Ashley Wagner

Ashley Wagner changes long program

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U.S. figure skater Ashley Wagner changed her long program less than one month before the Olympics.

Wagner, the 2012 and 2013 U.S. champion, struggled at the Grand Prix Final in December and the U.S. Championships two weeks ago, her last two events.

She finished fourth at the U.S. Championships and was placed on the three-woman Olympic Team. Third place Mirai Nagasu was left off.

“If I had not skated poorly at Nationals I wouldn’t have been able to change a program that wasn’t going to get me far in Sochi,” Wagner said.

She’s reverting her long program music from “Romeo and Juliet” to “Samson and Delilah,” which she used in 2012-13, when she won her first two Grand Prix series events and was second at the Grand Prix Final.

“I told my coach the night they picked the Olympic Team that we needed to change this program because it was something I struggled with all season,” Wagner said. “I just couldn’t connect with the Juliet character, the program made me nervous. I was terrified. I didn’t feel confident stepping out onto the ice.”

The skate setup will stay the same.

“My coach let me change the music if we didn’t completely re-do the skate itself,” she said.

Wagner will also revert to a similar yellow free skate costume she wore last season.

“I feel like now I’m really going to be a name to watch, I really feel that,” she said.

Mikaela Shiffrin plans to return next week

Mikaela Shiffrin
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Mikaela Shiffrin plans to race the next World Cup slalom in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, next Monday, according to her social media.

Shiffrin, 20 and the reigning Olympic, World and World Cup slalom champion, has been out since suffering a right MCL tear and a bone fracture in a Dec. 12 warm-up crash.

Her timetable for a return this season has shifted in the last eight weeks.

The rescheduling of a canceled Jan. 31 slalom for next Monday changed her previous plans to return the final weekend of February.

“Our goal is to have her be really close to 100 percent, if not 100 percent [before competing],” said Shiffrin’s mother, Eileen, in an earlier Denver Post report. “We’ve heard all these horror stories about athletes who went back too soon and then sustained injuries that did end their careers.”

The World Cup season concludes March 20. There are four slaloms left on the calendar, and Shiffrin trails slalom standings leader Frida Hansdotter by 305 points.

A winner receives 100 points per victory, so Shiffrin could take her fourth straight World Cup season title, but it would all but require her to win all four remaining slaloms and for Hansdotter (and others) to struggle.

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Tony Parker plans to play in Olympic qualifying, Rio Games

Tony Parker
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Tony Parker said he plans to play in both Olympic qualifying in July and the Rio Games in August, according to L’Equipe.

Parker, 33, previously said he could miss the tournaments this summer, at least in part due to his wife’s pregnancy, according to French media.

Parker said his wife is due in late July, which would fall in between France’s Olympic qualifying tournament (July 4-10 in the Philippines) and the Rio Games (Aug. 6-21).

Parker led France at the 2012 Olympics with 15.7 points per game. The French lost two games in London, to the gold medalist U.S. in group play and silver medalist Spain in the quarterfinals.

Parker led all players with 19 points per game at 2013 EuroBasket, won by France.

In September, Parker and France fell in the EuroBasket semifinals to Spain in a winner-goes-to-Rio game.

The defeat forced France to a last-chance, winner-take-all, six-team Olympic qualifying tournament in the Philippines in July.

In the Philippines, France will face a field that includes Canada, which had nine NBA players on its roster (including Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins) at August’s FIBA Americas yet was stunned in a winner-goes-to-Rio game by Venezuela, which had zero NBA players.

France is likely to be without Chicago Bulls All-Star Joakim Noah this summer as he underwent season-ending left shoulder surgery in January and hasn’t played a major tournament for the national team since 2011 EuroBasket.

Other French NBA players include Charlotte Hornets swingman Nicolas Batum, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, San Antonio Spurs forward Boris Diaw and Orlando Magic guard Evan Fournier.

MORE: Kristaps Porzingis not yet committed to Latvia Olympic qualifying run