Mishina and Galliamov end Russian pairs’ gold-medal drought at debut senior worlds

ISU World Figure Skating Championships - Stockholm: Day One
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Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov did on Thursday what no Russian pairs’ team had been able to do in the previous eight years – win a world title – and they did so in their senior world championships debut.

In doing so, they became the youngest pairs’ world champions since the legendary Russians Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergey Grinkov, who won four titles from 1986-90 while Gordeeva was a teenager.

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With a total score of 227.59, the Russians outperformed two-time world champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong of China (225.71). The most decorated active pairs’ team, Sui and Han now have five world medals after claiming gold in 2017 and 2019, and silver in 2015 and 2016.

Mishina and Galliamov’s countrymates Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitry Kozlovsky, who share their ages of 19 and 21, respectively, took the bronze with a 217.63 total. Boikova and Galliamov were in first after Wednesday’s short program in Stockholm.

Mishina and Galliamov, who won the 2019 world junior title, are the first pair from once dominant Russia to win a world title since Tatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov, who ended an eight-year drought in 2013. This year, skaters are representing the Russian Skating Federation – as opposed to Russia – as the nation’s flag and anthem are barred from major international sporting events due to doping issues.

“We were really surprised to come first, I don’t know what to say at the moment – we don’t understand it yet,” Mishina said of the win.

“Indeed it was a tough season, we entered it smoothly, there were hardships and problems,” added Galliamov, who contracted COVID-19 in October.

Entering this week, Sui and Han had won all six of their competitions since taking silver at the 2018 Olympics, though they continue to work their way back from Han’s hip joint surgery last April. In what was their first competition of the season, Sui under-rotated two jumps.

“We didn’t have a lot of pressure and this [free program] makes us to improve,” Han said. “Also, we feel happy in this competition.”

Two U.S. pairs finished in the top 10 for the first time in nine years, with Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier placing seventh (192.10) in their first season together and Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc (185.31) ninth, matching their result from 2019.

Neither team performed to its ability but both did enough to secure two pairs’ spots for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, more than the U.S. had in PyeongChang four years prior when it sent one team for the first time since the inaugural Winter Games in 1924.

“The fact that three spots was a part of the conversation is a testament to the progress that we’ve made,” LeDuc said, referring to both teams’ higher placements after the short program. “We’re seeing improvement in U.S. pairs each year; the placements are getting higher and higher. … Four years from now, let’s see if we can do it.”

Knierim, who filled that lone 2018 Olympic spot with husband Chris, stepped out on both side-by-side jumps, putting her hand down on the second.

“I feel like I let down the team; I made too many mistakes,” Knierim said, adding that she did not feel like the dialed-in “Alexa I usually am when I compete,” and she was trying to find herself throughout the performance.

Cain-Gribble and LeDuc, who replaced replaced Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson on the world team a few weeks ago after the U.S. silver medalists withdrew for personal reasons unrelated to the coronavirus pandemic, each doubled an intended side-by-side triple jump.

“We’re a little bit disappointed with some things today, and at the same time we’re also very encouraged by some other things in the program,” LeDuc noted.

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Summer McIntosh, Canadian teen swimmer, caps record year with another historic time

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Summer McIntosh swam the fourth-fastest 400m individual medley in history on Friday, capping a year that already included world titles, Commonwealth Games titles and a victory over Katie Ledecky.

McIntosh, a 16-year-old Canadian whose mom swam at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, won the 400m IM in 4 minutes, 28.61 seconds at the U.S. Open in Greensboro, N.C. She prevailed by a Ledecky-like 13.24 seconds, breaking her own national record that was previously the fourth-fastest time in history.

“It’s still pretty early in the season, so I didn’t really know what to expect going into it,” she said on Peacock.

The only two women who ever went faster in the event known as the decathlon of swimming are Olympic gold medalists: Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu (world record 4:26.36 and 4:28.58) and China’s Ye Shiwen (4:28.43).

McIntosh has come a long way in a short time. Three years ago, she put all her eggs in the 1500m freestyle basket, thinking it was her best shot to merely qualify for the Tokyo Games in 2020. The one-year Olympic postponement was a blessing.

The rapidly improving McIntosh swam three individual events in Tokyo with a top finish of fourth in the 400m free, just missing becoming the youngest swimming medalist since 1996. She then told her coach she wanted to become an IMer.

At this past June’s world championships, McIntosh won two of the most grueling events — 400m IM and 200m butterfly — to become the youngest individual world champion since 2011. She also took silver to Ledecky in the 400m free, an event in which she later beat Ledecky in a short-course meet (25-meter pool rather than the 50-meter pool used for the Olympics).

A month after worlds, McIntosh swept the IMs at the Commonwealth Games, where she broke more world junior records and again took second in the 400m free (this time to Olympic champ and world record holder Ariarne Titmus of Australia).

McIntosh, who turned professional last year, now trains full-time in Sarasota, Florida, where she rents a house with her mom, Jill Horstead, who was ninth in the 200m fly at the 1984 Olympics (McIntosh, whose passions include the Kardashians and plants from Target, has seen video of her mom winning the B final at those Games). They’re a three-hour drive down Interstate 75 from Ledecky’s base in Gainesville.

Also Friday, Erin Gemmell celebrated her 18th birthday by nearly becoming the first American to beat Ledecky in a 200m freestyle in nearly nine years. Ledecky won by 42 hundredths of a second in 1:56.74 and said she had an off-day while also praising Gemmell, the daughter of her former coach.

NBC airs U.S. Open highlights on Dec. 10 at 4:30 p.m. ET.

U.S. OPEN SWIMMING: Full Results

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Kaillie Humphries begins trek to 2026 Winter Olympics with monobob World Cup win

Kaillie Humphries
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Kaillie Humphries is off to a strong start to a four-year cycle that she hopes ends with her breaking the record as the oldest female Olympic bobsledder.

Humphries, the women’s record holder with three Olympic bobsled titles, earned her first World Cup victory since February’s Winter Games, taking a monobob in Park City, Utah, on Friday.

Humphries, the first Olympic monobob champion, prevailed by .31 of a second over German Lisa Buckwitz combining times from two runs at the 2002 Olympic track.

Humphries has said since February’s Olympics that she planned to take time off in this four-year cycle to start a family, then return in time for the 2026 Milano-Cortina Winter Games. Humphries, who can become the first female Olympic bobsledder in her 40s, shared her experiences with IVF in the offseason on her social media.

“We’ve pushed pause so that I could go and compete this season, maintain my world ranking to be able to still work towards my 2026 goals, and we’ll go back in March to do the implantation of the embryos that we did retrieve,” she said, according to TeamUSA.org.

The next Games come 20 years after her first Olympic experience in Italy, which was a sad one. Humphries, then a bobsled push athlete, was part of the Canadian delegation at the 2006 Torino Games, marched at the Opening Ceremony and had her parents flown in to cheer her on.

But four days before the competition, Humphries learned she was not chosen for either of the two Canadian push athlete spots. She vowed on the flight home to put her future Olympic destiny in her own hands by becoming a driver.

She has since become the greatest female driver in history — Olympic golds in 2010, 2014 and 2022, plus five world championships.

Her longtime rival, five-time Olympic medalist Elana Meyers Taylor, plans to return to competition from her second childbirth later in this Olympic cycle and can also break the record of oldest female Olympic bobsledder.

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