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

John Shuster, 30 pounds lighter, rallies for 4th Olympic curling berth

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John Shuster is going to a fourth Olympics. It’s one more chance to prove Urban Dictionary wrong.

Shuster, 30 pounds lighter since his second straight Olympic failure in Sochi, led a team that beat Heath McCormick‘s squad at the U.S. Olympic Trials finals in Omaha on Saturday night.

Shuster, Tyler GeorgeMatt Hamilton and John Landsteiner lost the opener of a best-of-three finals series on Thursday.

They came back to deliver in a pair of must-win games, 9-4 on Friday night and 7-5 on Saturday, after spending each day at the Omaha Zoo.

The new-look Shuster — leaner and, at least this weekend, clutch — would astonish those who know him by scenes at the last two Olympics.

After taking bronze in 2006 as a role player, he led the last two U.S. Olympic teams to 2-7 records in 2010 and in 2014. Last place in Vancouver, where he was benched after an 0-4 start. Next to last place in Sochi.

After the last Olympics, the former bartender from Chisholm, Minn., was left off USA Curling’s 10-man high performance team.

He took it as motivation to get in shape.

Shuster, a father of a 2- and a 4-year-old who once said, “If I don’t have pizza three or four times a week, I’m not happy,” now totes meal replacement shakes. He’s starting to enjoy Olympic lifting.

Shuster, George, Hamilton and Landsteiner, all absent from that USA Curling high performance list, formed their own team. They became Team USA in their first season together and represented the Stars and Stripes at worlds in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

Their results — fourth, third and fifth —  marked the best string of U.S. men’s or women’s finishes at that level in a decade.

Shuster is set to join Debbie McCormick as the only Americans to curl at four Olympics. The sport was part of the first Winter Games in 1924, then absent as a medal sport until 1998.

“I don’t think it’s about the four Olympics for me,” Shuster said on NBCSN. “What this is about — and what I’m about — is getting my teammates to now. I have two new Olympians on this team, and I know how special that is.”

George, the 35-year-old vice skip for Shuster, led a team that lost to Shuster in the 2010 Olympic Trials final. The liquor store manager from Duluth, Minn., is going to his first Winter Games.

As is the 28-year-old Hamilton, whose younger sister qualified for PyeongChang earlier Saturday.

Landsteiner, a 27-year-old corrosion engineer, played with Shuster since 2011, including in Sochi.

Alternate Joe Polo can go 12 years between Olympic appearances after taking bronze on that Torino team.

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MORE: U.S. Winter Olympic Trials broadcast schedule

Katie Ledecky wins race by 54 seconds, breaks record

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Katie Ledecky is back at Stanford and back to pulverizing distance races.

The sophomore and five-time Olympic champion won a 1,650-yard freestyle by 54.45 seconds at a meet at Texas A&M on Saturday night.

The runner-up was in a different heat; Ledecky won her heat by 1:02.16.

Ledecky lowered her own American record, clocking 15:03.31. She had the previous mark of 15:03.92 set last Nov. 20.

Ledecky had every swimmer lapped in the 25-yard pool before the halfway point and ended up lapping everyone twice.

The men also raced a 1,650 on Saturday. The winner clocked 15:18.95, which was 15.64 seconds slower than Ledecky’s time.

Full results are here.

The 1,650 is the longest race on the NCAA program, while the longest race at the Olympics and world championships is the 1500m.

The No. 2 woman all-time in the 1,650 is triple 2008 Olympic medalist Katie Hoff, a full 21.04 seconds slower.

Ledecky owns the 1500m world record, too, 13.4 seconds faster than any other woman in history.

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MORE: Michael Phelps’ discussion with Katie Ledecky after 2017 Worlds