Patrick Chan

Patrick Chan: Plushenko more of a “distraction” than a gold medal rival

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Canadian figure skater Patrick Chan, who’s coming off a fifth-place performance on home ice at Vancouver in 2010 and is considered a gold medal contender at Sochi, may have provided some old-fashioned “bulletin board material” for three-time Olympic medalist Yevgeny Plushenko.

In comments made to R-Sport, Chan admitted to being perhaps “a little more nervous” with Plushenko competing at Sochi after he got the Russian Olympic nod over Maksim Kovtun, who beat Plushenko in the country’s national championships.

However, he also added that in his eyes, Plushenko represents perhaps more of a “distraction” than direct competition for Sochi gold.

“It’s going to be a challenge for me to stay focused on what I have to do myself and what I know I can do in my programs – not in the aspect that [Plushenko] could challenge me for a gold medal but he’s maybe a bit of a distraction,” he said. “I don’t get to see him really much.”

He’s right about that. The last time Chan and Plushenko skated against each other came in a 2012 exhibition, and in regards to an official event, they haven’t competed together since the 2010 Olympics, where Plushenko finished runner-up to American Evan Lysacek (not participating in Sochi due to injury).

Plushenko locked up his Olympic spot after holding a closed-door test skate in front of Russian officials last month.

Figure skating competition is set to begin on Thursday with men’s and pairs short programs as part of the new Olympic team event. After the team event concludes Feb. 9, the men’s individual competition will take place Feb. 13 (short program) and 14 (free skate).

Who will represent U.S. Figure Skating in Olympic team event?

John Isner leaning toward skipping Olympics again

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John Isner, the highest-ranked U.S. male singles tennis player, is considering skipping the Olympics for a second straight time.

“I haven’t put a ton of thought into it, but as of right now, I think I’m leaning towards not playing,” the 19th-ranked player said at the Australian Open on Tuesday. “It’s about scheduling. I know the Olympics, it’s a fantastic honor. There’s no doubt about that. … Right now, at this stage in my career, it’s not a huge priority for me. So that’s probably the main reason I won’t be going. I certainly love playing in the summer in America, and I’m going to focus on that.”

The Tokyo Games take place the same week as a lower-level ATP Tour event in Atlanta that Isner, a former University of Georgia star, has won five times.

Other notable male players already said they will pass on Tokyo, including Sam Querrey, the top American in Olympic qualifying standings.

Austrian Dominic Thiem, a two-time French Open finalist, is prioritizing an ATP event in Kitzbühel the week of the Olympics. The U.S. doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan are not planning to play the Olympics in their final season before retirement, their manager said in November.

“The Olympics is very tough on the schedule … especially with Davis Cup,” Isner said in 2016, according to USA Today. “I think the fact that they have no [ATP ranking] points [at the Olympics], to be honest, was a pretty big factor as well. Obviously the Olympics is not about the money, but no points I think hindered me a bit.”

Isner, who turns 35 on April 26, is likely giving up his last chance to play Olympic singles. In his only Olympic participation, he reached the quarterfinals of the 2012 London Games, plus lost an opening-round doubles match there with Andy Roddick.

The top four U.S. men qualify for Tokyo, assuming they are among the top 60 overall qualifiers (maximum four per country) after this spring’s French Open.

Taylor FritzReilly Opelka, Steve Johnson and Tommy Paul are the U.S. men currently in Olympic qualifying position if excluding Querrey and Isner.

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Dominik Paris, world champion skier, suffers season-ending injury

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Italian Dominik Paris, the reigning world champion in the super-G, suffered a season-ending ACL tear in a training crash Tuesday ahead of this weekend’s speed races in Kitzbuehel, Austria.

Paris crashed in super-G training not far from the hallowed World Cup venue, slipping into a curve and damaging his right knee. He also suffered a fibula microfracture, according to the Italian federation.

“My season ends here,” he said, according to the International Ski Federation (FIS). “Unfortunately while I was sliding, the inside ski caught too much and the ligament broke. There is not much to add. In the next few days we will evaluate, together with the medical staff, how to proceed.”

Paris won his third Hahnenkamm downhill title last year and was one of the favorites for Saturday’s downhill, the most prestigious annual race in the sport. NBC Sports Gold streams live coverage for “Snow Pass” subscribers at 5:30 a.m. ET.

Paris, 30, won a pair of downhills in Bormio in December among five total podiums this season.

In his absence, Swiss Beat Feuz and German Thomas Dressen lead the podium contenders.

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