Starr Andrews rallies for Skate Canada runner-up with career-best performance

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Starr Andrews put up the top free skate of her international career, moving from fifth place to take runner-up at Skate Canada, matching the best full-fledged Grand Prix finish for an American woman in six years.

Andrews, 21, landed six triple jumps in the free skate in Mississauga, Ontario, to finish 6.33 points behind winner Rinka Watanabe of Japan.

It’s Andrews’ best result in seven career senior Grand Prix starts, displacing a fifth place from 2019. It’s one of, if not the best Grand Prix result for a Black singles skater. France’s Surya Bonaly won several events that became Grand Prixs before the Grand Prix Series began in 1995, then placed third in two Grand Prix Series events late in her career.

“It is a huge deal for me,” Andrews said, according to the International Skating Union. “I am one of the few people of color in the sport, and to bring home a medal is even more special.”

Andrews made a splash at 9 years old when a video of her skating to “Whip My Hair” went viral. She had another moment at the 2018 U.S. Championships, earning a standing ovation to her free skate to her own cover of “One Moment in Time” and finishing sixth overall.

SKATE CANADA: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Andrews made it back-to-back Grand Prix runner-up finishes for U.S. women after Isabeau Levito‘s senior Grand Prix debut at Skate America last week. Andrews’ total ranks her third among U.S. women on the early season behind Levito and Amber Glenn, who was third at Skate America.

The U.S. is in the midst of its longest women’s victory drought in a full-fledged Grand Prix — figure skating’s top international circuit — not counting Mariah Bell‘s win at a 2020 Skate America that was largely a domestic field due to COVID-19. Ashley Wagner claimed the last international Grand Prix title for an American woman in 2016.

Andrews will likely qualify for December’s six-skater Grand Prix Final with a podium finish in her later Grand Prix in Japan in three weeks.

The U.S. has three women’s spots for March’s world championships, to be doled out after January’s national championships. None of the three Olympians from last season are competing, with Alysa Liu and Bell both retired.

Watanabe landed a triple Axel in her free skate, improving from sixth place after the short and totaling 197.59 points. Watanabe, a 20-year-old who was sixth at last season’s Japan Nationals, won her senior Grand Prix debut.

Later Saturday, world champion Shoma Uno improved from second after the short program to win the men’s event. He had five quadruple jumps — one under-rotated and three others with negative grades of execution — en route to 273.15 total points. Uno beat fellow Japanese skater Kao Miura by 7.86. Miura dropped from first after the short to second overall for a second consecutive week.

American Ilia Malinin, who won Skate America over Miura last week, has the world’s best total score this season of 280.37. Malinin and Uno could face off for the first time this season at December’s Grand Prix Final, which takes the top six per discipline over the six-event Grand Prix Series.

World silver medalists Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara earned the biggest title for a Japanese pairs’ team in history, distancing Americans Emily Chan and Spencer Howe by 25.54 points. Miura and Kihara’s total score — 212.02 — ranks them first in the world this season, 10.63 points ahead of world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier of the U.S.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, the 2021 World bronze medalists, earned their third consecutive Skate Canada ice dance title. Their total score — 215.70 — ranks them first in the world this season. It’s 12.9 points better than 2022 World bronze medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates‘ total to win Skate America last week.

The figure skating season continues with Grand Prix France next week, featuring world silver medalist Loena Hendrickx of Belgium, live on Peacock.

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Olympic flame to travel by sea for Paris 2024, welcomed by armada

Paris 2024 Olympic Torch Relay Marseille
Paris 2024
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The Olympic flame will travel from Athens to Marseille by ship in spring 2024 to begin the France portion of the torch relay that ends in Paris on July 26, 2024.

The torch relay always begins in the ancient Olympic site of Olympia, Greece, where the sun’s rays light the flame. It will be passed by torch until it reaches Athens.

It will then cross the Mediterranean Sea aboard the Belem, a three-masted ship, “reminiscent of a true Homeric epic,” according to Paris 2024. It will arrive at the Old Port of Marseille, welcomed by an armada of boats.

Marseille is a former Greek colony and the oldest city in France. It will host sailing and some soccer matches during the Paris Olympics.

The full 2024 Olympic torch relay route will be unveiled in May.

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Paris 2024 Olympic Torch Relay Marseille
Paris 2024

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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