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Wayde van Niekerk wants World Championships schedule change for double

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Wayde van Niekerk wants the schedule for the World Track and Field Championships in London in August to be changed so he can better attempt to sweep the 200m and 400m.

The South African won the Rio Olympic 400m in 43.03 seconds, breaking Michael Johnson‘s world record.

Many track and field fans hope to see Van Niekerk race Usain Bolt for the first time this year, in what is expected to be Bolt’s last season before retiring.

That race doesn’t appear likely at the world championships. Bolt is not expected to contest the 200m at worlds or perhaps at all this season.

“[Coach Glen Mills] still wants me to do the double, but I’ve told him I would really like to just do the 100m, so at the start of the season we’ll decide exactly what, but that’s what’s on my mind,” Bolt said on Jamaican TV in September, according to Reuters.

Van Niekerk’s agent said Friday that there’s no chance the South African races the 100m or the 4x100m relay at worlds if he’s able to race the 200m and 400m.

“Wayde wants to try and double … but currently the program at world champs in London is not conducive to that,” Van Niekerk’s agent said. “We’re in conversations with the IAAF to see if there is any possibility to alter the program.”

The IAAF said later Friday that it hasn’t received any request to change the world championships schedule from South Africa’s track and field federation.

The current worlds schedule has the 200m first round taking place about two and a half hours before the 400m final. Van Niekerk said he plans to double regardless of if the schedule is changed, according to South Africa media.

Last year, the Olympic track and field schedule was changed to give Allyson Felix more time between the 200m and 400m. She ended up qualifying for only the 400m, missing the U.S. team in the 200m by .01 after an ankle injury.

Van Niekerk said he will enter 200m races during the spring and/or early summer to prepare. His personal best, 19.94 seconds from 2015, would have earned the silver medal behind Bolt’s 19.78 in Rio.

“I’ve made up my mind, that’s really what I want to do for this year,” Van Niekerk said in a South African TV interview published Thursday. “I’ve achieved so much in the 400m these last two years. I feel I want to put a new element or aspect into my athletics. I feel I want to invest a bit more in the 200m and the 100m without totally neglecting the 400m. So I want to continue improving myself in the 400m, but at the same time I want to get back to why I started track and field, and that was the 100m and 200m.”

Van Niekerk said it’s “bittersweet” that he “probably” won’t race the 4x100m relay at worlds, assuming South Africa qualifies a 4x100m team.

“We’ll see how many body feels, and if I’m willing to take that risk,” he said. “At the moment, I’m already trying a new challenge with the 200m and 400m. So I don’t believe I should take that extra bit of pressure for myself. Let’s first see how I do this year, and how I handle that, and we’ll decide about the 4x100m. But right now I really need to make up my mind on how I would like to take this year.”

As for his goals in 2017? Van Niekerk wants to set a personal best.

“It’s really just about that growth, that continuous growth,” he said. “I’d love to do better than what I’ve done last year. So, whatever times I’ve set up, or whatever times is under my name right now, it needs to fall.”

MORE: Bolt ’50-50′ on competing in 2018

Olympic ski cross champion suffers serious knee injury

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Canadian Marielle Thompson, the reigning Olympic and World Cup ski cross champion, ruptured an ACL and MCL in a training crash in Switzerland.

Alpine Canada did not say when the accident happened or what Thompson’s chances are of returning to defend her Olympic title in PyeongChang.

Thompson flew from Switzerland to Vancouver for an MRI that confirmed the injury.

“I’ll be making a plan with my team moving forward and when the time is right getting back on the ski cross course stronger than ever,” Thompson said in a press release.

Thompson, 25, tore a meniscus in January 2015 and returned to competition 11 months later. She won seven of the 13 World Cup races last season.

Other Olympic medal contenders include Swede Sandra Näslund and Swiss Fanny Smith.

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Nathan Chen leads Yuzuru Hanyu at Grand Prix opener (video)

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U.S. champion Nathan Chen hopes to become comfortable in this spot this season — ahead of reigning Olympic and world champion Yuzuru Hanyu in the standings.

The 18-year-old Chen landed two quadruple jumps in his short program at the opening Grand Prix event in Moscow, taking a 5.69-point lead over Hanyu going into Saturday’s free skate.

Two-time world champion Yevgenia Medvedeva of Russia topped the women’s short program with 80.75 points (one tenth off her world record).

Full Rostelecom Cup results are here.

Chen’s tally — 100.54 points — is the second-highest short of his flourishing international career. It would have been higher if not for two of his three jumping passes receiving negative grades of execution for wonky landings.

The Japanese megastar Hanyu fell on his final jump, a triple toe loop, on Friday. No matter, Winnie the Pooh bears rained down on the ice from the adoring crowd, many of whom traveled from Japan.

Hanyu scored 94.85 points, one month after breaking his world record short program score with 112.72 points in a small event in Canada.

“Today I made some mistakes in my short program, but overall it didn’t feel bad,” Hanyu said, according to the International Skating Union.

Hanyu, though he is the current PyeongChang favorite, has never won his season-opening Grand Prix event in seven tries.

Chen has now outscored Hanyu, who is four years older, in four of their last eight head-to-head skates.

Hanyu was better in the two biggest programs at last season’s world championships. Chen placed sixth at worlds in April, perhaps gassed at the end of his first senior season while competing on duct-taped skates.

In the women’s standings, Medvedeva topped Olympic bronze medalist Carolina Kostner of Italy by 6.13 points.

American Mirai Nagasu landed a triple Axel that was called under rotated and fell on her other two jumping passes. She ended up ninth, two spots behind U.S. bronze medalist Mariah Bell.

In the short dance, two-time world medalists and U.S. champions Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani tallied 77.30 points.

The siblings lead by .97 over Russians Yekaterina Bobrova and Dmitry Soloviyev going into the free dance.

Russians are one-two in pairs. World bronze medalists Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov lead Olympic silver medalists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov by 5.49.

All of the free skates are Saturday, live on Olympic Channel. A full schedule is here.

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Rostelecom Cup
Men’s Short
1. Nathan Chen (USA) — 100.54
2. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 94.85
3. Dmitriy Aliyev (RUS) — 88.77
11. Grant Hochstein (USA) — 67.56

Women’s Short
1. Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS) — 80.75
2. Carolina Kostner (ITA) — 74.64
3. Wakaba Higuchi (JPN) — 69.60
7. Mariah Bell (USA) — 63.85
9. Mirai Nagasu (USA) — 56.15

Short Dance
1. Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA) — 77.30
2. Yekaterina Bobrova/Dmitry Soloviyev (RUS) — 76.33
3. Alexandra Stepanova/Ivan Bukin (RUS) — 71.32
7. Rachel Parsons/Michael Parsons (USA) — 59.41

Pairs Short
1. Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 76.88
2. Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov (RUS) — 71.39
3. Valentina Marchei/Ondřej Hotárek (ITA) — 68.48
7. Marissa Castelli/Mervin Tran (USA) — 54.37