Evgeni Plushenko
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Yevgeny Plushenko rules out Olympic comeback, retires

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Russian Yevgeny Plushenko announced his retirement from competitive figure skating, more than three years after the four-time Olympic medalist’s last competitive skate.

“As for me, I won’t go [to the 2018 Olympics] as an athlete,” Plushenko said on Russian TV on Friday, according to a Russian news agency TASS translation. “I have wrapped up my skating career. I’m opening my own academy where I will work as a coach. If we together with the athletes manage to prepare for the Olympics, maybe I will come.”

Plushenko, 34, last competed at the Sochi Olympics, taking team event gold and withdrawing from singles after his short program warm-up due to a back injury.

Plushenko had announced his retirement in Sochi but went back on that claim later in the Winter Games.

“If need be, I’ll have another 10 operations … I’m not ruling out that I’ll go for a fifth Olympic Games,” he reportedly said in February 2014. “I am not ruling out that I want stay in sports, to prove [something] to many [people] and myself.”

Plushenko was re-added to the Russian national team but never competed, though he has done many ice shows. He has undergone back and neck surgeries in recent years.

“I look at how the youth has grown up and men’s figure skating as well, it is now impossible to compete with young [athletes] it seems to me,” Plushenko said, according to TASS. “I have undergone 15 surgeries, and it is difficult to take part in my fifth Olympics, I’m fed up with it.”

Plushenko had perhaps the greatest career in men’s modern skating. He is one of only two skaters in any discipline to earn four Olympic medals, the other being Swede Gillis Grafstrom of the 1920s and ’30s.

He burst onto the scene with a bronze medal at the 1998 World Championships at age 15, after just missing the 1998 Nagano Olympic team.

Under the guidance of coach Alexei Mishin, Plushenko blossomed into a world champion in 2001 and Olympic silver medalist behind Russian rival Alexei Yagudin in 2002.

In 2006, Plushenko came to the Olympics with a personal-best score more than 20 points higher than any other skater under the new judging system. He delivered on that massive-favorite status by winning gold in Torino by a whopping 27.12 points.

Plushenko returned after three seasons off, largely due to knee injuries and surgeries, for the 2010 Olympic season. He won the short program in Vancouver but was surpassed by American Evan Lysacek in the free skate and had to take silver, beaten by a man who didn’t attempt a quadruple jump.

Plushenko barely competed the next four seasons leading up to his global competition return at the Sochi Winter Games. He was awarded Russia’s lone men’s singles spot despite being beaten at the Russian Championships.

In Sochi, Plushenko’s total score in the team event — 259.59 — would have earned bronze in the singles event that he skipped.

Plushenko’s bravado was unmistakable. Perhaps the best illustration was the title for his final competitive performance, “Best of Plushenko,” a free-skate compilation in Sochi commemorating the highlights of his career.

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U.S., Great Britain to hold track and field dual meet

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The U.S. and Great Britain go head-to-head in a track and field meet on July 21 at the London Olympic Stadium.

“The Meet” will include nine running, jumping, hurdles and relay events and last two hours. Specific events and athletes will be announced early next year.

The U.S. topped the overall medal standings at every Olympics and world outdoor championships since 2004.

Great Britain is one of three countries to earn at least five medals at every Olympics and worlds since 2007, joining the U.S. and Kenya.

British athletes made six podiums at the just-completed worlds at the London Olympic Stadium, including in all four relays. The other two medals came from Mo Farah, who is moving to road racing and marathons after this season.

“The Meet” is similar to swimming’s “Duel in the Pool,” a biennial head-to-head competition between the U.S. and rival Australia from 2003 through 2007 and between the U.S. and Europe between 2009 and 2015.

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Five women’s gymnasts to watch at P&G Championships

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As Rio gold medalists decide on their futures, this week’s P&G Championships mark the first showcase for a new class of U.S. women’s gymnasts.

For the first time since 2008, nobody in the nationals field in Anaheim has competed at an Olympics. Usually, a gymnast or two carries over into the post-Olympic year, like Bridget Sloan in 2009 and Kyla Ross in 2013.

But this year, the feeling is akin to 2005, when no woman (or man) from the 2004 Athens Games chalked up at nationals.

Back then, a 15-year-old Nastia Liukin, who had already starred in a commercial during the 2004 Olympics, made her senior nationals debut and won the all-around. Three years later, Liukin won the Olympic all-around in Beijing.

There will be talk this week of finding the next Liukin, or Gabby Douglas, or Simone Biles, who, like Liukin, won her senior nationals debut the year after the Olympics.

“Some of them [from Rio], hopefully Simone, will be coming back, but I think this is a great opportunity for some of these girls to go out there and prove that they’re just as ready to compete at a world championships,” said Liukin, now an NBC Olympics analyst. “They have to step up a little bit and kind of become the leaders.”

MORE: P&G Champs broadcast schedule

Gymnasts this week are vying to impress new U.S. national team coordinator Valeri Liukin (Nastia’s father). The four-woman roster for October’s worlds, where there is no team event, will be named after a selection camp later this summer.

Five gymnasts to watch at the P&G Championships:

Ragan Smith
Rio Olympic alternate
2017 AT&T American Cup champion

The Texan performed admirably in her first senior season in 2016, placing fifth in the all-around at the Olympic Trials. Her best events are balance beam and floor exercise, but the U.S. needed uneven bars help in Rio. So she went to the Games as an alternate at age 15, making headlines for this photo with 6-foot-11 basketball player DeAndre Jordan.

Smith, coached by 1991 World all-around champion Kim Zmeskal, emerged this year as the U.S.’ most reliable all-arounder and clear favorite this week. She won the American Cup on March 4 despite a beam fall. A definite all-around medal favorite at October’s worlds.

Ashton Locklear
Rio Olympic alternate
2014 World team champion

Locklear was beaten for the Olympic team bars specialist spot by Madison Kocian after nearly matching Kocian in scores in four routines between last year’s P&G Championships and Olympic Trials. The 19-year-old is not considered an all-around threat this week but is favored to make the world team based on her bars ability. She was fourth in the event at 2014 Worlds.

Riley McCusker
2017 Jesolo Trophy all-around winner

McCusker, who has the same coach as Laurie Hernandez, struggled at the American Cup in her first senior competition, falling on bars and beam. She rebounded to win Jesolo a month later and remain in the mix as the No. 2 U.S. all-arounder (Smith wasn’t at Jesolo).

However, McCusker was on crutches with a cast on her wrist in early July and said she expected to be back to peak form in September, not August.

Morgan Hurd
2017 Stuttgart World Cup bronze medalist

Hurd, a first-year senior who competes in glasses, was adopted from China as a toddler and now lives with her mom in Delaware.

Liukin, asked to name gymnasts to watch this week, started with Hurd, whom she says has the highest floor exercise start value in the world. “She could be capable of winning a world all-around medal and possibly become a world champion on floor,” Liukin said.

Jade Carey
2017 U.S. Classic vault winner

The U.S. has a tradition of sending a vault specialist to worlds, but neither of the top vaulters from the last Olympic cycle — Biles nor MyKayla Skinner — is competing this week. Enter Carey, a 17-year-old who wasn’t an elite gymnast before this season.

Carey performed the difficult Amanar vault at July’s U.S. Classic, where she was the only gymnast to perform two vaults, which is required to compete for medals on the event at worlds.

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