.S. Championships produced an outpouring of emotion and a standing ovation from an empathetic crowd in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Her 12th-place finish there was irrelevant. Her courage in getting back in the spotlight and then handling it was what counted. Unsure of her future before the event, she left motivated to keep competing for at least another season.

Gold was so motivated, in fact, that she wound up pushing herself too hard to make up for time lost after her rink near Philadelphia had closed for a couple months in the spring because of pandemic restrictions.

“I struggled with the feeling of that if there was (available) ice, I needed to skate on it,” she said. “In the summer, I put in huge hours, and when stuff started to go a little bit south, I never stepped back and analyzed the situation. I was just like, `We need to do more. Push through it. Do more, more, more, more.’

“In September and October, around Skate America, what I needed to do was not that. It just continued to make the problem worse. And then, surprise, when I came to compete, I was in shambles mentally and physically.”

She pressed on despite boot problems and blade problems and consequent pain in her right leg, which she learned was caused by an alignment issue in her right hip. The solution was both new equipment and a lot of physical therapy – and continuing the therapy even after the leg began to feel better, rejecting her past tendency of stopping when she felt, “Oh, I’m fixed.”

In an effort to prevent further training excesses, Gold and her coaching team created a rigid schedule between Skate America and the filming of her qualifying event free skate a little more than a month later. They specified things like how many elements she needed to do, how many run-throughs.

Gold said she found the 2021 qualifying event, known as the U.S. Championship Series, less harrowing than what she had gone through in regional and sectional qualifying for 2020 nationals after basically two seasons away from competition.

“I probably should have been more concerned and stressed than I was,” she said. “But as soon as I got the new skates, everything kind of came back together.”

Nine of the 18 spots in the 2021 women’s field were to come from the qualifying event. Gold scraped her way in with the seventh best score, 25 points higher than her free skate score at Skate America. At 25, she is the oldest skater in a women’s field reduced to 17 when Paige Rydberg withdrew following a positive COVID-19 test.

In her final weeks of preparation, Gold was left doing visual training when her rink closed from just before Christmas until Jan. 4. She will be happy to come away from this U.S. Championships having enjoyed the experience. She said no matter what happens, she “absolutely” will keep going for another season.

“I feel better here already,” she said. “I want to enjoy, despite everything, how much progress I ultimately have made and just try to have an even better long program than I did in qualifying to continue those building blocks. So nothing mind-blowing, just a simple, solid competition.”

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at the last 11 Olympic Winter Games, is a special contributor to NBCSports.com/figure-skating.

Eliud Kipchoge breaks marathon world record in Berlin

Eliud Kipchoge Berlin Marathon
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Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge broke his own world record in winning the Berlin Marathon, clocking 2:01:09 to lower the previous record time of 2:01:39 he set in the German capital in 2018.

Kipchoge, 37 and a two-time Olympic champion, earned his 15th win in 17 career marathons to bolster his claim as the greatest runner in history over 26.2 miles.

His pacing was not ideal. Kipchoge slowed in the final miles, running 61:18 for the second half after going out in an unprecedented 59:51 for the first 13.1 miles. He still won by 4:49 over Kenyan Mark Korir.

“I was planning to go through it [the halfway mark] 60:50, 60:40,” Kipchoge said. “My legs were running actually very fast. I thought, let me just try to run two hours flat, but all in all, I am happy with the performance.

“We went too fast [in the first half]. It takes energy from the muscles. … There’s still more in my legs [to possibly lower the record again].”

MORE: Berlin Marathon Results

Ethiopian Tigist Assefa won the women’s race in 2:15:37, the third-fastest time in history for somebody who ran one prior marathon in 2:34:01. Only Brigid Kosgei (2:14:14 in Chicago in 2019) and Paula Radcliffe (2:15:25 in London in 2003) have gone faster.

American record holder Keira D’Amato, who entered as the top seed, was sixth in 2:21:48. D’Amato, who went nearly a decade between competitive races after college, owns the American record of 2:19:12 and now also the 10th-best time in U.S. history.

“Today wasn’t my best day ever, but it was the best I could do today,” she said in a text message, according to Race Results Weekly, adding that she briefly stopped and walked late in the race.

The last eight instances the men’s marathon world record has been broken, it has come on the pancake-flat roads of Berlin. It began in 2003, when Kenyan Paul Tergat became the first man to break 2:05.

The world record was 2:02:57 — set by Kenyan Dennis Kimetto in 2014 — until Kipchoge broke it for the first time four years ago.

The following year, Kipchoge became the first person to cover 26.2 miles in under two hours, clocking 1:59:40 in a non-record-eligible showcase rather than a race.

Kipchoge’s focus going forward is trying to become the first runner to win three Olympic marathon titles in Paris in 2024. He also wants to win all six annual World Marathon Majors. He’s checked off four of them, only missing Boston (run in April) and New York City (run every November).

Kipchoge grew up on a farm in Kapsabet in Kenya’s Rift Valley, often hauling by bike several gallons of the family’s milk to sell at the local market. Raised by a nursery school teacher, he ran more than three miles to and from school. He saved for five months to get his first pair of running shoes.

At 18, he upset legends Hicham El Guerrouj and Kenenisa Bekele to win the 2003 World 5000m title on the track. He won Olympic 5000m medals (bronze in 2004 and silver in 2008), then moved to the marathon after failing to make the 2012 Olympic team on the track.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

FIBA Women's World Cup
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The U.S. goes for its fourth consecutive title at the FIBA World Cup in Sydney — and eighth global gold in a row overall when including the Olympics.

A’ja Wilson, a two-time WNBA MVP, and Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP, headline a U.S. roster that, for the first time since 2000, includes neither Sue Bird (retired) nor Diana Taurasi (injured).

The new-look team includes nobody over the age of 30 for the first time since 1994, before the U.S. began its dynasty at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The Americans have won 52 consecutive games between worlds and the Olympics dating to the 2006 Worlds bronze-medal game.

The field also includes host Australia, the U.S.’ former primary rival, and Olympic silver medalist Japan.

Nigeria, which played the U.S. the closest of any foe in Tokyo (losing by nine points), isn’t present after its federation withdrew the team over governance issues. Spain, ranked second in the world, failed to qualify.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup Schedule

Date Time (ET) Game Round
Wed., Sept. 21 8:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 82, Bosnia and Herzegovina 58 Group A
9:30 p.m. USA 87, Belgium 72 Group A
11 p.m. Canada 67, Serbia 60 Group B
Thurs., Sept. 22 12 a.m. Japan 89, Mali 56 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 107, South Korea 44 Group A
6:30 a.m. France 70, Australia 57 Group B
8:30 p.m. USA 106, Puerto Rico 42 Group A
10 p.m. Serbia 69, Japan 64 Group B
11 p.m. Belgium 84, South Korea 61 Group A
Fri., Sept. 23 12:30 a.m. China 98, Bosnia and Herzegovina 51 Group A
4 a.m. Canada 59, France 45 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 118, Mali 58 Group B
Sat., Sept. 24 12:30 a.m. USA 77, China 63 Group A
4 a.m. South Korea 99, Bosnia and Herzegovina 66 Group A
6:30 a.m. Belgium 68, Puerto Rico 65 Group A
Sun., Sept. 25 12:30 a.m. France 74, Mali 59 Group B
4 a.m. Australia 69, Serbia 54 Group B
6:30 a.m. Canada 70, Japan 56 Group B
9:30 p.m. Belgium vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina Group A
11:30 p.m. Mali vs. Serbia Group B
Mon., Sept. 26 12 a.m. USA vs. South Korea Group A
2 a.m. France vs. Japan Group B
3:30 a.m. China vs. Puerto Rico Group A
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Canada Group B
9:30 p.m. Puerto Rico vs. South Korea Group A
11:30 p.m. Belgium vs. China Group A
Tues., Sept. 27 12 a.m. USA vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina Group A
2 a.m. Canada vs. Mali Group B
3:30 a.m. France vs. Serbia Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Japan Group B
Wed., Sept. 28 10 p.m. Quarterfinal
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Quarterfinal
4 a.m. Quarterfinal
6:30 a.m. Quarterfinal
Fri., Sept. 30 3 .m. Semifinal
5:30 a.m. Semifinal
11 p.m. Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. Final