Shoma Uno distances Vincent Zhou for NHK Trophy title three years in the making

ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating - Skate America
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Shoma Uno won NHK Trophy for his first top-level international figure skating title in nearly three years, distancing American Vincent Zhou in a battle of Olympic medal contenders.

Uno, the 2018 Olympic silver medalist, had the top scores in Friday’s short program and Saturday’s free skate in Tokyo. He landed six quadruple jumps between those two days, totaling 290.15 points to prevail by a whopping 29.46 over Zhou.

“Now I realize that I have come back to a level that I can compete globally,” Uno said. “That’s where I have been before, and I have to go beyond that.”

Uno earned his first Grand Prix Series win since 2018. In 2019, he considered leaving the sport after a disastrous Grand Prix Series. He regrouped, won the December 2019 Japanese Championships over Yuzuru Hanyu and was fourth at the 2021 Worlds.

Zhou, who beat Olympic favorite Nathan Chen at Skate America three weeks ago, singled his planned opening quad Lutz in a sixth-place free skate filled with jumping errors on Saturday.

He finished second overall thanks to his second-place short program, joining Uno and Chen as the first three men to qualify for December’s six-skater Grand Prix Final.

“I’m very disappointed in my performance,” said Zhou, who was sixth at the 2018 Olympics, third at the 2019 World Championships and 25th at the 2021 Worlds. “Thankfully, this isn’t the Olympics, and I think it’s good to get this out of my system now because this is not who I am and not representative of my training.”

NHK Trophy: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Japanese Kaori Sakamoto won the women’s event with the top score in each program, totaling 223.34.

Sakamoto (and everyone else) benefited from the absences of Japanese national champion Rika Kihira and Russian jumping queen Aleksandra Trusova due to injuries.

Americans Alysa Liu and Amber Glenn were fourth and sixth, respectively. Liu, who won national titles at 13 and 14, landed a triple Axel in the free skate (negatively graded) after falling on an under-rotated triple Axel in the short.

Glenn, the 2021 U.S. silver medalist, put her hands on her right leg repeatedly after struggling with jump landings in her free skate.

The last U.S. women’s hope to reach the Grand Prix Final is Mariah Bell, who competes in the last two qualifying events in France and Russia the next two weeks.

Russian world champions Viktoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov won the ice dance with 215.44 points. Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates, seeking their first Grand Prix title in six years, were 4.66 points behind after counting a fall in the free dance.

Sinitsina and Katsalapov handed French Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron their only defeat of this Olympic cycle at the January 2020 European Championships, then won worlds last season in the French couple’s absence.

But in their separate Grand Prix debuts this season, the French have a 4.62-point edge over the Russians. The Grand Prix Final should mark their first head-to-head in nearly two years.

Chock and Bates all but clinched their U.S. record-tying sixth career berth in the six-couple Final with a pair of runners-up on the Grand Prix Series this autumn.

World champions Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Gallyamov of Russia won the pairs’ event with 227.28 points, distancing three-time world medalists and fellow Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov by 14.01.

Mishina and Gallyamov, who won last season’s world title in their senior worlds debut, have competed twice this season. They now own the world’s two highest total scores, both in the 227s.

Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, China’s lone Olympic figure skating medal favorites for Beijing, rank second with three totals in the 223-224 range. Sui and Han, who took silver at the 2018 Olympics and 2021 Worlds, will likely face Mishina and Gallyamov once before February’s Olympics — at the Grand Prix Final.

Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara took third at NHK, their second consecutive Grand Prix medal. Their emergence gives the Japanese hope in the Olympic team event, where the U.S., Canada and Russia made up the podium in 2014 and 2018.

Americans Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc and Audrey Lu and Misha Mitrofanov were fourth and fifth. It’s very likely the U.S. qualifies zero pairs for the Grand Prix Final for a fifth consecutive year.

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How did U.S. women’s basketball replace its legends? It starts with Alyssa Thomas.

Alyssa Thomas

If this FIBA World Cup marks the beginning of a new era of U.S. women’s basketball, it is notable, if not remarkable, that no player has been more visible than Alyssa Thomas.

Thomas is making her global championship debut in Sydney. She is the only woman on the team in her 30s. Rarely, if ever, has a player who waited this long to put on a U.S. uniform made such an impact out of the gate. Certainly not since the last major tournament in Australia, when 30-year-old Yolanda Griffith starred at the 2000 Olympics.

Over the last week, Thomas leads the U.S. in minutes played and is one of two players to start all seven games along with Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP. She ranks fourth on the team in scoring (10.6 points per game), is tied for second in rebounding (6.7), second in assists (4.6) and first in steals (2.7).

The Americans, with their new breakthrough power forward, face China in Saturday’s final, seeking a fourth consecutive world title and 60th consecutive victory between Olympic and world championship play dating to 2006.

“She takes a lot of pressure off of us,” two-time WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson said after Thomas had 13 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists in a quarterfinal win over Serbia. “I think she’s the glue of this team, the X-factor of this team, because that’s her game and that’s her style.”

Thomas earned the nickname “Baby Bron Bron” at the University of Maryland for her LeBron James-like play. USA Basketball took notice in 2013, when she was one of six collegians named to a 33-player national team training camp.

But that participation was the last of Thomas’ bullet points on her USA Basketball bio for another nine years, until she was named to the FIBA World Cup qualifying team last February.

Thomas had to wait her turn.

The U.S. was loaded in the frontcourt in the 2010s with older veterans — Candace ParkerTina CharlesSylvia FowlesBrittney GrinerElena Delle Donne — and then Stewart and Wilson came along, becoming arguably the two most valuable Americans in the last Olympic cycle.

Thomas produced, to that point, the best WNBA season of her career in 2020, but tore an Achilles playing overseas in January 2021, ruling out any chance of making the Tokyo Olympic team.

The combination of players’ absences this year — Charles, after three Olympic golds, ceded to younger players, Fowles retired and Griner is being detained in Russia — and Cheryl Reeve becoming head coach created an opportunity.

Thomas seized it, leading the Connecticut Sun to the WNBA Finals, where she recorded triple-doubles in the last two games of a series loss to the Las Vegas Aces. Then she boarded a plane to Sydney for her first major international experience and has similarly flourished.

Jennifer Rizzotti, part of the USA Basketball selection committee, said the 6-foot-2 Thomas combines the movement of Lindsay Whalen, the passing of Parker and the physicality of Rebekkah Brunson. She plays with labrum tears in each shoulder. There’s no single player like her.

“There’s definitely some post players that have that point forward mentality, but not quite with the guard skills that Alyssa has,” Rizzotti said. “I don’t see anybody, including guards, that can do what she does in the open court. Then you talk about how disruptive she is defensively and her ability to guard one through five. A’ja can guard one through five, Stewie can guard one through five, but nobody’s as disruptive as Alyssa is. On the perimeter and off the ball.”

Thomas also fit what Reeve, who succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach, was looking for in retooling the roster following the retirement of Sue Bird and possible end of Diana Taurasi‘s national team career at age 40.

“[Reeve] made it clear that she was hoping with the guard turnover that we would be able to play faster, more athletically, more possessions in the game,” Rizzotti said. “And therefore, she wanted to have post players that could push tempo, that could facilitate and kind of fit in with a ball-handling, passing mentality from the trail spot.”

Still, Thomas did not expect to be putting on a USA jersey this year. “Shocked” is the word USA Basketball chose to describe her reaction to making this team.

“It was kind of a surprise,” she said, according to USA Basketball. “I had just really taken my name out of it.”

Rizzotti said Thomas is an example — a very successful one, it turns out — of an asset in the eyes of the selection committee: patience.

“I think a lot of players feel like if they don’t make the USA national team right away, it’s never going to happen,” she said. “You get the comments like, oh, it’s political, or they keep inviting the same guys back. And it’s not true.”

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

FIBA Women's World Cup Basketball

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.


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.


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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