Yao Ming

Yao Ming named Youth Olympics ambassador

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Yao Ming is going back to the Olympics — the Youth Olympics, that is.

The retired 7-foot-6 NBA All-Star was named an ambassador for the second Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China, which begin with an Opening Ceremony on Aug. 16.

Yao played in three Olympics, leading China to the quarterfinals in 2004 and 2008, before retiring from professional basketball in 2011.

Yao is best remembered in the Olympic setting for carrying the Chinese flag at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Opening Ceremony, when many of the viewers focused on the 9-year-old boy walking next to him. Lin Hao, a survivivor of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, became one of the stars of that unforgettable Opening Ceremony.

Other 2014 Youth Olympics ambassadors include South African swimming gold medalist Chad le Clos and U.S. Women’s Open winner Michelle Wie.

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Eyes of Spain on Javier Fernandez as he builds for last Olympic chance

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 01:  Javier Fernandez of Spain skates in the Men's Free Skate program during Day 5 of the ISU World Figure Skating Championships 2016 at TD Garden on April 1, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Before Javier Fernandez became a two-time world champion, he was the fourth-place finisher in Sochi, missing Spain’s first Winter Olympic medal in 22 years by a mere 1.18 points.

He remembers leaving the Iceberg Skating Palace after competition ended on Feb. 14, 2014, surrounded by the president of Spain’s figure skating federation, his parents and Spanish Olympic Committee officials.

“They were telling me how great I skated,” Fernandez recalled while cupping a hot drink and waiting to christen New York City’s Bryant Park ice rink last Thursday night. “I wanted to skate again. I wanted to do it again, because I knew I could even do it better.”

Fernandez, who was third after the Sochi short program, had one free skate jump invalidated because he performed one too many triple Salchows. Scoring is much more complex than one jump, but many say that zero-point Salchow cost Fernandez a bronze.

Even Fernandez.

“It was just a stupid mistake that took away my Olympic medal,” he says now. “It kind of sucks, I have to say, that you were not on the podium, but it was such a cool experience.”

Today, Fernandez might be the least likely skater to make a stupid mistake. Nobody has been more consistent the last two seasons. A pair of world championships. Two Grand Prix Final silver medals. Five straight Grand Prix series wins.

“But I don’t see being fourth at the Olympics as such a negative thing,” Fernandez continued. “And that’s something what the people don’t understand. … Fourth, it was not that bad of a position. In figure skating … we never had that before. So I also got congratulated by so many people.”

Sochi is far from Fernandez’s mind as he heads into this week’s Grand Prix Final as the only unbeaten man this fall.

As great as Fernandez has been the last two years, what’s coming in 14 months is the last opportunity to fulfill his goal of capturing an Olympic medal.

Fernandez does not plan on skating in a fourth Olympics in 2022. He expects to decide after the Pyeongchang Winter Games just how much longer he will keep competing.

It has been a remarkable ascent. Fernandez, from a nation with maybe 20 ice rinks, made his world championships debut in 2007 and finished 35th out of 42 skaters.

“I’ve been in figure skating for so long,” said Fernandez, who is 25, second-oldest of the six-man Grand Prix Final field. “I’m quite tired, a little bit. I just want to, like, do the last seasons that I have left and then go to the next thing.”

Shortly after the Sochi Olympics, Alejandro Blanco, the president of the Spanish Olympic Committee, essentially guaranteed a Spaniard would win a medal in 2018. Maybe Blanco knew then that Fernandez was the only Spanish competitor in any sport to finish better than seventh.

The support for Fernandez in Spain transcends the nation’s Winter Olympic history. After every competition — win or lose — Fernandez says the royal family sends a letter to his home in Spain. After he repeated as world champion in April, the correspondence included an invitation.

“They said they wanted to meet me in person,” Fernandez said. “I was like, really?”

So he put on a suit and visited King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia at Zarzuela Palace in Madrid on April 22.

Fernandez would love to prove Blanco a prophet and to fill the royals with more pride. But the skater is also keeping expectations in check.

Any medal will do in Pyeongchang.

“Of course, I’m going to work and I’m going to train to be the Olympic champion,” Fernandez said. “But then at the competition, I cannot put a goal that I don’t know if I’m going to reach. Because at that competition anything can happen. So I would rather set up a medium goal that I know I can get. … If you say, I want to be Olympic champion. What if I don’t get it? You’re going to be sad the rest of your life because you didn’t reach your goal?”

MORE: Grand Prix Final broadcast schedule

Break dancing added for 2018 Youth Olympics

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 02:  Breakdancers at the alice + olivia x Basquiat CFDA Capsule Collection launch party on November 2, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for alice + olivia by Stacey Bendet)
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The 2018 Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires will include every sport on the Summer Olympic program, plus three new medal sports, including break dancing.

Break dancing, kumite (a combat form of karate) and sport climbing are being added for the third edition of the Youth Summer Olympics, the International Olympic Committee said Tuesday.

Karate and sport climbing were previously added for the 2020 Tokyo Games, but break dancing is not contested at the Olympics.

Some events already on the Youth Olympic program are not part of the Olympic program, such as acrobatic gymnastics, futsal and 3-on-3 basketball.

Also Tuesday, the IOC provisionally recognized the international federations for muay thai and cheerleading, two of 16 sports that applied for recognition.

Sports can’t be added to the Olympics unless their international federations are recognized by the IOC, though neither muay thai nor cheerleading appears close to being added to the Olympic program in the near future.

MORE: Baseball, softball among sports added for 2020 Olympics