Evgeni Plushenko

Yevgeny Plushenko may not be chosen for Sochi Olympics

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Russian Yevgeny Plushenko wants to skate only in the team event at the Sochi Olympics, but that may not be possible.

Plushenko plans to compete in the new Olympic team event and then cede a potential singles spot to a younger skater, he said after finishing second at the Russian National Championships on Christmas.

“I think I’ll choose the team event and will give the individual competition to a young and prospective athlete,” Plushenko said, according to R-Sport. “I understand everything adequately. It will be enough for me to take part in the team event.”

An official from Russia’s figure skating federation differed. Russia qualified one men’s skater for the Olympics out of the maximum possible three, and using different skaters for the team and individual events may not be possible.

“The final decision on who will be the main representative and who will be the reserve will be taken after the European Championships [Jan. 13-19],” federation general director Valentin Piseyev said, according to Agence France-Presse citing R-Sport.

Piseyev said Plushenko’s comments were spoken “out of emotion” and were not logical, according to the report.

Piseyev pointed out that the same skater must represent a nation in the team event and the later singles competition, unless the skater was injured from the team event.

“Not all the sportsmen know the precise rules,” Piseyev said.

This very issue was presented to the International Skating Union in an email last month when reports first surfaced that Plushenko might only want to do the team event.

An ISU communications coordinator responded, writing, “The ISU cannot comment on potential decisions that are the responsibility of the Russian NOC or the IOC,” and suggested contacting the IOC.

An email to the IOC on Thursday was not immediately returned.

Plushenko, 31, was expected to be Russia’s lone men’s Olympic singles entry if he wanted it despite finishing second at the Sochi Olympic venue Wednesday.

Plushenko is coming off a left knee injury that forced him to withdraw from a Grand Prix event in Moscow in November. Before that, he won a minor event in Riga, Latvia.

That was his first competition since withdrawing after the short program of the last season’s European Championships in January with a back injury.

The team event calls for short and long programs just as the men’s singles event does but with three days between the men’s programs as opposed to one day in men’s singles. Plushenko would be more likely to win a medal in the team event than in men’s singles if he competes in both.

At Russian Nationals, Plushenko was beaten by Maksim Kovtun, 18, giving up his lead after the short program. Plushenko scored 261.37 total points (free skate video here) to Kovtun’s 267.13 (free skate video here).

“I cannot call my skate a success,” Plushenko said, according to Agence France-Presse. “I need more practice so that my legs don’t die on me.”

Plushenko won Olympic silver in 2002, gold in 2006 and silver in 2010.

With one Sochi medal, he will become the second skater to win four Olympic medals. Swede Gillis Grafstrom won gold in 1920, 1924 and 1928 and silver in 1932.

Russia, Canada, Japan and the U.S. are expected to vie for medals in the team event, which starts the night before the Opening Ceremony.

Video: Ovechkin signs Capitals jersey for Michael Phelps

Simone Biles becomes honorary Houston Texans cheerleader

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The NFL’s Houston Texans may not be having the greatest season on the football field, but that hasn’t stopped one famous diehard fan from cheering them on.

On Sunday, Simone Biles took her fandom to the next level by debuting as an honorary Texans cheerleader before the team’s home game against the San Francisco 49ers.

game day feels ❤️ so excited to dance at the Houston Texans Game!

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officially ready for game day now that I got my legendary red boots 🏈

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As an added bonus, she also found time to take a few photos with NBA legend Hakeem Olajuwon, a 7-foot center who once starred for the Houston Rockets.

This isn’t the first time that the Olympic gold medalist has teamed up with her hometown Texans. In 2016, Biles had the honor of announcing one of the team’s draft picks, and in 2015, she made this memorable entrance onto the field after a pre-game introduction.

Julia Marino, Jamie Anderson close in on Olympic snowboard team spots after second U.S. qualifier

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Julia Marino is within striking distance of qualifying for her first Olympic team. Sochi gold medalist Jamie Anderson is even closer.

Marino, who won four X Games medals in slopestyle and big air competitions last season, unleashed a frontside 720 and her signature cab double underflip to take second place in big air at the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, the second of five qualifying events for the U.S. snowboard slopestyle and big air team.

Anderson, who received high marks for her cab 900 but lower scores for her frontside 720, finished off the podium in fourth. Because she and Marino were the only Americans to reach the final at Copper though, Anderson still received a valuable haul of Olympic selection points and maintains the lead in the overall rankings.

Although Marino’s cab double underflip received the highest score of the competition, riders in big air are scored on their two best tricks. That enabled Japan’s Reira Iwabuchi to take the win with a pair of solid jumps that included a backside 1080. Silje Norendal of Norway finished on the podium in third behind Iwabuchi and Marino.

In order to be named to the U.S. Olympic slopestyle and big air snowboarding team, riders must have a minimum of one podium finish at the selection events. If more than three riders attain podium finishes, then the tiebreaker will come down each rider’s two best results.

Marino and Anderson have both fulfilled the minimum criteria for automatic selection. Either of them could clinch spots on the Olympic team for both slopestyle and big air by finishing as the top U.S. rider at any of the remaining selection events. The next event will be a slopestyle contest next week in Breckenridge, Colo.

Meanwhile, the men’s big air competition had the potential to shake up the U.S. Olympic rankings, as none of the podium finishers from the first selection event reached the final at Copper.

After a disappointing result in that first qualifier, which was held at Mammoth Mountain last winter, Chris Corning bounced back to finish as the top American in this contest and second place overall. He landed a frontside 1440 and a massive backside triple cork 1440 on his two jumps, putting his own stylish twist on both tricks with melon grabs.

Corning, the 2015/16 World Cup champion in slopestyle, has emerged as perhaps the U.S. team’s top hope for an Olympic medal this year in both men’s slopestyle and big air, events typically dominated by riders from Canada and Norway. Now that he has his first selection event podium under his belt, he can clinch a spot on the Olympic team by finishing as the top American at any of the remaining contests.

Also earning a podium result with a third-place finish was 19-year-old Chandler Hunt, who has suddenly added his name to the U.S. Olympic discussion.

The victory in men’s big air went to Norway’s Mons Roisland, who stomped a switch backside 1620 and a frontside 1440 tail grab on his jumps.

Three more selection events for the slopestyle and big air team still remain, and all three will be slopestyle events. Dew Tour will host a selection event next week in Breckenridge, then there will be a break until Olympic qualifying resumes in January with competitions at Aspen and Mammoth.

U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain Results

Men’s Snowboard Big Air
1. Mons Roisland (NOR), 182.75
2. Chris Corning (USA), 177.25
3. Chandler Hunt (USA), 159.00
4. Ryan Stassel (USA), 154.50
5. Max Parrot (CAN), 121.50

Women’s Snowboard Big Air
1. Reira Iwabuchi (JPN), 169.25
2. Julia Marino (USA), 160.25
3. Silje Norendal (NOR), 156.75
4. Jamie Anderson (USA), 151.50
5. Sina Candrian (SUI), 135.50

U.S. Olympic Qualifying Standings

Men’s Snowboard Slopestyle/Big Air
1. Red Gerard, 1400*
2. Chris Corning, 1200*
3. Chandler Hunt, 1160*
4. Kyle Mack, 1000*
5. Judd Henkes, 1000

Women’s Snowboard Slopestyle/Big Air
1. Jamie Anderson, 1800*
2. Julia Marino, 1600*
3. Hailey Langland, 1300*
4. Jessika Jenson, 1050
5. Nora Healey, 950

*Has automatic qualifying minimum of one top-three result.