American team Knierim and Frazier eye Grand Prix Final gold

Dec 7, 2022, 11:02 PM | Updated: Dec 8, 2022, 1:05 pm
American pairs figure skaters Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier compete in the pairs' short program...

American pairs figure skaters Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier compete in the pairs' short program during the figure skating Grand Prix finals at the Palavela ice arena, in Turin, Italy, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

(AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

              United State's Ilia Malinin competes in the men's short program during the figure skating Grand Prix finals at the Palavela ice arena, in Turin, Italy, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)
            
              Japan's Yamamoto Sota competes in the men's short program during the figure skating Grand Prix finals at the Palavela ice arena, in Turin, Italy, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)
            
              Japan's Shoma Uno competes in the men's short program during the figure skating Grand Prix finals at the Palavela ice arena, in Turin, Italy, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)
            
              Japanese pairs figure skaters Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara compete in the pairs' short program during the figure skating Grand Prix finals at the Palavela ice arena, in Turin, Italy, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)
            
              American pairs figure skaters Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier compete in the pairs' short program during the figure skating Grand Prix finals at the Palavela ice arena, in Turin, Italy, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

World champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier did nothing to harm their chances of becoming the first American pairs team to win the prestigious Grand Prix Final, turning in a brilliant short program Thursday in Turin, Italy.

Knierim and Frazier trailed their biggest rivals, Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara of Japan, by less than half a point heading into Friday’s free skate at Torino Palavela, where the capstone to the Grand Prix season is being held after the event’s two-year hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We both skated from our hearts and we skated with passion and we are very proud and happy with how we skated today,” Knierim said. “We made a big improvement from the (Grand Prix season) and we are relieved with the outcome.”

In the men’s event, world champion Shoma Uno led a Japanese sweep of the first three spots following his short program, scoring a world-leading 99.99 points to “Gravity” by John Mayer. Sota Yamamoto and Kao Miura were close behind, while American hopeful Ilia Malinin was in fifth after a series of shaky jumps.

The women’s short program and rhythm dance also take place Friday. The men’s free skate is Saturday.

The pairs competition figured to be a summit meeting between Knierim and Frazier, fresh of a successful Olympics, and the team of Miura and Kihara, who finished second to the Americans at the world championships earlier this year.

Neither of the pairs teams disappointed.

Knierim and Frazier put together their best program of the Grand Prix season, highlighted by a high-amplitude throw triple flip. They’re looking to become the first U.S. team to ever win the Grand Prix Final. Knierim closed her eyes as their scores were read, and both lit up in smiles when they heard the total of 77.65 that briefly put them in the lead.

“I was very proud how we performed,” Frazier said. “We tried to add some details and tonight it came alive.”

Miura and Kihara were last on the ice and also performed flawlessly to a mashup of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” by Marcus Mumford and Elvis Presley. The winners of Skate Canada and the NHK Trophy landed their side-by-side triple toe loop and a big throw triple lutz to earn 78.08 points, nearly eclipsing their own season best.

“Unbelievable,” coach Bruno Marcotte said as they exited the ice. “That was amazing.”

Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps of Canada were third with 69.34 points, putting them in podium position. They were followed by the two Italian teams of Sara Conti and Niccolo Macci and Rebecca Ghilardi and Filippo Ambrosini, as well as the second American team of Emily Chan and Spencer Akira Howe.

“We went through some tough times together,” said Kihara, who has dealt with a series of injuries over the course of his career, “and we were able to share these feeling and we can now enjoy every competition and it’s wonderful.”

Uno, who has two silver and two bronze medals from Grand Prix Final, did what he could to position himself for gold. He landed his opening quad flip, a quad flip-triple toe loop and triple axel in his best short program this season.

Yamamoto was more than five points behind with 94.86 for his short program. Miura scored 87.07 points, while Daniel Grassl performed well for his home crowd. Malinin faltered through his program to leave him playing catch up, though his big-air quads — and the quad axel that only he has landed in competition — keep his podium chances alive.

___

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Jamahal Hill, left, of the U.S., competes with Brazil's Glover Teixeira in a light heavyweight titl...
Associated Press

UFC to expand into Mexico with new training facility

The UFC will open a multimillion-dollar, 32,000-square-foot MMA training facility in Mexico City late this year, the organization announced Tuesday morning. “Some of the greatest athletes in combat sports history have come from Mexico,” UFC President Dana White said in a statement. “Our teams at the (Las Vegas Performance Institute) are the best in the […]
1 day ago
FILE - A Russian flag is held above the Olympic Rings at Adler Arena Skating Center during the Wint...
Associated Press

Paris mayor: No Russian team at 2024 Games if war continues

PARIS (AP) — Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo says there should be no Russian delegation allowed at the Paris Olympics next year if Moscow continues its war against Ukraine. Hidalgo previously said Russian competitors could take part under a neutral flag but she backpedaled on Tuesday in an interview with French media France Info. Acknowledging that […]
1 day ago
FILE - A woman passes by the Olympic rings at the City Hall in Paris, on  July 25, 2022. Latvia is ...
Associated Press

Nordic sports bodies urge IOC to ban Russian athletes

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — The five Olympic committees in the Nordic region on Tuesday urged the International Olympic Committee to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials from “international sports participation” because of the war in Ukraine. The bodies from Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway said they wanted to expressed their “steadfast support once […]
1 day ago
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) reacts after being called for a foul in the second half...
Associated Press

Ticket demand, anticipation grows as LeBron nears Kareem

Courtside seats 166 and 167 at the arena where the Los Angeles Lakers play their home games are pretty much as good as it gets. The people occupying those chairs when LeBron James breaks Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s NBA scoring record will have an up-close view, with their feet on the very hardwood where the history-making shot […]
1 day ago
A customer, right, makes a sports bet at the Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City, N.J., Monday, Fe...
Associated Press

Group: 1 in 5 US adults will bet on this year’s Super Bowl

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — A record 50.4 million American adults plan to bet on this year’s Super Bowl, wagering a total of $16 billion, the gambling industry’s national trade group predicted Tuesday. The American Gaming Association forecasts that 1 in 5 American adults will place a bet on Sunday’s NFL championship game between the […]
1 day ago
Philadelphia 76ers guard James Harden (1) passes against New York Knicks guard Quentin Grimes (6) d...
Associated Press

Nets’ Irving drama makes other East contenders look stable

Blake Griffin is no stranger to trade drama. He was dealt from the Clippers to the Pistons in 2018, and last season he was playing for the Brooklyn Nets when they sent James Harden to Philadelphia in a February blockbuster. These days, Griffin is with the Boston Celtics, who seem awfully stable when compared with […]
1 day ago
American team Knierim and Frazier eye Grand Prix Final gold