Evgeni Plushenko

Evgeni Plushenko says 1 thing can prevent a ‘top-class result’ in Sochi

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Evgeni Plushenko is still on his way back from back surgery, but he’s in top form when it comes to confidence, speaking in the third person to a Russian news outlet.

“If everything goes all right the Sochi Olympics will be my curtain-closing event,” Plushenko, the three-time Olympic medalist, told Russia’s media project “2014 Olympic squad,” according to Agence France-Presse. “And every figure skating lover would be able to see his own Plushenko there — the 18-year-old, the 25-year-old and, finally, today’s Plushenko.”

Plushenko, 30, had previously said he intends to retire after the Sochi Olympics, his fourth Games. Plushenko won silver in 2002 behind countryman Alexei Yagudin, dominated for gold in 2006 and earned another silver in 2010 behind American Evan Lysacek.

In Sochi, Plushenko will try to become the second skater to win four Olympic singles figure skating medals, joining Swede Gillis Grafstrom, who won gold in 1920, 1924 and 1928 and silver in 1932.

Plushenko said he’s already practicing quadruple jumps in training and only needs two or three warm-up events before the Olympics. Those could include the ISU Grand Prix event in Moscow (Nov. 22-24), the Russian National Championships (Dec. 22-27 in Sochi) and the European Championships (January in Budapest, Hungary).

Russia only qualified one male skater for the Sochi Olympics via Maxim Kovtun‘s 17th-place finish at the World Championships in March. There isn’t as much elite depth in the country’s program now as there was in the 1990s and early 2000s, a stretch where a Unified Team or Russia skater won five straight Olympic golds.

Plushenko seems confident of attaining the one berth available despite pulling out of the 2013 European Championships after the short program, where he placed sixth, citing a back injury. He had surgery in January and missed the World Championships.

“A relapse of my back injury is the only thing that can prevent me from achieving a top-class result at Sochi,” he said.

Plushenko said he will perform a free skate that’s a mix of his previous programs — a best of Plushenko, if you will. It was the idea of his coach, Alexei Mishin.

“We decided that it would be an original move and a spectacular finish to my career,” Plushenko said.

Evan Lysacek ‘is in pain,’ coach says

Teddy Riner, dominant judoka, to skip 2018, 2019 Worlds

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French judoka Teddy Riner, arguably the world’s most dominant athlete, will reportedly skip the next two world championships before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

French coach Franck Chambily said Riner will compete a light international schedule the next two years ahead of what would be his fourth Olympics, according to Agence France-Presse.

Riner, a 29-year-old, 6-foot-8-inch native of Guadeloupe, is undefeated since 2010 with a reported 144-match winning streak. That includes Olympic titles in 2012 and 2016 and world titles in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017.

Before the streak, Riner also earned world titles in 2007, 2009 and 2010, plus an Olympic bronze at age 19 in 2008.

He could compete through the 2024 Paris Games.

“When I am invincible, I will stop,” Riner said in 2013, according to The Associated Press.

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Maggie Nichols wins NCAA all-around title with perfect 10

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Even after a perfect 10 in the last rotation, Maggie Nichols didn’t know that she had won the NCAA all-around title. Her coach at Oklahoma, K.J. Kindler, had to tell her.

The reaction?

“Excitement,” Nichols said Friday night on ESPNU. “I just wanted to go out there and feel out the equipment, staying calm and doing my routines that I have been doing in training.”

Nichols, a 2015 World team champion who retired from elite gymnastics after missing the 2016 Olympic team (set back by a torn meniscus that year), became the first Sooner to win the NCAA all-around in 30 years.

The sophomore tallied 39.8125 points and topped Olympic alternate MyKayla Skinner of Utah by .0875 for the title in St. Louis. It came one year after Nichols was 29th in the all-around with a balance beam fall.

Oklahoma and Utah will be joined in Saturday night’s Super Six team finals by UCLA, LSU, Florida and Nebraska. The Sooners eye their third straight national title.

Nichols capped her night with one of two perfect scores between the two semifinal sessions, matching 2012 Olympic alternate Elizabeth Price‘s 10 on uneven bars. It gave Nichols a second career gym slam, a perfect score on every apparatus for the season.

On Jan. 9, Nichols came forward as “Athlete A,” who first reported to USA Gymnastics that she was sexually abused by Larry Nassar in summer 2015.

“She has had a really unique year probably like no one else, and her strength showed through,” Kindler said Friday, according to the University of Oklahoma. “It was tough, and to come out on this side this year is really special.”

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