Russians Sinitsina, Katsalapov take early lead over U.S. teams in race for first ice dance world title


With the absence of four-time world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France, ice dance was the only discipline at the 2021 ISU World Figure Skating Championships guaranteed to crown a new world champion.

Viktoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov, representing the Russian Skating Federation this year, lead two U.S. teams in the tightly contested battle for gold midway through the competition, scoring 88.15 points for their “Singin’ in the Rain” rhythm dance on Friday.

After taking the silver medal at the last world championships in 2019, Sinitsina and Katsalapov are on their way to earning the first ice dance world title for Russia since 2009.

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“We are very, very happy just to be here,” Sinitsina said. “We waited very long time for this. We’ve been going through it, and we are so happy to be here and compete against all the other guys. … We are thrilled with the work we did today and before the competition, so we feel great. We skated with our soul and we enjoyed it.”

Worlds is the first competition for the 2020 European champions since both skaters contracted COVID-19 in December.

Challenging them are Americans Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, and Madison Chock and Evan Bates. Both teams have earned silver and bronze medals at past world championships, but this year could become the first U.S. world champions since Meryl Davis and Charlie White in 2013.

“We definitely want to win the gold,” three-time Olympian Bates said. “We think the work that we put in and the training that we’ve done has prepared us really well for this event. We’re as strong as we’ve ever been, and we’re feeling confident. We have great programs, and we just love to skate. I think that really comes across when we’re performing. Today it certainly did, and we’ll try to do the same tomorrow, but the goal is to win the gold.”

Hubbell and Donohue’s “Burlesque” program earned 86.05 points – a new IJS personal best for the team, while Chock and Bates’ “Too Darn Hot” performance, which they kept from the 2019-2020 season, was less than one point behind with 85.15.

“That program had been a little bit harder than the free dance to find our groove, and we felt like this week we really were able to perform it and find our strengths,” Hubbell reflected. “We’re enjoying this little high that comes out of a good performance, and then we’ll focus later tonight on the free dance.”

Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, three-time U.S. bronze medalists, sit in 11th with 75.08 points.

The top two U.S. teams have been neck and neck domestically throughout this Olympic cycle, with Hubbell and Donohue typically leading the way, though Chock and Bates came on strong last season, winning both the U.S. and Four Continents titles.

Both will show off standout free dances on Saturday to close out worlds, with Hubbell and Donohue’s “Hallelujah” performance and Chock and Bates’ “The Snake and the Snake Charmer,” also a reprise from last season.

“Especially when we haven’t competed against most of these teams since the [Grand Prix] Final last year, since December [2019], we’ve spoken a lot this week about we can’t know whether our best is enough to win,” Hubbell said. “You just don’t know. You don’t know the panel [of judges], you don’t know what could happen. We could skate well tomorrow and come second, we could skate okay tomorrow and win. We won’t know when we step out on the ice what it will take. We’re just going to show our best… I want to win, I hope tomorrow we’re standing on the top of the podium. That’s what our goal is.”

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Germany goes 1-2 at bobsled worlds; Kaillie Humphries breaks medals record

Kim Kalicki

Kim Kalicki and Lisa Buckwitz gave Germany a one-two in the world bobsled championships two-woman event, while American Kaillie Humphries earned bronze to break the career medals record.

Kalicki, who was fourth at last year’s Olympics and leads this season’s World Cup standings, edged Buckwitz by five hundredths of a second combining times from four runs over the last two days in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Humphries, with push athlete Kaysha Love, was 51 hundredths behind.

Olympic champion Laura Nolte was in third place after two runs but crashed in the third run.

Humphries, 37 and a three-time Olympic champion between two-woman and monobob, earned her eighth world championships medal in the two-woman event. That broke her tie for the record of seven with retired German Sandra Kiriasis. Humphries is also the most decorated woman in world championships monobob, taking gold and silver in the two times it has been contested.

Humphries rolled her ankle after the first day of last week’s monobob, plus took months off training in the offseason while also doing two rounds of IVF.

“I chose to continue the IVF journey through the season which included a Lupron Depot shot the day before this race began,” she posted after her monobob silver last weekend. “My weight and body fluctuating all year with hormones, it was a battle to find my normal while competing again. I’m happy with this result, I came into it wanting a podium and we achieved it as a team.”

Love, who was seventh with Humphries in the Olympic two-woman event, began her transition to become a driver after the Games.

Worlds finish Sunday with the final two runs of the four-man event.

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Snowboarders sue coach, USOPC in assault, harassment case

LG Snowboard-Cross FIS World Cup

Olympic bronze medalist Rosey Fletcher has filed a lawsuit accusing former snowboard coach Peter Foley of sexually assaulting, harassing and intimidating members of his team for years, while the organizations overseeing the team did nothing to stop it.

Fletcher is a plaintiff in one of two lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Thursday. One names Foley, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, the U.S. Ski & Snowboard team and its former CEO, Tiger Shaw, as defendants. Another, filed by a former employee of USSS, names Foley, Shaw and the ski federation as defendants.

One of the lawsuits, which also accuse the defendants of sex trafficking, harassment, and covering up repeated acts of sexual assault and misconduct, allege Foley snuck into bed and sexually assaulted Fletcher, then shortly after she won her bronze medal at the 2006 Olympics, approached her “and said he still remembered ‘how she was breathing,’ referring to the first time he assaulted her.”

The lawsuits describe Foley as fostering a depraved travel squad of snowboarders, in which male coaches shared beds with female athletes, crude jokes about sexual conquests were frequently shared and coaches frequently commented to the female athletes about their weight and body types.

“Male coaches, including Foley, would slap female athletes’ butts when they finished their races, even though the coaches would not similarly slap the butts of male athletes,” the lawsuit said. “Physical assault did not stop with slapping butts. Notably, a female athlete once spilled barbeque sauce on her chest while eating and a male coach approached her and licked it off her chest without warning or her consent.”

The USOPC and USSS knew of Foley’s behavior but did nothing to stop it, the lawsuit said. It depicted Foley as an all-powerful coach who could make and break athletes’ careers on the basis of how they got along off the mountain.

Foley’s attorney, Howard Jacobs, did not immediately return requests for comment from The Associated Press. Jacobs has previously said allegations of sexual misconduct against Foley are false.

In a statement, the USOPC said it had not seen the complaint and couldn’t comment on specific details but that “we take every allegation of abuse very seriously.”

“The USOPC is committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Team USA athletes, and we are taking every step to identify, report, and eliminate abuse in our community,” the statement said.

It wasn’t until the Olympics in Beijing last year that allegations about Foley’s behavior and the culture on the snowboarding team started to emerge.

Allegations posted on Instagram by former team member Callan Chythlook-Sifsof — who, along with former team member Erin O’Malley, is a plaintiff along with Fletcher — led to Foley’s removal from the team, which he was still coaching when the games began.

That posting triggered more allegations in reporting by ESPN and spawned an AP report about how the case was handled between USSS and the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which is ultimately responsible for investigating cases involving sex abuse in Olympic sports. The center has had Foley on temporary suspension since March 18, 2022.

The AP typically does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault unless they have granted permission or spoken publicly, as Fletcher, Chythlook-Sifsof and O’Malley have done through a lawyer.

USSS said it was made aware of the allegations against Foley on Feb 6, 2022, and reported them to the SafeSport center.

“We are aware of the lawsuits that were filed,” USSS said in a statement. “U.S. Ski & Snowboard has not yet been served with the complaint nor has had an opportunity to fully review it. U.S. Ski & Snowboard is and will remain an organization that prioritizes the safety, health and well-being of its athletes and staff.”

The lawsuits seek unspecified damages to be determined in a jury trial.