Daisuke Takahashi

Daisuke Takahashi makes Japan’s Olympic team; Mao Asada stunned

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Daisuke Takahashi was named to Japan’s three-man Olympic figure skating team Monday, one day after a fifth-place finish at the National Championships left him with a bloody hand, in tears and in doubt of going to Sochi.

Also Monday, Mao Asada was third at Japan’s National Championships, though she still safely made her second Olympic team.

Takahashi, the 2010 Olympic bronze medalist and world champion, was selected over the third- and fourth-place finishers at Japan’s National Championships, Takahiko Kozuka and Nobunari Oda.

Here’s video of the team announcement, with Takahashi’s name being read at the three-minute mark and a full crowd going wild.

Both Kozuka and Oda are veterans with Olympic and World Championships experience. But neither has excelled on the major international stage like Takahashi.

Grand Prix Final champion Yuzuru Hanyu locked up the first of three spots by winning the National Championships. Hanyu is seen as, at least, a co-favorite for Sochi gold with Canada’s Patrick Chan.

The second and third berths would go to skaters based not only their finishes at nationals, but also on how they’ve performed at international events. One berth went to Tatsuki Machida, the Skate America champion who took second to Hanyu on Sunday.

The other went to Takahashi, who was better than Kozuka and Oda during the Grand Prix season in the fall. Takahashi, the 2012-13 Grand Prix Final champion, pulled out of this year’s Grand Prix Final with a leg injury.

He said Saturday that the injury no longer caused him pain, but it did affect his confidence in the short program.

Takahashi fell on his opening jump in his free skate Sunday, badly two-footed another jump and put his hand down on another (video here). He appeared to skate most of his program with a bloody hand, perhaps from the opening fall. He briefly walked out of a post-skate interview in tears (video here).

2010 Olympic silver medalist Mao Asada leads Japan’s three-woman team to Sochi. Though Asada shockingly finished third at the National Championships, behind her Sochi Olympic teammates Akiko Suzuki and Kanako Murakami.

Photos: Meet Japan’s Olympic team

Here’s video of Asada’s free skate Monday. Asada has won six of the last eight Japanese National Championships. It was her lowest finish at nationals in 10 years.

Miki Ando, a two-time world champion, finished seventh at nationals and did not make the team. She gave birth to a girl in April.

Sochi Olympic hockey pucks unveiled

Michael Johnson took Olympic mindset in stroke recovery

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Michael Johnson‘s first walk, reportedly three days after suffering a stroke in the summer, was 200 meters down a hospital corridor.

“It took about 15 minutes,” Johnson said in a BBC video, detailing his full recovery in recent interviews.

Johnson, who at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics swept the 200m (in a world-record 19.32 seconds) and the 400m, suffered what he called “a mini stroke” after a home workout in late August.

Johnson felt not pain but tingling leaving his home gym and underwent a 20-minute MRI. The 50-year-old, who worked out regularly and was in otherwise great physical shape, almost fell rising out of the machine.

“Couldn’t put any weight on left side, no longer could really move my left leg,” Johnson said in the BBC interview. “The numbness of my left arm, which was sort of mild at the beginning and up to that point, was really intense at that point. I couldn’t feel a lot of my arm. You immediately start to think about, what’s my life going to be like going forward?”

There was no immediate answer.

“You start to think about loved ones — is my wife going to have to take care of me for the rest of my life?” Johnson said, according to the Telegraph. “Am I going to be able to walk again? Am I going to be in a wheelchair? Am I going to be able to stand in the shower or go to the restroom alone? You’re forced to think about what your life might be like if that worse-case scenario is reality.”

He began physical therapy early the next week. After that first walk, the distance equivalent of a half-lap of the track that he owned in the 1990s, he told his wife, “I will make a full recovery, and I will make a full recovery faster than anyone has ever done it before,” according to the Telegraph.

Within two weeks, Johnson was backing that up. He tweeted a photo of himself on Sept. 13, his 51st birthday, grimacing while lifting a square-shaped weight with each hand. “Almost back to normal. No days off! Even today. My birthday!” the caption read.

On Sept. 27, Johnson tweeted that it had been grueling, but he relearned to walk and made a full recovery.

“Once I knew that I will make a full recovery, and once I started to believe that, it’s very similar to the type of situation that I experienced as an athlete training for the Olympic Games, then all of a sudden suffering a pulled hamstring,” said Johnson, who fell to the track in the 2000 Olympic Trials 200m final with an upper left leg injury, then won the 400m at his last Games in Sydney. “The reward, in this particular situation, was going to be even greater, was going to be able to walk again, regaining my mobility, regaining my independence.”

MORE: Michael Johnson: My advice to Usain Bolt on retirement

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Tatjana Hüfner, 2010 Olympic luge champion, to retire after this season

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Tatjana Hüfner, a 2010 Olympic luge champion and five-time world champion in singles, said she will retire after this season, according to German newspaper Bild.

Hüfner, 35, cited recent health problems, including back and leg injuries leading into her last Olympics in PyeongChang, where she finished fourth, missing a fourth straight medal by .69 of a second (Hüfner dropped from second place going into the last run). Plus breaking a rib in a training crash this preseason, plus suffering food poisoning, according to the report.

Hüfner, who reportedly said before February’s Olympics that they would be her final Games, has been arguably the most integral luger in Germany’s recent dominance in female sliding.

Her Olympic career began as a spectator at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games, watching Sylke Otto lead a German medal sweep. Later, Hüfner would break Otto’s record with five world singles titles, plus join Otto on the podium at Torino 2006, earning bronze. Hüfner took gold in Vancouver, then silver behind the new leading woman, Natalie Geisenberger, in Sochi.

Huefner spent offseasons scaling European peaks such as Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps, the Matterhorn, and the Sella in northern Italy.

This season’s world championships are in Winterberg, Germany, in January.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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