Deanna Stellato-Dudek, retired for 15 years, is oldest Grand Prix figure skating champ

Deanna Stellato-Dudek, Maxime Deschamps
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Canadian Deanna Stellato-Dudek, the 2000 World junior silver medalist who retired from figure skating in 2001 due to injuries, then came back in 2016, became the oldest skater to win a Grand Prix event at age 39.

Stellato-Dudek and pairs’ partner Maxime Deschamps won Grand Prix France and qualified for December’s Grand Prix Final, the most exclusive event in the sport taking the top six per discipline.

They totaled 185.84 points between two programs in France, beating French national champions Camille Kovalev and Pavel Kovalev by 5.99 despite a fall on a throw triple loop in both the short program and free skate.

GRAND PRIX FRANCE: Broadcast Schedule | Results

Stellato-Dudek and Deschamps prevailed two weeks after taking runner-up at Skate America, where she became the oldest skater to make a Grand Prix podium.

Their rise coincided with the absence of the world’s top pairs this fall. All Russians are banned due to the invasion of Ukraine. No Chinese pairs are entered in the Grand Prix Series. Russian and Chinese pairs took up the top five spots at the Olympics.

Stellato-Dudek, who is older than 2002 Olympic champion Sarah Hughes, retired from skating after several hip injuries, a year after taking silver at junior worlds (four spots ahead of Sasha Cohen, who is also younger than Stellato-Dudek).

More than a decade later, Stellato-Dudek was a director of aesthetics at a plastic surgery office in her native Chicagoland. While on a work retreat, she was asked to write down what she would do if she knew she couldn’t fail.

Return to figure skating, she wrote. That led to a comeback in pairs with 2014 Olympian Nathan Bartholomay. They finished third at the U.S. Championships in 2018 and 2019, after which she began the process of switching nationality to Canada and partnered with Deschamps, who previously had eight different partners, according to Olympics.com.

Come the next Winter Games, Stellato-Dudek will be 42 and older than any Olympic figure skater since World War II, according to Olympedia.org.

Earlier Saturday, Loena Hendrickx became the first Belgian skater to win a Grand Prix and the oldest Grand Prix women’s champion in a decade.

Hendrickx, the world silver medalist and the lone skater across all disciplines in France to have made an Olympic or senior world podium, totaled 216.34 points, distancing South Korean Kim Ye-Lim by 21.58 points. Hendrickx, 23, ranks third in the world this season by best score behind Japanese Mao Shimada (a junior) and Kaori Sakamoto.

Adam Siao Him Fa became the first Frenchman to win a Grand Prix since Brian Joubert in 2009, rallying past Japanese Sota Yamamoto and Kazuki Tomono with three quadruple jumps in his free skate.

Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri won the ice dance, as expected. The Italians totaled 207.95 for their first Grand Prix title after second- or third-place finishes in their last seven Grand Prix starts, including the 2018 Grand Prix Final. They rank second in the world by best score this season behind Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier.

The Grand Prix moves next weekend to Sheffield, England, headlined by Americans: world pairs’ champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier, two-time U.S. champion Bradie Tennell and world junior champion Isabeau Levito.

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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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