Russians putting a world of hurt on women’s singles rivals

ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating - Skate America
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This is what the rest of the women’s singles skaters in the world are up against.

(“The rest” means everyone who is not competing for Russia.)

Mother Russia sent three of her talented daughters to Las Vegas for Skate America, the first event of the Grand Prix Series in this Olympic season.

Only one, Aleksandra Trusova, was among the three Russian women who had swept the podium at last season’s World Championships, a feat in women’s singles previously pulled off by only a U.S. trio in 1991.

And Trusova came to Vegas with a foot injury that sparked talk she might withdraw.

And her two singles compatriots at Skate America, Daria Usacheva and Kseniia Sinitsyna, each was making her senior Grand Prix debut.

Yet they swept the top three places in Saturday’s short program, with all three recording personal bests: Trusova, 17, the reigning world bronze medalist, at 77.69; Usacheva, 15, at 76.71; and Sinitsina, 17, at 71.51.

And it would not be surprising to see Russian podium hegemony after Sunday’s free skate, even if Kaori Sakamoto of Japan (71.16), You Young of South Korea (70.73) and Kim Yelim of South Korea (70.56) are close behind.

Nor would it be surprising to see similar Russian dominance at the remaining five Grand Prix events and the Grand Prix Final…and the Olympics.

After all, the 2021 world champion, Anna Shcherbakova, the silver medalist, Yelizaveta Tuktamysheva, the 15-year-old phenom (and Olympic gold contender), Kamila Valiyeva, and several others who could be the best woman in any other country in the world are yet to come on the Grand Prix.

So you can only imagine how tough the battle will be for Russia’s three women’s singles spots at the 2022 Winter Olympics.

“The competition is always very good,” Trusova said. “We have many great girls in Russia.”

That is why Trusova was disappointed the foot injury prevented her from trying a triple axel. It is a jump she has yet to land cleanly but one she feels might be necessary in the fierce competition for one of those spots and for the Olympic title.

“When I was skating, I didn’t feel (the injury),” Trusova said. “But I am not in the best shape I can be.”

Even without it, she beat her previous personal best short program score by nearly three points, thanks to her highest component scores ever.

Trusova’s big advantage is the points she can pile up with her quadruple jumps in the free skate. She has commanded the title of Quad Queen since landing her first in 2018 and going on to do up to five in a free skate, landing all five cleanly at a Russian test event in September. Trusova declined to comment on how many she might launch Sunday.

“What she does is incredibly exciting and amazing,” said three-time world champion Nathan Chen of the United States, who also has landed five clean quads in a free skate.

“A lot of what she does is better than what I can do. I’m glad I don’t have to compete against her.”

Women are not yet allowed to do quads in the short program, which makes the triple axel more significant in that phase of the competition.

Usacheva, fourth at the Russian Championships last year, skated with a fluidity and maturity that belied her age and her Grand Prix debutante status.

“I’m pleased I was able to skate with emotion,” Usacheva said.

Two U.S. women who have lost preparation time to foot injuries, Amber Glenn (67.57) and Audrey Shinn (62.82), were seventh and ninth in the 12-skater field.

Glenn also hoped to try a triple axel but a hard fall on the jump at Finlandia Trophy earlier this month has made her choose discretion at this point in the season. She knows her all-or-nothing approach to the jump, refusing to reduce it to a double or single once she commits to an attempt, carries considerable risk.

“When it’s not rotated all the way and you fall, it hurts,” Glenn said.

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at the last 11 Winter Olympics, is a special contributor to

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At the French Open, a Ukrainian mom makes her comeback

Elina Svitolina French Open

Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina, once the world’s third-ranked tennis player, is into the French Open third round in her first major tournament since childbirth.

Svitolina, 28, swept 2022 French Open semifinalist Martina Trevisan of Italy, then beat Australian qualifier Storm Hunter 2-6, 6-3, 6-1 to reach the last 32 at Roland Garros. She next plays 56th-ranked Russian Anna Blinkova, who took out the top French player, fifth seed Caroline Garcia, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 on her ninth match point.

Svitolina’s husband, French player Gael Monfils, finished his first-round five-set win after midnight on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. She watched that match on a computer before going to sleep ahead of her 11 a.m. start Wednesday.

“This morning, he told me, ‘I’m coming to your match, so make it worth it,'” she joked on Tennis Channel. “I was like, OK, no pressure.

“I don’t know what he’s doing here now. He should be resting.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

Svitolina made at least one major quarterfinal every year from 2017 through 2021, including the semifinals at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 2019. She married Monfils one week before the Tokyo Olympics, then won a singles bronze medal.

Svitolina played her last match before maternity leave on March 24, 2022, one month after Russia invaded her country. She gave birth to daughter Skai on Oct. 15.

Svitolina returned to competition in April. Last week, she won the tournament preceding the French Open, sweeping Blinkova to improve to 17-3 in her career in finals. She’s playing on a protected ranking of 27th after her year absence and, now, on a seven-match win streak.

“It was always in my head the plan to come back, but I didn’t put any pressure on myself, because obviously with the war going on, with the pregnancy, you never know how complicated it will go,” she said. “I’m as strong as I was before, maybe even stronger, because I feel that I can handle the work that I do off the court, and match by match I’m getting better. Also mentally, because mental can influence your physicality, as well.”

Svitolina said she’s motivated by goals to attain before she retires from the sport and to help Ukraine, such as donating her prize money from last week’s title in Strasbourg.

“These moments bring joy to people of Ukraine, to the kids as well, the kids who loved to play tennis before the war, and now maybe they don’t have the opportunity,” she said. “But these moments that can motivate them to look on the bright side and see these good moments and enjoy themselves as much as they can in this horrible situation.”

Svitolina was born in Odesa and has lived in Kharkiv, two cities that have been attacked by Russia.

“I talk a lot with my friends, with my family back in Ukraine, and it’s a horrible thing, but they are used to it now,” she said. “They are used to the alarms that are on. As soon as they hear something, they go to the bomb shelters. Sleepless nights. You know, it’s a terrible thing, but they tell me that now it’s a part of their life, which is very, very sad.”

Svitolina noted that she plays with a flag next to her name — unlike the Russians and Belarusians, who are allowed to play as neutral athletes.

“When I step on the court, I just try to think about the fighting spirit that all of us Ukrainians have and how Ukrainians are fighting for their values, for their freedom in Ukraine,” she said, “and me, I’m fighting here on my own front line.”

Svitolina said that she’s noticed “a lot of rubbish” concerning how tennis is reacting to the war.

“We have to focus on what the main point of what is going on,” she said. “Ukrainian people need help and need support. We are focusing on so many things like empty words, empty things that are not helping the situation, not helping anything.

“I want to invite everyone to focus on helping Ukrainians. That’s the main point of this, to help kids, to help women who lost their husbands because they are at the war, and they are fighting for Ukraine.

“You can donate. Couple of dollars might help and save lives. Or donate your time to something to help people.”

Also Wednesday, 108th-ranked Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis ousted three-time major champion Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-3 in four and a half hours. Wawrinka’s exit leaves Novak Djokovic as the lone man in the draw who has won the French Open and Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz as the lone men left who have won any major.

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Marcell Jacobs still sidelined, misses another race with Fred Kerley

Marcell Jacobs

Olympic 100m champion Marcell Jacobs of Italy will miss another scheduled clash with world 100m champion Fred Kerley, withdrawing from Friday’s Diamond League meet in Florence.

Jacobs, 28, has not recovered from the nerve pain that forced him out of last Sunday’s Diamond League meet in Rabat, Morocco, according to Italy’s track and field federation.

In his absence, Kerley’s top competition will be fellow American Trayvon Bromell, the world bronze medalist, and Kenyan Ferdinand Omanyala, the world’s fastest man this year at 9.84 seconds. Kerley beat both of them in Rabat.

The Florence Diamond League airs live on Peacock on Friday from 2-4 p.m. ET.

Jacobs has withdrawn from six scheduled head-to-heads with Kerley dating to May 2022 due to a series of health issues since that surprise gold in Tokyo.

Kerley, primarily a 400m sprinter until the Tokyo Olympic year, became the world’s fastest man in Jacobs’ absence. He ran a personal best 9.76 seconds, the world’s best time of 2022, at last June’s USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships. Then he led a U.S. sweep of the medals at July’s worlds.

Jacobs’ next scheduled race is a 100m at the Paris Diamond League on June 9. Kerley is not in that field, but world 200m champion Noah Lyles is.

The last time the reigning Olympic and world men’s 100m champions met in a 100m was the 2012 London Olympic final between Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake. From 2013 to 2017, Bolt held both titles, then retired in 2017 while remaining reigning Olympic champion until Jacobs’ win in Tokyo, where Kerley took silver.

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