Lauren Jackson
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Lauren Jackson, Australian Olympic great, retires from basketball

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Lauren Jackson announced her injury-forced retirement on Thursday, ending an illustrious career which saw her star for the WNBA’s Seattle Storm and lead Australia to four Olympic medals.

At a Basketball Australia media conference, the 34-year-old Jackson, the WNBA’s most valuable player three times, the last time in 2010, said right knee and left Achilles tendon injuries forced her to end a career that began in 1997.

She had been named on Australia’s Opals squad for the Rio Games in August, but recent fitness testing convinced her she would not be able to play in a fifth Olympics. Jackson made the retirement announcement at Canberra’s Australian Institute of Sport, where her teammates are attending their first pre-Olympic camp.

“It really is so surreal retiring here where it all began 19 years ago,” Jackson said. “Today I’m announcing my retirement from the love of my life, basketball. Two years ago I hurt my knee playing in China, it wasn’t a terrible injury but it was enough — I pulled my meniscus out of the root of my bone.

“I didn’t think it was a big deal, nobody did. My knee ended up degenerating really, really fast, I got arthritis pretty quickly and since then I’ve had multiple surgeries.”

Jackson has spent more time off the court than on for most of the past six years — either in Seattle, with the Canberra WNBL team or stints with club teams in Spain and China. She also played in South Korea and four years part-time with Moscow Spartak, winning two EuroLeague titles with the Russian team.

She came close to retiring in January after being hospitalized with a knee infection following surgery, when she said she’d need an “absolute miracle” if she was going to play in Rio. She was also released from her WNBL contract with the Canberra Capitals, having played just six games in five years.

Jackson won Olympic silver medals in 2000, 2004 and 2008, losing the final each time to the United States. She also earned bronze at London in 2012, when she was Australia’s flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony. She first played with the Opals when in 1997 when she was 16.

“When I first saw Lauren and what she could do on the basketball court, I knew she was someone special,” said former Australia head coach Jan Stirling. “Throughout all of her accomplishments she has remained humble and through a 19-year commitment to the Opals, she never missed a major event.”

Jackson says she expects Australia to win gold in Rio “and it breaks my heart that I can’t be there.”

The 1.96-meter (6 foot, 5-inch) Jackson spent her entire WNBA career with Seattle, helping lead the Storm to a pair of titles in 2004 and 2010. But she hadn’t played a full season for the Storm since 2010 — just 13 games in 2011 and nine games in 2012.

Drafted by Seattle first overall in the 2001 draft, Jackson ranks sixth all-time in the WNBA in points scored (6,007), eighth in rebounding (2,447) and third in blocks (586). She also leads the Storm in all three categories, with her best game for Seattle coming in a then-WNBA single-game scoring a record 47 points, on 18-of-28 shooting, on July 24, 2007 at Washington.

“I believe Lauren is the most dominant player the WNBA has ever seen,” Seattle coach Jenny Boucek said. “I was fortunate to be around her for many years and every day we were in awe of something she would do on the court. We are grateful for her incredible impact on the franchise, the city of Seattle and the game.”

Jackson’s Seattle teammate Sue Bird said the Australian’s retirement was “sad … but it also gives all of us a chance to reflect on what an amazing career she had.”

“We accomplished a lot together on the court but it’s the friendship that we built off of it that I’m even more thankful for,” Bird said. “She’ll always be the best player this franchise has ever seen and one of the best teammates I’ve ever had.”

MORE: Sue Bird’s last Olympics?

Tessa Virtue, Scott Moir retire from ice dance competition

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Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the most decorated Olympic figure skaters in history, announced their retirement late Tuesday. They’re done competing in ice dance, and their upcoming Canadian tour will be their last together.

“After 22 years, it feels like the right time to step away from the sport,” Virtue said in a video. “This is so personal and emotional for both of us.”

“It just feels for us like it’s the right time to say goodbye while we’re still loving and enjoying the sport as much as we always have been,” Moir said. “This is my first selfie video, and I’m not going to cry. What a beautiful ride it’s been.”

The news was expected.

Virtue and Moir last competed in PyeongChang, earning golds in ice dance and the team event to bring their total to five medals (three golds) and break the record for most Olympic medals in the sport (buoyed by the addition of the team event in 2014).

“It definitely feels like [this is our last Olympics],” Moir said on TODAY in PyeongChang, hours after their ice dance gold. “If it is, this is a great way for us to go out. … It feels right. It feels like a good end.”

Virtue, 30, and Moir 32, teamed in elementary school. Moir, a hockey player, followed brother Danny into dance, pairing with his first partner at 8 and then with Virtue and 9.

Virtue hit the ice at age 6 because she didn’t want to be the only one in her class who couldn’t skate during a field trip. When she was 7, she was paired with Moir through Moir’s aunt Carol, who coached both as singles skaters. Two years in, Virtue attended Canada’s National Ballet School for a summer before choosing to stick with skating.

That decision ultimately led to one of the greatest careers in Canadian sports history.

They earned a junior world title in 2006, the first of eight Canadian titles in 2008 and, in 2010, the biggest of all — home gold at the Vancouver Winter Games despite Moir messing up the steps at the end of their free dance. They faced the wrong way in their final pose.

“Scott just said thank you to me and just said look around us, take this in,” Virtue said on NBC as the final couples skated.

“I had to be positive because I messed up,” Moir later joked.

Virtue and Moir developed a rivalry with American training partners Meryl Davis and Charlie White, with whom they traded world titles in the Sochi Olympic cycle. In Russia, the Americans edged the Canadians for the title by 4.53 points.

Moir waited until the arena emptied, returned to the rink and kissed the ice. Many thought it was a goodbye to the Olympics.

Two years later, they announced a comeback, saying they still had the fire and wanted to take advantage of one more chance to go to the Games. They won all but one of their competitions in those last two seasons, including the Olympics by a slim .79 of a point over French Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron.

Now they join the other Canadian champions of their generation — Patrick ChanKaetlyn Osmond and Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford — in leaving the competitive arena for good.

“We spent 22 years coasting around the outside of the rink, hanging out together, making programs, trying to just soak up our sporting experiences,” Virtue said. “We still can’t believe people care.”

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MORE: Keegan Messing explains decision to hold up Japanese flag

Keegan Messing ‘glad’ to have held Japanese flag for Yuzuru Hanyu

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Yuzuru Hanyu heard Japan’s national anthem at the medal ceremony for his season-debut event on Saturday. But didn’t see a flag.

That’s when the bronze medalist, Keegan Messing of Canada, “took initiative” and unfurled the Japanese flag so Hanyu could honor it at the Autumn Classic in Ontario.

While there were plenty of fans of the Japanese skater in the crowd holding their own flags, none were hoisted above the ice like in some competitions.

Messing took it upon himself to hold up the Japanese flag that was hanging from a flagpole behind the medal podium.

Messing explained his decision following the interaction:

That was just actually instinct, honestly. When they said that we’re gonna play the anthem for the winner, I looked out and I realized there was no flag ready. A couple of the spectators had a flag but so I decided to hold up a flag because if I were in that place, I would’ve liked to have a flag presented at that time. That’s why I did it. I felt like that’s what I would’ve wanted so I went ahead and took initiative and I did it. I’m very happy I did. It felt good to do. I’m glad.

Hanyu is next expected to compete on the Grand Prix circuit, again in Canada in October and at NHK Trophy in Japan in November.

Messing’s assignments are Skate America in October and Cup of China in November.

The next time Hanyu’s and Messing’s paths could cross is at December’s Grand Prix Final, should they both qualify.

MORE: Yuzuru Hanyu wins Autumn Classic

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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