Kamila Valiyeva, Olympic favorite, wins European figure skating title with record


Russian Kamila Valiyeva won the two toughest competitions before the Olympics by record margins, capped by the European Championships on Saturday, proving she is the overwhelming favorite for the Beijing Winter Games.

Valiyeva, a 15-year-old undefeated in her first senior international season, landed three quadruple jumps in the free skate, totaling 259.06 points and prevailing by 21.64 in Tallinn, Estonia. Shockingly, she fell (on a triple Axel) in competition for the first time since October.

That beat the previous women’s margin of victory record under an 18-year-old scoring system. Countrywoman Yevgenia Medvedeva held the previous record of 18.32 points from 2017. Spain’s Javier Fernandez has the record across all disciplines — 60.21 points in 2016.

“The medal means that I don’t just come to the practices for nothing, and I guess the most important for me is not to burn out after this season, to calm down as much as possible and try to make the audience happy with my performances,” Valiyeva said, according to the International Skating Union.

Valiyeva’s performance was all the more impressive because she beat a field that included the Olympic silver- and bronze-medal favorites — training partners Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova, who were second and third in Tallinn.

Last month, Valieyva won the Russian Championships by the largest women’s margin in that event’s history. That competition is considered tougher than the Olympics, given the world’s six highest-ranked skaters this season are Russian.

In four international starts this season, Valiyeva posted the four highest scores across all events.

Her best — 272.71 — is 35.29 points clear of the second-ranked skater’s best (reigning world champ Shcherbakova). That’s greater than the margin separating Shcherbakova and the world’s 28th-ranked skater, American Karen Chen, according to SkatingScores.com.

Russia has yet to name its three-woman Olympic team, but Valiyeva will lead it. It’s the third consecutive Olympics that the world’s top-ranked skater going into the Games is a 15-year-old Russian coached by Eteri Tutberidze.

In 2014, Yuliya Lipnitskaya delivered in the team event for Russia and faltered individually, placing fifth. In 2018, Alina Zagitova won a close duel with Medvedeva for gold.

Russia is favored to achieve the first podium sweep in Olympic women’s figure skating, a year after taking all the medals at the world championships.

If any of the three Russians err in Beijing, the next tier of contenders includes American Alysa Liu, Japanese Kaori Sakamoto and Belgian Loena Hendrickx.

Earlier at Europeans, Russian pairs swept the medals and are now the world’s top three ranked pairs by best total score this season: Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov, Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov and Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskiy.

Chinese Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, who took silver behind Mishina and Galliamov at last season’s world championships, are ranked fourth but haven’t competed since early November. The 2018 Olympic silver medalists may also get a boost from competing at home at the Beijing Games.

Russians Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov won the ice dance with the world’s third-best score this season. Only French Olympic favorites Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, who skipped Europeans, have scored higher.

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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 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 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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