Carolina Kostner closing in on elusive Olympic medal

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SOCHI, Russia – Four years ago, Carolina Kostner left the Vancouver ice after her free skate with her head clutched between her arms, barely able to stand after delivering what she herself might tell you was the worst performance of her life.

Thursday night in Sochi she could win an Olympic medal.

At 27, the Italian delivered a stirring performance Wednesday in the short program of the ladies’ singles event, skating to “Ave Maria” and equaling the music with her beauty across the ice.

“After Vancouver I thought that was it,” said Kostner, who sits in third place, less than a point from first. “I thought I would stop skating. I thought that was my end.”

One of the oldest skaters still competing on the international level, Kostner performed with the kind of steadied grace that only a veteran can possess. Long known as a soft and emotive skater, Kostner was her vintage self and poised in delivery.”

“I wanted to skate because I love it,” she said of why she decided to continue after Vancouver. “The hard times make you understand what you really want and I’m really glad that I continued and honored to have experienced everything that I have in the past years.”

After placing ninth at the Torino Games, Kostner plummeted to 16th in Vancouver, but chose to skate on, winning the World Championships in 2012 and tacking on two more European and National Championship titles.

She skated after Yulia Lipnitskaya Wednesday night at the Sochi Games in an arena that was meant to be bursting with applause for the 15-year-old. Yet, after a surprising fall from the Russian, Carolina began to crickets, moving with building heart.

Skating in a sparkling, layered white and silver dress, Kostner came through in the exact opposite way that she fell apart in Vancouver, moving the audience with her fluid performance.

“Stunning,” said two-time Olympian Johnny Weir, a commentator for NBC Sports.

“So long we have been thinking of Carolina as the artist,” added 1998 Olympic champion Tara Lipinski, also a NBC Sports commentator, “but her technique; she took everything down a grade and then built it back up these last four years. That was the whole package. ”

It’s a far cry from where she was days after Vancouver.

“I just believed that that was my limit,” Kostner remembered. “But something just told me that it’s not about the result, it’s about the personal experience, that is what is most important.”

Kostner didn’t have a convincing season. After failing to advance to the Grand Prix Final, she skipped the Italian Nationals and set about re-tooling both her programs, changing them with the Olympics in mind.

“When I was in my beginning position, I was scared out of my mind,” Kostner said, smiling. “I don’t know, it just came together. Skating isn’t about the medals or the results. I love what I do. It’s much more fun to win, but you cannot every time.”

If anything, Kostner only hopes for a performance better than what she put out in Vancouver four years ago. What’s the best way she can approach her Sochi free skate?

“To not think about it,” she said.

Game of Thrones turns to javelin throw (video)

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In the Olympics, the javelin has turned into one of the most diverse events.

Recently, Olympic and world medalists have come from not only the traditional European powers, but also China, Egypt, Kenya, South Africa and Trinidad and Tobago.

Now, Game of Thrones has entered the mix. In the HBO series’ sixth episode of its seventh season that debuted Sunday night — titled “Beyond the Wall” — a battle scene takes place on a frozen lake.

The full scene comes at about the 54-minute mark of the episode on HBO’s site here.

In it, a character named the “Night King” kills a dragon with what appears to be an icy spear, perfectly launched in javelin-throw fashion.

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Swimmer holds minute of silence for Barcelona as race goes on (video)

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Fernando Alvarez, a Spanish swimmer born in 1946, leaned over his starting block for his 200m breaststroke heat in the age 70-74 division at the FINA World Masters Championships on Saturday.

But as everybody else dived into the pool in Budapest, Alvarez stood up above lane 4.

There he remained, reportedly observing a full minute of silence for last week’s Barcelona terror attacks that killed at least 15 and injured more than 100.

Before his race, Alvarez reportedly petitioned FINA for an official minute of silence, but swimming’s international governing body said there was no time to fit it into that session’s schedule, according to Spanish media.

Alvarez did eventually dive into the pool but was given no time in official results.

FINA has not responded to a request for comment.

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