Sensational skates at the Grand Prix Final are boding well for Sochi, as the fields close in and rivalries heat up. Discount Salomon Shoes Online . As the season progresses, the gaps are narrowing and the fields are closing in on the leaders. A week ago, there wasnt an obvious challenger in the mens or pairs event. In fact, heading into the Grand Prix Final in Japan, it was difficult to imagine that the defending champions could be beaten. Patrick Chan had an enormous 30-point lead over the rest of the men in this seasons scores and so did the defending world pair champions from Russia - Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov - who had the same 30-point margin over the rest of the teams. Patrick faltered in the short program in Japan and Tatiana and Max in the free program to open the door, but what was intriguing in both cases was the way that the challengers stepped up and that the underdogs won. Yuzuru Hanyu from Japan hit one out of the park in the short program breaking Patricks world record that he set just two weeks ago. It all came together for Yuzuru in that performance, as he aggressively attacked the jumps and played with the music to sell his program to his hometown audience. It was an easy sell and they ate it up to help lift Yuzuru to a record-breaking skate where he missed the 100-point mark by a slim .16. As Coach Brian Orser said when the marks were posted, "Sooooo close!" Patrick and Yuzuru both delivered strong free programs each with one mistake, but the edge went to Hanyu and Patrick had his first loss of the season. Patrick, of course - barring injury - has his Olympic spot locked up. Theres no doubt he will go as this countrys No. 1 guy. Thats not the case for Yuzuru, whos fighting for his Olympic life. Hes up against five other guys who are all capable and who are all fighting for three spots. With the new world record in the short program, the second best freeskate and total scores ever and with the win over Chan, one would think Yuzuru might be awarded one of those coveted spots to Sochi. But no such spot has been given and the Japanese team will be named after their nationals - which take place just before Christmas. Patrick can find new motivation in the fact that hell be pushed and he will indeed need two great skates like he had two weeks ago in Paris to win Olympic Gold. The Russian pairs take the same knowledge into the holiday season with the loss to the German team of Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy. It is the kind of knowledge one needs at this time of year, lest one sits back and gets too comfortable. It was expected that the Ice Dance would be a close contest in Japan. While defending world champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White received better scores all season than Olympic Champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, one could sense that Tessa and Scott were working out the kinks early in the series. And in Japan they put the technical glitches behind them and had stunning performances in both the Short and Free Dance. Meryl and Charlie brought their A game as well and came away with the win. And once again we were reminded how lucky we are to have two teams of their calibre at the same time. It was a terrific event and a moment that stood out for me was the look on the faces of Tessa and Scott after the free dance. Total satisfaction - a look thats been missing of late. When youre competing there are always the little things that youve done better in practice or things you had to fight through, that werent quite right and when you finish your skate those things immediately flash through your mind and the instant self evaluation is briefly written on your face. Tessas appraisal was immediate. Her eyes flashed in delight and she said yes. Totally satisfied. That was the performance they had been reaching for. They now have the momentum and as their rivalry demands, will have to build on it. They have to dig deep and soul search in order to answer the questions. "What more can we do?" "Whats next to fine tune?" The same questions that Meryl and Charlie are now asking in light of their narrow win. This is why were so fortunate to have these two great teams. As they drive each other to strategically find the edge, they find new levels of excellence and we the audience are ultimately the winners. In the ladies event the clear winner in Japan was indeed the favourite going in, hometown heroine Olympic Silver medalist Mao Asada. While it was no surprise to me that Mao won gold what was surprising, actually I was quite shocked, was her captivating short program. In fact, it ranks as one of my all time favourite skates. In a word, she was brilliant and when I rack my brain for comparisons, it would be Olympic champion and the defending world champion Yuna Kim. Yuna missed the Grand Prix season due to injury and competed in a B international to gain some competition mileage for her new material, while the Final was taking place. She received some impressive scores and so the stage is set for a showdown in the ladies event in Sochi. Mao and Yuna - a rematch from 2010. Yuna by all accounts is on track to be as good as ever, while Mao is new and improved. Her jumping arsenal is bigger and better and artistically she is skating, with more joy, heartfelt emotion and conviction than ever before. Let the games begin! Cheap Salomon Shoes . Phoenix originally signed Barbosa to a 10-day contract on Jan. 8 after Eric Bledsoe injured his knee and then signed him to another 10-day deal. Wholesale Salomon Shoes . Nine-year veteran Danny Granger did not make his debut with the Clippers because of a technicality on the teams active list, which is signed by coach Doc Rivers before every game and relayed to the officials. Grangers name was printed by hand by a member of the public relations staff under the heading: "Updated Roster Additions," but the number on the sheet was not circled along with the other active players by the required deadline of 6:30 p. http://www.salomoncheap.com/ . 1 overall pick in the draft by the Houston Texans, is recovering from sports hernia surgery. OAKLAND, Calif. -- The beginning of Julys first blockbuster trade occurred about a month ago, when Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane called Chicago Cubs executive Theo Epstein to ask about Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. Beane told Epstein he liked the starting pitchers, and he was going to be aggressive in an attempt to improve the AL West leaders. Fast forward to this weekend, when Beane proved just how serious he was during that initial call. Oakland and Chicago announced the big trade on Saturday, with Samardzija and Hammel heading to the West Coast for a package of prospects that included the As first-round selections in each of the past two drafts. "The deal speaks for itself. To pick up two guys like that in early June is pretty fantastic," As manager Bob Melvin said. "We wanted more options and saw the urgency to get it done. This makes us better." The Athletics began the day with the best record in baseball, but Beane felt he needed to add depth to a rotation that responded well to season-ending injuries for Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin. Drew Pomeranz also is on the disabled list with a broken right hand. Samardzija and Hammel join Scott Kazmir and Sonny Gray in one of the majors best group of starting pitchers. "We had to dig into our depth really early, and we felt like we needed two (starting pitchers)," Beane said. Samardzija will start for the As on Sunday. He was scheduled to pitch for the Cubs Saturday. In somewhat of a surprise, the As sent left-hander Tommy Milone to Triple-A Sacramento later Saturday to make room for Samardzija. Milone was 6-0 with a 2.62 ERA over his last 11 starts and 6-3 with a 3.55 ERA in 16 starts overall. "What do you say to a guy like that?" Melvin said. "Hes been terrific his last 10 starts and has meant a lot to us the last three years. I tried to figure out what to say to him. We havent seen the last of him." Oakland will make a move Sunday to clear space for Hammel, who will start Wednesday. Minor leaguers Addison Russell, Billy McKinney and Dan Straily went to Chicago in another painful deal for the lowly Cubs, who have played better of late, but are still last in the NL Central. Chicago also gets a player to be named in its latest July sell-off. The Cubs lost at least 91 games in each of the previous three years. They traded away starting pitchers Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm in July 2012, and Matt Garza and Scott Feldman last July. "We certainly hope that this is the last year that were obvious sellers at the trade deadline," Epstein said. The key piece for Chicago in the deal with Oakland was Russell, a 20-year-old shortstop headed for Double-A Tennessee. A torn right hamstring sidelined the No. 11 overall selection in the 2012 drraft earlier this season, but he was batting . Cheap Salomon Shoes From China. 333 in 13 games for Double-A Midland at the time of the trade. Chicago and Oakland talked about a Samardzija for Russell deal, but Epstein said the one-for-one framework didnt work. He spoke with Beane on Thursday night, and thats when the trade grew into the larger package. "We felt like Russell was a key for us in any deal with Oakland," Epstein said. The hard-throwing Samardzija had a 2-7 record for the Cubs, but he also had a 2.83 ERA and 103 strikeouts in 108 innings, making him one of the most coveted pitchers on the market. The former Notre Dame receiver was selected by Chicago in the fifth round in 2006. Chicago recalled left-hander Chris Rusin from Triple-A Iowa. Epstein said the Cubs were still discussing their options when it came to the rotation. "I can say that (after that) its going to stay the same until Tuesday for the doubleheader (at Cincinnati)," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said of the rotation after Saturday. Jake Arrieta is set to start Sunday in Washington and Edwin Jackson on Monday at Cincinnati. The Cubs will add a 26th man, Tsuyoshi Wada, for Tuesdays doubleheader. The Cubs talked to the 29-year-old Samardzija about a contract extension, but were unable to come to an agreement. He is set to become a free agent for the first time after the 2015 season. "Jeff has been a bit of workhorse," Beane said. "Hes got a perfect health record. Hes a guy that continues to develop. Hes gotten better and better each year he goes out." Hammel signed a $6 million, one-year contract with Chicago in February and went 8-5 with a 2.98 ERA and 104 strikeouts in 108 2-3 innings with the Cubs. He pitched six-plus innings in a 7-2 victory over Washington on Friday. Hammel, who turns 32 in September, also has three career post-season starts. "Hes gotten better and better and we think now is a great time to have him," Beane said. The 19-year-old McKinney, who was selected in the first round a year ago, hit .241 with 10 homers for Class A Stockton this season. He is headed for Chicagos Class A affiliate in Daytona, Florida, where he will share the outfield with another top prospect in Albert Almora. Straily finished 10-8 with a 3.96 ERA in 27 starts for the As last year. He was sent down to Triple-A Sacramento after struggling earlier this season, and Epstein said he likely would be up with the Cubs after a short stay at Triple-A Iowa. Even before the deal, Chicago had one of the richest minor league systems in baseball. The addition of Russell and McKinney just enhances the Cubs impressive group of prospects. "We think we have a real outstanding stable of good young position players that is a stable base to build off," Epstein said. "We like how this positions us." ' ' '