NHK Trophy favorites upstaged in short programs

Yelim Kim

World champions Kaori Sakamoto and Shoma Uno and three-time world medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates all surprisingly trail after the first day of NHK Trophy, the fifth of six stops on figure skating’s Grand Prix Series.

Yelim Kim led the women’s short program with a clean, 72.22-point performance. Kim, trying to become the second South Korean to win a Grand Prix after 2010 Olympic champion Yuna Kim, has a 4.15-point lead over Sakamoto going into Saturday’s free skate (live on Peacock).

Sakamoto, skating in front of a home crowd in Japan, under-rotated the second half of her triple flip-triple toe loop combination.

“All my jumps were unsatisfactory,” Sakamoto said, according to the International Skating Union (ISU). “This is one of the major events in Japan, and this makes me nervous. In Japan there are still restrictions in place – you cannot cheer loudly, and in the performance it hit me, ‘I am skating in Japan.’ Nationals is the one I am really nervous at, and the NHK Trophy is almost the same.”

Americans Starr Andrews and Amber Glenn, who earned their first Grand Prix podiums this season, are fifth and 11th, respectively. They likely need to finish in the top three to qualify for December’s six-skater Grand Prix Final.

NHK TROPHY: Scores | Broadcast Schedule

Sota Yamamoto, eighth at last season’s Japan Championships, is the surprise men’s leader after countryman Uno fell on a quad toe loop.

Yamamoto tallied 96.49 points, distancing Uno by 4.83. Both men are in position to qualify for the Grand Prix Final, which is an anticipated showdown between Uno and American Ilia Malinin (who can qualify next week).

Chock and Bates are also in position to qualify for the Final, but they also trail after Friday’s rhythm dance. Canadians Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Sørensen, who were ninth at the Olympics, outscored them on technical elements and totaled 85.66 points, edging the Americans by .66.

“I walked out and saw our name on top, and I couldn’t really believe it,” Sørensen said, according to the ISU.

The one favorite to top the standings Friday was the world’s top-ranked pairs’ team, Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara of Japan.

They scored 78.25 points and take a comfortable 13.63-point lead over Americans Emily Chan and Spencer Howe into Saturday’s free skate. Both pairs are in position to qualify for the Grand Prix Final, where world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier await.

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


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


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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