Lily Zhang
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Lily Zhang makes second straight U.S. Olympic table tennis team


MARKHAM, Ontario (AP) — Lily Zhang earned her second straight Olympic table tennis spot Friday, beating countrywoman Jiaqi Zheng 11-3, 11-4, 11-5, 11-9 in the North American Olympic trials.

“When the last point was over, it was a sense of disbelief and happiness all at the same time,” Zhang said. “It feels so amazing to go back to the Olympics to represent my country a second time. I am so humbled and happy.”

The top-ranked player in the field, the 19-year-old Zhang, from Palo Alto, Calif., will join Yue “Jennifer” Wu of Fort Lee, N.J., as the two U.S. singles players in Brazil. Wu had qualified by winning the Pan American Games last summer.

“The last time around, I had just turned 16, and I was kind of overwhelmed by the whole thing,” Zhang said. “This time around, I am much more prepared and know what to expect. I have a lot more experience and maturity.”

The third spot on the U.S women’s team for the team competition will be decided on the weekend at the qualification tournament.

Zhang opened the tournament with a 4-0 win over Yi Lu of Canada. In the semifinals, Zhang held off a tough challenge from 14-year-old Crystal Wang of Bellevue, Wash., 4-2. Wang had rallied by winning the last two games to beat Chen Wang of New York 4-2 in the first round. Wang was a 2008 Olympian.

Zheng, the 2015 U.S. champion, is from Milpitas, Calif.

The U.S. didn’t place a player in the men’s final.

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Laurie Hernandez plans on competing in 2019, agent says

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Olympic gymnastics champion Laurie Hernandez plans on competing in 2019, her agent said.

Hernandez has not competed since taking team gold and vault silver at the Rio Olympics, followed by winning “Dancing with the Stars” later that fall.

She said in October that she hoped to compete in 2018 but would not rush a comeback. Hernandez since decided not to compete at the U.S. Championships this August.

No member of the Final Five has competed at the elite level since Rio, though Madison Kocian is in her sophomore season at UCLA and Simone Biles plans to return this summer.

Aly Raisman said in September 2016 that she planned to take one year off, then return to training for a Tokyo 2020 run. But her focus shifted in the last year to something more important — taking on USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee after Larry Nassar sexual-abuse crimes.

The last member of the Final Five, 2012 Olympic all-around champion Gabby Douglas, has not said in widely reported comments if or when she will return to competition.

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Sonja Henie record at stake; figure skating worlds pairs preview

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When Aljona Savchenko won her first gold medal at her fifth Olympics with her third different partner in PyeongChang, she said she “wrote history.”

She can write some more this week.

Savchenko, who at 34 became the oldest female figure skating champion in Winter Olympic history, and partner Bruno Massot are the only pairs medalists from PyeongChang who are back for the world championships in Milan.

The Germans headline the field for the short program Wednesday and free skate Friday.

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Savchenko can tie Norwegian Sonja Henie for the female record of 11 world championships medals. She can grab a share of second on the all-time pairs list with a sixth world title, four shy of Soviet Irina Rodnina‘s record.

Savchenko, who won four crowns with now-retired Robin Szolkowy, goes for her first world title with Massot. They’re clear favorites.

Olympic silver medalists Sui Wenjing and Han Cong withdrew from worlds due to Sui’s foot injury. Olympic bronze medalists Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford retired.

It’s arguably a surprise that Savchenko and Massot chose to compete in Milan. They’re the first Olympic pairs champions to compete at a post-Olympic worlds since 1992.

Their top challengers are Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov, who outscored Savchenko and Massot in the Olympic short program but dropped off the podium in the free skate with a fall on their throw.

U.S. champions Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Christopher Knierim, 15th at the Olympics, made the top 10 in all of their four world championships appearances with a best finish of seventh. The last U.S. pairs medal came in 2002, the nation’s longest drought in any figure skating discipline.

The Knierims were the only U.S. pair in PyeongChang, but in Milan they’re joined by Deanna Stellato and Nathan Bartholomay.

Stellato earned singles silver at the 2000 World Junior Championships, then retired at age 17 due to hip injuries. She came back at age 32 in 2016 in pairs and, with the Sochi Olympian Bartholomay, took bronze at this year’s nationals.

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