Ashley Wagner
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Ashley Wagner looks to 2018 after Worlds breakthrough

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NEW YORK — Once Ashley Wagner flew home and settled down after the excitement of her World Championships silver medal, her coach posed an interesting question.

“Do you want to keep skating?” coach Rafael Arutyunyan asked her after they returned to their Southern California training base.

Yes, Wagner plans to compete through the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympics.

It would be a shock if she didn’t. At a seasoned 24 years old, she’s the first U.S. woman to earn an individual Worlds medal since 2006.

But she wasn’t offended, or really surprised, by Arutyunyan’s query.

“He’s such a realist,” Wagner said at a Figure Skating in Harlem event on Manhattan on Monday night. “He has been with so many athletes, where they just want to get their World medal, and then they’re good to go. They’re happy with their career.

“He didn’t ask me in a way that he thought this was my only chance to do well. He meant it more in a practical way. You know it’s only going to get harder. Is this really what you want to do? Because if it is, he’s committed 100 percent. He just needs me to be committed that much.

“I have a long ways to go before I’m the athlete I want to be for 2018, but I think that with him I’m in good hands.”

The only time that silver medal sinks in is when Wagner rewatches video of her free skate at Boston’s TD Garden from two weeks ago.

“The audience was unlike anything I’ve ever heard,” she said. “It reminded me of the Michelle Kwan era of figure skating. They were so loud and passionate about the performance, you could feel it in your chest.”

Wagner’s climb to the top of the podium will mean getting past Russian Yevgenia Medvedeva, who at Worlds broke Yuna Kim‘s free-skate record and easily beat Wagner by 8.47 points overall.

Medvedeva, 16, is the youngest woman to earn an Olympic or World title since Tara Lipinski in 1998.

“You can tell that she’s a younger skater, but beyond that, technically, everything is so supreme,” Wagner said of Medvedeva, the third different Russian to win an Olympic or World title in the last three years.

“I left points out on the table at Worlds, and I know my little flaws,” said Wagner, who has fought to nail down triple-triple jump combinations in recent years and could have been stronger on her jumps at Worlds. “They used to be big flaws. I’m slowly crunching down the numbers and getting where they need to be. My competition, their biggest challenge at this point is longevity. I’ve already gotten past this point. I’ve proven that I can stick around. That’s going to be their biggest test. I’d rather be in my shoes than theirs.”

Wagner spent last week choreographing her program for the Stars on Ice tour, which begins Friday in Hershey, Penn. She received help from two-time Olympian Jeremy Abbott, who took a break from competition this past season but hasn’t announced if or when he’ll return.

“You never know with him,” Wagner said. “I feel like he has feelers out, seeing if that’s what he wants to do.”

Wagner said she’s seen the emotional interview from teammate Gracie Gold after she fell from first to fourth at Worlds, but they hadn’t yet spoken in the whirlwind since Boston.

“She’s a perfectionist, and that’s how she got to this level,” Wagner said. “She’s very tough on herself. I don’t think she needs to be that tough on herself. But she’s an athlete. She’ll bounce back from this. She’ll learn from it.”

Then there’s another Sochi Olympian, short track speed skating silver medalist Eddy Alvarez, who happens to be Wagner’s boyfriend and now a minor-league baseball player with the Birmingham Barons.

Wagner said Alvarez watched the Worlds free skate while on a bus with his parents FaceTiming a screen to him.

She’ll travel to Alabama in early May to catch his performances in person.

“Fall/winter is his time to come out to me,” Wagner said, “and then spring/summer I go out to him.”

MORE: Five takeaways from World Figure Skating Championships

Ski jumping World Cup season kicks off in Poland

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The World Cup ski jump season opens Friday with men’s team and individual events in Wisla, Poland.

The host country had three of the top five jumpers in the overall standings last year. Defending champion Kamil Stoch placed third, Piotr Zyla was close behind in fourth, and Dawid Kubacki was fifth.

Japan’s Ryoyu Kobayashi dominated last year’s competition, finishing with 2,085 points to 1,349 for runner-up Stefan Kraft of Austria, the 2017 World Cup champion.

Kobayashi’s performance was a dramatic improvement over his previous season, when he finished no higher than sixth in any individual competition and was 24th overall. Last year, he had 15 wins and 23 podium finishes in 30 World Cup events, though he only managed fourth and 14th in the two world championship events.

The top American last season, Kevin Bickner, finished 51st overall, a drop from 39th the year before. He was 18th and 20th in the 2018 Olympic jumps.

Women’s World Cup action begins Dec. 6-8 in Lillehammer, Norway.

NBC Sports Gold will broadcast World Cup action throughout the season. This weekend, the qualifying jumps will air at noon ET Friday, the team event starts at 11:30 a.m. ET Saturday, and the individual competition is at 6 a.m. Sunday.

MORE: Full ski jumping broadcast schedule

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Snowboarding pioneer Jake Burton Carpenter dies at 65

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Jake Burton Carpenter, the pioneer who brought snowboarding to the masses and helped turn the sport into a billion-dollar business and Olympic showpiece, has died at 65.

He died Wednesday night in Burlington, Vermont, according to an email sent to the staff of the company he founded. Carpenter had emailed his staff this month saying, “You will not believe this, but my cancer has come back.” He had been diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011 but after several months of therapy had been given a clean bill of health.

Carpenter quit his job in New York in 1977 to form the company now known simply as Burton. His goal was to advance the rudimentary snowboard, then called a “Snurfer,” which had been invented by Sherman Poppen a dozen years earlier.

It worked, and more than four decades later, snowboarding is a major fixture at the Winter Games and snowboards are as common as skis at resorts across the globe.

“He was our founder, the soul of snowboarding, the one who gave us the sport we all love so much,” Burton co-CEO John Lacy said in his email to the staff.

It is virtually impossible to avoid the name “Burton” once the snow starts falling at any given mountain around the world these days. The name is plastered on the bottoms of snowboards, embroidered on jackets, stenciled into bindings.

At a bar in Pyeongchang, South Korea, not far from where snowboarding celebrated its 20th anniversary at the Olympics last year, there was a wall filled with Burton pictures and memorabilia — as sure a sign as any of the global reach of a company founded in his garage in Londonderry, Vermont.

The company sponsored pretty much every top rider at one time or another — from Shaun White to Kelly Clark to Chloe Kim.

Carpenter watched all his champions win their Olympic golds from near the finish line, never afraid to grind away in the mosh pit of snowboarders and snowboarding fans that he helped create.

In an interview in 2010, he said he was happy with how far his sport had come, and comfortable with where it was going.

“I had a vision there was a sport there, that it was more than just a sledding thing, which is all it was then,” Burton said. “We’re doing something that’s going to last here. It’s not like just hitting the lottery one day.”

Lacy said details about the celebration of Burton’s life would be coming soon but, for now, “I’d encourage everyone to do what Jake would be doing tomorrow, and that’s riding. It’s opening day at Stowe, so consider taking some turns together, in celebration of Jake.”

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