Elvis Stojko

Elvis Stojko not a fan of new Olympic figure skating team event

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Elvis Stojko, the two-time Olympic silver medalist, is known for expressing strong opinions on the state of figure skating.

At the 2010 Games, Stojko wrote that Evan Lysacek‘s performance was not “Olympic champion material” in a column titled, “The night they killed figure skating.” The retired Canadian lamented the absence of a quadruple jump in Lysacek’s arsenal.

The quad is now more prevalent in men’s skating, but all is still not right. Stojko is unimpressed with the new figure skating event for the Sochi Olympics — the team competition.

The team event will begin the night before the opening ceremony (Thursday, Feb. 6) and wrap up two nights after the cauldron is lit (Sunday, Feb. 9).

Each nation entered will have men’s, women’s, pairs and ice dance skaters perform one short program and one free skate each (total of eight). The event will include 10 nations with a cut down to five after the short programs. The highest cumulative scores will determine the medals.

Two skaters (or two couples or one skater and one couple) may be subbed out after the short program. For example, the U.S. could enter Ashley Wagner in the women’s short and Gracie Gold in the women’s free skate, granted Wagner and Gold make the Olympic team in singles.

Stojko wasn’t fully familiar with the particulars of the event but, upon being told details, didn’t like the premise.

“I don’t know if that’s such a great thing,” he said at the opening The Rink at Rockefeller Center in New York on Monday. “It makes for audience, one way it can work. But for skaters, to be able to do another competition right before the Olympics, if they’re trying to get trained, it’s great. If they’re at their peak, it might be tough. The ones that will be able to balance it out, they might not push very hard because they’re going to save it for the next week because that takes a lot out of you, for sure, to be able to be at that level, and then have to do it right before the Olympics, right before their actual competition.

“It’ll be tough. I don’t know if it’s such a great choice if they want to have good skating for the actual (individual) events.”

Stojko, 41, said he probably wouldn’t have done the team event if it was part of the Olympic program when he competed in 1992, 1994, 1998 and 2002.

“Because I would be so focused on my individual stuff,” he said. “It’d be really tough. If I was not in medal contention for Olympics in solo, then maybe I would consider it, but still then it would be really tough. It’s really hard for us to do the technical stuff we’re doing to do it once and then do it again like a week later.

“Year after year, we know our schedule, and then, all of a sudden, they’re like, ‘OK, we’re doing a team event this year.’ It’s kind of tough. I’d still probably veer away from it.”

The coach for Germany’s top pairs team agrees with Stojko. Ingo Steuer said four-time world champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy will not take part in the team event.

The pairs short program is three nights after the pairs free skate in the team event.

“It is too close to our own competition,” Steuer said, according to icenetwork.com. “The gold medal in our individual event is more important to us. It is why we have been working so hard since 2010.”

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Ashley Wagner ends ‘turbulent season’ as Yevgenia Medvedeva breaks record

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Russian Yevgenia Medvedeva beat her world-record free skate score by six points, while Japan won World Team Trophy to close the figure skating season in Tokyo on Saturday.

Americans Ashley Wagner and Karen Chen were sixth and ninth, respectively, in the free skate. The U.S., which had won the last two World Team Trophy titles, finished third in the this year’s standings behind Japan and Russia.

“This has been a turbulent season for me, so to finish with such a strong performance was really nice,” Wagner said, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “That wasn’t perfect, but I fought for every single thing. I’m very happy.”

The 17-year-old Medvedeva hasn’t lost an individual competition since November 2015, a run that includes the last two world titles.

She came into World Team Trophy having broken the women’s scoring record at her last two competitions (European and world championships). The mark was formerly held by Yuna Kim, set at the 2010 Olympics.

At World Team Trophy, Medvedeva became the first female skater to break 80 points in a short program and 160 points in a free skate. She won the free skate by a whopping 14 points over Japan’s Mai Mihara.

Wagner, 25, ended her least successful season since 2010-11 with her highest score of the campaign.

She followed up a breakout 2016 World Championships, where she won silver, by finishing seventh at worlds last month. She also was beaten by Chen at the U.S. Championships and failed to qualify for the Grand Prix Final for the first time in five seasons.

Chen, the surprise U.S. champion and fourth-place finisher at worlds, struggled at World Team Trophy. The 17-year-old totaled 168.95 points, 30 points fewer than her personal best at worlds. She fell twice in her free skate.

In eight competitions this season, Chen had poor results in six of them.

But she peaked for the two biggest events — nationals and worlds.

“It was a tough season for me, but I feel like I learned a lot,” Chen said Saturday, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “I’m going to use all of this experience to help me be more consistent next season.”

Chen remains a strong contender for the three-woman Olympic team, which will be named after the U.S. Championships in January.

As does Wagner.

Others in the running include U.S. bronze medalist Mariah Bell (12th at worlds) and Mirai Nagasu (fourth at the last two nationals). Plus, two-time U.S. champion Gracie Gold, who changed coaches after a dreadful season.

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Ashton Eaton competes on ‘American Ninja Warrior’

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Items on the to-do list for two-time Olympic decathlon champion Ashton Eaton now that he’s retired: Play with the puppy. Sharpen his snowboarding skills. Take a space shuttle to Mars.

That’s right, warp speed to the Red Planet.

Not tomorrow or anything, but it remains on the agenda. He’s also trying to get his wife, Canadian heptathlon bronze medalist Brianne Theisen-Eaton, on board with the futuristic excursion.

“Not as interested,” she laughed. “Too big of a lifestyle change.”

The first couple of multi-events have down-to-earth retirement plans as well. Here’s a sampling: Appearing on American Ninja Warrior (Ashton), starting a food-education website (Brianne), supporting a worldwide 6-kilometer walk for clean water and preparing for a move to San Francisco after spending a decade in Eugene, Oregon.

An urge to compete? No longer present, they insisted.

“I will always have a love for it. But missing it? That means I want to do [the decathlon],” said the 29-year-old Ashton, who won’t be going for his third straight world title crown in August. “I’m just fond of it.”

They’re still figuring this retirement thing out after announcing the surprising news in side-by-side essays in January. Ashton walked away after accomplishing all he wanted to accomplish — winning gold at the 2012 London Games and defending his title at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. He also exited with his world record standing at 9,045 points, which he amassed at the 2015 World Championships.

Brianne was ready to move on to Act II of their lives following a hard-earned bronze in Rio. She was emotionally and physically worn out.

“My parents were asking us, ‘Do you miss anything?'” the 28-year-old Brianne said. “I think the answer is no. It was a perfect time to retire. When we watch competitions, it’s relaxing and fun. There’s not a little bit that’s like, ‘We wish we were there competing.”‘

The Eatons recently expanded their family when they brought home Zora, who’s a cross between a Bernese mountain dog and a poodle. Now, there are puppy classes and walks on their plate.

“A change in lifestyle, for sure,” Brianne said.

On the horizon, an even bigger lifestyle transformation: Their move to the Bay Area this fall for more entrepreneurial opportunities. It’s bittersweet, because the couple met while competing at the University of Oregon as teenagers and married in July 2013. It’s home.

“We just need a change of environment,” Ashton said, “and this checks a lot of boxes.”

Memo to NASA: Ashton has space on his mind. The moon would be nice. So would a trip to the International Space Station. And that pledge to someday make it to Mars? It’s genuine.

“I like things that are really ambitious goals and being first person on Mars would be a good one,” Ashton said. “If in the future, things kind of come around and there’s an opportunity, I’ll take it.”

Recently, Ashton and Brianne were in Peru and staying at a hotel on the side of the cliff with a glass roof. Using a phone “app,” they located the stars and planets in the night’s sky.

“We saw Mars, clear as day,” Ashton said. “It was funny to imagine being there. Brianne was like, ‘Why go there? The earth would be a little green star in the sky.’ I was like, `Yeah, wouldn’t that be incredible? We could say that’s where we’re from, but we are way over here now.”‘

Earlier this month, Ashton helped stage a video-game and technology expo in Portland. He was nervous because, “it’s the first thing nonathletic thing I’ve done in my entire life. But it ended up really well.”

This was definitely more in his comfort zone: Competing in a celebrity edition of “American Ninja Warrior,” a contest that features athletes tackling a series of demanding obstacle courses. The episode is set to air next month.

“I was just as sore after that as after a decathlon,” Ashton said.

One of Brianne’s passions is cooking, leading her to launch a site that features healthy recipes and nutritional tips. It’s expected to go live in June.

They also took up snowboarding. Ashton fell hard for the sport — even after a few run-ins with trees.

“After every day of snowboarding, he’d be like, ‘Let’s go again this week!”‘ Brianne said. “I’d be like, ‘Ash, I need a couple of weeks to heal my tailbone.’ I would be so bruised.”

Of course, they’re still running, too, especially for a good cause. On May 6, the Eatons will participate in World Vision’s global 6-kilometer race, which is the average distance that people in the developing countries walk for water.

See, they’re quite busy.

“Retirement is good,” Brianne said. “We are enjoying our time, and just figuring out what we want to do with ourselves.

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