Isabeau Levito likely to become youngest American to make Grand Prix Final in 15 years

Isabeau Levito
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Isabeau Levito, 15, finished runner-up at Grand Prix England and will very likely become the youngest American to qualify for figure skating’s Grand Prix Final since 2007.

Levito, the world junior champion, finished second in both of her starts on the six-event Grand Prix Series to all but clinch a spot in December’s six-skater Final. It would take very unexpected results in the last two Grand Prix events the next two weeks to knock her out.

“That was my goal,” Levito said of qualifying for the Final, according to the International Skating Union. “[My free skate] was pretty good, but it was definitely short of perfection. I was slightly disappointed in my triple Lutz-triple loop combination. I know I can do it better, and I was a little upset when it wasn’t absolutely perfect.”

Japan’s Mai Mihara won Grand Prix England, totaling 217.43 points to edge Levito by 1.69. Two-time U.S. champion Bradie Tennell was 12th in the 12-woman field in her first competition in 18 months. Tennell missed all of last season with a foot injury and missed training time over the last two months with an ankle injury.

Levito, whose 10 triple jumps between two programs were all positively graded (aka clean), was bidding to become the youngest American to win a Grand Prix since Tara Lipinski in 1997. She ranks fourth in the world this season by best total score among senior women.

Levito was third at last season’s U.S. Championships but was too young for the Olympics. She went to junior worlds instead and became the first U.S. woman to win a junior or senior world title since 2008.

With Levito all but in, it’s now likely that the U.S. will qualify skaters in all four disciplines into the Final, which takes the top six per discipline over the six-event Grand Prix Series. The U.S. last had skaters in every event at the Final in 2007, including 14-year-old Caroline Zhang.

GRAND PRIX ENGLAND: Results

The Americans have risen in the absence of powerhouse Russia, whose skaters are banned due to the invasion of Ukraine. China, which has strong pairs’ teams, hasn’t had any skaters compete through four Grand Prix events.

Later Sunday, Italians Charlène Guignard and Marco Fabbri became the first ice dancers to qualify for the Grand Prix Final with their second win this season. Guignard and Fabbri, fifth at the Olympics, totaled 213.74 points and beat Brits Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson by 8.18. They rank second in the world this season by best total score behind Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier.

Grand Prix England highlights air Sunday at 4 p.m. ET on NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

The Grand Prix Series moves this week to Japan for NHK Trophy, live on Peacock. The field includes world champions Shoma Uno and Kaori Sakamoto from Japan. The U.S. contingent is led by three-time world medalist ice dancers Madison Chock and Evan Bates.

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Jessie Diggins ties U.S. record for World Cup cross-country skiing wins

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Jessie Diggins tied Kikkan Randall‘s U.S. record with her 13th career individual cross-country skiing World Cup victory, taking a 10km freestyle in Lillehammer, Norway, on Friday.

Diggins, the most decorated U.S. Olympic cross-country skier with a medal of every color, prevailed by 3.8 seconds over German Katharina Hennig in the interval start event. Diggins trailed Hennig by one second at the 8.2-kilometer split, then made up 4.8 seconds over the final four minutes of the course.

“My fitness and brain were in a really good place,” Diggins said, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “When I asked my body to go deep into the pain cave, it responded.”

Diggins tied the record of Randall, who in 2007 became the first U.S. woman to win a World Cup cross-country skiing race and ended her career by teaming with Diggins to win the first U.S. Olympic cross-country skiing title at the 2018 PyeongChang Games. (Another skier, Alison Owen-Spencer, won a race in 1978 that U.S. Ski and Snowboard counts as a World Cup, but the International Ski Federation does not.)

Diggins opened this World Cup season last weekend in Ruka, Finland, with a best finish of 10th among three races. She trended up each day, finishing that stop with the second-fastest time in last Sunday’s individual pursuit (where she started 19th).

Diggins, 31, has spread out her goals this season. One of the biggest is helping the U.S. win a relay medal for the first time at the world championships in three months. Diggins has been a part of relays that finished fourth at four different worlds.

She also eyes the World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in the sport that goes to the best all-around skier for the season. In 2020-21, Diggins became the second American — and first American woman — to win the overall in a season where Norway’s top skiers, including superstar Therese Johaug, skipped early season races and chances to gain points for the overall title.

Johaug retired after winning three individual golds at last February’s Olympics. Diggins is the top returning skier given the absence of reigning overall champ Natalya Nepryayeva, who cannot compete due to the ban on Russian athletes for the war in Ukraine.

The World Cup season continues with a freestyle sprint on Saturday and a classic 20km mass start on Sunday in Lillehammer.

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Katie Ledecky out-touches new rival at swimming’s U.S. Open, extends streak

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It was a rare sight: Katie Ledecky being matched stroke for stroke in a distance race in an American pool. She was up for the challenge.

Ledecky out-touched emerging 16-year-old Canadian Summer McIntosh by eight hundredths of a second in the 400m freestyle at the U.S. Open in Greensboro, N.C., on Thursday night.

Ledecky and McIntosh were tied at the 300-meter mark. Ledecky ended up clocking 3:59.71 to McIntosh’s 3:59.79 to extend a decade-long win streak in freestyle races of 400 meters or longer in U.S. pools.

“I know we’ll have a lot more races ahead of us,” Ledecky said on Peacock. “We bring the best out of each other.”

The U.S. Open continues Friday with live finals coverage on Peacock at 6 p.m. ET.

U.S. OPEN SWIMMING: Full Results

At the Tokyo Olympics, McIntosh placed fourth in the 400m free at age 14.

She accelerated this year, taking silver behind Ledecky at the world championships and silver behind Tokyo gold medalist Ariarne Titmus of Australia at the Commonwealth Games.

Then in October, McIntosh outdueled Ledecky in a 400m free — also by eight hundredths — in a short-course, 25-meter pool at a FINA World Cup meet in Toronto. Long-course meets like the Olympics and the U.S. Open are held in 50-meter pools.

McIntosh also won world titles in the 200m butterfly and 400m individual medley, becoming the youngest individual world champion since 2011.

A potential showdown among Ledecky, Titmus and McIntosh at the 2024 Paris Games is already being compared to the “Race of the Century,” the 2004 Olympic men’s 200m free where Australian Ian Thorpe edged Dutchman Pieter van den Hoogenband and Michael Phelps.

In other events Thursday, Regan Smith, an Olympic and world medalist in the backstroke and butterfly, won a 200m individual medley in a personal best 2:10.40, a time that would have placed fifth at June’s world championships. She beat 16-year-old Leah Hayes, who took bronze in the event at worlds.

Olympic 400m IM champ Chase Kalisz won the men’s 200m IM in 1:56.52, his best time ever outside of major summer meets. Frenchman Léon Marchand won the world title in 1:55.22 in June, when Kalisz was fourth.

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