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Meryl Davis, Charlie White wait for right feeling for possible return

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NEW YORK — When Meryl Davis sees that photo, that tight feeling returns.

The picture, taken by a U.S. Figure Skating team leader, captured Davis and ice dance partner Charlie White, as they waited in between a warm-up and one of their programs at the Iceberg Skating Palace at the Sochi Olympics.

Davis and White haven’t competed since becoming the first U.S. Olympic ice dance champions on Feb. 17, 2014. They’ve continued to skate in the 603 days since, in shows and at events such as the opening of The Rink at Rockefeller Center on Tuesday morning.

How often do they think about returning to competition?

“Only when you guys [the media] are asking,” White said Tuesday. “I don’t mean to be flippant. I literally don’t think about it.”

But they feel it, such as the nervousness as spectators inside the Shanghai Sports Center on March 25, watching their former peers perform the World Championships short dance.

“We still felt really invested in the competition,” Davis said.

Or when Davis comes across that picture from Sochi.

White, too, remembers that tight feeling just before the biggest competition of their lives.

“Full-on, you’re thinking to yourself like, if I run away right now, how mad will everyone be,” said White, seated to the left of Davis, his ice dance partner of nearly 20 years, at the Rock Center Café on Tuesday afternoon. “You’re so terrified because of what the moment represents. You can’t escape it. It’s like the Eye of Sauron [from “Lord of the Rings”].”

Davis and White announced in March what many suspected, that they would not compete in the 2015-16 season.

The decision came easily.

“It wasn’t, like, an answer we had to search for,” White said Tuesday. “It wasn’t something where we had to sit down and even have a conversation. We just knew.”

Their stance about the future has not changed. Davis and White are open to returning, if the feeling is right.

“We’re just not on that clock right now, and it’s really nice,” Davis said. “I think we’ll just wait for it to just pop up one day. We’ll just wait for an epiphany.”

White said they will sense it together, if and when it comes.

“The feeling that we need to have to be able to get onto the ice and push through that brick wall every single day,” he said, joking that feeling occured about 15 times per day leading into Sochi but now passes about once every 20 days.

What’s clear is that Davis and White would not leave a run for their third Olympics to the last minute.

White said they would probably have to return no later than halfway through the 2016-17 season if the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Games are their target.

Many athletes say they would need a full season of competition going into an Olympic year, but that’s not a requirement for Davis and White.

“Especially with the fact that we’re still skating, we’re still in front of people, we’ve skated together for 20 years,” White said. “Our speed, our power, explosion, it’s not going anywhere for 10 years.”

White, who turns 28 on Oct. 24, then paused and chuckled.

“Maybe seven years,” he said.

Longtime training partners and Canadian rivals Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the Vancouver 2010 gold medalists and Sochi silver medalists, also haven’t competed since the Olympics. They reportedly plan to decide if they’ll come back before the 2016-17 season.

Ice dance evolved during the couples’ break. In Shanghai, France’s Gabriella Papadakis, then 19, and Guillaume Cizeron, then 20, became the youngest World champions in the event in 40 years.

Davis and White watched the Worlds free dance on March 27 on a tablet while in a car en route to a hotel. They saw Papadakis and Cizeron jump from fourth after the short dance to first to supplant U.S. Olympians Madison Chock and Evan Bates.

“We’re not that far removed from being out there with them,” White said.

MORE FIGURE SKATING: Japan Open sees return of one star, rise of another to ignite figure skating season

Collin Morikawa jumps into projected Olympic golf field

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Collin Morikawa would not have qualified outright for the Tokyo Olympics had they been held this summer. Now, after winning the PGA Championship, he is third overall in global qualifying for the Tokyo Games in 2021.

Morikawa, a 23-year-old who took the same number of PGA Tour starts to win his maiden major as Tiger Woods (29), went from an alternate for the expected four-man U.S. Olympic team to No. 2 among Americans in the early qualifying standings, according to golf rankings guru @VC606 on Twitter.

Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed are the other Americans in qualifying position, according to @VC606.

Morikawa, whose father is of Japanese descent, turned professional in June 2019 and made his first 22 cuts, a feat bettered only by Woods.

The 23-year-old could become the youngest U.S. Olympic male golfer since 1904 (important note: golf was not part of the Olympic program from 1908 through 2012). Come next summer, he will still be younger than all but seven men from the Rio Olympic golf field of 60, according to Olympedia.org.

Olympic golf qualifying standings will fluctuate significantly. There are five major championships left in the qualifying window, starting with the U.S. Open in September and finishing with next summer’s U.S. Open, both airing on NBC Sports.

How tough will it be to make the U.S. Olympic team? Consider that the three Americans to win majors in 2019 — Woods, Brooks Koepka and Gary Woodland — are currently not in Olympic qualifying position.

The U.S. has seven of the top nine in the Official World Golf Ranking, which is calculated differently than Olympic qualifying.

MORE: Nosferatu is golf’s Olympic rankings guru. Who is he?

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He controversially beat Roy Jones Jr. for Olympic gold. He wishes he had silver.

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The last South Korean boxer to win an Olympic gold medal has spent the past 32 years wishing it was a silver.

Entering the men’s light-middleweight final against an American teenager named Roy Jones Jr. on the last day of the 1988 Games in Seoul, Park Si-Hun fantasized about etching his name in the pantheon of South Korean sports legends in front of a delirious home crowd.

He did get his gold three rounds later, but not the way he envisioned.

Park’s win by a 3-2 decision remains as one of the most controversial moments in boxing history, as Jones had seemed to dominate the fight from start to finish.

The outcome drew instant criticism and disdain, even from South Koreans, who heckled Park at the podium and bombarded local TV stations with phone calls protesting that the country’s home advantage had gone too far.

Jones went on to have a phenomenal professional career, retiring in 2018 with a 66-9 record that cemented him as one of the sport’s all-time greats. He is now a boxing commentator and is planning to fight Mike Tyson in an exhibition of retired greats later this year.

Deeply shaken and scarred, Park quietly retired at the end of the Seoul Games and spent the next 13 years as a middle- and high-school teacher in a rural seaside town before making a return to competitive boxing as a coach.

In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Park said his dream was to see one of his boxers pull off a convincing gold-winning performance in a future Olympics, which he said would possibly give him some sense of redemption and closure.

After three decades, it still stings that his gold is seen as a smudge on the image of the Games his country still glorifies as its coming-out party to the world.

“There’s hardened resentment built up in me that I will probably carry for the rest of my life,” said Park, 54, who now coaches the small municipal boxing team of Seogwipo City in the island province of Jeju.

“I didn’t want my hand to be raised (after the fight with Jones), but it did go up, and my life became gloomy because of that.”

Park still grimaces when talking about his match with Jones.

Desperate for Olympic glory, Park had gutted out the tournament with a broken right hand he suffered during training. He said it didn’t really matter until he met Jones, the one opponent in Seoul who was quicker than him.

With the injury taking away his right-hand, Park simply had no chance at slowing Jones, who was coming at him with “excellent speed, power and technique.”

“I was pretty quick for a middleweight, but Jones was at a different level,” Park recalled. “A boxer just knows whether he had won or lost a match. I thought I lost because I didn’t put up a fight deserving of a win.”

Park said he felt “confused” when the referee raised his hand. Wearing a stunned look on his face, Park awkwardly embraced and held up an expressionless Jones into the air.

He said he couldn’t wait to get off the podium, where he smiled weakly and slowly waved a bouquet of flowers toward the stands as fans let out hesitant cheers and scattered boos.

An even more humiliating moment came when a South Korean national broadcaster invited all of the country’s 12 gold medalists to a live TV celebration shortly after the Games. The host treated Park like he wasn’t there while interviewing each of the other 11.

There was an outpouring of media criticism and what Park described as “unspeakable” insults, which included derisive public calls for him to forfeit his medal.

The emotional distress “was like being hit with a hammer on the back of your head, again and again.”

“I keep thinking how my life would have been happier had I finished second,” Park said. “A gold medal is important, but isn’t any Olympic medal satisfying and glorious?”

Park said the sense of defeat and depression sometimes led to suicidal urges. He credits his wife for helping him navigate out of his darkest moods. The couple contemplated moving to a different country before deciding to stay after they had children.

Their youngest child, Rei, now a 20-year-old college student in Louisiana, has his own athletic ambitions, training as a javelin thrower with dreams of competing in the 2024 Olympics.

Park said he keeps his Olympic gold framed on a wall at his home in mainland South Korea, along with other awards he won in amateur competition. He doesn’t recall ever bringing it out of the house.

While Park doesn’t have many regrets about never going pro, saying he probably wouldn’t have gone far with an evasive style built for efficiency and avoiding hits but not for initiating pain, he still watched Jones’ post-Olympic triumphs with envy.

He wondered whether the public would ever forget the fiasco surrounding his gold medal, which the South Korean media brought up after almost every Jones fight or whenever there was controversy in any Olympic sport. He would try to laugh it off whenever students asked about his gold at school.

After overlooking him for years, South Korea’s boxing association reached back to Park in 2001, asking him to coach the national team following years of disappointing performances in international events, which reflected a dearth of talent in the sport.

During his on-and-off coaching stints with the national team since then, Park trained several boxers who performed decently in various events, but they never came close to an Olympic gold.

Park had the highest hopes for Lee Ok-Song, who won the men’s 51kg division in the 2005 World Championships. But Lee failed to reach the quarterfinals of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and retired after the Games.

Park said he had occasionally kept in touch with Jones, including a brief telephone conversation with him in 2004 while visiting Atlanta for an international event.

The International Olympic Committee in 1997 concluded it had found no evidence to support bribery allegations against the judges who voted in favor of Park in the Seoul Games.

The U.S. Olympic Committee had called for an investigation in 1996 after documents belonging to East Germany’s Stasi secret police revealed reports of judges being paid to vote for South Korean boxers.

While Park left South Korea’s national team after the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, he hasn’t given up on his goal of winning an Olympic gold as a coach.

Among the four boxers he trains in Seogwipo, Park is most impressed with Kang Hyeon-Bin, who competes in the men’s 64kg division, and Cho Hye-Bin, a woman in the 51kg category.

“I am constantly looking for a raw stone I could polish into a jewel,” he said. “I want to sculpt a true Olympic gold medalist with my own hands and see that fighter take the highest spot on the podium. That would restore my honor and allow me to leave the boxing ring for good.”

MORE: Top U.S. Olympic boxing hopeful cleared of doping violations caused by sex

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