Geno Auriemma

Geno Auriemma to return to coach U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team

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Geno Auriemma is signing up for another Olympic run.

The UConn coach will be the first ever to repeat as coach of the U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team in 2016, according to The Associated Press.

USA Basketball will have a news conference Friday, according to the AP.

Since the end of the Olympics, Auriemma has denied interest in coaching in Rio and repeatedly said he would not return if asked. The 59-year-old Hall of Famer compared the experience to eating a bowl of his favorite mint chocolate chip ice cream.

“The second bowl doesn’t taste as good as the first one,” he said. “It never has and it never will.”

Auriemma led the Americans to their fifth straight Olympic gold in 2012. They went 8-0 with an average margin of victory of 34 points, winning every game by at least 13 points and defeating France 86-50 in the final. The U.S. hasn’t lost a game in the Olympics since the semifinals in 1992, when it was upended by the Unified Team.

Auriemma joins Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, who is returning to coach the defending champion men’s team in Rio de Janeiro. Past U.S. women’s Olympic coaches included Pat Summitt (1984), Kay Yow (1988), Theresa Grentz (1992), Tara VanDerveer (1996), Nell Fortner (2000), Van Chancellor (2004) and Anne Donovan (2008).

Auriemma also coached the U.S. women to gold at the 2010 World Championships. In April, he led UConn to its eighth national title, all under Auriemma since 1995. That matched him with longtime rival and former Tennessee coach Summitt.

Up next for the U.S. are the 2014 World Championships in Turkey, where a title would qualify it for the Rio Games. The Americans have won five of seven world titles starting with 1986.

The U.S. should be a heavy favorite in Turkey and in Rio with the likes of UConn players past and present including Diana TaurasiSue BirdMaya Moore and Breanna Stewart potentially on the team. There’s also Candace Parker, Seimone Augustus and Tamika Catchings.

The fight for roster spots will be fierce given newcomers such as WNBA rookies Brittney GrinerSkylar Diggins and Elena Delle Donne joining the fray.

2012 Olympian on ‘The Biggest Loser’

Ashley Wagner tops Skate America short program

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HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. (AP) — Ashley Wagner topped the Skate America short program Friday night with 69.50 points, building on her second-place finish from last season’s world championships.

Japan’s Mai Mihara, making her Grand Prix Series debut at 17, was second at 65.75, and U.S. champion Gracie Gold third at 64.87.

The free skate will determine the champion Saturday at Sears Centre Arena (live on NBC and the NBC Sports app at 4:30 p.m. ET). Full results are here.

Wagner performed with a fierce and determined style, delivering a technically solid and entertaining program to “Sweet Dreams” by the Eurhythmics.

“I capitalized on the momentum (from worlds) going into the summer,” said Wagner, the 2012 Skate America winner. “It inspired me to train even harder than I had been because it showed me that my training got me onto that podium. It motivated me and made it a realistic goal to get onto that Olympic podium, and I can almost taste it. It’s a totally new season. I’m hopefully a different athlete from that Worlds event and I think it’s just about building on that from here on out.”

Mihara fell during her warmup, which she said relaxed her during her performance.

“I think for my first Grand Prix event, I did a good job,” she said.

Gold, coming off a disappointing fourth-place finish in the world championships, fell on her triple flip, but otherwise was solid in her performance to a tango.

“I had a hiccup on the triple flip, but I went after everything,” Gold said. “I just need to keep working on the program and just keep getting it out there.”

Gold said the months after the world championships were difficult and affected her training.

“It was a pretty hard summer,” she said. “I had trouble getting going and getting my feet under me for some reason. I felt I had let myself down. No one else felt the intense shame that I felt, but it was just so internal that I had trouble getting back out there. But as soon as I got the momentum going, I’ve been feeling excellent.”

Three-time World champion Mao Asada of Japan, hampered by a knee injury, was fifth.

In pairs, Russia’s Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov took a commanding lead program with a score of 75.24. Americans Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier, who missed last season with a knee injury to Denney, were second at 67.29, and Canadians Julianne Seguin and Charlie Bilodeau followed at 66.49.

Tarasova and Morozov, fifth at the world championships, received high marks on their opening triple twist as well as their lifts, spins and footwork.

“Today we have a short program we did well,” Morozov said. “We have a personal best and were glad to have this moment.”

MORE: Scott Hamilton diagnosed with brain tumor for third time

Scott Hamilton diagnosed with brain tumor for third time

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 03:  Former figure skater and Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton onstage during A Capitol Fourth - Rehearsals at U.S. Capitol, West Lawn, on July 3, 2016 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Capital Concerts)
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Olympic figure skating champion Scott Hamilton said he was diagnosed with a benign pituitary brain tumor for a third time.

Hamilton, who took gold in Sarajevo in 1984, underwent chemotherapy to treat testicular cancer in 1997 and was twice previously diagnosed with brain tumors and had surgery, in 2004 and 2010.

“I didn’t have any symptoms, I just went in for my normal check-up, and they found the beginnings of the brain tumor coming back,” the 58-year-old Hamilton said. “I have a unique hobby of collecting life-threatening illness. … It’s six years later, and it decided that it wanted an encore.”

From People magazine:

Hamilton learned of the tumor at a routine check-up and is currently exploring all his treatment options before symptoms begin presenting.

“I’ll tell anybody that will listen: If you’re ever facing anything, get as many diagnoses as you possibly can,” he says. “The more you truly understand what you’re up against, the better decision you’re going to make.”

Hamilton was in New York on Friday to promote U.S. Figure Skating’s “Get Up” campaign.

“It’s all about shrugging it off, whatever’s going on, whether it be bullying at school, whether it be a setback in health, you just get up,” Hamilton said. “Not only to bring the young people that love skating together, but to bring the broader population into the fold.”

Hamilton said that surviving cancer was the moment in his life that he most associated with the “Get Up” campaign.

“Chemotherapy for months was devastating, but it’s endurable,” Hamilton said. “I don’t want to scare anybody from being treated for cancer, because I’m here, 20 years later, but the surgery afterwards was 38 staples, and I’m a little person. Getting up, getting back on the ice and performing again, quickly, was kind of my ‘Get Up’ moment.”

MORE: 2016-17 figure skating season broadcast schedule