Malinin trails Japan’s Miura after short program at Skate America

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Kao Miura took advantage of the withdrawal of Japanese countryman Yuma Kagiyama, along with an uncharacteristic fall by American rival Ilia Malinin, to take the lead after the short program at Skate America on Friday night.

The 17-year-old Miura landed a big opening quad salchow-triple toe loop along with a triple axel and a quad toe loop to score a personal-best 94.96 points at the Tenley E. Albright Performance Center near Boston. That gave Miura a slim lead over South Korea’s Cha Junhwan, who moonwalked through a Michael Jackson mashup to a score of 94.44 points.

“I kind of am telling myself, `Why am I sitting here?’ Miura said afterward. “And it’s because I did everything I should have done on the ice. I just tried to be confident on the ice and that worked for me.”

Daniel Grassl of Italy was third with 88.43 points while Malinin, the 17-year-old who made history by landing the first quad axel in competition, was fourth after a fall on his quad toe loop left him with 86.06 points.

“I think at the very beginning I felt very confident going into it. I was very in the moment,” said Malinin, the junior world champion, who was making his senior Grand Prix debut. “After that little fall, it threw me off a little bit. I had to brush it off and just continue with the rest of the program.”

In the pairs competition, the American duo of Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier scored 75.19 points in their short program to take the lead over Canada’s Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps, who had 73.05 points.

Malinin became the favorite at Skate America when Kagiyama, the Olympic silver medalist, withdrew from the opening Grand Prix event because of an injury. But it was Miura, the 17-year-old Japanese junior champion, who took the lead going into the free skate thanks to a technical score that was more than five points higher than anyone else.

It was a full eight points more than Malinin, who just might need to land his quad axel Saturday night to have a chance.

“It really depends how I feel personally,” Malinin said of attempting the 4 1/2-rotation jump.

Knierim and Frazier, who helped the U.S. win team silver at the Beijing Olympics, were heavy favorites at Skate America after taking advantage of the absence of the powerful Russian teams to win their first world title earlier this year.

Performing to “Separate Ways” by the American rock band Journey, Knierim and Frazier dazzled a sellout crowd with their opening triple twist. Frazier two-footed the landing on their side-by-side triple toe loop, but the 2021 champions from Skate America came back with a beautiful throw triple flip to earn a solid component score.

“I never started my season off at a Grand Prix before,” Frazier said. “There was a lot of positivity out there tonight. It was a little bit of a fight tonight, but it was our starting base.”

Knierim and Frazier were expected to show out on the Grand Prix stage, though. The surprise came from Stellato-Dudek and Deschamps, whose performance to “Oblivion” by Astor Piazzolla put them solidly in second place.

The winners of the lower-level Nebelhorn Trophy earlier this year were solid from their opening triple twist, through their side-by-side triple toe and into their throw triple loop to keep within range of the gold medal.

Letizia Roscher and Luis Schuster of Germany were well behind in third with 54.87 points.

“We are very pleased with our performance, happy to be here,” said Stellato-Dudek, who calls Chicago home and previously skated for the U.S. “It’s kind of a homecoming for me. It’s like my wedding. It’s like I know everybody.”

SKATE AMERICA: Broadcast Schedule

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Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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