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Yevgenia Medvedeva trails at European Championships

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Yevgenia Medvedeva came back from a broken foot to an unfamiliar place — trailing at a figure skating competition.

The Russian, undefeated for more than two years, had a minor error — stumbling out of a double Axel landing — and is second to training partner Alina Zagitova by 1.7 points after the European Championships short program in Moscow.

Medvedeva is competing for the first time since November.

She withdrew from two December events — the Grand Prix Final and the Russian Championships — with the injury but is still expected to compete in the PyeongChang Olympics.

She was beaten in a program Thursday for the first time since Gracie Gold topped the 2016 World Championships short program.

“There were many moments where I need to do better,” Medvedeva said, according to the International Skating Union, adding that she was in a cast for three weeks. “I did not feel the injury. Everything has healed.”

Zagitova, the 15-year-old world junior champion, tallied 80.27 points, the third-best under a 14-year-old judging system. Medvedeva has the two highest scores, both set in 2017.

Italian Carolina Kostner, the Sochi Olympic bronze medalist, is third going into Saturday’s free skate (12:30 p.m. ET, Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app for subscribers).

Kostner, at her 14th European Championships, scored a personal-best 78.30 points.

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Beach volleyball player’s dog becomes social media sensation

Mathias Berntsen
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Norwegian beach volleyball player Mathias Berntsen‘s dog, Kiara, captivated social media this weekend.

A video of Kiara peppering with Berntsen and a pair across the net on a grass field spread from Berntsen’s Instagram across platforms. Kiara now has 12,000 Instagram followers, more than twice the total of Berntsen.

Berntsen, 24, is one half of Norway’s second-best beach volleyball team.

He and partner Hendrik Mol are ranked 45th in the world and well outside the Tokyo Olympic picture (24 teams go to the Games), but could get in the mix depending on how qualification is amended once sports resume.

Berntsen and his cousin Mol are part of a group called the Beach Volley Vikings. Mol’s younger brother, Anders, and family friend Christian Sorum are the world’s top-ranked team (profiled here).

MORE: Beach volleyball players fly to Australia, learn event is canceled

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FIFA rules on Olympic men’s soccer tournament age eligibility

Gabriel Jesus
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For the first time since 1988, some 24-year-olds will be eligible for the Olympic men’s soccer tournament without using an over-age exception.

FIFA announced Friday that it will use the same age eligibility criteria for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 that it intended to use in 2020 — that players born on or after Jan. 1, 1997 are eligible, plus three over-age exceptions. FIFA chose not to move the birthdate deadline back a year after the Olympics were postponed by one year.

Olympic men’s soccer tournaments have been U-23 events — save those exceptions — since the 1992 Barcelona Games. In 1984 and 1988, restrictions kept European and South American players with World Cup experience ineligible. Before that, professionals weren’t allowed at all.

Fourteen of the 16 men’s soccer teams already qualified for the Games using players from under-23 national teams. The last two spots are to be filled by CONCACAF nations, potentially the U.S. qualifying a men’s team for the first time since 2008.

The U.S.’ biggest star, Christian Pulisic, and French superstar Kylian Mbappe were both born in 1998 and thus would have been under the age limit even if FIFA moved the deadline to Jan. 1, 1998.

Perhaps the most high-profile player affected by FIFA’s decision is Brazilian forward Gabriel Jesus. The Manchester City star was born April 3, 1997, and thus would have become an over-age exception if FIFA pushed the birthdate rule back a year.

Instead, Brazil could name him to the Olympic team and still keep all of its over-age exceptions.

However, players need permission from their professional club teams to play in the Olympics, often limiting the availability of stars.

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