Yuna Kim

Yuna Kim runs away with national title in South Korea


Yuna Kim wasn’t happy with the final jump she had performed in front of her adoring home fans in South Korea Sunday – so she did another.

The reigning Olympic champion ran away with the South Korean Figure Skating Championships, but had popped a double Axel into a single at the end of the free skate, leaving the 23-year-old unsatisfied. So as her name was called for the medal ceremony, Kim skated out and performed a perfectly clean double Axel, showing her nation – and the world – that she’s determined to be ready for Sochi.

The Vancouver gold medalist racked up a score of 227.86 (which is not counted towards her personal bests because it is a national competition, not international), running away with the title in front of a sell-out crowd, most likely the last to see her compete domestically before she retires. See video of her free skate here.

Soyoun Park was second with a 178.17 and Haejin Kim third at 159.15.

Kim was graceful in her “Adios Nonino” tango piece, flowing from element to element. She opened with a triple Lutz-triple toe combination, but later struggled with her Axel combination and finally popped her last planned double Axel. The jump had given her some trouble at her comeback event in Croatia last month, as well.

Kim has skated sparingly since running away with the Olympic title in 2010 with a world-record skate, placing second at the 2011 World Championships before making a grand comeback in 2013, winning the World Championships by a safe margin.

A foot injury forced her out of the Grand Prix season this past year, meaning she’ll attempt to become the first skater to have foregone the major international circuit and still win an Olympic gold since the Grand Prix series was introduced in 1995.

2010 silver medalist Mao Asada is still seen as Kim’s top rival, though Asada was third at the Japanese National Championships two weeks ago and has struggled with her own Axel – the rare triple in ladies’ skating.

2012 world champion Carolina Kostner of Italy and American Ashley Wagner are also seen as medal contenders for the Sochi Games, as are Russian teenagers Adelina Sotnikova and Yulia Lipnitskaya.

The South Korean National Championships marked Kim’s final domestic competition for the 23-year-old, who has said she will retire following the Olympic Games next month.

Yuna Kim not preparing ‘special skills’ for Sochi Olympics

Correction: An earlier version of this article mistakenly stated that Yuna Kim has won nine national titles.

Brazil’s best tennis player: ‘tough to dream’ of Rio Olympic medal

Thomaz Bellucci
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Thomaz Bellucci admits playing at a home Olympics brings at least some pressure.

“To well represent Brazil,” the Sao Paulo native clarified at the U.S. Open in New York last month. “It’s tough to dream about having a medal.”

The 27-year-old Bellucci is the only Brazilian tennis player, man or woman, ranked in the world top 50. He sits at No. 31, having this season reached his first ATP final since 2012 and winning it at the Geneva Open in Switzerland in May.

Brazil’s Olympic Committee set a target of 27 to 30 medals in Rio, after earning 17 at London 2012. The added glory likely won’t come from tennis, a sport in which a Brazilian has never stood on an Olympic podium.

“For the Olympics, I don’t feel too many pressure,” Bellucci said, “because even if I play in Brazil, I know there are many players more favored than me because [Roger] Federer‘s going to play, [Novak] Djokovic, all these guys have so much more pressure than me because they have more chance to have a medal.”

Olympic tennis gained greater significance on the busy tour calendars among top players with recent Games.

On the men’s side, every medalist from 2008 and 2012 had already reached at least one Grand Slam final in his career. That group of six included Federer (2012 silver), Djokovic (2008 bronze), Rafael Nadal (2008 gold) and Andy Murray (2012 gold).

But if Bellucci and the Brazilians look back, they can find unexpected, inspiring runs. In 1996, Brazil’s Fernando Meligeni came to the Atlanta Games ranked No. 95 in the world, having never made it past the fourth round of a Grand Slam.

The charismatic Meligeni, a lefty who sometimes played wearing his cap backwards, reached the final four in Stone Mountain, twice playing for a medal, and hitting a tweener on the penultimate point of his semifinal against Spain’s Sergi Bruguera.

He lost both medal-round matches, including the bronze match to Indian Leander Paes, who won the U.S. Open mixed doubles last month with another 1996 Olympic singles tennis player, Swiss Martina Hingis. Hingis is attempting to return to the Olympics next year for the first time since 1996.

In 2004, Chile’s Nicolas Massu won singles and doubles gold in Athens having never reached the fourth round of a Grand Slam in singles.

Bellucci debuted at the Olympics in 2008 and hasn’t won a single Games match. He rose from a No. 85 overall ranking in Beijing to No. 42 going into the London 2012 Olympics, where he forced then-Wimbledon semifinalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to three sets. Bellucci and partner Andre Sa were the only doubles pair to take a set off Americans Bob and Mike Bryan at London 2012.

“Beijing I was very surprised, because I was very young and had no idea,” Bellucci said. “In London, I had a very tough draw against Tsonga. Let’s see if I can have more luck in Brazil to have a better draw.”

Not even the great Gustavo Kuerten could sniff an Olympic medal. The three-time French Open champion — the only Brazilian man to win a Grand Slam — couldn’t do better than the quarterfinals in 2000 and 2004.

The analysis of Bellucci in the scope of Kuerten, who is of a similar tall, thin build, has silenced in recent years.

“They used to say that when I was young, when I was starting to play well,” said Bellucci, whose four ATP titles came on Kuerten’s favorite surface, clay, while the Rio Olympic tournament will be on hard courts. “They want to compare me and Guga [Kuerten], but anyway they are not comparing anymore because Guga is so much bigger than me.”

As much as Bellucci tries to keep expectations low, he urges that his sport is one of the most popular in Brazil.

“I think soccer, for sure, is No. 1 and then volleyball is second and then tennis, I think,” he said. “I think we have more people playing tennis than volleyball because I think all the ages can play tennis.”

MORE TENNIS: Martina Hingis waits on Federer, Wawrinka to decide on Rio 2016

Oscar Pistorius’ family upset with delays in possible release

Oscar Pistorius
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SOMERSET WEST, South Africa (AP) — Oscar Pistorius‘ family criticized South African authorities on Tuesday for delays in deciding whether he should be released from jail and moved to house arrest, saying his rights were being “undermined” because of the publicity surrounding his case.

The family also reacted to parole officials’ recommendation that the double-amputee runner undergo psychotherapy, saying he was already receiving “regular and ongoing” psychotherapy from both his personal and prison psychologists.

The Pistorius family spoke out in a written statement after his early release — which had been granted in June — was canceled Monday and ordered to be reconsidered.

“This experience leaves us with the uncomfortable conclusion that the public, political and media hype that was allowed to develop around Oscar’s trial has undermined his right to be treated like any other prisoner,” Pistorius’ family said.

The family expressed concerns over the “legality” of canceling Pistorius’ release.

Pistorius was approved to be released on Aug. 21 after serving 10 months of his five-year manslaughter sentence for killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. In a fairly common procedure in South Africa for offenders sentenced to five years or less, he would have been moved from jail after one-sixth of the sentence to serve the remainder under correctional supervision at home.

But the justice minister intervened two days before Pistorius was to leave jail and ordered a review on a legal technicality, saying the parole board met two months too early. After a seven-week delay, officials reviewing Pistorius’ case on Monday sent it back to that original parole board to consider all over again.

“We cannot understand … why the matter is now to be referred back to the parole board that has no reason to make a different decision from the one that was made in the first place,” the Pistorius family said.

MORE PISTORIUS: Pistorius’ top rival wants him to race again