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.

Ashley Wagner leads U.S. 1-2 at Skate America

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Ashley Wagner bolstered her international reputation again, winning Skate America on Saturday in her first top-level full competition since her world championships silver medal in April.

Wagner totaled 196.44 points over two programs in Hoffman Estates, Ill., holding off countrywoman Mariah Bell by 4.85 points. U.S. champion Gracie Gold was fifth. Full results are here.

“The short program was definitely one of my world-class programs,” Wagner said on NBC. “Long program, I left a little bit out on the table.”

Wagner, who led by 3.75 points after Friday’s short program, was flawed in her free skate, including singling the back end of a jump combination and under-rotating two more jumps.

Still it was enough to overtake Bell, who had the highest free skate score by 3.73 points but was sixth in the short program.

It marked the first U.S. women’s one-two in a Grand Prix event since 2012 Skate America (Wagner and Christina Gao).

“I’m starting to realize my own potential and believe in myself,” Bell, who shares a coach with Wagner, said on NBC. “I’m very excited for the future.”

Gold fell in both of her programs as she tries to bounce back from dropping from first to fourth at last season’s world championships. Gold had her lowest Grand Prix finish (excluding Grand Prix Final) since her debut at 2012 Skate Canada.

Wagner notched her fifth career Grand Prix series win (only Michelle Kwan and Sasha Cohen own more among U.S. women). Wagner joined Kwan as the only women to bag multiple Skate America and U.S. Championships titles.

The women Wagner must be compared with are Russian teens. Wagner ended a 10-year U.S. medal drought at worlds last year, but Russia still rules women’s skating.

None of the top Russians competed at Skate America. Wagner is slated to face 2015 World gold and bronze medalists Elizaveta Tuktamysheva and Yelena Radionova at her next event, Cup of China, in four weeks.

The reigning world champion, Yevgenia Medvedeva, makes her Grand Prix season debut at Skate Canada next week. Medvedeva and Wagner could go head-to-head at the Grand Prix Final in Marseille, France, in December.

Earlier Saturday, Japan’s Shoma Uno topped the men’s short program with 89.15 points, landing one of his two quadruple jump attempts.

Uno, 18, was followed by the last two U.S. champions, Adam Rippon (87.32, no quads) and Jason Brown (85.75, fall on single quad attempt).

The men’s free skate is Sunday at 12:30 p.m. ET (NBC and NBC Sports app).

MORE: 2016-17 figure skating season broadcast schedule

Simone Schaller, oldest living Olympian, dies at 104

FILE - In this July 15, 1936, file photo, Simone Schaller, lower right, waves with members of the United States women's Olympic track and field team as they depart for Europe on the SS Manhattan. Schaller, an American hurdler who competed at the 1932 and 1936 Summer Games and was believed to be the oldest living Olympian, died of natural causes Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016,  in the Arcadia, Calif., home she and her husband built when they married in the 1930s, her grandson Jeffrey Hardy said, Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016. She was 104. (AP Photo/File)
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ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) — Simone Schaller, an American hurdler who competed at the 1932 and 1936 Summer Games and was believed to be the oldest living Olympian, has died. She was 104.

Grandson Jeffrey Hardy said Saturday that Schaller died of natural causes Thursday in the home she and her husband built when they married in the 1930s.

Schaller tied Babe Didrikson Zaharias for the world record in the first round of the 80-meter hurdles at the 1932 Los Angeles Games. Schaller finished fourth in the final behind Didrikson, who set another record. According to Olympic historian David Wallechinsky, Schaller had taken up hurdling only three months earlier.

At the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Schaller made it to the semifinals.

She won the hurdles at the 1933 U.S. Championships. She was also an avid tennis player.

Schaller had three children, seven grandchildren, a dozen great-grandchildren and numerous great-great-grandchildren.

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