Chan, Tuktamysheva struggle as Gold shines at Trophee Bompard
BORDEAUX: Gracie Gold stormed to the women’s lead at the Trophee Bompard on Friday with Japanese teenager Shoma Uno leading the men as reigning world champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva and Canadian star Patrick Chan both struggled. US silver medalist Gold pulled out a near perfect short program to the popular Argentinean tango music “El Choclo” to score a personal best 73.32 points at the Meriadeck ice rink. The 20-year-old improved her previous best by over two points to lead Russian Julia Lipnitskaya by 7.69 going into the free skating final in the fourth of the six-leg ISU Grand Prix series. Gold is bidding to add to her silver medal from Skate America last month to book her ticket to the elite ISU Grand Prix final in Barcelona from December 10-13.
Reigning world and European champion Tuktamysheva, who had finished second in her opening Grand Prix at Skate Canada this month, fell twice to trail in fifth (56.21). Former three-time world champion Chan, who started off his season by upstaging Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu to win Skate Canada, also produced an error-strewn performance to a Michael Buble song, “Mack the Knife” to sit a distant fifth 76.10 behind Uno. Uno, the reigning world junior champion, also scored a personal best 89.56 points with Russia’s Maxim Kovtun third best with 86.82 ahead of Japan’s Daisuke Murakami 80.24.
Chan has won the Trophee Bompard four times, most recently in 2013 when the 24-year-old set personal best scores in the short program and free skate, and the world record for free skate and combined total that year. But the Olympic silver medalist, returning to competition after a year off, was far from his best failing in his attempt at an opening quadruple jump before also stumbling on his triple axel. Olympic champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov of Russia dominated the pairs event, scoring 74.50 in the short program to open up a nine point lead on France’s Vanessa James and Morgan CiprËs (65.75 points).
In ice dancing, Americans Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue took the lead with 64.45. The American duo last summer joined the Montreal-based dance centre where world and European champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France train. Papadakis was ruled out of the Trophee Bompard after fresh fears over the head injury the French figure skater suffered in August. The Montreal-based skater suffered panic attacks, depression, memory loss and dyslexia after hitting her head on the ice during a training session last August. The 20-year-old has undergone treatment pioneered for members of the military suffering head trauma.—AFP BELGRADE: Met by cheers and a standing ovation from supporters, a professional Serbian basketball player has made an extraordinary comeback to the court-two years after losing her leg in a bus crash. Wearing a prosthetic limb under black leggings, 21-year-old Natasa Kovacevic scored five points towards Wednesday night’s victory by Red Star Belgrade, the club with which she began her career, in a return to the game that she described as “sublime”. Many had believed Kovacevic’s exemplary career was over when she was caught up in a deadly accident in September 2013 while travelling with her Hungarian club, Gyor.
The club’s coach and general manager were killed, while seriously injured Kovacevic had to have her leg amputated. But 26 months later, she has shown a level of resilience that even her rivals applaud. “I am overwhelmed to be back, the feeling on the ground was sublime. I feel as if I never left, as if two years has not gone by,” a smiling Kovacevic said after her team beat southern Serbian side Student Nis by 78-47. “I need to improve my fitness, if I’m honest I lost my breath a little, but I will work and it will come,” she said.
Spectators pointed out that what she lacked through her disability, Kovacevic made up for with her experience in the game, despite her young age. The coach of the opposing team, Zvonimir Stankovic, was no less admiring. “What she has accomplished, her perseverance, deserve everyone’s respect. We should all teach our children about her example,” he said. “From the moment she entered the game, we treated her like any other player,” he added.
Natasa was emerging as one of the most talented Serbian players of her generation-primed to play for her basketball-mad country in the EuroBasket championship this year-when tragedy struck. At time she was just 19. “From the beginning I have had one wish-to play basketball again. Deep inside myself I am convinced that this day will come,” she told local media after the accident. Following the crash, the French Basketball Federation (FFBB) and its president Jean-Pierre Siutat, who had been close to the deceased Hungarian coach Akos Fuzy, came to the young player’s rescue.
Impressed by her will and courage, the FFBB helped to finance the special prosthetic leg that would allow her to return to the competition. In 2014, the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) made Kovacevic an ambassador for young people and she gradually resumed training. She also created a foundation bearing her name that aims to help other young athletes. “My comeback is very important to me, but I hope it shows other people that they can do anything they want if they have the will,” she said after her triumphant return.— AFP
BELGRADE: Serbian international basketball player Natasa Kovacevic plays with the ball during a match between Red Star and Student in Belgrade. —AFP