Yuna Kim

Yuna Kim feeling ’80 to 90 percent’ ahead of comeback event

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Back comes Yuna Kim to figure skating this coming weekend. The reigning Olympic gold medalist will not be joining her peers at the Grand Prix Final in Japan, instead setting down her blades on competitive ice for the first time in nearly nine months at a lower-level Senior B event, Golden Spin, in Zagreb, Croatia.

The last time the South Korean skated was at the World Championships earlier this year, another event that was deemed a comeback for Kim, who had not skated prior to that since Worlds in 2011. Said comeback was deemed a major success as Kim claimed gold.

Plans had been made for the 23-year-old to return to the ice this season for two Grand Prix events, but a metatarsal injury in her right foot set her out for an estimated six weeks at the end of September, and it was announced early last month that she was targeting Golden Spin to test out her state of recovery.

“I’ve been slowly working myself back to competitive shape,” Kim told reporters in Seoul Tuesday, according to Yonhap News. “Honestly, I feel that I need to improve my conditioning for the Olympics, which is the most important competition there is, but there is still some time to do that.”

Kim said she was “80 to 90 percent” healed from the foot injury and says she feels “absolutely no pressure to win” at the Olympics in February.

Kim – who also owns six World Championship medals and 10 (including nine gold) South Korean National Championship medals – will be absent from the Grand Prix Final for the fourth year running. Her main rival Mao Asada, a silver medalist at the Vancouver Games, leads the filed there, which also includes American Ashley Wagner and a host of Russian teenagers.

Kim wowed at the World Championships earlier this year, skating to a 20-point win over defending champion Carolina Kostner and Asada, who was third. The event marked the beginning of her Sochi campaign, which the reigning Olympic champion has said will be her last Olympics despite her home country hosting the Games in 2018.

Doubt creeped into Kim’s ability to defend her gold when the news of her injury broke in September, but just four weeks later she confirmed that she was not only back on the ice, but performing jumps at a high level.

“I am mostly pain free, and I can do all the triple jumps,” she said in late October.

“I want to have a greater experience than any other competition before,” Kim added in regards to Sochi, noting that it would be her final Olympics.

Kim is still seen as the heavy favorite for the Sochi Games in February. She’ll debut two new programs in Zagreb: “Send in the Clowns” for her short and “Adios Nonino,” a tango piece, for her free skate. The ladies short program takes place Friday afternoon with the free skate concluding the event Saturday.

Two-time Olympian becomes first woman to lead U.S. national swim team

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Two-time Olympian Lindsay Mintenko has been picked to lead the U.S. national swimming team. She is the first woman to hold the title.

USA Swimming made the announcement Wednesday.

Mintenko replaces Frank Busch, who retired Oct. 1 as managing director. She has been a member of the national team staff since 2006.

During her swimming career, Mintenko won gold medals as a U.S. team captain at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics 800m freestyle relay and added a silver in 2004 on the 400m freestyle relay.

USA Swimming also announced an organizational restructuring that will place all technical divisions, including the national team, under the oversight of chief operating officer Mike Unger.

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Grand Prix figure skating: 10 female skaters to watch

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Ten women to watch this fall as the Grand Prix figure skating season starts this week …

Yevgenia Medvedeva
Russia
Two-time world champion
Grand Prix Starts: Russia, Japan

Undefeated in nearly two years and arguably on the most dominant run since Katarina Witt in the 1980s. Medvedeva rarely misses jumps and has feather-light elegance on the ice. Off of it, she enjoys Japanese anime and K-pop. She quickly surpassed older skaters after turning senior in 2015, but now younger teens are giving chase.

Kaetlyn Osmond
Canada
2017 World silver medalist
Grand Prix Starts: Canada, France

Osmond won a Grand Prix at age 16 in 2012, but injuries dogged her the next few years. Most of all, a broken leg suffered in September 2014. She came back and was the breakout woman last season, making her first Grand Prix Final and then grabbing second at worlds behind Medvedeva.

Gabrielle Daleman
Canada
2017 World bronze medalist
Grand Prix Starts: China, U.S.

Like Osmond, would not have been picked for a world medal at the start of last season. Daleman was 17th at the Sochi Olympics, with a foot injury and one month after turning 16. She was 13th, 21st and ninth in three worlds appearances before last year. She was fourth at each of her Grand Prix starts in 2016, failing to make the six-skater Grand Prix Final, but picked up her first top-level senior international medals at Four Continents in February and worlds in March.

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Satoko Miyahara
Japan
2015 World silver medalist
Grand Prix Starts: Japan, U.S.

Miyahara’s hip injury last winter could not have come at a worse time for the Japanese federation. She missed worlds, and Japan ended up qualifying two rather than three spots for PyeongChang. Before that, Miyahara took second behind Medvedeva at the Grand Prix Final and was ranked No. 2 in the world. Now the Japanese Olympic picture is crowded with fellow teens Marin HondaMai Mihara and Wakaba Higuchi.

Karen Chen
U.S.
Fourth at 2017 Worlds
Grand Prix Starts: Canada, U.S.

Went from eighth at the 2016 U.S. Championships to winning the 2017 U.S. title and placing fourth at worlds. Chen’s clutch effort ensured the U.S. earned three women’s spots at the Olympics. The 18-year-old from the Bay Area has largely struggled in other international competitions. A best of fifth in four Grand Prix starts. Twelfth at a pair of Four Continents Championships. Already this season at two international events, she finished behind Mirai Nagasu, who was fourth at nationals.

Ashley Wagner
U.S.
2016 World silver medalist
Grand Prix Starts: Canada, U.S.

Wagner just missed the 2010 Olympic team, then made Sochi despite placing fourth at nationals. She has undoubtedly been the most consistent U.S. woman in this Olympic cycle. The 26-year-old ended a decade-long U.S. medal drought with the skate of her life at worlds in 2016. Her follow-up last season was not so memorable — her least successful campaign in six years. Still a favorite to become the oldest U.S. Olympic women’s singles skater since 1928.

Alina Zagitova
Russia
2017 World junior champion
Grand Prix Starts: China, France

Medvedeva’s training partner, in her first senior season, might be the skater with the best chance of dethroning her. Zagitova, born three months after the 2002 Olympics, has the highest free skate score in the world this season (.45 better than Medvedeva). Their duel(s) in December at Russian Nationals and possibly the Grand Prix Final should be appointment viewing.

Marin Honda
Japan
2016 World junior champion
Grand Prix Starts: Canada, China

Honda is the other first-year senior turning heads. She beat a field at the U.S. Classic last month that included three of the top four from last season’s U.S. Championships. Figure skating is the Winter Olympics’ marquee sport. The women’s event is its headliner. And nowhere is skating more popular than Japan. With Mao Asada‘s retirement, the spotlight will be on Honda, who already has 236,000 Instagram followers.

Carolina Kostner
Italy
2014 Olympic bronze medalist
Grand Prix Starts: Russia, Japan

The second-oldest Olympic women’s singles medalist since 1928 is the only one from the top six in Sochi who is competing this Grand Prix season. Kostner, now 30, took a break after the 2014 season, then served a backdated 21-month suspension for helping ex-boyfriend and Olympic race-walking champion Alex Schwazer evade drug testers in 2012. She finally returned in December and was sixth at worlds.

Mirai Nagasu
U.S.
Fourth at 2010 Olympics
Grand Prix Starts: Russia, Japan

Nagasu, left off the Olympic team in favor of Wagner in 2014, is arguably the best U.S. skater at the moment after topping Chen at both of her early season outings. She added the triple Axel this season, which could prime her to win her second national title, a full decade after her first at age 14. It could be an incredible comeback story, returning to the Olympics after finishing fourth in Vancouver in 2010.

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