Shoma Uno, Mai Mihara win Grand Prix Final; Ilia Malinin, Isabeau Levito rally for medals

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Shoma Uno easily won his first duel with Ilia Malinin this season at figure skating’s Grand Prix Final, but the 18-year-old American landed another quadruple Axel in Saturday’s free skate to build anticipation for March’s world championships.

Japan’s Uno, the world champion, totaled 304.46 points with the top short program and free skate to prevail by a whopping 30.11 points over countryman Sota Yamamoto. Malinin rallied for bronze from fifth place after the short with five quadruple jumps in the free (one negatively graded).

The U.S. earned a medal in all four events at a Final for the first time (thanks to its first-ever pairs’ medal on Friday, and perhaps in part the absence of Russian skaters, all banned for the war in Ukraine).

Isabeau Levito, the 15-year-old world junior champion, improved from fifth after the short to earn silver behind Japan’s Mai Mihara in the women’s event. Levito, even with a fall in the free skate, became the third-youngest U.S. woman to win a Grand Prix Final medal after Tara Lipinski and Michelle Kwan.

“I’m very shocked,” said Levito, who goes into January’s U.S. Championships as the clear favorite after the retirements of Mariah Bell and Alysa Liu. “When I messed up in my program, I didn’t expect to be in the place that I am now.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Uno had such an advantage over Malinin from the short — 19.89 points — that the American, who entered the competition with the world’s best score this season, could not pass him if Uno skated relatively clean in the free.

Uno did just that with five quads (one negatively graded) to win the Grand Prix Final, the second-biggest annual competition, for the first time after two previous silvers and two bronzes.

“Everything I trained for was able to be crystallized in the competition here today,” Uno said through a translator. “But at the same time, I did sense that there’s a lot of room for growth.”

Malinin, fifth of six skaters in Friday’s short due to errors on all three jumping passes, rebounded with a strong free skate like he did in his three previous events this season (three wins to rank No. 1 in the world going into the Final). Malinin is the only skater to ever land a quad Axel and has now done it in each of his free skates this season.

Malinin has been affected by a left foot injury since at least late November. He said Saturday that it started really bothering him two weeks ago, but he “barely even felt it” at the Final. Because of it, he did not attempt a Lutz jump at either of his last two events, yet still finished first and third in them.

“A good sign that it’s healing,” said Malinin, who hopes to put the Lutz back in later this season. “It showed today that with all the prep that I’m doing, all the physical therapy.

“I was sort of in shock I was able to pull this off with all the preparation that I didn’t have.”

Malinin, the world junior champion who turned 18 last week, became the second-youngest U.S. man to win a Grand Prix Final medal after Nathan Chen.

Uno and Malinin ascended to the top of the sport following two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu‘s retirement and reigning Olympic champion Chen’s indefinite, possibly permanent leave from the sport.

Next, Uno and Malinin head to their respective national championships to lock up spots at March’s worlds in Japan.

Also Saturday, Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier consolidated their world No. 1 status by winning the Grand Prix Final ice dance. Gilles and Poirier, seventh at the Olympics, totaled 215.64 points to beat Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates by 3.7 points.

Chock and Bates, the top returning ice dance couple from last season with all three Olympic medalists not competing internationally this fall, were bidding for the biggest international title of their careers. The U.S. earned a Grand Prix Final dance medal for a 14th consecutive time.

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Scotty James wins fifth X Games snowboard halfpipe title

Scotty James
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Scotty James doesn’t have Olympic gold, but he remains king of the X Games halfpipe.

James, the Australian snowboarder who took bronze and silver at the last two Olympics, earned his fifth Aspen gold, repeating as champ of the biggest annual contest under falling snow in the Colorado Rockies. Only the retired Shaun White has more X Games men’s snowboard halfpipe titles with eight.

Nobody on Friday night attempted a triple cork, which was first done in competition by Japan’s Ayumu Hirano last season en route to the Olympic title. Hirano placed sixth Friday.

“It was a tough night, pretty interesting conditions,” James said. “Had to adjust the game plan. The show goes on.”

In a format introduced three years ago, athletes were ranked on overall impression over the course of a three-run jam session for the entire field rather than scoring individual runs.

Earlier, Olympic gold medalist Zoi Sadowski-Synnott of New Zealand repeated as women’s snowboard slopestyle champion, passing Olympic bronze medalist Tess Coady of Australia on the final run of the competition. Sadowski-Synnott, the only snowboarder or skier to win Olympic, world and X Games slopestyle titles, capped her finale with back-to-back 900s.

The competition lacked 2014 and 2018 Olympic champion Jamie Anderson, who announced her pregnancy last month.

Canada’s Megan Oldham landed the first triple cork in women’s ski big air competition history to beat Olympic silver medalist Tess Ledeux of France, according to commentators. Oldham, a 21-year-old ex-gymnast, was fourth at the Olympics.

Eileen Gu, the Olympic champion from China, did not compete but is entered in halfpipe and slopestyle later this weekend.

ON HER TURF: U.S. freeskier Maggie Voisin on grief, loss, finding motivation

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Isabeau Levito wins U.S. figure skating title at age 15, followed by comeback stories

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Isabeau Levito won her first U.S. figure skating title at age 15, cementing her status as the new leading American woman to open the new Olympic cycle.

Levito, the world junior champion, tallied 223.33 points between two strong programs in San Jose, California. She distanced two-time U.S. champion Bradie Tennell, who went 19 months between competitions due to foot and ankle injuries in 2021 and 2022 and scored 213.12.

Tennell was just two hundredths behind Levito after Thursday’s short but had multiple jumping errors in the free skate.

Levito followed her as last to go in the free and nailed the most pressure-packed performance of her young career, including the hardest jump combination done of the entire field. She didn’t receive a single negative mark from a judge for her 19 technical elements in her two programs.

Moments later, she was in tears backstage.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Scores | Broadcast Schedule

“I was just so proud of myself for staying so calm and staying so focused, doing exactly what I aimed to do,” Levito, who hasn’t finished off the podium in more than 20 events dating to November 2016, said on NBC. “I’m ready to start bouncing off the walls.”

Amber Glenn, 23, placed third and will likely become the oldest U.S. women’s singles skater to make her world championships debut in at least 45 years. Glenn botched her 11th attempt to join the list of U.S. women to land a clean triple Axel (tally according to Skatingscores.com) but still moved up from fourth after the short program, passing Starr Andrews.

Last year, Glenn entered nationals as the fourth-ranked U.S. woman and a hopeful for the three-woman Olympic team. She placed 14th in the short program, competing unknowingly with COVID-19, then tested positive and withdrew before the free skate.

In 2021, Glenn was the U.S. silver medalist, yet passed over for a spot on the two-woman world team in favor of the more experienced Karen Chen, who finished 35 hundredths behind Glenn at those nationals.

Levito, Tennell and Glenn are expected to make up the team for March’s world championships, decided by a committee.

Gracie Gold, a two-time U.S. champion who was fifth after the short program, popped a pair of planned triple Lutzes and dropped to eighth.

None of the three 2022 U.S. Olympians competed. Alysa Liu and Mariah Bell retired. Chen is a student at Cornell and might not return.

Nationals continue Saturday with the free dance and pairs’ free skate, live on NBC Sports and Peacock.

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