Spain’s Javier Fernandez sad he couldn’t medal ‘for my country’

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SOCHI, Russia – Javier Fernandez came agonizingly close to Spain’s third all-time Winter Olympic medal, and perhaps a pat on the back from the Royal Family.

The noted quadruple jump practitioner took fourth at the Iceberg Skating Palace on Friday night, falling from bronze-medal position after the short program Thursday to miss the podium by a mere 1.18 points.

“It’s sad I couldn’t bring a medal from this competition for my country,” said the 5-foot-6 Fernandez, still glistening, his navy blue España jacket collar popped. “Still fourth, it’s a good position. Nobody has done it from my country in figure skating. This is a good thing. I would love to have a medal, but not every time you can get on the podium.”

Fernandez is a student of his nation’s Winter Olympic history.

Yes, his Sochi performance was unprecedented by a Spaniard.

His 14th-place finish in his Olympic debut in 2010, at age 18, had matched the Spanish Olympic figure skating best. He rose 10 spots in four years and came close to joining sibling Alpine skiers Blanca and Francisco Fernandez Ochoa as Spain’s Winter Olympic medalists.

He will wonder what could have been.

Fernandez opened his free skate well, hitting a quadruple toe loop and the opening quad Salchow of a combination, but then he doubled what should have been a triple toe loop on the back end.

He also tripled another planned quad Salchow and doubled a triple Lutz.

“Not bad,” Fernandez said. “I did have good things in my program. I had a lot of mistakes, too. I’m sad that I couldn’t have done it better.

Fernandez, born and raised in Madrid, now lives and trains in Toronto under two-time Olympic silver medalist Brian Orser. Orser also coaches Yuzuru Hanyu, who won gold Friday.

Spain is never far from Fernandez’s mind.

He’s been a special guest of soccer superclub Real Madrid at a Clásico match with archrival Barcelona, where midfielder Xabi Alonso recognized him.

He’s also received letters of congratulations from Spain’s king, queen and president for winning the 2013 European Championship.

The letter from King Juan Carlos I bring to mind Spain’s most infamous Winter Olympian.

In 2002, cross-country skier Johann Muehlegg won three gold medals for Spain at the Salt Lake City Olympics. Muehlegg was born in Germany but moved to Spain following a fallout with the German federation after skiing for his native country in the 1992, 1994 and 1998 Winter Games.

Muehlegg won the 30km cross-country race on the first day of the 2002 Olympics at Soldier Hollow. It was, at the time, Spain’s second Winter Olympic medal. A notable achievement for a nation that celebrates its soccer, tennis and cycling prowess.

So, the king called to express his appreciation for his adopted skier’s accomplishment. Unfortunately, Muehlegg was in standard post-race drug testing, so Juan Carlos sent a telegram instead.

It proved an omen. Muehlegg later failed a drug test in Salt Lake City and was eventually stripped of his 30km and two other gold medals he had won.

That’s not to say Fernandez’s breakout performances should be scrutinized. But he’s from a nation that doesn’t have too many positive Winter Olympic memories.

Fernandez has long sought to change that and to increase the popularity of figure skating in Spain, which has fewer than 20 ice rinks. He began skating in 1998 under tough conditions because figure skating was viewed as women-only sport.

“In Winter Olympics, I think we’ve got only two medals for Spain, right?” Fernandez guessed correctly. “That’s why I said it was going to be great if I could bring another medal for Spain in figure skating, to make more history.”

He did not hear from the king, queen or the Palace of Moncloa in the immediate aftermath of finishing fourth Friday.

“It’s hard, right?” he said. “They have a busy life. Figure skating is still not a huge sport in Spain. I guess I have to keep going and try to get more medals, get on the podium more times to bring the sport to my country and make everybody follow it and like it.”

He plans to skate through the 2018 Olympics.

“I know that [silver medalist] Patrick [Chan] and Yuzuru, they’re great athletes, great skaters, and it’s going to be hard to beat them,” said Fernandez, who was 21.7 points behind Chan and 27.17 behind Hanyu. “I have to keep improving to get those little points that I need to reach them.”

Simone Biles discusses anxiety medicine, therapy in up-and-down year

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Simone Biles sees a therapist regularly and takes medication for anxiety, acknowledging mental-health struggles.

Biles was asked on “Good Morning America” how she has processed standing up as a Larry Nassar survivor on Jan. 15.

“I’m on anxiety medicine now because I had a lot of ups and downs throughout the year, trying to figure out what was wrong,” Biles said. “So I go to therapy pretty regularly. It’s not easy, but the people surrounding me are some of the best.”

Biles is an experienced mental-health advocate.

Last year, she partnered with the #BeUnderstood campaign for Learning Disabilities and ADHD Awareness Month in October. She spoke with two sisters who have ADHD about her own experience with ADHD since age 9.

Biles appeared on Tuesday’s morning show to reveal her ESPN the Magazine cover for being named the most dominant athlete of 2018.

Biles, after taking 14 months off from training, swept all five titles at the U.S. Championships, then became the first gymnast to earn medals on every event at a world championships in 31 years.

She is not expected to compete again before March.

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Mikael Kingsbury named Canada Athlete of the Year

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Mikael Kingsbury, the Olympic moguls champion, is the first freestyle skier to win the Lou Marsh Trophy, Canada’s athlete of the year award.

Kingsbury, 26, dominated in PyeongChang, receiving the highest scores for time, turns and air moves in the final to win by 4.06 points. It marked the first instance in moguls history that a man topped the final field in all three categories that make up the total score, albeit the format moved from a 20-skier final to a six-skier final in 2014.

Kingsbury also finished first or second in all eight World Cup moguls or dual moguls events so far in 2018. He’s up to 50 World Cup victories, breaking the moguls record shared by U.S. Olympic champions Donna Weinbrecht and Hannah Kearney.

The other reported Lou Marsh finalists were:

Brooke Henderson, Golf: Second in the LPGA Tour’s Race to the CME Globe
Kaitlyn Lawes, Curling: Olympic mixed doubles, world women’s titles
Connor McDavid, Hockey: 2017-18 NHL points leader, most outstanding player
Kaetlyn Osmond, Figure Skating: Olympic bronze medalist, world champion

The Lou Marsh Trophy went to an Olympian 15 times in the last 20 years, most recently Olympic 100m freestyle swimming champion Penny Oleksiak in 2016. Winners in Winter Olympic years included speed skaters Catriona LeMay Doan (2002) and Cindy Klassen (2006) and bobsledder Kaillie Humphries (2014), all gold medalists those years.

That history worked against Henderson and McDavid, who didn’t have an Olympics in 2018. Osmond had arguably the best year for an individual Canadian figure skater with her three major medals, but Russians Alina Zagitova and Yevgenia Medvedeva beat her in PyeongChang.

Lawes led all women in shooting percentage in the first Olympic mixed-doubles event and led her team (skipped by Sochi Olympic champ skip Jennifer Jones) in shooting in the gold-medal game of the world championship a month later.

Olympic ice dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir were ineligible for the individual award together, according to Canadian media.

The Lou Marsh Trophy, named after the former Toronto Star sports editor and columnist, is annually voted on by Canadian sports journalists.

MORE: U.S. figure skating rankings going into nationals

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