HIGHLIGHTS: Chen, Bell top U.S. figure skating champs; Bowe dominates U.S. speed skating Trials; Monson and Kipchirchir take U.S. X-C titles

World Men's Figure Skating Champion Nathan Chen (Photo: Wikipedia/Aude Mugnier)

Headline results of noteworthy competitions around the world/updated/:

● Alpine Skiing ● Dealing with uncertain weather as well as the coronavirus, the FIS Alpine World Cup circuits were in Switzerland for the men and Slovenia for the women.

At Adelboden, it was Switzerland’s seasonal leader, Marco Odermatt, who won his fifth race of the tour, clocking 2:34.45 for the two runs of the Giant Slalom, just ahead of Manuel Feller (AUT: 2:34.93) and Alexis Pinturault (FRA: 2:34.99).

Sunday’s Slalom saw an Austrian 1-2, as 29-year-old Jonathon Strolz won his first career World Cup win – gold! – in 1:50.05, with Feller finishing second again (1:50.22) and German Linus Strasser third (1:50.34).

The women’s racing in Kranjska Gora (SLO, moved from Maribor due to weather) also had a Giant Slalom and Slalom, with Sweden’s Sara Hector, 29, suddenly a star on this season’s circuit, getting her third career World Cup win (and second this season) in 2:15.79. That was almost a second faster than France’s two-time World Champion, Tessa Worley (2:16.75) and Italian star Marta Bassino (2:17.11). American Mikaela Shiffrin was seventh (2:17.84).

Slovenia’s Petra Vlhova, the reigning World Cup champ, won the Slalom on Sunday, her fifth win of the season (all in Slaloms) in 1:44.29. That was 0.23 better than Swiss Wendy Holdener (1:44.52), with Swede Anna Swein Larsson third (1:45.35).

Shiffrin straddled a gate on the second run and was disqualified; she had been third after the first run. Shiffrin has a small, 866-831 lead on Vlhova in the overall standings.

● Athletics ● The USA Track & Field national Cross Country Championships featured spirited running in San Diego’s Mission Bay Park, with six divisions, for Masters, U-20 and open competitors.

In the men’s 10 km open Division, 59 runners started, but the race came down to four men in the final 1,000 m, with Dillon Maggard and Sam Chelanga in front of 2018 champ Shadrack Kipchirchir and two-time winner Leonard Korir. Kipchirchir had the strongest finished got to the line first for his second national title in 30:32, just ahead of Maggard and Chelanga, both timed in 30:34. Korir was fourth in 30:37.

The women’s race, also 10 km, started with 38 entries, but was not in doubt at the end. Alicia Monson ran with Weini Kelati from the start, but Monson pulled away decisively in the second half of the race to win by 34:01 to 34:18. Emily Infeld, the 2017 winner, was a not-that-close third in 34:36.

It’s another move up for Monson, 23, who was a U.S. Olympian in Tokyo in the 10,000 m and finished 13th.

● Biathlon ● The IBU World Cup season resumed after the holiday break, with Sprint and Pursuit competition in Oberhof (GER).

On Friday, the men’s 10 km Sprint was the first Russian victory of the season, by Alexander Loginov, in 27:00.8, by 6.5 seconds over seasonal leader Emilien Jacquelin (FRA) and 15.1 seconds over Norway’s Sturla Holm Lagreid.

Sunday’s 12.5 km Pursuit was a triumph for France’s Quentin Fillon Maillet – his second of the season – edging Sebastian Samuelsson (SWE), 36:48.3-36:58.2. Norway’s Tarjei Boe was third (+15.6) and Lagried fourth (+15.7).

The women’s 7.5 km Sprint was the fourth win of the season by World Cup leader Marte Olsbu Roeiseland (NOR), in 23:30.1, with a rare tie for second by Hanna Sola (BLR) and Julia Simon (FRA), both 7.1 seconds back.

Roeiseland doubled her pleasure in the 10 km Pursuit for a fifth win in 33:18.8, 33.4 seconds clear of Swede Hanna Oeberg and 42.7 up on Dzinara Alimbekava (BLR).

Two mixed relays were held on Friday, with Norway winning the 4×7.5 km race and Russia taking the Single Mixed Relay (1×6 km and 1×7.5 km).

● Bob & Skeleton ● The penultimate World Cup stop in Winterberg (GER) saw reigning Olympic champ Francesco Friedrich (GER) claim his sixth win in seven races this season in the Two-Man division.

Friedrich, with Alexander Schueller, won in 1:49.78, ahead of German teammate Johannes Lochner (1:50.11) and Canada’s Justin Kripps (1:50.63). Friedrich won both races and Lochner was second in both.

In the Four-Man racing on Sunday, Friedrich maintained his perfect record for the season, winning his seventh race in a row in 1:49.08, comfortably ahead of Brad Hall (GBR: 1:49.50) with American Hunter Church winning the first U.S. medal of the season in 1:49.54. Church had Joshua Williamson, Charles Volker and Kristopher Horn aboard; it’s the first U.S. World Cup medal in Four-Man since Church won a bronze at Igls (AUT) in January of 2020!

The Two-Woman class was a German 1-2 with Laura Nolte winning her fourth race of the season in 1:57.15, ahead of Kim Kalicki (1:57.28), with Americans Kaillie Humphries (1:57.30) and Elana Meyers Taylor (1:57.55) third and fourth.

Women’s Monobob World Series races were held on Thursday and Friday in Innsbruck (AUT: two races) and on Saturday in Winterberg (GER). The Innsbruck races had the third win of the season by Germany’s Stephanie Schneider over Australia’s Ashleigh Werner in race one, then Margot Boch (FRA) beating Schneider in race two. In Winterberg, Meyers Taylor won for the fourth time this season in 1:58.76, beating Breeana Walker (AUS: 1:58.93), Nolte (GER: 1:59.01) and Humphries in fourth (1:59.17).

In Skeleton, the first men’s race was cancelled by the jury due to non-compliance with the sweeping protocol, so the second run decided the events. Latvian star Martin Dukurs won his 60th World Cup race in 56.36, followed by Axel Jungk (GER: 56.37) and Russia’s Alexander Tretiakov (56.41).

The women were able to complete both races; Kimberley Bos (NED: 1:56.04) won for the second time this season, ahead of Jacqueline Loelling (GER: 1:56.28) and two-time seasonal winner Elena Nikitina (RUS: 1:56.47).

● Cross Country Skiing ●Because of growing concerns to hold international events in the current pandemic situation and the virulence of the Omicron variant, the organizing committee of Les Rousses (FRA), the French Ski Federation and the National Authorities took the decision to cancel the FIS Cross-Country World Cup that was scheduled to take place from 14th to 16th January 2021.

“Despite all efforts, the changing restrictions and new regulations coming did not guarantee the safety of all stakeholders and therefore the decision was taken in advance.”

It was announced that these races are not going to be made up later in the season; the program had included a men’s and women’s Freestyle Sprint, Freestyle 15/10 km and 15/10 km Classical Pursuit.

The U.S. Cross Country Championships concluded at Soldier Hollow in Utah, with Caitlin Patterson taking two titles and international star Rosie Brennan winning the 20 km Freestyle Mass Start:

Men/Sprint: J.C. Schoonmaker held off Logan Diekmann and Noel Keeffe, 3:21.05-3:21.88-3:21.96.

Men/15 km Classical: Adam Martin was a decisive winner in 39:18.0, with Scott Patterson 48.9 seconds back (40:06.9) and Schoonmaker third (40:10.9).

Men/30 km Freestyle Mass Start: Patterson dueled with David Norris over the last half of the race, pulling away on the sixth lap and winning, 1:13:24.8 to 1:13.36.7. Hunter Wonders was third in 1:13.52.8.

Women/Sprint: Caitlin Patterson (brother of Scott) edged Becca Rorabaugh, 3:42.60-3:42.84, with Syd Palmer-Leger third (3:43.17).

Women/10 km Classical: A second win for Patterson in 28:12.0, easily beating Katharine Ogden (29:05.4) and Mariah Bredal (29:13.2).

Women/20 km Freestyle Mass Start: A decisive win for U.S. World Cup star Rosie Brennan, finishing in 53:16.9, more than 80 seconds up on Rosie Frankowski (54:37.5) and Patterson (54:39.4).

● Figure Skating ● The U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Nashville, Tennessee served as the primary selection meet for the Beijing Winter Games, with the U.S. poised to send a powerful team.

There was criticism of the event over Covid exposure and safety, with at least seven entries withdrawing from the event either before it began or in mid-stream. Women’s stars Alysa Liu, a two-time national champ, and Amber Glenn, dropped out during the Short Program. Defending U.S. Pairs champs Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier didn’t attend in the wake of Frazier’s positive test beforehand.

On the ice, Mariah Bell dominated the women’s competition, winning the Short Program and the Free Skate in a tight battle with Karen Chen, finishing with scores of 216.25 and 213.85. Isabeau Levito was third at 210.75, but Liu was named to the U.S. Team after her third-place finish in the Short Program.

Bell, 25, is the oldest U.S. champ in 95 years and made her first Olympic team. She was seventh at the 2019 World Championships. Chen was a 2018 U.S. Olympian and finished 11th; she was fourth at the 2019 World Championships and won the U.S. title in 2017. Liu was a sensation in winning the 2019 U.S. title at age 13 and repeated the next year. Now 16, she’s on her way to her first Olympic Games.

With Knierim and Frazier not on the ice, 2019 champs Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc won the Pairs convincingly, scoring 225.23 to 209.67 for Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson. The U.S. has two Olympic slots in Pairs and Cain-Gribble and LeDuc will go to Beijing along with Knierim and Frazier.

The powerful U.S. Ice Dance program was on display with two-time national champs Madison Chock and Evan Bates leading three-time U.S. champs Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue after the Rhythm Dance, 91.94-89.39. In the Free Dance, Hubbell and Donohue out-scored Chock and Bates, 136.20-135.43, but Chock and Bates won overall, 227.37-225.59. Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker were third at 205.68.

The men’s competition was expected to be a showcase for U.S. stars Nathan Chen, winner of the last five nationals and three World Championships, and Vincent Zhou, the 2019 Worlds bronze medalist. Chen took the Short Program with a massive score of 115.39 to 112.39 over Zhou as the top four all scored 100+ points.

Chen dominated the Free Skate, scoring 212.62 for a total of 328.01 and winning easily. Zhou dropped to fourth in the Free Skate (177.38) and was passed by 17-year-old Ilia Malinin – 16th at the 2020 World Junior Championships – who scored 199.02 in the Free Skate for a total of 302.48 and the silver medal. Zhou ended up third (290.16), just ahead of Jason Brown (289.78)

On Sunday, U.S. Figure Skating named Pairs teams Cain-Gribble and LeDuc and Knierim and Frazier to the Beijing Olympic squad as well as Ice Dance pairs Chock and Bates, Hubbell and Donohue and Hawayek and Baker.

/Updated/The men’s team was named, with Chen, Zhou and Brown to compete in Beijing.

● Freestyle Skiing ● The Moguls tour was in Tremblant (CAN) on Friday and Saturday, and that means Canadian superstar Mikael Kingsbury.

The reigning Olympic Moguls champion, Kingsbury extended his record for the most World Cup wins in history with his 69th win on Friday. He scored 86.24 points to out-duel Walter Wallberg (SWE: 84.65) and Japan’s Ikuma Horishima (83.17). American Nick Page was seventh.

On Saturday, Kingsbury won again for his 70th career World Cup victory, scoring 85.59 to 82.66 for Wallberg and 78.78 for Horishima. Page got up to fourth at 77.34.

The Friday women’s event was the second win of the season for 17-year-old Anri Kawamura (JPN: 81.76), ahead of 2018 Olympic champ Perrine Laffont (FRA: 81.43), with Americans Tess Johnson third (79.25) and Elizabeth Lemley fourth (79.24).

Laffont moved up to the top of the podium on Saturday, scoring 82.55, over Jakara Anthony (AUS: 79.02) and Kawamura (78.78), with American Olivia Giaccio fifth (77.19). It was Laffont’s 23rd career World Cup win.

At the Toyota U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain, Halfpipe and Slopestyle events were scheduled, but shuffled due to some high winds.

On Saturday, the men’s Halfpipe went to New Zealand’s Nico Porteous, the 2018 Olympic bronze medalist, ahead of a trio of Americans. Poretous scored 97.00 to edge David Wise – now 31 and the 2014-18 Olympic gold medalist – at 95.25, Aaron Blunck (93.75) and Birk Irving (92.00). As this was the final Halfpipe event of the year. Canada’s Brendan MacKay ended up the season winner at 260 points. American Alex Ferreira had the same number of points, but won once vs. twice for MacKay. Porteous was third (180).

The women’s Halfpipe title went to Eileen Gu (CHN), who swept all four World Cup events on the season to win her first Crystal Globe, and is the Olympic favorite. She scored 97.50 to 92.50 for Estonia’s Kelly Sildaru, with Americans Brita Sigourney third (87.75) and Hanna Faulhaber (87.25) fourth. Gu won the season title with a perfect 400 points, ahead of Faulhaber (235) and Rachael Karker (CAN: 220).

On Sunday, the Slopestyle qualifying and finals were both held, with 2018 Olympic Slopestyle medal winners Alex Hall (USA: 95.50) and Nicholas Goepper (USA: 94.75) going 1-2 in the men’s division, and Evan McEachran (CAN: 93.00) third. American Mac Forehand was fourth at 91.00.

Estonia’s Sildaru won the women’s Slopestyle at 93,75, ahead of Gu (91.00) with American Maggie Voisin third (90.00). It’s Sildaru’s second win in two Slopestyle World Cups this season.

● Luge ● The FIL World Cup tour landed in Sigulda (LAT) with a win for men’s home favorite Kristers Aparjods, who won his second race of the season in 1:36.583, ahead of two-time Olympic champ Felix Loch (GER: 1:36.669) and Italian star Dominik Fischnaller (1:36./684), who won his fourth medal of the season.

Loch won the Sprint race on Sunday in 27.819, with Aparjods second (27.833) and Fischnaller again third (27.890).

The men’s Doubles was won for the third straight race by a German team, this time three-time World Champions Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken, who finished ahead of home favorites Andris and Juris Sics, 1:23.856-1:23.893. Two-time Olympic champions Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt were third in 1:24.049.

The Sics brothers won the Sprint (31.157), beating Eggert and Benecken (31.178) and Wendl and Arlt (31.226).

The women’s races saw the season’s breakout star, Madeleine Egle (AUT: 23) win her fourth race in 1:24.192 over seasonal leader Julia Taubitz (GER: 1:24.372) and Tatiana Ivanova (RUS: 1:24.410). Ivanova won the Sprint in 31.241, ahead of Natalie Geisenberger (GER: 31.255) and Egle (31.272).

● Nordic Combined ● The FIS World Cup circuit resumed on Val di Fiemme (ITA), with Austria’s Johannes Lamparter winning his first event of the season on Saturday, off the 106 m hill and a 10 km cross-country race. It was the first time since 27 November that Norwegian star Jarl-Magnus Riiber did not win; he had won six straight World Cup races, but did not compete this time due to a back injury.

Lamparter won ahead of German veterans Vinzenz Geiger and Eric Frenzel, 25:49.8-26:06.3-26:06.5.

On Sunday, Geiger moved up to the top spot, winning in 26:14.5, with Lamparter second in 26:19.5 and 2018 double gold medalist Johannes Rydzek (GER) third in 26:20.2.

The women’s competition was a Mass Start 5 km race after the jumping, with Norway’s Gyda Westvold Hansen continuing her perfect season with her sixth straight win. Japan’s Anju Nakamura won the cross-country race in 15:08.9, but the Norwegian won the jumping by a big margin to finish with a 14.1-point margin. Austria’s Lisa Hirner was third.

A Mixed Team event with two men and two women was also held, with Norway winning in 40:55.5, followed by Austria (+10.5 seconds) and Germany (+23.9).

● Ski Jumping ● A special follow-up event was held in Bischofshofen (AUT: 142 m hill) after the conclusion of the Four Hills Tournament on Saturday, with a 1-2 finish for Norway’s Marius Lindvik and Halvor Egner Granerud, who finished 2-3 in the Four Hills.

Lindvik won by 291.7 to 287.7, with Austria’s Jan Hoerl third (285.7); Four Hills winner Ryoyu Kobayashi (JPN) was fourth at 282.3.

Sunday’s team event was won by Austria (1,015.5), just ahead of Japan (1,006.4) and Norway (1,006.2).

● Snowboard ● A busy schedule saw action in three countries, with the “Alpine” snowboarders in Scuol (SUI) on Saturday.

The men’s Parallel Giant Slalom was a win for Russian Dmitry Loginov, who got his second World medal of the season. He beat Germany’s Stefan Baumeister to the line, with seasonal leader Sang-ho Lee (KOR) taking the bronze.

The women’s PGS final was won by Austria’s Sabine Schoeffmann, ahead of two Swiss stars, Julie Zogg and Ladina Jenny. Both Swiss athletes won their second medals of the World Cup season, while Schoeffmann got her first.

In Krasnoyarsk (RUS), the SnowCross circuit had two races each for men and women. On Saturday, Germany’s Martin Noerl got his first win of the season, crossing the line ahead of Merlin Surget (FRA) and Julian Lueftner (AUT). All got their first World Cup medals of the season.

The second race saw Noerl get his second win in a row and third career World Cup gold, beating Jakob Dusek (AUT) and Eliot Grondin (CAN).

Current World Champion Charlotte Bankes (GBR) took the women’s title for her second World Cup win of the season. Sochi bronze medalist Chloe Trespauch (FRA) was second, ahead of American legend Lindsey Jacobellis – now 36 – who won her first World Cup medal of the season.

Sunday’s race was an exact repeat on the podium: Bankes, Trespauch and Jacobellis; this was Bankes’ seventh career World Cup gold.

U.S. Ski & Snowboard noted that the American SnowCross team for Beijing is just about set after Jacobellis’s two bronzes:

“Jacobellis joins teammate Faye Gulini on the women’s team. On the men’s side, Nick Baumgartner and Hagen Kearney both achieved criteria to earn a nomination to compete at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022.”

Snowboarding used to be thought of as a youngster’s sport at the Olympic level, but the U.S. will send Baumgartner (40), Jacobellis (36), Kearney (30) and Gulini (29) to Beijing. Jacobellis will be competing in her fifth Olympic Winter Games.

Halfpipe and Slopestyle events were in at the Toyota U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain in California, while dodging some difficult weather.

The Slopestyle finals on Saturday featured 2018 Olympic Champion Red Gerard of the U.S. and he delivered, scoring 82.88 on his second run to take the win. Niek van der Velden (NED) led the first round at 76.56 and finished second, with New Zealand’s Tiam Collins (73.44) third.

Another U.S. Olympic star, 2014 and 2018 Olympic winner Jamie Anderson, now 31, won the women’s Slopestyle on her second trial at 86.32. New Zealand’s Zoi Sadowski Synnott scored 82.50 in the first round and ended up second, and Japan’s Kokomo Murase (77.94) was third.

Saturday evening’s Halfpipe events had many focused on three-time Olympic champ Shaun White of the U.S., competing after a bout with Covid-19 over the holidays. He took one run in the qualifying round and scored 79.33 for fifth-best overall, but then did not compete in the finals, officially finishing 12th.

But the evening belonged to Japan. Two-time Olympic silver winner Ayumu Hirano won the men’s division with his second-round jump that scored 95.80, ahead of Ruka Hirano (no relation; 93.40) and Germany’s Andre Hoeflich (90.00). Lucas Foster was the top American at 69.40.

The women’s Halfpipe final saw Japan finish 1-3-4, with Ruki Tomita winning with her second run of 89.40, ahead of two-time World Champion Xuetong Cai (CHN: 86.80), Sena Tomita (JPN: 84.60, Ruki’s older sister) and Mitsuki Ono (JPN: 80.20).

● Speed Skating ● The U.S. Speedskating Olympic Trials in Milwaukee, Wisconsin figured to be a showcase for Joey Mantia on the men’s side and Erin Jackson and Brittany Bowe among the women. Well, not quite.

The U.S. women have a quota of five skaters for Beijing and the men have seven. These limits became important as the Trials continued, but the undisputed star was Bowe.

A four-time World Champion and 11-time Worlds medalist, Bowe dominated the women’s competition, posting wins in the 500 m (37.811), the 1,000 m (1:13.632) and 1,500 m (1:55.815).

In the 500 m, World Cup leader Jackson was the favorite, but she was off, finishing third in 38.249, behind Bowe and Kimi Goetz (37.859). Jackson could still make it to Beijing as the U.S. has a possible third berth in the event, depending on other entries.

Bowe’s 1:13.632 in the 1,000 m was a track record at the Pettit National Ice Center, well ahead of Goetz (1:14.898) and Jackson (1:15.881). And Bowe was a clear winner in the 1,500 m at 1:55.815, ahead of distance star Mia Manganello-Kilburg (1:57.291) and Goetz (1:58.066). Manganello-Kilburg won the 3,000 m in 4:07.065, way ahead of Dessie Weigel (4:15.347).

Giorgia Birkeland won the Mass Start in 9:53.200, just ahead of Kilburg-Manganello (9:53.340), Jamie Jurak (9:54.560) and Weigel (9:54.890).

The men’s competition saw Mantia, three-time World Champion in the Mass Start event, win the 1,500 m in a track record 1:44.012, ahead of Emery Lehman (1:45.100) and Casey Dawson (1:46.565).

Mantia was quite public with his view that the Trials should have been canceled due to the rise in Covid infections nationally, saying “I was really upset that they pushed forward. … pretty much every medical representative and top athlete was pretty disappointed to go forward with the trials here, but here we are and we’re making the best of it.”

Emerging from the Trials as a new star was Jordan Stolz, 17, who stormed to a win in the 1,000 m in a track record 1:07.619, beating Mantia (1:09.002) and Austin Kleba (1:09.159). Then Stolz won the 500 m in another track record, of 34.559, ahead of Kleba (35.172) and Cooper McLeod was third (35.225).

Ethan Cepuran won the 5,000 m in 6:16.538 over Dawson (6:16.575) and Lehman (6:16.703). Ian Quinn was the surprise winner of the men’s Mass Start race, ahead of Cepuran and Lehman, 7:56.820-7:59.000-8:06.070, with Mantia sixth and Stolz seventh.

/Updated/The U.S. team for Beijing will have Cepuran, Dawson, Lehman, Kleba, Mantia, Quinn, and Stolz for the men, with Bowe, Goetz, Birkeland and Manganello-Kilburg qualified for the women. Bowe announced that she would be giving up her spot for Jackson, getting the medal contender into the Games, where Bowe had virtually no shot at the podium.

Bowe’s gift to Jackson might have been the best performance of the Trials.

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