Gracie Gold wants to put turbulent season behind her at World Championships

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Gracie Gold‘s discombobulated season took another confusing turn at her most recent competition.

“It felt like I was surfing,” she said.

Gold, the 2014 U.S. champion and fourth-place finisher at the Sochi Olympics, finished fourth as the most accomplished skater in the field at the Four Continents Championships in Seoul in February.

She hopes to perform better at the World Championships next week in Shanghai, where she is one of three Americans looking to win the first U.S. women’s medal at Worlds since 2006.

“If I were to turn on my music at any time of the day, I would not skate as poorly as I did at Four Continents,” Gold said Monday. “I was just so nervous, and it just didn’t feel like me out there.”

Gold, who trains in Southern California, said she’s consistently skated clean long programs in practice daily, maybe with one mistake, since returning from Four Continents one month ago.

“Most things I’ve really learned about myself and about training is always after a bad competition, after a disappointment,” she said.

Gold pointed to an improper mindset at Four Continents, where she singled at least one jump in both of her programs.

“Possibly, I put too much expectation on myself and crumbled under my own pressure,” she said. “We were just so focused on, at least I was, about winning the competition and winning and winning and winning that I kind of got lost in that and I forgot what the most important part is, which is about buckling down and just skating your program.”

The ups and, mostly, downs in the post-Olympic season have been plentiful. They started before the season, actually, as her prep was delayed due to a post-Olympic tour — her first extended period away from home. She also felt out of shape, switched skate blades and changed boot sizes.

“I’ve had a lot of trouble finding my rhythm,” she said. “I’ve kind of been all over the place this year. It hasn’t been my most consistent, by far.”

Gold managed to win her first Grand Prix Series title at NHK Trophy in November but then came home to find she had a stress fracture in her left foot.

“My first major injury,” she said.

Gold, with less than three weeks of jumping training after that injury, relinquished her U.S. title to Ashley Wagner in January.

Then in February, she had trouble sleeping in Seoul, was off in practice and nervous in warm-ups and was also affected by an hourlong bus ride from her hotel to the rink at Four Continents.

“I didn’t feel like I was in my own skates,” Gold said.

Gold called the defeat a blessing and counts on the “little glimmers of hope” she’s seen in her skating this season that prove she is a medal contender at Worlds.

The confidence is still there. Gold even said she and coach Frank Carroll have talked about working on a triple Axel or quadruple Salchow, though not adding it in competition any time soon.

Russian Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, who won the Grand Prix Final in December and European Championships in January, was recently seen in video landing a triple Axel. She’s the only elite active women’s skater performing the jump. It’s been a while since quads have been talked about in women’s competition.

“That’s something I’ve always been awe of,” Gold said of Tuktamysheva’s triple Axel. “I’m looking forward, hopefully in the next Olympic cycle, we’ll see even more triple Axels being tried and maybe even some quads by ladies. I think that it’s very doable.”

Polina Edmunds hopes reputation doesn’t impact World Championships

Adam Jones, five-time MLB All-Star, becomes Olympic eligible

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Should the U.S. qualify for baseball’s Olympic return, a five-time MLB All-Star could be eligible for its roster in Tokyo. And he has interest.

Outfielder Adam Jones signed with the Orix Buffaloes of Japan’s domestic league, which, unlike MLB, will take an Olympic break next summer to allow players to take part in the first Olympic baseball tournament in 12 years.

Jones, 34, made no mention of Olympic eligibility in a social media post announcing the signing. His Instagram avatar is a photo of him in a Team USA jersey from the World Baseball Classic.

Jones’ agent later said that Jones does have interest in playing for the U.S. in Tokyo, should an American team qualify in the spring.

“To play over in Japan has always been a desire of Adam’s, and the timing worked out that the Olympics happens to be played in Tokyo the first year of his contract,” Jones’ agent wrote in an email. “It wasn’t one of the factors on his decision BUT more of a [sic] addition to the overall package to decide to go.”

Jones called being part of the U.S.’ 2017 WBC title, “probably the best experience of my life so far, especially with sports,” according to The Associated Press. He was one of five players to be on the U.S. team at each of the last two World Baseball Classics.

The U.S. still faces a difficult task to qualify for the Tokyo Games. It lost to Mexico last month in its first of up to three chances at qualifying tournaments, using a roster of mostly double-A and triple-A caliber players.

Major Leaguers are not expected to be made available for qualifying or for the Tokyo Games.

The next two qualifying tournaments will be in late March (an Americas qualifier in Arizona) and early April (a final, global qualifying event in Chinese Taipei). It remains to be seen how MLB clubs will go about releasing minor leaguers for a tournament that will take place during spring training.

Jones could become the third player with prior MLB All-Star experience to compete at the Olympics from any nation, joining Australian catcher Dave Nilsson and Canadian pitcher Jason Dickson.

Jones made five All-Star teams during an 11-year stint with the Baltimore Orioles from 2008-18 before playing for the Arizona Diamondbacks last season.

Many players competed at the Olympics before making an MLB All-Star team, including Stephen Strasburg and Jason Giambi.

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Russia boxers to boycott Olympics if sanctions not lifted

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Russian boxers will only take part in the Tokyo Olympics if doping sanctions forcing them to compete as neutral athletes are overturned, the general secretary of the Russian Boxing Federation told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Umar Kremlev said he has spoken with the Olympic boxing team and they “unanimously” rejected the conditions laid out by the World Anti-Doping Agency as punishment for manipulating doping data.

The WADA sanctions, announced on Monday, ban the use of the Russian team name, flag or anthem at a range of major sports competitions over the next four years, including next year’s Olympics.

“They said we won’t go without our flag and anthem,” Kremlev said. “We aren’t going for medals, but for that feeling that I brought the highest honor home for my country.”

Separately, the speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament said Russia could create an alternative to the Olympics.

“This ruling show the clear crisis in international sports institutions. I believe that Russia could host its own games at home,” Valentina Matvienko said in comments reported by the Interfax news agency.

There is a precedent. After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Soviet Union refused to compete in the Olympics and hosted its own Spartakiads — named after the ancient rebel slave Spartacus — with a strong socialist slant. However, the Soviet Union began competing at the Olympics in 1952 and Russians generally take great pride in the country’s Olympic achievements since then.

If the sanctions aren’t overturned, Kremlev said Russian boxers would prefer to turn pro rather than compete at the Olympics.

“A world champion (in professional boxing) is better known than an Olympic champion,” Kremlev said, adding the Russian anthem would be played before pro title fights.

Kremlev said boxers are being asked to shoulder the blame for offenses committed in other sports. He said they would still stay at home even if Russia’s athletes in other sports decided to take part.

“If other sports are guilty and people have breached the WADA code, why are we punished?” he said. “We are for honest sport and against doping. We want our sport to be clean … If someone breaks the rules, we push them out.”

Russia is a major power in amateur and Olympic boxing. It hosted both men’s and women’s world championships this year, finishing at the top of the medals table at the women’s event and second in the men’s championships. The International Olympic Committee has taken direct charge of boxing at the Tokyo Olympics after criticizing chronic financial problems and infighting at the International Boxing Association.

Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov talked up Russia’s chances of overturning the WADA sanctions.

“I think that there is every basis to appeal the decision, because our experts have presented their position, and they have the same database as WADA does,” Kolobkov said in comments reported by state news agency TASS. “There is an answer to every question and the whole process is ahead of us.”

The official decision on whether to dispute the sanctions will be made on Dec. 19 by the Russian anti-doping agency’s supervisory board, but senior figures, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, have signaled their preference for taking the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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