US figure skater Chen wins 3rd Grand Prix Finals in a row

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TURIN, Italy (AP)American figure skater Nathan Chen won the Grand Prix Finals for the third season in a row Saturday, beating Olympic gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu by a dominant 44-point margin.

Chen and Hanyu both landed five quadruple jumps in their free skates, a number that was almost unimaginable in skating even a few years ago, but Chen skated his program clean to score a total 335.20 points, while Hanyu made crucial errors.

The women’s competition too demonstrated the rapid athletic progress in skating, with two of the medalists landing quads, though winner Alena Kostornaia’s biggest jumps were triple axels. Olympic gold medalist Alina Zagitova didn’t even make the podium.

The only difficult moment for Chen came on a combination when he improvised a triple salchow instead of a flip after coming off his previous jump in a less-than-ideal position.

Chen became only the second men’s skater to win the Grand Prix Finals three times in a row. The only other skater to have done that is Hanyu, who won four straight competitions from 2013 through 2016.

Hanyu dropped points late in the program with just a single axel instead of a triple. The Japanese skater crouched on the ice at the end of his skate and looked exhausted, scoring 291.43.

It was the second consecutive skate with uncharacteristic errors from Hanyu, who missed a combination in Friday’s short program.

Skating on his 25th birthday, Hanyu landed five quads in a program for the first time, and paid tribute to Chen, saying the competitiveness between them was driving the sport forward.

”Sometimes somebody says (if) figure skating is a sport or not, and I’m really feeling it’s a sport in here,” Hanyu said.

Chen returned the compliment, saying: ”It’s an amazing honor to be able to compete against Yuzuru. I’ve looked up to him, idolized him for years and even now he’s someone who is truly like a skating god to me.”

Skating last, Chen had a long wait to take to the ice while the rink was cleared of stuffed toys thrown by Hanyu’s legion of passionate fans.

Kevin Aymoz took bronze to become the first Frenchman to win a medal in the Grand Prix Finals since Brian Joubert won 13 years ago.

Aymoz landed a quad toeloop-triple toeloop combination, but fell on another quad toeloop, as he scored 275.63. He and his coach were in tears when they heard the score.

Russia swept the podium in the women’s event, with all of the medalists having come up from the junior ranks this season and all sharing coach Eteri Tutberidze. Olympic champ Zagitova is another Tutberidze skater, but she placed sixth and last after a listless and erratic free skate.

Kostornaia scored 247.59 for the gold after two triple axels. Second-place Anna Shcherbakova attempted three quads, though with some errors and scored 240.92.

Despite falling on one of her four quads, and converting a fifth quad into a double, Alexandra Trusova took third on 233.18, weighed down by her fifth-place score in the short program. She landed the first-ever quad flip in international women’s competition.

Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France won the Finals ice dance title for the third time, finishing first in the rhythm dance and the free dance for a total score of 219.85.

U.S. pairs took the silver and bronze, with Madison Chock and Evan Bates finishing second with a total 210.68 after overtaking compatriots Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue in the free skate.

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