Polina Edmunds, boosted by recent win, hopes reputation doesn’t impact Worlds

Polina Edmunds
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At 16, Polina Edmunds already knows that reputation matters in the judged sport of figure skating.

Edmunds, the youngest U.S. competitor across all sports at the Sochi Olympics, endured growing pains and nerves in the fall to claim the biggest victory of her career last month.

She expects to win a medal at the World Championships next week. She believes that those outside her camp are giving her a better chance now, too, after she won the Four Continents Championship over 2014 U.S. champion Gracie Gold and top Japanese skaters in February.

“Having the Four Continents title, I think, will help me a little bit as [far as] reputation,” Edmunds said Monday. “But really, it comes down to how I do. I think that skating two clean programs at Worlds is going to be in my best interests to really make a good impression on the judges. Having this [Four Continents] title could help me, I guess, in terms of they will already know what I’m capable of as I step onto the ice.”

In January, Edmunds said judges were being “a little more strict” with her given she was a newcomer to the senior stage in 2014. She made those comments in an opening statement on a media call, before any questions were asked.

She is part of a three-woman U.S. team heading to Worlds in Shanghai hoping to deny Russia the first women’s podium sweep since the U.S. in 1991 (Kristi Yamaguchi, Tonya Harding, Nancy Kerrigan).

Edmunds beat zero Russians at her two Grand Prix Series events this season. When she won Four Continents in Seoul, no Russians were in the field. Five U.S. women won Four Continents before her, and none won medals at that season’s World Championships.

“Mostly, I just don’t want to be on the podium if I don’t skate well [at Worlds],” she said. “I hope that people who don’t skate well, I’m hoping they’re not going to be on the podium, either. It should be who skates the best. And it shouldn’t be so political with who has what titles going into this.”

Edmunds said she’s dealt with skating’s off-ice politics “for years,” since she was a junior. She said somebody once tried to tell her to change her costume and her music she had been using that season just before the U.S. Championships.

“They want a little piece of me, and see if I can change anything, and then they can take the credit for it,” she said. “Not in a bad way, all people try to give their input in. Maybe they don’t like this about my music, my costume.

“I know that if I skate well, all those little things don’t matter.”

Edmunds did just that in Seoul, landing seven triple jumps in her free skate. She lagged behind the last two U.S. champions, Ashley Wagner and Gold, all season up to that point, even finishing fourth at the U.S. Championships in January.

Now, she’s in the mix with Wagner and Gold to win the first U.S. women’s medal at a World Championships since 2006.

“Nobody’s training to come and be 10th,” Edmunds said. “If I skate well, I hope to be rewarded.”

Edmunds, who works with a ballet teacher weekly, finished ninth at the Sochi Olympics and eighth at last year’s World Championships.

“Last season was a whole different ballgame,” she said. “I was relatively unknown. … This season, everything’s different, of course. Now, I am known.”

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Carissa Moore the latest Olympian to receive Sullivan Award

Carissa Moore
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Carissa Moore, who won surfing’s Olympic debut in Tokyo, joined a long list of gold medalists to receive the Sullivan Award, which has honored an outstanding U.S. athlete outside of major professional sports (usually NCAA or an Olympian) since 1930.

The other finalists were Olympic wrestler Jordan Burroughs, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Bryce Young, NCAA Softball Player of the Year Jocelyn Alo and NCAA Baseball Player of the Year Ivan Melendez.

Moore followed her Olympic title in 2021 by finishing second in the season-long World Surf League, upset by Australian Stephanie Gilmore in the finals in September. Most of the 2024 Olympic spots will be determined by next season’s World Surf League standings.

She is the first surfer to win the Sullivan Award.

Past honorees include Michael PhelpsCarl Lewis and Eric Heiden.

The Sullivan Award “recognizes the outstanding athlete whose athletic accomplishments are complemented by qualities of leadership, character and sportsmanship.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Olympians/Paralympians to win Sullivan Award since 2000
2022: Carissa Moore (Surfing)
2021: Simone Biles (Gymnastics) and Caeleb Dressel (Swimming)
2018: Kyle Snyder (Wrestling)
2016: Breanna Stewart (Basketball, shared award)
2013: Missy Franklin (Swimming)
2011: Evan Lysacek (Figure Skating)
2009: Shawn Johnson (Gymnastics)
2007: Jessica Long (Swimming, Paralympics)
2005: Paul Hamm (Gymnastics)
2004: Michael Phelps (Swimming)
2003: Sarah Hughes (Figure Skating)
2002: Michelle Kwan (Figure Skating)
2001: Rulon Gardner (Wrestling)

Long jumper accused of false information to get Olympic spot

Izmir Smajlaj
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A long jumper and two officials from Albania could face bans after they were accused of submitting false information that helped the athlete get a spot at the Tokyo Olympics last year.

The Athletics Integrity Unit said Friday it had charged long jumper Izmir Smajlaj, Albanian track federation president Gjegj Ruli and the federation’s general secretary Nikolin Dionisi with disciplinary offenses over a competition held in Albania in May 2021, two months before the Tokyo Olympics. They are all provisionally suspended until the case is resolved.

Smajlaj was named as the competition winner with a national-record jump of 8.16 meters.

“It is alleged that false information was submitted to World Athletics and the AIU in support of this competition result,” the AIU said.

Smajlaj’s result wasn’t good enough to qualify for the Olympics outright, but he got a place under the “universality” rule that allows countries to send one male and female athlete to the Olympic track events. Those athletes still have to provide evidence they have met a certain standard to compete.

Smajlaj jumped 7.86 meters at the Olympics as he failed to qualify for the final.

The AIU said in September that Albania was one of seven countries on a “competition manipulation watch list” along with Turkey, Uzbekistan, Moldova, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia.

It’s not the first time Tokyo Olympic qualifiers have allegedly been manipulated. Swimming’s world governing body FINA said last year there was “nefarious behavior” around two swim meets in Uzbekistan just before the Olympics and refused to recognize the results. An Indian swimmer who took part in one of the meets said the results were faked and that he had been offered a bribe to keep quiet.

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