Yevgenia Medvedeva skates with ‘bugs in your head’

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MOSCOW (AP) — Yevgenia Medvedeva has bugs in her head. At least that’s how the world’s top female figure skater calls the little demons and doubts that she needs for success.

Just 17 years old and already a two-time world champion, the Russian prodigy cruised to victory in the season’s opening Grand Prix event Saturday, keeping her on course as favorite for the Olympic gold medal in February.

Despite her dominance, Medvedeva said she’s on an emotional tightrope every time she skates, and that’s how she likes it.

A devotee of old-fashioned self-motivation — she’s never worked with a sports psychologist — Medvedeva likes to skate with a few doubts and hang-ups, known colloquially in Russian as “bugs in your head.”

“You need these bugs because they make you disciplined,” she said Sunday. Without them, Medvedeva said she’d relax too much and make mistakes, but “too many of these bugs can cause you horrible problems too, when they start eating at you from inside.”

Medvedeva has kept her balance with consummate skill so far. She’s undefeated in almost two years.

Medvedeva is reluctant to discuss the Olympics, where she seems almost certain to be Russia’s top medal contender. Reigning champion Adelina Sotnikova isn’t skating this season citing injury, while Sochi’s breakout star Yulia Lipnitskaya has retired following battles with anorexia.

Asked about her No. 1 status on the Russian team, Medvedeva said simply: “For me, the main thing is not to think about it at all, just go out and do what I love to do.”

Off the ice, she’s an often light-hearted figure who jokes with teammates, practices intensely and enjoys South Korean pop music.

On it, she’s fiercely competitive and drawn to programs marked by passionate emotion — often with a dark side.

In her free program this season, Medvedeva takes on the role of Anna Karenina, the doomed heroine of the 19th-century Russian novel of the same name.

The Karenina of the novel is a married woman and a mother, not to mention a literary icon, but Medvedeva says her youth is no barrier to taking on the role.

“If you go back to the time of Anna Karenina, when the novel was written, then if a girl’s already 25 or 26 and she’s unmarried, she’s considered a spinster,” Medvedeva said. “So I don’t think I’m not old enough, because I’m almost 18, and I can skate that character from within as she should be skated.”

Dramatic performances let you “skate your emotions to the fullest,” Medvedeva said Sunday. “I mean suffering, compassion, contemplation.”

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Skylar Diggins-Smith has the opportunity to fill USA Basketball’s need

Skylar Diggins
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Skylar Diggins-Smith said making the U.S. Olympic team is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This is her second chance.

An ACL tear derailed her Rio 2016 hopes. That happened in a WNBA game on June 28, 2015.

Though Diggins-Smith was among 25 Olympic finalists named in January 2016, she didn’t return to game action until that May, four weeks after the 12-woman Olympic team was chosen.

The 27-year-old guard said she’s played for USA Basketball for 12 years, since before her standout Notre Dame career that led to her current stint with the Dallas Wings (formerly Tulsa Shock).

“This is the most clear my mind has been,” with USA Basketball, Diggins-Smith said from training camp in Seattle on Tuesday, ahead of a Thursday exhibition against China at Key Arena (10 p.m. ET, usab.com/live).

Signs point to Diggins-Smith making her major international tournament debut at September’s FIBA World Cup, the quadrennial world championship event.

Though Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi‘s surprising returns crowd the backcourt, the other Olympic gold medalist guard, Lindsay Whalen, retired from the national team.

Diggins-Smith’s play last season, her first full campaign back from the ACL tear, boosts her case. She made the All-WNBA First Team.

She also made the first team in 2014. That year, Diggins-Smith was among the final cuts for the world championship team less than a week before the tournament.

“Every time I come to USA Basketball, I think you have a tendency to kind of overthink,” Diggins-Smith said Tuesday. “You just want to do the right thing, don’t really want to make mistakes. … You want to do the right thing, and you press a little bit.”

USA Basketball has stressed finding its next stalwart point guard following five-time Olympian Teresa Edwards, three-time Olympian Dawn Staley (now the U.S. head coach) and the 37-year-old Bird, eyeing her fifth Olympics in 2020.

“Give me three guards that have separated themselves from everyone else in the WNBA to put themselves at the same level as Sue, Diana, Lindsay Whalen,” then-U.S. coach Geno Auriemma said after the Olympic team was named in April 2016. “You really start to look around and, you go, that is a huge question that has to be answered.”

“Obviously, there’s a need,” Staley said in February, listing point guards other than Bird at that camp.

The first name Staley mentioned was Diggins-Smith, for what it’s worth.

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USA Track and Field to honor 1968 Olympic team on 50th anniversary

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USA Track and Field begins a campaign this week to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Olympic team.

Members of the Mexico City Games team, one of the greatest track and field teams in history, will be honored at high-profile events the remainder of the year.

The campaign, “1968-2018: Celebrating Athletic Achievement and Courage,” culminates with a “Night of Legends” reunion in December at the USATF Annual Meeting in Columbus, Ohio, also attended by current U.S. stars.

The 1968 Olympic team is most remembered for Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who took gold and bronze in the 200m and were sent home after raising their black-gloved fists in a human rights salute during the national anthem.

The team also included gold medalists Bob Beamon (long jump), Dick Fosbury (high jump), Al Oerter (discus), Wyomia Tyus and Jim Hines (100m), Lee Evans (400m), Madeline Manning Mims (800m), Willie Davenport (110m hurdles), Bob Seagren (pole vault), Randy Matson (shot put), Bill Toomey (decathlon) and the men’s and women’s 4x100m and men’s 4x400m.

“The legacy of the greatest track & field team to ever be assembled is still felt 50 years later,” USATF CEO Max Siegel said in a press release. “These Olympians persevered through athletic challenges and social injustices, maintaining their composure and dignity when others may have fallen. It is USATF’s honor to pay homage to their achievements and bring the team together for an epic celebration at our Annual Meeting.”

U.S. track and field athletes will compete at two meets on NBC Sports and NBC Sports Gold this weekend — the Drake Relays and Penn Relays.

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WATCH: NBC Olympics documentary on 1968 Olympics