Japan's Tatsuk Machida, Russia's Julia Lipnitskaia win Rostelecom Cup figure skating titles

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MOSCOW — Japan’s Tatsuki Machida and Russia’s Julia Lipnitskaia won gold Saturday in the Rostelecom Cup, the last of the season’s six preliminary Grand Prix events.

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Machida Tatsuki, of Japan, performs his free program at the Cup of Russia ISU Grand Prix event in Moscow.  IVAN SEKRETAREV/ASSOCIATED PRESS
IVAN SEKRETAREV/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Machida Tatsuki, of Japan, performs his free program at the Cup of Russia ISU Grand Prix event in Moscow.

Machida landed a clean quad-double combination and followed with a triple axel-triple toe loop to race past early leader Maxim Kovtun, who had an error-riddled free skate. Machida, second after the short program, complained of feeling out of shape for reasons he couldn’t identify.

“I’m still in bad condition so it was a hard performance today,” he said. “But I really wanted to get a Grand Prix (Final) slot, so I was working so hard.”

For the United States, Richard Dornbush was fifth among the men while Mirai Nagasu was third among the women. Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates finished third in ice dance. The best showing in pairs was sixth by Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim.

Machida’s only significant misstep was putting a hand down to the ice on his opening quad. He was followed in the final standings by Kovtun, of Russia, and Javier Fernandez, of Spain.

Kovtun landed one quad, but fell on his first try and doubled his second and went on to step out of a triple axel and single a triple lutz.

SKI JUMP: In Klingenthal, Germany, Robert Kranjec soared 464 feet for the longest effort of the day to help give Slovenia the victory in a shortened opening event of the ski jump World Cup season Saturday.

Strong wind forced organizers to shorten the team event to one heat and Slovenia won with a combined total of 540.6 points for its foursome.

Germany was second with 528.3 point.

The individual competition is scheduled for today.

LUGE: In Igls, Austria, Chris Mazdzer wrapped up a spot on the 2014 U.S. Olympic team with a fourth-place finish in a World Cup race on Saturday, which more than took the sting away from missing out on what would have been his first individual medal on the circuit.

The 25-year-old from Saranac Lake, N.Y., is the first USA Luge competitor to satisfy all the necessary criteria for a berth on the team that will be heading to the Sochi Games in February. He will be part of the group formally nominated on Dec. 14.

“It’s a huge burden off,” said Mazdzer.

Erin Hamlin doesn’t have much to worry about now, either. The 2009 world champion was sixth in the women’s race, which USA Luge said “satisfied the selection criteria” for her nomination to the team, and while that is a huge step it doesn’t completely lock up a spot on the roster. But if nothing else, she’s assured of no worse than being in a race-off for an Olympic berth.

Hamlin could still clinch a spot before Dec. 14 by finishing at least fifth in any of the next three races at Winterberg, Whistler or Park City.

“I really want that top five,” Hamlin said.

She had a shot on Saturday, sitting in fourth after the first run. She wound up finishing sixth, on a day where the always-powerful German women’s team flexed its collective muscle once again.

Germany finished 1-2-3-4 in the women’s race. Natalie Geisenberger led the showing with a two-run time of 1 minute, 20.135 seconds for her second win in as many races this season. In the last 12 World Cup or world championship races dating back to the start of last season, Geisenberger <0x2014> the reigning overall champion and overwhelming Sochi gold-medal favorite <0x2014> has nine wins and three runner-up finishes.

Tatjana Hufner (1:20.167) and Anke Wischnewski (1:20.311) took silver and bronze for Germany, while Dajana Eitberger (1:20.536) was fourth. Austria’s Nina Reithmayer (1:20.584) was fifth, a mere 0.062 seconds ahead of Hamlin.

“I’m really excited to go to Winterberg,” Hamlin said. “I’ve medaled there before, so I think it’s a good chance for me to be on my ‘A’ game and if I do that I think I can get on the podium.”

Also for the U.S. women, Summer Britcher of Glen Rock, Pa., (1:20.709) was eighth, 16 spots better than her finish when she crashed out of last week’s World Cup opener at Lillehammer, Norway. Julia Clukey of Augusta, Maine, (1:20.834) was 12th and Kate Hansen of La Canada, Calif., (1:21.238) was 23rd.

Germany’s Felix Loch won the men’s race, turning in the fastest run in both heats on his way to a winning time of 1:40.878. Germany’s David Moller won the silver in 1:41.052, and Dominik Fischnaller of Italy took the bronze in 1:41.102.

Mazdzer’s fourth-place time was 1:41.133. He was fifth in a World Cup last year on his home track in Lake Placid and sixth in last season’s world championships.

“So close,” Mazdzer said.

Taylor Morris of South Jordan, Utah, was 24th (1:41.991), Tucker West of Ridgefield, Conn., was 26th (1:42.104) and Aidan Kelly of West Islip, N.Y., was 30th (1:42.509).

The doubles competition and team relay are Sunday.


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