Daisuke Takahashi

Daisuke Takahashi makes Japan’s Olympic team; Mao Asada stunned

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Daisuke Takahashi was named to Japan’s three-man Olympic figure skating team Monday, one day after a fifth-place finish at the National Championships left him with a bloody hand, in tears and in doubt of going to Sochi.

Also Monday, Mao Asada was third at Japan’s National Championships, though she still safely made her second Olympic team.

Takahashi, the 2010 Olympic bronze medalist and world champion, was selected over the third- and fourth-place finishers at Japan’s National Championships, Takahiko Kozuka and Nobunari Oda.

Here’s video of the team announcement, with Takahashi’s name being read at the three-minute mark and a full crowd going wild.

Both Kozuka and Oda are veterans with Olympic and World Championships experience. But neither has excelled on the major international stage like Takahashi.

Grand Prix Final champion Yuzuru Hanyu locked up the first of three spots by winning the National Championships. Hanyu is seen as, at least, a co-favorite for Sochi gold with Canada’s Patrick Chan.

The second and third berths would go to skaters based not only their finishes at nationals, but also on how they’ve performed at international events. One berth went to Tatsuki Machida, the Skate America champion who took second to Hanyu on Sunday.

The other went to Takahashi, who was better than Kozuka and Oda during the Grand Prix season in the fall. Takahashi, the 2012-13 Grand Prix Final champion, pulled out of this year’s Grand Prix Final with a leg injury.

He said Saturday that the injury no longer caused him pain, but it did affect his confidence in the short program.

Takahashi fell on his opening jump in his free skate Sunday, badly two-footed another jump and put his hand down on another (video here). He appeared to skate most of his program with a bloody hand, perhaps from the opening fall. He briefly walked out of a post-skate interview in tears (video here).

2010 Olympic silver medalist Mao Asada leads Japan’s three-woman team to Sochi. Though Asada shockingly finished third at the National Championships, behind her Sochi Olympic teammates Akiko Suzuki and Kanako Murakami.

Photos: Meet Japan’s Olympic team

Here’s video of Asada’s free skate Monday. Asada has won six of the last eight Japanese National Championships. It was her lowest finish at nationals in 10 years.

Miki Ando, a two-time world champion, finished seventh at nationals and did not make the team. She gave birth to a girl in April.

Sochi Olympic hockey pucks unveiled

Olympic skater Nancy Kerrigan remembers slain Colorado officer, a childhood friend

Nancy Kerrigan
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Former figure skating champion Nancy Kerrigan remembers the Colorado police officer who was killed in a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic as loyal, caring and a true friend.

She told media outlets that Garrett Swasey was “one of my best friends” as they grew up together practicing figure skating in Melrose, Massachusetts. Before he became a police officer, Swasey was a junior national couples ice dancing champion.

An emotional Kerrigan says she wasn’t surprised he took a career path where he helped others first. She says he always had fun and did everything with a smile.

Swasey’s father has told the Boston Globe that his son moved to Colorado in the 1980s to pursue competitive figure skating and became an officer six years ago.

MORE: Hanyu, Miyahara into Grand Prix final with wins at NHK Trophy

Kobe Bryant announces retirement but remains in contention for Rio team

Kobe Bryant
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Veteran basketball player and 2008 and 2012 Olympic gold medalist Kobe Bryant has announced he will retire from professional basketball after the end of this season. However, ESPN reported that the chairman of USA Basketball, Jerry Colangelo, said that Bryant “remains in contention for Team USA spot for Rio 2016.”

In the form of a poem titled “Dear Basketball” on the Player’s Tribune, Bryant wrote:

This season is all I have left to give.
My heart can take the pounding
My mind can handle the grind
But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.

Bryant played on the U.S. national team from 2007 to 2012. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics he scored 20 points in the gold medal game to win gold over Spain. He helped the U.S. men to gold again in 2012, then said that it would be his last Olympics.

But he’s changed his tune in recent months. Bryant told the Associated Press in November that he’d like a shot at another Olympics.

“I would like to play,” Bryant said. “I think it’d be awesome. A beautiful experience.”

If he were selected and won again, Bryant, LeBron James, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony would become the first U.S. male basketball players to win three gold Olympic medals.

In the AP interview Bryant spoke glowingly of his Olympic teammates. “It would mean the world to me to be around those guys,” he said. “I think to be able to have a chance to continue the relationship that I already have with most of those guys, talking and just kind of being around each other and understanding that this is it, it’s just us being together, that would be fun.”

He also said he believes he’d be an asset to the team, stating, “I feel like I can add value from a leadership perspective and a defensive perspective. I can still move extremely well defensively.”

Bryant’s age will likely be a concern, as his 38th birthday is just two days after the gold-medal game on August 21st, 2016.

Colangelo said that they will be looking at “all of our players” this season, and Bryant’s retirement announcement “doesn’t have any bearing” on whether he’d be selected for the 2016 Olympic team.

The 12 player team will be selected in June 2016.

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