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

Yulia Stepanova, doping whistleblower, appeals her Olympic ban

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - JULY 06:  Yuliya Stepanova looks on after finishing last in the Womens 800m heats during day one of the 23rd European Athletics Championships at Olympic Stadium on July 6, 2016 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images for European Athletics )
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Russian doping whistleblower Yulia Stepanova is appealing her ban from the Olympics, saying it was based on incorrect information and dubious legal grounds.

Stepanova sent a letter to the International Olympic Committee contending she never said she wouldn’t compete for the Russian team, as the IOC stated. The IOC would not make any exception for her to compete under a neutral flag.

She says the IOC’s ban of any Russian athlete who has previously served a doping ban is not permitted – a ruling the Court of Arbitration for Sport made in 2011.

Stepanova was an 800-meter runner who got caught for doping, but later came forward to expose the Russian doping system. She served a two-year doping ban before turning whistleblower, and is now living and training in the United States at an undisclosed location.

The IOC said Stepanova did not meet the criteria for running under the IOC flag and, because she had committed doping violations, did not satisfy the “ethical requirements” to compete in the games. However, the IOC added that it would invite her and her husband, Vitaly Stepanov, to attend the games.

Both the World Anti-Doping Agency and track’s governing body, the IAAF, recommended she be allowed in the Olympics.

MORE: Russian whistleblower denied bid to compete in Rio Olympics

Gabby Douglas ‘a very strong possibility’ for all-around, Martha Karolyi says

Gabby Douglas
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Gabby Douglas has “a very strong possibility” to get a chance to defend her Olympic all-around title in Rio, U.S. national team coordinator Martha Karolyi said Monday.

“Gabby’s preparation is in a very, very good direction, and I foresee that she can be in the all-around, but we’re not taking this decision as of now yet,” Karolyi said.

The U.S. will put no more than three women from its five-woman team in the all-around in qualifying. The top two Americans in qualifying will advance to the all-around final, the most prestigious individual competition in the sport.

“We have a tentative lineup, but that’s absolutely tentative and we would not reveal that lineup at the moment yet, because most likely there will be changes as time goes,” said Karolyi, adding that the lineup won’t be finalized until next week.

Simone Biles is considered a lock to be one of the all-arounders in qualifying. Who joins her is unclear.

Douglas and Aly Raisman were tapped at the 2015 World Championships, with Biles and Douglas topping Raisman in qualifying and then going one-two in the all-around final.

However, both Raisman and first-year senior Laurie Hernandez finished higher than Douglas in the all-around at the P&G Championships and the Olympic Trials in the last month.

Karolyi said that Douglas, who fell off the balance beam on both nights at the Olympic Trials, has improved at a pre-Olympic training camp. Karolyi also said that Douglas would not perform the difficult Amanar vault in Rio, which carries five tenths more in start value than the vault Douglas used at the Olympic Trials.

Biles and Raisman both perform the Amanar. If Biles, Douglas and Raisman do the all-around in qualifying, Douglas will go in with a start-value disadvantage in the chase to grab two available final spots.

In 2012, Douglas, Raisman and Jordyn Wieber all did the all-around in qualifying, with the 2011 World all-around champion Wieber finishing third out of the Americans (and fourth overall), missing the all-around final.

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