Japanese stars lead NHK Trophy; Russian withdraws after bad fall

Shoma Uno
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Japanese Shoma Uno posted his highest international short program score in three years to edge American Vincent Zhou in a battle of Olympic figure skating medal contenders to open NHK Trophy on Friday.

Earlier, Japanese Kaori Sakamoto was first in the women’s short in Tokyo.

She skated after the only Russian in that field, 2020 World junior champion Daria Usacheva, withdrew after falling in warm-ups. Usacheva had flown to Japan in pain and, after the fall, was diagnosed with a fractured hip, according to Russian TV.

Later, the Russian Figure Skating Federation reported that Usacheva suffered an upper leg injury on the fall that wasn’t considered a long-term injury. A press release did not mention a hip fracture.

NHK Trophy: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Uno, the 2018 Olympic silver medalist, landed a quadruple flip and a quad toe loop-double toe combination and earned 102.58 points, breaking 100 internationally for the first time since September 2018. Uno’s short score is second in the world this season behind world champion Nathan Chen, despite the fact that he doubled the back half of a planned quad-triple combo.

Zhou, who beat Chen for the biggest title of his senior career at Skate America, improved on his short program score from three weeks ago. The 21-year-old earned 99.51 points despite a flawed triple Axel.

“After Skate America, I definitely noticed that there was more pressure, more expectation coming into this competition. I think I managed to stay in my own zone pretty well,” said Zhou, who was sixth at the 2018 Olympics and third at the 2019 World Championships before plummeting to 25th at 2021 Worlds.

On Saturday, Zhou must rally to join Chen, Johnny Weir and Todd Eldredge as the only American men to win both of their Grand Prix Series starts in one season ahead of the Grand Prix Final.

“I felt a little bit shaky,” Zhou said. “My legs were a little bit nervous. I think that reflected in the qualify in some of my spins and on the triple Axel. I definitely understand why I didn’t reach 100 points, but overall I’m pretty happy with my performance and with the score and I think it’s a good point to move forward to tomorrow.”

Two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu was to headline NHK, but he withdrew last week due to an injury to the right ankle that has sidelined him three of the last five seasons. That means that Hanyu likely will not face Chen or Zhou, the world’s top two ranked men this season, until the Olympics in February.

Sakamoto, the top Japanese woman at NHK after national champion Rika Kihira‘s injury withdrawal, skated clean with a triple flip-triple toe loop combination for 76.56 points. Another Japanese, 17-year-old Mana Kawabe, was second as one of four women to attempt a triple Axel (and the only one of those to land it clean).

Americans Alysa Liu and Amber Glenn were fourth and sixth. Liu, a two-time national champion, fell on her under-rotated triple Axel. Glenn, the 2021 U.S. silver medalist, had her triple Axel downgraded.

In the rhythm dance, world champions Viktoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov led with 86.33, edging Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates by .31 of a point. Chock and Bates are in position to make their U.S. record-tying sixth Grand Prix Final and eye their first Grand Prix Series gold in six years.

Reigning world champions Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Gallyamov topped the pairs’ short, scoring 78.40 to lead by 2.62 points over fellow Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov. Tarasova, a three-time world medalist with Morozov, fell on their side-by-side triple toe loops.

Americans Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc and Audrey Lu and Misha Mitrofanov were fourth and fifth.

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U.S., China set for FIBA Women’s World Cup gold-medal game

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SYDNEY — Breanna Stewart and the United States used a dominant defensive effort to beat Canada and reach the gold-medal game of the FIBA Women’s World Cup for the fourth consecutive tournament.

Stewart scored 17 points and the Americans raced out to an early lead to put away Canada 83-43 on Friday, reaching a Saturday gold-medal game with China. The 43 points was the fewest scored in a semifinal game in World Cup history.

“Canada has been playing really well all tournament and the goal was just to come out there and really limit them,” said U.S. forward Alyssa Thomas. “We were really locked in from the jump with our game plan.”

China edged host Australia 61-59 in the later semifinal to reach its first global championship game since the 1994 Worlds, the last time it won a medal of any color. The U.S. beat China 77-63 in group play last Saturday, the Americans’ closest game of the tournament.

“Our goal was to to win a gold medal and we’re in position to do that,” U.S. coach Cheryl Reeve said.

The U.S. (7-0), which is on a record pace for points and margin of victory in the tournament, took control of the game early scoring the first 15 points. The Americans contested every shot on the defensive end as the Canadians missed their first nine attempts from the field. On the offensive end, Stewart, A’ja Wilson and Thomas basically got any shot they wanted.

“I think after that punch, it really took the air out of them,” Thomas said. “They didn’t know what to do with their offense anymore after that.”

MORE: FIBA World Cup Schedule, Results

Laeticia Amihere, who plays at South Carolina for former U.S. coach Dawn Staley, finally got Canada on the board nearly 5 minutes into the game making a driving layup.

By the end of the quarter the U.S. led 27-7. Canada had committed four turnovers — the same number the team had against Puerto Rico in the quarterfinals which was the lowest total in a game in 30 years.

The Americans were up 45-21 at the half and the lead kept expanding in the final 20 minutes. The win was the biggest margin for the U.S. in the medal round topping the 36-point victory over Spain in the 2010 World Cup.

Canada (5-2) advanced to the medal round for the first time since 1986 and has a chance to win its first medal since taking the bronze that year.

“We didn’t get it done today, but what we’re going to do is take this with what we learned today and how we can turn it up tomorrow,” Canada captain Natalie Achonwa said. “It’s still a game for a medal and it’s just as important for us.”

The U.S. has won seven of the eight meetings with Canada in the World Cup, although the last one came in 2010. The lone victory for Canada came in 1975.

The victory was the 29th in a row in World Cup play for the Americans, who haven’t lost since the 2006 semifinals against Russia. The Soviet Union holds the World Cup record with 56 straight wins from 1959-86. This is only the second time in the Americans’ storied history they’ve reached four consecutive gold-medal contests. They also did it from 1979-90, winning three times.

This U.S. team, which has so many new faces on it, is on pace to break many of the team’s records that include scoring margin and points per game. The Americans also continued to dominate the paint even without 6-foot-8 Brittney Griner, outscoring its opponents by an average of 55-24.

Amihere led Canada with eight points.

RECORD BREAKING

The low point total broke the mark of 53 that South Korea scored against Russia in 2002.

“We’re starting to build that identity,” Wilson said of the defensive effort. “We’re quick and scrappy and I think that’s our identity.”

The U.S. is averaging 101 points a game. The team’s best mark ever coming into the tournament was 99.1 set in 1994.

STILL RECOVERING

Kahleah Copper sat out after injuring her left hip in the win over Serbia in the quarterfinals. Copper landed hard on her hip driving to the basket and had to be helped off the court. She hopes to play on Saturday. Betnijah Laney, who also got hurt in the Serbia game, did play against Canada.

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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, Results

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 85, Bosnia and Herzegovina 55 Group A
11:30 p.m. Serbia 81, Mali 68 Group B
Mon., Sept. 26 12 a.m. USA 145, South Korea 69 Group A
2 a.m. France 67, Japan 53 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 95, Puerto Rico 60 Group A
6:30 a.m. Australia 75, Canada 72 Group B
9:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 92, South Korea 73 Group A
11:30 p.m. China 81, Belgium 55 Group A
Tues., Sept. 27 12 a.m. USA 121, Bosnia and Herzegovina 59 Group A
2 a.m. Canada 88, Mali 65 Group B
3:30 a.m. Serbia 68, France 62 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 71, Japan 54 Group B
Wed., Sept. 28 10 p.m. USA 88, Serbia 55 Quarterfinals
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Canada 79, Puerto Rico 60 Quarterfinals
4 a.m. China 85, France 71 Quarterfinals
6:30 a.m. Australia 86, Belgium 69 Quarterfinals
Fri., Sept. 30 3 a.m. USA 83, Canada 43 Semifinals
5:30 a.m. China 61, Australia 59 Semifinals
11 p.m. Australia vs. Canada Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. USA vs. China Gold-Medal Game