Shoma Uno wins first skating world title as Vincent Zhou returns to podium

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Shoma Uno finally claimed a long-awaited world title at the 2022 World Figure Skating Championships on Saturday.

After placing second at the event in 2017 and 2018, then fourth in 2019 and 2021, Uno now found himself atop the podium. He also has an Olympic silver medal from 2018 and bronze from this year’s Winter Games, making this gold all the sweeter.

“I’m very happy of this achievement, I worked very hard,” said Uno, whose winning free skate included five quadruple jumps, two of which were under-rotated. “I’m very excited to finally be first.”

The 24-year-old scored personal bests across the board with 109.63 in the short (previous: 109.50), 202.85 in the free (previous: 197.36) and 312.48 total. His prior personal best total was 293.00 from the Olympics.

The competition was missing both Nathan Chen and Yuzuru Hanyu, who combined to win the past three Olympic and five of the last seven world titles.

Uno was joined on the podium by Japanese teammate Yuma Kagiyama, who at age 18 repeats his silver-medal performance from his debut worlds last year, and American Vincent Zhou, who made an unexpected return to the medals after missing the Olympic men’s singles event.

Kagiyama’s total of 297.60 was 12.45 fewer than the score that earned him Olympic silver last month.

FIGURE SKATING WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Zhou had a wild ride to this competition and an inconsistent history at worlds, to say the least, but it seemed to all pay off with a storybook ending in Montpellier, France.

The 2017 junior world champion was sixth at the 2018 Winter Olympics, where he was the first to land a quadruple lutz at the Games, then a disappointing 14th at his first senior worlds the following month.

He rose to bronze at the 2019 worlds, putting out the performances he had been seeking and marking himself as an Olympic medal contender. Later in the season he helped the U.S. win World Team Trophy with a combined personal score of 299.01 — the closest he has come to his goal of 300 points.

After worlds was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic, Zhou returned to that stage in 2021 with a shockingly poor short program performance that placed him 25th — one spot shy of even advancing to the free skate.

Now 21, Zhou worked to return to show he was still one of the best in the world for this year’s Olympics, but that opportunity was taken away from him. He helped the U.S. finish second in the team event, then tested positive for Covid the day after his free skate and was unable to compete in the men’s singles competition (or walk in the Closing Ceremony two weeks later).

After waiting approximately 45 more days to finally compete, Zhou’s patience, hard work and determination paid off, despite the mental struggles he battled during that time. He was sixth in the short program with 95.84 points and fourth in the free with 181.54, and both results were enough to give him the bronze medal overall with a 277.38 total.

“I feel very, very proud of myself,” Zhou said. “I couldn’t do anything in training leading up to this. I was mentally just in a very bad place, but I got myself on a plane, I got myself together, I took it one practice at a time, and now I put out two strong performances. I’m so proud of myself.”

Teammate and training mate Camden Pulkinen earned a ‘small medal’ for having the third-highest scoring free skate; it is his first senior international medal. He rebounded from placing 12th in the short program to finish fifth overall at his first worlds.

Pulkinen’s previous best free skate score was 155.73 from Skate Canada in 2019. In Montpellier, he earned 182.19 points for his free.

A 2016 Youth Olympian, Pulkinen was fifth at this season’s U.S. Championships. He was added to the world team after Chen withdrew with a nagging injury and two-time Olympian Jason Brown declined his first alternate spot.

Meanwhile, the third American – Ilia Malinin – who had the best chance to medal after sitting fourth from the short program, fell on his quad salchow and seemed to lose all momentum from there. With the 11th-best free skate, the 17-year-old dropped to ninth. He will finish his season next month at the junior world championships.

“I put pressure on myself wanting to skate good so badly, and it didn’t work out,” Malinin said.

Kazuki Tomono, who was third in the short program and hoping to be part of a historic Japanese sweep, ended in sixth after a handful of errors in the free skate that included a fall on his quad salchow as well.

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Elena Fanchini, medal-winning Alpine skier, dies at 37

Elena Fanchini
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Italian skier Elena Fanchini, whose career was cut short by a tumor, has died. She was 37.

Fanchini passed away Wednesday at her home in Solato, near Brescia, the Italian Winter Sports Federation announced.

Fanchini died on the same day that fellow Italian Marta Bassino won the super-G at the world championships in Meribel, France; and two days after Federica Brignone — another former teammate — claimed gold in combined.

Sofia Goggia, who is the favorite for Saturday’s downhill, dedicated her win in Cortina d’Ampezzo last month to Fanchini.

Fanchini last raced in December 2017. She was cleared to return to train nearly a year later but never made it fully back, and her condition grew worse in recent months.

Fanchini won a silver medal in downhill at the 2005 World Championships and also won two World Cup races in her career — both in downhill.

She missed the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics because of her condition.

Fanchini’s younger sisters Nadia and Sabrina were also World Cup racers.

USA Boxing to skip world championships

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USA Boxing will not send boxers to this year’s men’s and women’s world championships, citing “the ongoing failures” of the IBA, the sport’s international governing body, that put boxing’s place on the Olympic program at risk.

The Washington Post first reported the decision.

In a letter to its members, USA Boxing Executive Director Mike McAtee listed many factors that led to the decision, including IBA governance issues, financial irregularities and transparency and that Russian and Belarusian boxers are allowed to compete with their flags.

IBA lifted its ban on Russian and Belarusian boxers in October and said it would allow their flags and anthems to return, too.

The IOC has not shifted from its recommendation to international sports federations last February that Russian and Belarusian athletes be barred, though the IOC and Olympic sports officials have been exploring whether those athletes could return without national symbols.

USA Boxing said that Russian boxers have competed at an IBA event in Morocco this month with their flags and are expected to compete at this year’s world championships under their flags.

“While sport is intended to be politically neutral, many boxers, coaches and other representatives of the Ukrainian boxing community were killed as a result of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, including coach Mykhaylo Korenovsky who was killed when a Russian missile hit an apartment block in January 2023,” according to the USA Boxing letter. “Ukraine’s sports infrastructure, including numerous boxing gyms, has been devastated by Russian aggression.”

McAtee added later that USA Boxing would still not send athletes to worlds even if Russians and Belarusians were competing as neutrals and without their flags.

“USA Boxing’s decision is based on the ‘totality of all of the factors,'” he said in an emailed response. “Third party oversite and fairness in the field of play is the most important factor.”

A message has been sent to the IBA seeking comment on USA Boxing’s decision.

The women’s world championships are in March in India. The men’s world championships are in May in Uzbekistan. They do not count toward 2024 Olympic qualifying.

In December, the IOC said recent IBA decisions could lead to “the cancellation of boxing” for the 2024 Paris Games.

Some of the already reported governance issues led to the IOC stripping IBA — then known as AIBA — of its Olympic recognition in 2019. AIBA had suspended all 36 referees and judges used at the 2016 Rio Olympics pending an investigation into a possible judging scandal, one that found that some medal bouts were fixed by “complicit and compliant” referees and judges.

The IOC ran the Tokyo Olympic boxing competition.

Boxing was not included on the initial program for the 2028 Los Angeles Games announced in December 2021, though it could still be added. The IBA must address concerns “around its governance, its financial transparency and sustainability and the integrity of its refereeing and judging processes,” IOC President Thomas Bach said then.

This past June, the IOC said IBA would not run qualifying competitions for the 2024 Paris Games.

In September, the IOC said it was “extremely concerned” about the Olympic future of boxing after an IBA extraordinary congress overwhelmingly backed Russian Umar Kremlev to remain as its president rather than hold an election.

Kremlev was re-elected in May after an opponent, Boris van der Vorst of the Netherlands, was barred from running against him. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled in June that van der Vorst should have been eligible to run against Kremlev, but the IBA group still decided not to hold a new election.

Last May, Rashida Ellis became the first U.S. woman to win a world boxing title at an Olympic weight since Claressa Shields in 2016, taking the 60kg lightweight crown in Istanbul. In Tokyo, Ellis lost 3-0 in her opening bout in her Olympic debut.

At the last men’s worlds in 2021, Robby Gonzales and Jahmal Harvey became the first U.S. men to win an Olympic or world title since 2007, ending the longest American men’s drought since World War II.

The Associated Press and NBC Olympic research contributed to this report.

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