Jeremy Abbott, rebuilt and motivated, begins 10th season

Jeremy Abbott
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source: Getty ImagesJeremy Abbott said he spent the weekend rewatching videos of his career, one that’s included four U.S. Championships, two Olympics and a bronze medal from Sochi.

He wanted to get back into a competitive mode — and its associated tension and nerves — going into his debut event of his 10th senior figure skating season at Skate America in Hoffman Estates, Ill., next week.

His takeaway?

“I’ve had a pretty good career,” he said on a teleconference Monday. “Certainly there are still more things that I want to do.”

Abbott went into last season believing it would be his finale as a competitive skater.

He won the U.S. Championships in January then had a disastrous performance in the Olympic team event short program (seventh overall), though he still took home a bronze medal. Abbott later also fell in his singles short program, considered dropping out due to pain, but gutted out a 12th-place finish overall.

Abbott went to the World Championships a month later and finished fifth, matching his best performance ever at a Worlds or Olympics. That motivated him to reconsider retirement.

“I am missing one thing in my competitive career that I want,” he told Examiner.com in May. “I want a World medal. I feel like there is such a void.”

He still feels that way.

“It is a strong motivating factor,” Abbott said Monday. “It’s not the only one.”

Abbott will begin working toward that goal competitively at Skate America next week. There, he’s slated to face 2014 Olympic bronze medalist Denis Ten of Kazakhstan, fifth-place finisher Tatsuki Machida of Japan and countryman Jason Brown, who was ninth in Sochi and won his season debut in Germany three weeks ago.

Confidence will rise if he can top a field of that caliber, but which Abbott will show up?

The man who knocked off Evan Lysacek and Johnny Weir at back-to-back U.S. Championships in 2009 and 2010, or the one who underperformed at so many international competitions before that Worlds awakening in Japan in March?

Abbott finished fifth in his only Skate America appearance in 2012. He hasn’t won a Grand Prix series event since 2011. He still has at least a little of that fire, ignited with that “middle finger” rant in Sochi.

“When I comepted against Evan and Johnny, I was always constantly fighting for that attention, because I was always that third one,” Abbott said. “I was always brushed aside by the media because they garnered the attention. Now, Jason Brown is garnering that attention as well. That’s great for figure skating, and that’s great for the U.S., but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s going to win.”

Abbott said this season “is for me.” He said he’s rebuilt himself as a skater, right down to the “biomechanics,” not a term often used in the sport. Less dancing movement. More classic figure skating.

“We kind of wanted to throw it back and be very traditional,” said Abbott, who said his body feels better than it has in years with less hip and back pain.

He’s grown facial hair and added a short program to Sam Smith‘s “Lay Me Down.”

“Since this is the first year we get to do lyrics,” Abbott said of a new rule allowing skaters to perform to music with words, “I was super excited to get the chance to do that.”

Abbott said he’s loving his skating right now but cautioned to let time and competitions play out.

“Every season is long,” he said. “We get to start the whole marathon next week.”

Video: Wrong anthem played at World Gymnastics Championships

Diana Taurasi says 2024 Paris Olympics ‘on my radar’

Diana Taurasi
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Diana Taurasi said immediately after winning her fifth Olympic gold medal in Tokyo that she might try for a record sixth in Paris.

It’s still on her mind 17 months out of the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“It’s something that it’s on my radar,” Taurasi told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday after the first day of a USA Basketball training camp in Minnesota, her first national team activity since Tokyo. “I’m still competitive, still driven, still want to play, I still love being a part of USA Basketball.”

Taurasi will be 42 at the time of the Paris Games — older than any previous Olympic basketball player — but said if she’s healthy enough she’d like to give it a go.

“If the opportunity comes to play and be a part of it, it’s something I’ve always taken a lot of pride in,” said Taurasi, who shares the record of five Olympic basketball gold medals with the retired Sue Bird. “When you get to my age at this point in my career, you just try to win every day. Right now this is a good opportunity to be part of this team moving forward we’ll see what happens.”

She said she would have played at the FIBA World Cup last year in Australia, but had a quad strain that kept her out of the end of the WNBA season.

“I got hurt a little bit before. I had a good conversation with Coach (Cheryl) Reeve and (USA Basketball CEO Jim) Tooley. I felt like I hadn’t played enough basketball to be out there and help,” Taurasi said. “That’s the biggest thing with USA Basketball is being able to help the team win.”

Reeve said Monday that when she succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach a few months after Tokyo, she wasn’t sure whether Taurasi would play for the national team again. That was before her conversation with Taurasi.

“I look forward to having a chance to have her be around and be, as I told her, a great voice,” Reeve said. “Obviously, the competitive fire that she competes with is something that we all do well with.”

In Tokyo, Taurasi started all six games and averaged 18.8 minutes per game, sixth-most on the team (fewer than backup guard Chelsea Gray). Her 5.8 points per game were her fewest in her Olympic career, though she was dealing with a hip injury.

Taurasi is an unrestricted free agent although she is expected to return back to Phoenix where she’s spent her entire career since getting drafted No. 1 overall in 2003.

“Phoenix still has things they need to work out,” the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer said.

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Alexis Pinturault wins world championships combined; American in fourth

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France’s Alexis Pinturault won the world Alpine skiing championships combined at his home venue after defending world champion Marco Schwarz blew a lead in the final seconds of his slalom run.

Pinturault, a 31-year-old who hadn’t won a race in nearly two years (the longest drought of his distinguished career), prevailed by one tenth of a second over the Austrian Schwarz in Courchevel, France.

“I hope to enjoy it because it was pretty difficult some months ago,” Pinturault said.

Austrian Raphael Haaser took bronze in an event that combined times from a morning super-G run and an afternoon slalom run, one day after his older sister took bronze in the women’s combined.

River Radamus was fourth, a quarter of a second from becoming the first U.S. man to win an Alpine worlds medal since 2015. Radamus’ best event is the giant slalom, which is scheduled for Feb. 17 at worlds.

“It’s nice, but honestly, you don’t come to world championships hoping to get fourth,” Radamus said.

Five skiers finished within 2.98 seconds of the winner in an event that has been dropped from the annual World Cup schedule and is under review to remain on the Olympic program.

ALPINE WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Pinturault had the fastest super-G run by six hundredths over Schwarz. Schwarz, a slightly better slalom skier than Pinturault, erased that deficit early in the slalom and had a three tenths lead at the last intermediate split.

He gave it all away about six gates from the finish, slamming on the brakes. Moments later, he crossed the finish line one tenth behind Pinturault, who reacted by pumping his fists in the air.

The Frenchman earned his first race victory since the March 2021 World Cup Finals giant slalom, where he clinched his first World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing. Last season, Pinturault went winless on the World Cup for the first time since he was a teenage rookie in 2011, plus went medal-less at the Olympics.

Pinturault, who grew up in Courchevel and now co-owns the family’s five-star Hotel Annapurna there, had retirement cross his mind in the offseason, according to Eurosport. He skipped a pre-worlds Sunday press conference due to illness.

Nonetheless, Pinturault was on the front page of French newspapers this week, including L’Equipe on Tuesday. In a sports cover story for Le Figaro, Pinturault said that, given the circumstances, it would be almost a “nice surprise” to go for a medal at these worlds.

Olympic champion Johannes Strolz of Austria skied out of the slalom after tying for 29th in the super-G.

Olympic silver and bronze medalists Aleksander Aamodt Kilde of Norway and Jack Crawford of Canada were among the speed specialists who did not start the slalom. They essentially used the event as a training run for Thursday’s super-G.

Worlds continue Wednesday with the women’s super-G, where Mikaela Shiffrin is a medal contender but not the favorite. She can tie the modern-era records for individual world championships gold medals (seven) and total medals (12).

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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