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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USOC CEO Scott Blackmun diagnosed with prostate cancer

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Scott Blackmun, the CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee, has been diagnosed with prostate cancer and will not travel to South Korea for the PyeongChang Olympic Opening Ceremony.

The 60-year-old executive sent an email to staff Monday notifying them of his diagnosis and said he would have surgery later this week.

Blackmun is beginning his ninth year as the USOC’s leader.

He said physicians recommended he start treatment as soon as possible, and the treatment could prevent him from traveling to PyeongChang at all.

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Joss Christensen left off Olympic team; full U.S. freestyle skiing roster

Joss Christensen
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Joss Christensen, who led a U.S. ski slopestyle podium sweep in Sochi, was left off the 29-athlete team for PyeongChang on Monday.

Christensen attempted to come back from a May ACL tear (with meniscus damage) but was unable to finish on the podium in any of the Olympic qualifiers.

Here’s the full roster:

Aerials
Ashley Caldwell — 2010, 2014 Olympian
Kiley McKinnon
Madison Olsen
Mac Bohonnon — 2014 Olympian
Jonathon Lillis
Eric Loughran

Halfpipe
Maddie Bowman — 2014
Annalisa Drew — 2014
Devin Logan — 2014
Brita Sigourney — 2014
Aaron Blunck — 2014
Alex Ferreira
David Wise — 2014
Torin Yater-Wallace — 2014

Moguls
Tess Johnson
Jaelin Kauf
Keaton McCargo
Morgan Schild
Casey Andringa
Emerson Smith
Troy Murphy
Brad Wilson — 2014

Slopestyle
Caroline Claire
Devin Logan — 2014 (in slopestyle)
Darian Stevens
Maggie Voisin — 2014 (did not compete in Sochi)
Nick Goepper — 2014
Alex Hall
Gus Kenworthy — 2014
McRae Williams

MORE: U.S. Olympic roster now over 200 athletes; full list

In slopestyle, Christensen’s Sochi podium mates Gus Kenworthy and Nick Goepper earned automatic Olympic spots earlier this month.

World champion McRae Williams and Alex Hall got the nods for two spots picked by a committee on Monday. They ranked Nos. 3 and 4 behind Kenworthy and Goepper in Olympic qualifying standings, while Christensen was eighth.

Sochi women’s slopestyle silver medalist Devin Logan became the first American to make an Olympic team in two different freestyle skiing events — slopestyle and halfpipe.

In aerials, 2017 World champions Ashley Caldwell and Jonathon Lillis were added to the team Monday. So were Mac BohonnonEric Loughran and Madison Olsen.

Kiley McKinnon was the only aerialist to automatically qualify earlier this month.

Caldwell is going to her third Olympics. She finished 10th in 2010 and 2014, competing in the former as the youngest U.S. athlete across all sports as a 16-year-old.

Last season, Caldwell added her first world title to a resume that already included six World Cup victories and the 2016 World Cup season title. She finished third, seventh, ninth, 13th and 31st in five World Cups so far this season.

Lillis, 23, is going to his first Olympics. He won last season’s world title in a huge surprise, having never won a World Cup event (and only finishing on the podium once before). He has a best finish of sixth in six World Cup events this season.

McKinnon and Bohonnon swept the World Cup season titles in 2015. They also went to elementary school together in Connecticut.

Six of the eight halfpipe skiers qualified earlier this season. The additions Monday were Annalisa Drew and Aaron Blunck, who were the top performers from Olympic qualifiers who didn’t clinch automatic spots.

The halfpipe team is the exact same as in Sochi except for Alex Ferreira replacing Lyman Currier.

Maddie Bowman and David Wise are the defending Olympic gold medalists from the event that debuted in Sochi.

Of the eight moguls skiers, only Brad Wilson has Olympic experience, finishing 20th in Sochi.

The top medal hope is Jaelin Kauf, a 21-year-old daughter of two moguls skiers. Kauf qualified automatically for the Olympic team earlier this month and leads the World Cups standings.

Andringa is a great story. The 22-year-old lived in a tent with his brother in Steamboat Springs, Colo., this summer to supplement training costs. He raced World Cup for the first time on Jan. 6 and placed seventh and fifth in his first two starts to earn a spot on the team.

The top U.S. moguls skier the last two Olympics — Hannah Kearney — retired in 2015.

The U.S. is not sending a ski cross racer to the Olympics for the first time. The event debuted in 2010, and the U.S. has never earned a medal.

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