Last Grand Prix Final spots at stake at Rostelecom Cup; TV, live stream schedule

Kamila Valieva
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It has been a grab bag season in figure skating’s Grand Prix Series going into this week’s Rostelecom Cup, which streams live on Peacock on Friday and Saturday.

Take your pick of how Olympic favorites are emerging.

Yuzuru Hanyu, the biggest name in all of skating, has not competed at all this autumn and might not until the Olympics. Nathan Chen suffered his first loss since the 2018 Olympics, then posted the world’s highest score this season the following week.

Russia’s conveyor belt of female stars produced 15-year-old Kamila Valiyeva. She quickly surpassed all three 2021 World Championships medalists from her nation to become the woman to beat heading into the most competitive event of the season — not the Olympics, but the Russian Championships in one month.

Pairs has been the tightest discipline. The top three in the world this season are separated by less than five points. It will squeeze even more if the third-ranked team of Sui Wenjing and Han Cong from China benefit from home ice at the Winter Games.

In ice dance, four-time world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France went 20 months between competitions since suffering their only defeat of this Olympic cycle at the January 2020 European Championships. They returned this autumn to post the world’s top three scores this season, re-establishing themselves as Olympic favorites.

The Grand Prix Final, which takes the top six per discipline from the six-event Grand Prix Series, will be an Olympic preview in pairs and dance (but hopefully not for the men, since Hanyu is out, and maybe not for the women without injured Russian Aleksandra Trusova). The Final’s fields will be complete after Rostelecom Cup.

Rostelecom Cup Broadcast Schedule

Day Time (ET) Event Platform
Friday 5:30 a.m. Men’s Short Peacock | STREAM LINK
7:30 a.m. Rhythm Dance Peacock | STREAM LINK
10 a.m. Pairs’ Short Peacock | STREAM LINK
11:25 a.m. Women’s Short Peacock | STREAM LINK
Saturday 5:30 a.m. Men’s Free Peacock | STREAM LINK
7:40 a.m. Free Dance Peacock | STREAM LINK
9:30 a.m. Pairs’ Free Peacock | STREAM LINK
11:10 a.m. Women’s Free Peacock | STREAM LINK
Sunday 3 p.m. Highlights NBC | STREAM LINK

How each discipline’s Grand Prix Final field is shaping up going into this week …

Men
Yuma Kagiyama
(JPN) — 30 points (QUALIFIED)
Shoma Uno (JPN) — 28 (QUALIFIED)
Vincent Zhou (USA) — 28 (QUALIFIED)
Nathan Chen (USA) — 26 (QUALIFIED)
Jason Brown (USA) — 24 (not competing this week)
Shun Sato (JPN) — 22 (not competing this week)

Mikhail Kolyada (RUS) — 13
Yevgeny Semenenko (RUS) — 11
Matteo Rizzo (ITA) — 7

Brown’s chances of qualifying for the Final for the first time since 2017 were trimmed by Hanyu’s withdrawal from Rostelecom Cup (ankle), but they’re still pretty good. Brown’s simplest path is if Kolyada wins this week, and Semenenko either finishes third or lower or places second but with fewer than 267.74 points. Semenenko’s personal best is 258.45. The U.S. also put three men in the Final in 2017 with Chen, Brown and Adam Rippon.

Hanyu also missed the 2017 Grand Prix Final with an ankle injury, then won the PyeongChang Olympics two months later. Chen, though he was third at Skate America, will go into the Final as the favorite given he won Skate Canada with a score 11.62 points higher than any other man this season.

Women
Anna Shcherbakova (RUS) — 30 (QUALIFIED)
Kaori Sakamoto (JPN) — 24 (QUALIFIED)
Aliona Kostonaya (RUS) — 24 (not competing this week)
You Young (KOR) — 22 (not competing this week)
Mai Mihara (JPN) — 18 (not competing this week)

Kamila Valiyeva (RUS) — 15
Yelizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS) — 13
Maliya Khromykh (RUS) — 13
Loena Hendrickx (BEL) — 11

Coming into the season, it looked like Russia had a shot at taking all six women’s spots at the Final. But world bronze medalist Trusova missed NHK Trophy due to injury, and Sakamoto swooped in to win the event. If this week Valiyeva (15 years old), Tuktamysheva (24) and Khromykh (15) make up the top three in any order, they will all qualify for the Final.

Valiyeva is bidding to repeat the feat of Alina Zagitova, who four years ago entered the Olympic season as the reigning world junior champion and won all of her events through the Winter Games. Valiyeva, part of coach Eteri Tutberidze‘s school of stars, has competed twice internationally this season and posted the world’s two best scores, distancing the second-ranked skater (Shcherbakova) by 28.3 points. The most competitive figure skating event in the world this year will be the Russian Championships in late December, after which the three-woman Olympic team will be named.

Russia has the world’s top six women right now. The highest-ranked American is Alysa Liu at No. 9. A U.S. woman made at least one podium in the Grand Prix Series every year since its inception in 1995, but none have this season, and it would be a surprise to see it happen this week. However, if you take out all the Russians from the rankings who won’t be at the Olympics, then Liu ranks fifth in the world.

Pairs
Sui Wenjing/Han Cong (CHN) — 30 (QUALIFIED)
Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 28 (QUALIFIED)
Aleksandra Boikova/Dmitriy Kozlovskiy (RUS) — 26 (QUALIFIED)
Riku Miura/Ryuichi Kihara (JPN) — 24 (not competing this week)
Yuliya Artemeva/Mikhail Nazarychev (RUS) — 24 (not competing this week)

Anastasia Mishina/Aleksandr Galliamov (RUS) — 15
Daria Pavliuchenko/Denis Khodykin (RUS) — 13
Nicole Della Monica/Matteo Guarise (ITA) — 9

Sui and Han, the 2018 Olympic silver medalists and China’s best figure skating medal hope overall, won both of their Grand Prix starts. But Tarasova and Morozov have the best score in the world this season, and Mishina and Galliamov, the reigning world champions, have the best Grand Prix score. Miura and Kihara will likely become the first pair from Japan to qualify for a Grand Prix Final since 2011, boosting the nation’s hopes of grabbing a medal in the Olympic team event. The last time a U.S. pair made the Final was 2015.

Ice Dance
Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron (FRA) — 30 (QUALIFIED)
Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue (USA) — 28 (QUALIFIED)
Piper Gilles/Paul Poirier (CAN) — 28 (QUALIFIED)
Madison Chock/Evan Bates (USA) — 26 (not competing this week)
Alexandra Stepanova/Ivan Bukin (RUS) — 22 (not competing this week)

Victoria Sinitsina/Nikita Katsalapov (RUS) — 15
Charlene Guignard/Marco Fabbri (ITA) — 13
Laurence Fournier Beaudry/Nikolaj Sorensen (CAN) — 11
Sara Hurtado/Kirill Khaliavin (ESP) — 9

Papadakis and Cizeron, 2018 Olympic silver medalists, lost their last head-to-head with Sinitsina and Katsalapov way back at the January 2020 European Championships. But this season, the French have competed three times and posted the world’s top three scores. Gilles and Poirier and the two American couples are within 1.43 points of each other on best scores this season, likely forging a tight battle for the third podium spot in Beijing. Barring a bonkers Rostelecom Cup result, this will be the seventh consecutive Final with multiple U.S. dance couples.

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Chicago Marathon features Emily Sisson’s return, Conner Mantz’s debut, live on Peacock

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At Sunday’s Chicago Marathon, Emily Sisson makes her return, nearly three years after Olympic Trials disappointment. Conner Mantz makes one of the most anticipated U.S. men’s debuts in 26.2-mile racing.

It is not the norm, but an American will be one of the spotlight runners in both the men’s and women’s elite races at a major marathon. Peacock airs live coverage at 8 a.m. ET.

Sisson, 30, starts her first mass marathon since dropping out of the Olympic Trials on Feb. 29, 2020, her legs “destroyed” on the hilly Atlanta course where she started as arguably the favorite. She ran the virtual New York City Marathon later in 2020, but that was solo (and not in New York City). Her 2:38:00 isn’t recorded in her official results on her World Athletics bio.

Since, Sisson won the Olympic Trials 10,000m on the track and was the top American in Tokyo in 10th place. She moved back to the roads, winning national titles at 15km and the half marathon and breaking the American record in the latter.

Sisson vaulted into the elite group of U.S. female marathoners in 2019, when she clocked the second-fastest debut marathon in American history, a 2:23:08 on a windy day in London, where the early pace was slow.

At the time, it was the 12th-best U.S. performance all-time. In the last two years, Keira D’Amato, 37, and Sara Hall, 39, combined to run seven faster marathons. At Chicago, a flat course that produced a world record three years ago, Sisson can answer them and perhaps get close to D’Amato’s American record 2:19:12.

“I’m hoping sub-2:20,” coach Ray Treacy said, according to LetsRun.com. “With the [super] shoes and the training behind her, I would think that’s [worth] at least three minutes.”

It is less likely that Sisson can challenge for the win on Sunday given the presence of Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich, the 2019 World champion and defending champion in the Windy City. The 28-year-old mom is the fifth-fastest woman in history with a personal best of 2:17:08. And Ethiopian Ruti Aga, a podium finisher in Berlin, New York City and Tokyo with a best time of 2:18:34, though she has one marathon finish since the pandemic (a seventh place).

Like Sisson, Mantz has shown strong recent road racing form. The American men’s debut marathon record of 2:07:56 (Leonard Korir) is in play. If he can break that, Mantz will be among the five fastest U.S. marathoners in history.

Rarely has a U.S. male distance runner as accomplished as Mantz moved up to the marathon at such a young age (25). At BYU, he won NCAA cross-country titles in 2020 and 2021 and placed fifth in the Olympic Trials 10,000m, then turned pro and won the U.S. Half Marathon Championships last December.

“If everything goes as planned, I think sub-2:08 is realistic,” Mantz said in a Citius Mag video interview last month. “If everything goes perfect on the day, I think a sub-2:07, that’s a big stretch goal.”

The men’s field doesn’t have the singular star power of Chepngetich, but a large group of East Africans with personal bests around 2:05. The most notable: defending champion Seifu Tura of Ethiopia and 2021 Boston Marathon winner Benson Kipruto of Kenya.

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Alpine skiing to test new format for combined race

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Alpine skiing officials will test a new format for the combined event, a race that is under review to remain on the Olympic program.

French newspaper L’Equipe reported that the International Ski Federation (FIS) will test a new team format for the combined, which has been an individual event on the Olympic program since 1988. L’Equipe reported that a nation can use a different skier for the downhill and slalom in the new setup, quoting FIS secretary general Michel Vion.

For example, the U.S. could use Breezy Johnson in the downhill run and sub her out for Mikaela Shiffrin in the slalom run, should the format be adopted into senior competition.

The format will be tested at the world junior championships in January in St. Anton, Austria, according to the report.

In response to the report, a FIS spokesperson said, “Regarding the new format of the combined is correct, and our directors are working on the rules so for the moment the only thing we can confirm is that there will be this new format for the Alpine combined that has been proposed by the athletes’ commission.”

Some version of the combined event has been provisionally included on the 2026 Olympic program, with a final IOC decision on its place coming by April.

This will be the third consecutive World Cup season with no combined events. Instead, FIS has included more parallel races in recent years. The individual combined remains on the biennial world championships program.

L’Equipe also reported that the mixed team parallel event, which is being dropped from the Olympics, will also be dropped from the biennial world championships after this season.

“There is nothing definitive about that yet, but it is a project in the making,” a FIS spokesperson said in commenting on the report.

Vion said the mixed team event, which debuted at the Olympics in 2018, was not a hit at the Beijing Games and did not draw a strong audience, according to L’Equipe.

The World Cup season starts in two weeks with the traditional opening giant slaloms in Soelden, Austria.

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