Dara Torres
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Swimmer Dara Torres ready for boxing debut

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Dara Torres thought her first boxing match would be fun.

Women don’t hit too hard, she believed, and boxing gloves are soft.

That mindset quickly changed after a punch from her sparring partner.

“I got hit so hard on the side of my mouth that I couldn’t close my jaw for three or four days,” Torres said in a recent telephone interview.

Torres, 49, is scheduled to make her boxing debut in an event for Haymakers for Hope billed as “Belles of the Brawl” on Wednesday in Boston. She has raised more than $18,000 of her $20,000 goal to fight cancer after losing her father, Edward, to colon cancer (donate here).

The 12-time Olympic swimming medalist discovered boxing as a way to get back into shape after knee surgery. Despite being someone who regularly attends 50-minute spin classes and swims for up to 90 minutes, Torres could barely finish two-minute rounds of sparring.

“Two-minute rounds are distance events for me,” said Torres, who completed all of her individual Olympic swimming finals in less than one minute. “I have to pace myself and not go too fast, too hard, too quickly or I’ll be exhausted.”

Torres solicited advice from Laila Ali, a fellow host on the talk show “We Need to Talk.” Ali, a former professional boxer and the daughter of Muhammad Ali, encouraged Torres to take advantage of her reach. Torres is about an inch taller than her opponent, Sue Bator, a chemical engineer.

“It won’t be easy to hit me because my arms are so long,” Torres said.

Torres is hoping that she will be fast enough to dance around the ring, since her knee issues will prevent her from ducking to avoid punches. But her trainer, Jessica Smith, keeps reminding her that she needs to land punches to score points.

“I’m not super aggressive,” Torres said. “But if [my opponent] does something to upset me, I think it will spark something in me to want to fight her.”

One of Torres’ biggest challenges has been to put on enough weight to reach 150 pounds. She has been drinking protein shakes and eating steaks, hamburgers and fries, but as of Monday afternoon, she weighed 149.2 pounds.

“I am still going to need to really chow down to make weight,” she said.

Torres expects to have 30-40 friends in attendance at the fight, including two-time Olympic swimming medalist Elizabeth Beisel. Torres compared her nerves to the feeling before swimming in an Olympic final.

“I think I’m going to be sick to my stomach,” she said. “I’m not in my element. My element is in the pool.”

Torres is confident that Wednesday’s fight will be her first and last boxing match. But she is proud that she has scarified so much to raise funds to defeat cancer.

“[Boxing] is something I don’t particularly like and it’s a hard, hard sport,” Torres said. “But it’s something that can bring more awareness and raise money to help fight this fight against cancer.”

Workout #2 today….

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Yuzuru Hanyu opens Olympic season with record score

Yuzuru Hanyu
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A sore knee didn’t hold Yuzuru Hanyu back. A record score to open his Olympic season.

The Olympic and world champion from Japan hit a pair of quadruple jumps in his short program at the Autumn Classic, a lower-level event in Montreal.

He was rewarded with 112.72 points, the highest short program score recorded under the 13-year-old judging system. Video is here.

It looked like a home competition for Hanyu.

Upon finishing, he bowed toward one set of bleachers (maybe a dozen rows) at the Sportsplexe Pierrefonds. More than two dozen Japanese flags made it hard to see most of the faces.

He bettered Javier Fernández, a two-time world champion and training partner, by 11.52 points. Fernández also landed two quadruple jumps to tally 101.2.

Full scores will be here upon the conclusion of the short program. The free skate is Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. A live stream is here.

Hanyu now owns the three highest short program scores under the 13-year-old system. The other two were set in the 2015-16 season.

Showdowns like Hanyu-Fernández are usually reserved for, at the earliest, the Grand Prix series in late October and November.

Hanyu and Fernández are very familiar with each other, having shared a coach in Canadian Brian Orser, the 1988 Olympic silver medalist, since 2012. They train in Toronto.

In that time, Hanyu became the first Japanese man to win an Olympic title (and the second teen from any nation to do it). He followed it up with world titles later in 2014 and this year.

Fernández achieved unfathomable success for a Spanish skater — world titles in 2015 and 2016, overtaking Hanyu in the free skate both times.

In PyeongChang, Hanyu can become the first man to repeat as Olympic champion since Dick Button in 1952. Fernández can become the third Spaniard to earn a Winter Olympic medal of any color in any sport, and the first since 1992.

The figure skating season continues next week with Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, the final Olympic qualifying competition. North Korea could clinch its first spots in any sport for the Olympics in the pairs event.

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USOC letter assures Olympians about South Korea security

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The U.S. Olympic Committee’s security chief sent a letter to potential Winter Olympians saying there are no indications that recent developments between the U.S. and North Korea have compromised security in South Korea.

The letter, obtained by The Associated Press shortly after it was sent Friday, makes no suggestion that the U.S. is considering skipping the PyeongChang Winter Games for security reasons.

But Chief Security Officer Nicole Deal does write that provocations that have been volleyed between the United States and North Korea are likely to persist for the foreseeable future, and “should not be dismissed as insignificant nor feared as precursors of an inevitable conflict.”

The letter comes at the end of a week in which France’s sports minister suggested the country’s athletes would stay home if security could not be guaranteed.

The International Olympic Committee, trying to calm concerns, reiterated that in conversations with high-level officials in China and South Korea, none have expressed doubt about the Winter Games proceeding as scheduled, next February.

The USOC also sent out a public statement Friday from CEO Scott Blackmun.

“We will continue to work with our State Department and local organizers to ensure that our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe,” he said.

The letter, sent to athletes, national governing bodies and other Olympic leaders in the United States, said the USOC’s security division is operating as “business as usual for our security planning and preparations.”

Deal writes that the USOC is reviewing crisis management plans that address a range of potential scenarios “to ensure our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe.”

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