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)

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.


Associated Press

Ex-Packer Guion gets 1 year for domestic violence assault

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading no contest in a domestic violence assault at his home last fall. Brown County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Walsh also ordered Guion on Tuesday to serve three years’ probation and complete a domestic […]

1 year ago

Joe Jarzynka...

Associated Press

Durant eager for Suns debut vs. Hornets after knee injury

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Durant has been through quite a bit during his 15-year NBA career — but joining a new team midway through the season is a new one for the 13-time All-Star. The 34-year-old Durant doesn’t seem all that worried. Durant makes his highly anticipated Phoenix Suns debut on Wednesday night against […]

1 year ago

FILE - Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores stands on the sideline during the second half of an N...

Associated Press

Judge: NFL coach can press discrimination claims in court

NEW YORK (AP) — NFL Coach Brian Flores can pursue some of his discrimination claims against the league and its teams in court rather than through arbitration, a judge ruled Wednesday. The written decision by Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan was issued months after lawyers for the league tried to get the lawsuit moved to […]

1 year ago

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock cools off in the first period during an NHL hockey game ...

Associated Press

Kane trade reinforces hard reality of Blackhawks rebuild

CHICAGO (AP) — After days of speculation, the harsh reality of the Chicago Blackhawks’ situation was reinforced by one move in a flurry of transactions ahead of the NHL trade deadline. Showtime is over, at least in Chicago, and a seemingly bright future is, well, way off in the distance. The reverberations of Chicago’s decision […]

1 year ago

FILE -  Yves Jean-Bart, president of the Haitian Football Federation, wearing a protective face mas...

Associated Press

Disgraced ex-Haitian soccer president announces he’s back

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s former soccer federation president whose lifetime ban from sport over sexual abuse allegations was overturned last month announced Wednesday that he is reclaiming his position. Yves Jean-Bart’s defiant announcement could lead to a standoff with FIFA, which already has appointed an emergency management committee to lead the Haitian Football Association […]

1 year ago

FILE - Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after an NFL football game against the ...

Associated Press

Rodgers says decision on future will come ‘soon enough’

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers says he will make a decision on his future “soon enough” as the four-time MVP quarterback ponders whether to play next season and if his future remains with the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers, 39, discussed his future while speaking on an episode of the “Aubrey Marcus Podcast” that […]

1 year ago

American team Knierim and Frazier eye Grand Prix Final gold