Yevgeny Plushenko

Plushenko leads at comeback event

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Thirty-one-year-old Yevgeny Plushenko made his comeback a reality Thursday at a small event in Riga, Latvia, the 2006 Olympic champion skating at the Volvo Cup.

Plushenko, who also won the silver medal at the 2002 and 2010 Games, led after the short program with a 82.34, nearly nine points better than the second-place skater, his countryman Aleksander Petrov.

Plushenko has not competed since pulling out of the European Championships earlier this year after the short program. He won the 2013 Russian National Championships, as well as the Europeans in 2012.

Riga is a lower-level, Senior B event, but enables Plushenko to register an international score that he is in need of in order to be eligible for the Sochi Olympics. He is slated to compete at the Grand Prix stop in Moscow Nov. 22-24, the Rostelecom Cup.

The Russian Olympic team Web site reported that Plushenko landed a triple toe loop, a triple Axel and a triple Lutz-double toe loop combination.

Of the three Grand Prixs held so far in 2013 (and excluding other Senior B events), Plushenko has the fifth-highest short program score of the season. Japan’s Tatsuki Machida has the highest, a 91.18 at Skate America in October. Three-time reigning world champion Patrick Chan registered an 88.10 at Skate Canada.

Russia has one men’s singles spot at the Sochi Games, and should Plushenko be healthy he is thought to be rewarded it if he does register a qualifying score.

Plushenko aims for comeback at small event

Plushenko’s comeback was breaking news in his home country:

Mikaela Shiffrin plans to return next week

Mikaela Shiffrin
AP
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Mikaela Shiffrin plans to race the next World Cup slalom in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, next Monday, according to her social media.

Shiffrin, 20 and the reigning Olympic, World and World Cup slalom champion, has been out since suffering a right MCL tear and a bone fracture in a Dec. 12 warm-up crash.

Her timetable for a return this season has shifted in the last eight weeks.

The rescheduling of a canceled Jan. 31 slalom for next Monday changed her previous plans to return the final weekend of February.

“Our goal is to have her be really close to 100 percent, if not 100 percent [before competing],” said Shiffrin’s mother, Eileen, in an earlier Denver Post report. “We’ve heard all these horror stories about athletes who went back too soon and then sustained injuries that did end their careers.”

The World Cup season concludes March 20. There are four slaloms left on the calendar, and Shiffrin trails slalom standings leader Frida Hansdotter by 305 points.

A winner receives 100 points per victory, so Shiffrin could take her fourth straight World Cup season title, but it would all but require her to win all four remaining slaloms and for Hansdotter (and others) to struggle.

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Tony Parker plans to play in Olympic qualifying, Rio Games

Tony Parker
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Tony Parker said he plans to play in both Olympic qualifying in July and the Rio Games in August, according to L’Equipe.

Parker, 33, previously said he could miss the tournaments this summer, at least in part due to his wife’s pregnancy, according to French media.

Parker said his wife is due in late July, which would fall in between France’s Olympic qualifying tournament (July 4-10 in the Philippines) and the Rio Games (Aug. 6-21).

Parker led France at the 2012 Olympics with 15.7 points per game. The French lost two games in London, to the gold medalist U.S. in group play and silver medalist Spain in the quarterfinals.

Parker led all players with 19 points per game at 2013 EuroBasket, won by France.

In September, Parker and France fell in the EuroBasket semifinals to Spain in a winner-goes-to-Rio game.

The defeat forced France to a last-chance, winner-take-all, six-team Olympic qualifying tournament in the Philippines in July.

In the Philippines, France will face a field that includes Canada, which had nine NBA players on its roster (including Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins) at August’s FIBA Americas yet was stunned in a winner-goes-to-Rio game by Venezuela, which had zero NBA players.

France is likely to be without Chicago Bulls All-Star Joakim Noah this summer as he underwent season-ending left shoulder surgery in January and hasn’t played a major tournament for the national team since 2011 EuroBasket.

Other French NBA players include Charlotte Hornets swingman Nicolas Batum, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, San Antonio Spurs forward Boris Diaw and Orlando Magic guard Evan Fournier.

MORE: Kristaps Porzingis not yet committed to Latvia Olympic qualifying run