Polina Edmunds

Meet Polina Edmunds, breakthrough Olympic figure skater

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She’s been called an iron butterfly, a breath of fresh air and even cocky.

She’s Polina Edmunds, 15 and the youngest U.S. Winter Olympian since Tara Lipinski in 1998 (though slopestyle skier Maggie Voisin may take that crown in the next week).

Few, if any, prognosticators pegged the wispy Californian as a contender to make the Olympic Team going into this weekend’s U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

But Edmunds opened eyes in her first senior event, finishing second in the short program Thursday and holding on for the silver medal in the free skate Saturday. She was named to the three-woman Olympic Team on Sunday.

We should have seen this coming.

U.S. women’s figure skating is not as deep as it was 10 or 15 years ago. U.S. champion Gracie Gold and two-time former U.S. champion Ashley Wagner have been seen as the only Sochi medal threats over the past year — and it’ll likely be bronze at best.

At some point, somebody had to rise from the junior ranks above a stagnant group behind Gold and Wagner. That time was the last few days, and that skater was the reigning U.S. junior champion, labeled “cocky” by the New York Daily News.

“I move like a ballerina,” Edmunds told the San Jose Mercury News. “I’m a very soft skater. But I tend to combine it with speed and power.”

Edmunds shows international promise. She won junior Grand Prix events this season and was fourth at the Junior Grand Prix Final in December, behind three Russians.

Edmunds, who started skating at around age 2, has roots in the 2014 Olympic host country. Her mother, Nina, grew up in Russia. Her father was a hockey player.

The New York Times profiled Edmunds four years ago at the 2010 U.S. Championships, where the Vancouver Olympic Team was named. There, Edmunds took sixth as the youngest of 12 skaters in the novice division — one step below juniors.

She was 4 feet, 11 inches, then and 70 pounds. Her current biography lists her at 5-4 with no weight given.

Venerable coach Frank Carroll devotes plenty of time to his star pupil, Gold, but has occasionally helped Edmunds, a San Jose high school sophomore, for the past six months.

“She is the future,” he told reporters after the short program in Boston on Thursday. “She’s like an iron butterfly.”

She’s been compared to Lipinski not just for her precociousness, but also for her toughness. Lipinski herself has called Edmunds feisty.

“My biggest dream would be to go to the Olympics and win,” Edmunds told The New York Times four years ago.

Can she? That’s quite unlikely in Sochi, where South Korea’s Yuna Kim and Japan’s Mao Asada are vying for gold.

But consider this: Edmunds was second at the U.S. Championships, her first senior event, despite falling in her free skate that included six landed triple jumps. This year might only be the beginning.

Ashley Wagner makes Olympic Team over Mirai Nagasu

World Health Organization rejects Olympic postponement call

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BERLIN (AP) — The World Health Organization said there is “no public health justification” for postponing or canceling the Rio Olympics because of the Zika outbreak.

The assessment, in a statement early Saturday, came after 150 health experts issued an open letter to the U.N. health agency calling for the Games to be delayed or relocated “in the name of public health.”

Friday’s letter cited recent scientific evidence that the Zika virus causes severe birth defects, most notably babies born with abnormally small heads. In adults, it can cause neurological problems, including a rare syndrome that can be fatal or result in temporary paralysis.

The authors also noted that despite increased efforts to wipe out the mosquitoes that spread Zika, the number of infections in Rio have gone up rather than down.

WHO, however, said that “based on current assessment, cancelling or changing the location of the 2016 Olympics will not significantly alter the international spread of Zika virus.”

Several public health academics have previously warned that having hundreds of thousands of people travel to the Aug. 5-21 Games in Brazil will inevitably lead to the births of more brain-damaged babies and speed up the virus’ global spread.

The Geneva-based U.N. health agency argued that Brazil is one of almost 60 countries and territories which are reporting transmission of the virus by mosquitoes, and that “people continue to travel between these countries and territories for a variety of reasons.”

“Based on the current assessment of Zika virus circulating in almost 60 countries globally and 39 in the Americas, there is no public health justification for postponing or cancelling the games,” it said. “WHO will continue to monitor the situation and update our advice as necessary.”

It pointed to existing advice for pregnant women not to travel to areas with Zika virus transmission, among other recommendations.

WHO declared the spread of Zika in the Americas to be a global emergency in February.

Its statement Saturday made no direct reference to the health experts’ letter, which also highlighted the decades-long collaboration between WHO and the International Olympic Committee.

The authors said the “overly close” relationship “was last affirmed in 2010 at an event where the Director-General of WHO and president of the IOC signed a memorandum of understanding, which is secret because neither has disclosed it.”

The IOC rejected the idea that the two organizations are too close, saying in an emailed comment that it “does not currently have an MoU with the World Health Organization.”

The last one, it added, “outlined cooperation between the two organizations to promote physical activity to fight strokes, heart attacks, diabetes and obesity.”

MORE: Rio Olympic, Paralympic medals reveal date set

Mo Farah leads Olympic, World champions notching wins at Pre Classic

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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Olympic champion Mo Farah of Great Britain won his third 10,000m title in the Prefontaine Classic on Friday night.

Farah, who 2012 Olympic 5000m and 10,000m titles, pulled out front with about two laps to go and withstood Kenyan William Malel Sitonik with a surge on the final turn to finish in 26 minutes, 53.71 seconds at Hayward Field.

“I am really happy where I am,” Farah said. “I am in a lot better shape than I was in 2012.”

It was Farah’s second straight victory in the event at Pre and third overall. In all three wins he has finished under the 27-minute mark.

The 33-year-old’s last outdoor events on a track came at August’s World Championships in Beijing, where he swept the 5000m and 10,000m at a second straight Worlds.

Farah trains with the Nike Oregon Project. His teammate, U.S. Olympic silver medalist Galen Rupp, opted not to run at Pre and instead focus on the Olympic Trials in July. Rupp has already made the Olympic marathon team, but he could make a bid for a double in the 10,000m.

The Prefontaine Classic continues Saturday with coverage on NBC, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET. A full broadcast schedule is here.

Kenyan Hellen Obiri won the women’s 5000m in 14:32.02, surging on the final lap for a personal best. The top American finisher was Molly Huddle, 16 seconds behind for 11th place.

Olympian Alysia Montaño won the 800m in 2:00.78. Known for running with a flower in her hair, Montaño is a six-time U.S. 800m champion.

“I knew it was going to be a little cold, a little windy,” she said. “So I knew it was going to be a little bit different, like in terms of just feeling it out and not going for a really quick time.”

World champion Joe Kovacs won the shot put with a throw of 72 feet, 7 ¼ inches, the best mark in the world this season. Croatian Olympic champion Sandra Perković won the women’s discus. Earlier, two-time World champion Pawel Fajdek of Poland won the men’s hammer.

U.S. Olympic champion Brittney Reese won the long jump with a leap of 22-8½.

“Just to get that win, it sets me up good for my season, and it shows that I’m in form and good shape going into Rio,” Reese said.

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