Yevgeny Plushenko

Yevgeny Plushenko changes mind, wants to compete in singles

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Yevgeny Plushenko thought better of his plans for the Sochi Olympics, saying he wants to compete in both the team and individual events in a Russian interview.

Plushenko, the three-time Olympic medalist, previously said after finishing second at the Russian Championships in December that he wanted to be part of the new Olympic figure skating team event and let Russian national champion Maksim Kovtun compete in the individual event.

Though Plushenko finished behind Kovtun at nationals, he is thought to be the preferred choice for Russia’s single men’s spot at the Olympics.

The problem with Plushenko’s original plan was that a country can’t sub out a skater after the team event with a new one for the individual event if it only has one qualified spot, like Russia does for men.

Plushenko could compete in the team event, become injured, and pull out of the individual event and potentially allow Kovtun to take his place.

But that does not appear to be his intention. Plushenko told ITAR-TASS he intends to honor the rules and compete in both events in Sochi. That is, if he is picked over Kovtun by Russia’s figure skating federation.

He stated his case to ITAR-TASS in comments translated by Agence France-Presse.

“I just want to remind those who question my right to compete at Sochi that last year Kovtun was fifth in the Russian Nationals, but nevertheless he performed both at the European and the World Championships,” Plushenko said. “After he finished 17th at the World Championships in London, Canada, Russia received only one place at the Olympics tournament.

“Kovtun performed well at last month’s nationals, but one needs to have solid experience of top international competitions to aspire to win Olympic medals.”

Russia is expected to choose between Plushenko and Kovtun after Kovtun competes at the European Championships next week.

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Teddy Riner, dominant judoka, to skip 2018, 2019 Worlds

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French judoka Teddy Riner, arguably the world’s most dominant athlete, will reportedly skip the next two world championships before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

French coach Franck Chambily said Riner will compete a light international schedule the next two years ahead of what would be his fourth Olympics, according to Agence France-Presse.

Riner, a 29-year-old, 6-foot-8-inch native of Guadeloupe, is undefeated since 2010 with a reported 144-match winning streak. That includes Olympic titles in 2012 and 2016 and world titles in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017.

Before the streak, Riner also earned world titles in 2007, 2009 and 2010, plus an Olympic bronze at age 19 in 2008.

He could compete through the 2024 Paris Games.

“When I am invincible, I will stop,” Riner said in 2013, according to The Associated Press.

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Maggie Nichols wins NCAA all-around title with perfect 10

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Even after a perfect 10 in the last rotation, Maggie Nichols didn’t know that she had won the NCAA all-around title. Her coach at Oklahoma, K.J. Kindler, had to tell her.

The reaction?

“Excitement,” Nichols said Friday night on ESPNU. “I just wanted to go out there and feel out the equipment, staying calm and doing my routines that I have been doing in training.”

Nichols, a 2015 World team champion who retired from elite gymnastics after missing the 2016 Olympic team (set back by a torn meniscus that year), became the first Sooner to win the NCAA all-around in 30 years.

The sophomore tallied 39.8125 points and topped Olympic alternate MyKayla Skinner of Utah by .0875 for the title in St. Louis. It came one year after Nichols was 29th in the all-around with a balance beam fall.

Oklahoma and Utah will be joined in Saturday night’s Super Six team finals by UCLA, LSU, Florida and Nebraska. The Sooners eye their third straight national title.

Nichols capped her night with one of two perfect scores between the two semifinal sessions, matching 2012 Olympic alternate Elizabeth Price‘s 10 on uneven bars. It gave Nichols a second career gym slam, a perfect score on every apparatus for the season.

On Jan. 9, Nichols came forward as “Athlete A,” who first reported to USA Gymnastics that she was sexually abused by Larry Nassar in summer 2015.

“She has had a really unique year probably like no one else, and her strength showed through,” Kindler said Friday, according to the University of Oklahoma. “It was tough, and to come out on this side this year is really special.”

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