Tina Maze
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Tina Maze ponders 2018 Olympics

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ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) — For all the fuss in Tina Maze‘s home country about her farewell ski race on Saturday, it might not be her last race after all.

The two-time Olympic champion from Slovenia told The Associated Press on Thursday that she might reconsider her decision to retire.

“Of course, in human nature, there is always mind-changing,” the 33-year-old Maze said in Croatia where she attended a men’s World Cup race. “You can always change your mind. My body is not capable of 10 more years of skiing, but maybe two.”

After taking the full 2015-16 season off, Maze announced in October that she planned to quit the sport after competing in one final race, the giant slalom in her home country on Saturday. Maribor was also the venue of her World Cup debut at 15 in 1999.

After her year off, Maze said she felt she was forced into taking a decision about her future.

“Everybody was expecting my decision this year so I had to make a press conference and decide,” said Maze, who in 2014 won Slovenia’s first ever gold medal at the Winter Olympics by sharing victory in the Sochi downhill with Dominique Gisin of Switzerland. Six days later she also won gold in GS.

With the Pyeongchang Olympics in South Korea looming next year, Maze said she could be tempted to extend her career.

“It depends on all the other circumstances, it’s not depending just on me,” the four-time Olympian said without elaborating.

Asked by the AP about Maze’s thoughts on racing again, her Italian coach and boyfriend, Andrea Massi, said, “I support Tina. I don’t push her in one direction, this is Tina’s decision.”

Massi started working with Maze as a fitness coach in 2002. Six years later, they set up their own independent team, calling it the Team to aMaze.

“I have pushed Tina as a coach for 14 years, the last eight years as her chief trainer,” Massi said. “She has to be free (to decide) after 14 years.”

Several incidents have cast a shadow over Maze’s farewell race. Her start was in doubt following a sponsorship row with the Slovenian ski federation last month.

As the federation was not willing to pay her an appearance fee, both parties agreed she will wear a race suit without sponsor logos.

Also, Maze unsuccessfully tried to get injury status for the year she didn’t ski. That would have protected her ranking and allowed her a favorable start position in the top 15. Now she will have to start after the top 30 racers.

“Of course I am disappointed because I had some health problems which are not so easy,” Maze said. “I thought I would get an injury status and be able to start in the top 15. It’s not fair. It does matter for my principles and for what I believe in, and for what I thought was right. That’s for sure not right but it won’t stop me.”

Maze said she has had limited training ahead of her first race since March 2015.

“Just to ski a little bit in order not to come from zero to Maribor,” she said. “I just want to have fun, to enjoy it, to feel the same atmosphere that I feel here (in Zagreb).”

Maze, who set the record for most World Cup points in a single season as she won the overall title in 2013, has 26 World Cup victories, 81 podium results, and four world titles.

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Chinese lead, star pairs struggle in world championships short program

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China’s Sui Wenjing and Han Cong recorded the highest pairs short program score in the world since the 2014 Olympics, topping the world championships field in Helsinki on Wednesday.

Two-time defending world champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada and Olympic silver medalists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov are well behind in seventh and 13th place, respectively.

Sui and Han, in just their second event this season, tallied a personal-best 81.23 points.

They lead by 1.39 over Germans Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot going into the free skate Thursday (1 p.m. ET, NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov are in third.

The Chinese will go for their first world title after giving up a short-program lead last year and taking silver for a second straight time.

Full worlds short program results are here.

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Sui and Han missed the fall season after Sui underwent right ankle and left foot surgeries last spring. They returned at the Four Continents Championships in February and posted personal-best free skate and total scores, ranking only behind Tarasova and Morozov for the season.

Duhamel and Radford, looking to become the first pair to three-peat in 40 years, came in slowed by Radford’s hip injury suffered in the last week. Radford was off-balance on his triple toe loop landing Wednesday. Duhamel’s hand touched the ice on her throw triple Lutz landing.

They scored 72.67 points, which is 8.56 behind Sui and Han.

Stolbova and Klimov both suffered falls in their short program and scored 65.59, qualifying for the 16-pair free skate by four points. The Russian champions missed the autumn season due to Stolbova’s left leg injury.

The top U.S. pair was Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Christopher Knierim, who posted a personal-best 72.17 points for eighth place. The husband-and-wife pair are competing for the second time this season after Scimeca Knierim’s serious abdominal injury.

U.S. champions Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier suffered two falls and placed 20th, matching the worst U.S. pairs finish in worlds history. They did not qualify for the 16-pair free skate.

Therefore, the Knierims must finish 10th or better after the free skate to ensure the U.S. earns two pairs places at the 2018 Olympics.

Pairs is the U.S.’ weakest discipline. The last U.S. medal in pairs at worlds came in 2002. The last Olympic medal was in 1988.

North Korean pair Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik placed 14th in the short program, the highest of any pair expected to compete for one of four final Olympic quota spots in September.

North Korea sent no athletes to the Sochi Olympics, and it’s not a guarantee it will qualify any athletes for PyeongChang, or if it will send athletes to South Korea in February. But Ryom and Kim’s personal best by nearly 11 points on Wednesday was very encouraging.

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Pairs Short Program
1. Sui Wenjing/Han Cong (CHN) — 81.23
2. Aliona Savchenko/Bruno Massot (GER) — 79.84
3. Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 79.37
8. Alexa Scimeca Knierim/Christopher Knierim (USA) — 72.17
20. Haven Denney/Brandon Frazier (USA) — 56.23

Missy Franklin out due to shoulder surgeries

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Missy Franklin is sidelined from swimming competition for an undisclosed period of time to recover from surgeries on both of her shoulders due to bursitis, according to her social media.

“This is what’s best for me to come stronger than ever,” was posted on Franklin’s Instagram. “I’m so far from being done with this sport.”

The five-time Olympic champion was diagnosed in early January following an MRI, underwent surgeries that month and has returned to limited training.

Franklin, who has not raced since the Rio Olympics, will not compete in the next USA Swimming Pro Series meet in Mesa, Ariz., in two weeks.

Her return date is not set.

The U.S. Championships are in June in Indianapolis and serve as a qualifying meet for the world championships in Budapest in July.

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