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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Summer McIntosh breaks 400m individual medley world record, extends historic week

Summer McIntosh

Canadian swimmer Summer McIntosh broke her second world record this week, lowering the 400m individual medley mark on Saturday.

McIntosh, a 16-year-old who trains in Sarasota, Florida, clocked 4 minutes, 25.87 seconds at the Canadian Championships in Toronto.

She took down Hungarian Katinka Hosszu‘s world record of 4:26.36 from the 2016 Rio Olympics. Before Saturday, McIntosh had the fourth-fastest time in history of 4:28.61.

“It’s always nice to set world records,” McIntosh said.

On Tuesday, McIntosh broke the 400m freestyle world record, becoming the youngest swimmer to break a world record in an individual Olympic event since Katie Ledecky in 2013.

McIntosh also this week became the fourth-fastest woman in history in the 200m individual medley and the eighth-fastest woman in history in the 200m butterfly.

In each of her four races this week, she also broke the world junior record as the fastest woman in history under the age of 19.

She is entered to swim the 200m free on the meet’s final day on Sunday. She is already the eighth-fastest woman in history in that event.

McIntosh, whose mom swam the 1984 Olympic 200m fly and whose sister competed at last week’s world figure skating championships, placed fourth in the Tokyo Olympic 400m free at age 14.

Last summer, she won the 200m fly and 400m IM at the world championships, becoming the youngest individual world champion since 2011.

This summer, she could be at the center of a showdown in the 400m free at the world championships with reigning world champion Ledecky and reigning Olympic champion Ariarne Titmus of Australia. They are the three fastest women in history in the event.

Around age 7, McIntosh transcribed Ledecky quotes and put them on her wall.

MORE: McIntosh chose swimming and became Canada’s big splash

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Hilary Knight leads new-look U.S. women’s hockey roster for world championship

Hilary Knight

Hilary Knight headlines a U.S. women’s hockey roster for this month’s world championship that lacks some of the biggest names from last year’s Olympic silver-medal team. Changes have been made as the U.S. looks to end losing streaks to Canada, both overall and in major finals.

The full roster is here. Worlds start Wednesday in Brampton, Ontario, and run through the gold-medal game on April 16.

It was already known that the team would be without stalwart forwards Kendall Coyne Schofield, who plans to return to the national team after having her first child this summer, and Brianna Decker, who announced her retirement last month.

Notable cuts include the No. 1 goalies from the last two Olympics: Alex Cavallini, who returned from Christmas childbirth for the tryout camp this past week, and Maddie Rooney, the breakout of the 2018 Olympic champion team.

Cavallini, 31, was bidding to become the first player to make an Olympic or world team after childbirth since Jenny Potter, who played at the Olympics in 2002, 2006 and 2010 as a mom, plus at several world championships, including less than three months after childbirth in 2007.

Forward Hannah Brandt, who played on the top line at last year’s Olympics with Knight and Coyne Schofield, also didn’t make the team.

In all, 13 of the 25 players on the team are Olympians, including three-time Olympic medalists forward Amanda Kessel and defender Lee Stecklein.

The next generation includes forward Taylor Heise, 23, who led the 2022 World Championship with seven goals and was the 2022 NCAA Player of the Year at Minnesota.

The team includes two teens — 19-year-old defender Haley Winn and 18-year-old forward Tessa Janecke — who were also the only teens at last week’s 46-player tryout camp. Janecke, a Penn State freshman, is set to become the youngest U.S. forward to play at an Olympics or worlds since Brandt in 2012.

Abbey Levy, a 6-foot-1 goalie from Boston College, made her first world team, joining veterans Nicole Hensley and Aerin Frankel.

Last summer, Canada repeated as world champion by beating the U.S. in the final, six months after beating the U.S. in the Olympic final. Canada is on its longest global title streak since winning all five Olympic or world titles between 1999 and 2004.

Also at last summer’s worlds, the 33-year-old Knight broke the career world championship record for points (now up to 89). She also has the most goals in world championship history (53). Knight, already the oldest U.S. Olympic women’s hockey player in history, will become the second-oldest American to play at a worlds after Cammi Granato, who was 34 at her last worlds in 2005.

The Canadians are on a four-game win streak versus the Americans, capping a comeback in their recent seven-game rivalry series from down three games to none. Their 5-0 win in the decider in February was their largest margin of victory over the U.S. since 2005.

Last May, former AHL coach John Wroblewski was named U.S. head coach to succeed Joel Johnson, the Olympic coach.

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