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What we learned from Figure Skating Worlds

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Here are a few things we learned from the 2013 Figure Skating World Championships heading into next February’s Sochi Olympics:

The US Women are climbing back: Not since 2006 has an American woman won an Olympic or world medal in figure skating. Gold used to be the standard, now the goals have become more modest: survive and earn back the third Olympic birth team USA embarrassingly missed in 2010. That was the single task for these championships and, as 5th place finisher Ashley Wagner stated after the competition, ‘Mission accomplished.”

Hope for a perfect Ten: The new code of points has made it a little more difficult for surprise winners and out of the blue medalists. So often it’s the same names at the top of the podium, the same back stories told again and again. But Denis Ten’s surprise silver medal proved that even if gold is spoken for, the minor medals can be just as thrilling.

Catch Yuna Kim… if you can: Kim ran away with the women’s title after two full years away from the sport, winning by more than twenty points over defending champ Caroline Kostner of Italy, who took silver. There’s nothing else to say other than: “Good luck, ladies.”

America’s got talent: Meryl Davis and Charlie White took home their second world title in Ice Dancing this weekend, by more than four points. Their dominance puts the 2010 Olympic silver medalists as the front-runners for Sochi – perhaps America’s best (maybe only) chance at figure skating gold.

Canada is top dog in the team event: Figure skating isn’t just for pairs and individuals any longer. A new team event will debut next year in Sochi and with the Canadians showing more depth than any other country, along with their final tally of medaling in three of the four disciplines at their hometown worlds, Canada stamped itself the team to beat.

The Code of points isn’t perfect: And neither are the skaters. With more difficulty comes more opportunity for errors. And there were errors at these championships. With degree of difficulty being the marquee attraction for high scores under the new figure skating code, cleanly performed routines have become increasingly rare, and thus increasingly cherished and can prompt hashtags like “Chanflation” to spread around the web in response to Patrick Chan’s fall ridden performance winning gold. The code of points is still a work in progress. So are the routines skaters build around it.

Claressa Shields congratulated by famous boxing actor (video)

Claressa Shields
Getty Images
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Claressa Shields may just be the most dominant female athlete on the planet. The Flint, Mich., native is now a two-time Olympic boxing champion with a 77-1 record and a four-year unbeaten streak.

Actor Mark Wahlberg, who played boxer Micky Ward in the 2010 film “The Fighter,” took notice.

He taped a video that Shields watched before a celebration in her hometown Thursday, according to the Flint Journal.

“You are the true definition of a champion,” Wahlberg said. “You continue to inspire so many people, not only in Flint, but all over the world. I’m so proud of you. Your performance was amazing. God bless you. I look forward to seeing you, and I look forward to doing lots of things with you.”

Now Shields must decide whether to turn professional, which would end her Olympic career.

“Professional women’s boxing is not nowhere near on the same attention level as the Olympics are,” the 21-year-old Shields said, according to the Flint Journal. “I get way more attention than any female boxer who is professional right now with me being an amateur.

“So the goal is to go professional but still have that same attention and same mainstream. Hopefully, if they have the rule changed that the women professionals can come back and fight the Olympics, I would go professional to fight on TV and make a bunch of money but then come back and defend my two gold medals in 2020.”

MORE: Shields becomes first U.S. fighter to win back-to-back golds

Russian Olympic medalists gifts include racehorse

Abdulrashid Sadulaev
AP
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MOSCOW (AP) — Luxury cars, apartments, even a racehorse — being an Olympic medalist in Russia can come with great material rewards but also controversy.

Under President Vladimir Putin, it’s become a tradition for Russia’s Olympic heroes to be showered with large cash sums and sometimes unwanted gifts.

On Friday, less than 24 hours after dozens of medalists were presented with BMW cars at the Kremlin by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, an advertisement appeared online offering one of them for sale, with photographs showing the car still covered in stickers celebrating Russia’s medal haul in Rio.

The advertisement offering the BMW X6 for 4.67 million rubles ($72,000) was anonymous and quickly withdrawn. It couldn’t be independently verified by The Associated Press, though Russian agency R-Sport claimed the seller was a Russian medalist who thought the car was too big and unwieldy.

Figure skater Maxim Trankov, who received a Mercedes-Benz SUV for his gold medal in 2014, said few Olympians could afford to own such cars.

“Has no one thought that these gift cars are not only liable for the tax on luxury items, but also aren’t cheap to run and earnings can’t cover it?” he wrote on Twitter. “I’d sell mine too if it came to it … Or does everyone think all sports pay as well as soccer, hockey or tennis?”

Gymnast Seda Tutkhalyan said she wouldn’t be able to drive her new BMW because at 17 years of age she was too young to have a license.

While online commenters mostly supported an athlete’s right to sell expensive Olympic gifts, many were critical of the government for a display of conspicuous consumption at the Kremlin at a time when Russia’s pension and healthcare systems are under financial strain.

It’s not fully clear how much the prizes have cost the Russian government.

State TV channel Rossiya 24 reported that the fleet of BMWs was provided by the Olympians’ Support Fund, which is backed by a group of Russia’s richest men, but that the accompanying cash prizes of tens of thousands of dollars per medalist came in part from the federal budget.

More awards are on offer from regional governments, many of which made public displays of generosity despite financial troubles of their own.

The Caucasus region of North Ossetia last month promised a free apartment for any medalists from the area, though it isn’t clear if this has happened yet.

In another grand gesture, the head of the restive Dagestan region gave Olympic wrestling champion Abdulrashid Sadulaev 6 million rubles ($93,000) in cash and a racehorse at a lavish welcoming ceremony featured on local TV.

Still, all may not be well for Sadulaev, who’s nicknamed the “Russian Tank” for his habit of crushing opponents on the wrestling mat. He’s already facing an allegation from a Moscow radio presenter of reckless driving in his eye-catching BMW.

MORE: Putin slams Russia’s Paralympic ban