Kasai
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Noriaki Kasai sets record with 8th Winter Olympics appearance

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By competing at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, Noriaki Kasai set a record for most appearances by an athlete at the Winter Olympics. The Japanese ski jumper participated in eight straight Olympics, beginning in 1992 and stretching to 2018.

Just for the sake of comparison, the top ski jumper in the world in 2017 – Austria’s Stefan Kraft – was born in 1993, a year after Kasai’s Olympic debut.

Kasai’s performance at the 2014 Sochi Olympics was record-setting in its own right. Not only did he set the record – tying with Russian luger Albert Demchenko – for seven Winter Olympic appearances, but he set several other records as well.

NBCOlympics.com: Who is Noriaki Kasai?

Kasai became ski jumping’s oldest individual medalist in Sochi when he won a silver medal on the large hill. He was 41 years, 254 days old. He also became the oldest medalist in ski jumping when he earned a bronze medal in the team event two days later, at 41 years, 256 days old. Additionally, by winning medals in Sochi, he tied the record for longest gap between winning medals: 20 years between Lillehammer in 1994 and Sochi 2014.

Kasai was born in Sapporo, Japan, a few months after the city hosted the Winter Olympics in 1972. He has said he expects to ski jump at the 2022 Olympics (his ninth Games), when he will be approaching 50.

More surprising still is that he hasn’t ruled out the 2026 Games, especially if Sapporo chooses to bid for hosting rights. Kasai would be 53.

NBCOlympics.com: All 4 U.S. men advance in normal hill qualifiers

As the owner of silver and bronze medals, he says his lack of a gold medal is what still drives him. If he accomplishes those goals in PyeongChang, he may reel back his claims of continuing in the sport.

Canadian equestrian competitior Ian Millar holds the overall record, competing in 10 Olympics. He competed at the Games in 1972, 1976, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012. Canada boycotted the 1980 Olympics. His only medal, a silver, came at the 2012 London Olympics.

Kasai placed 20th in the men’s individual normal hill qualification round Thursday to advance to Saturday’s first round.

Mark Spitz takes on Katie Ledecky’s challenge

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Swimmers around the world took on Katie Ledecky‘s milk-glass challenge since it became a social media sensation, including one of the few Americans with more Olympic gold medals.

Mark Spitz, who won seven golds at the 1972 Munich Games, took 10 strokes in an at-home pool while perfectly balancing a glass of what appeared to be water on his head.

“Would’ve been faster with the ‘stache, @markspitzusa, but I still give this 7 out of 7 gold medals,” Ledecky tweeted.

Spitz joined fellow Olympic champions Susie O’Neill of Australia and American Matt Grevers in posting similar videos to what Ledecky first shared Monday.

In Tokyo next year, Ledecky can pass Spitz’s career gold-medal count of nine if she wins all of her expected events — 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles and the 4x200m free relay.

Then she would trail one athlete from any country in any sport — Michael Phelps, the 23-time gold medalist who has yet to post video of swimming while balancing a glass on his head.

MORE: Spitz puts Michael Phelps’ career in perspective

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Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis eyeing Grand Slam record

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Serena Williams travels with “like 50 masks” and has been a little bit of a recluse since early March and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t have full lung capacity, so I’m not sure what would happen to me,” Williams said Saturday, two days before the start of the WTA’s Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky., her first tournament since playing Fed Cup in early February. “I’m sure I’ll be OK, but I don’t want to find out.”

Williams, 38, has a history of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms. She faced life-threatening complications following her Sept. 1, 2017, childbirth that confined her to a bed for six weeks. She said her daily routine was surgery and that she lost count after the first four.

More recently, Williams enjoyed “every part” of the last six months at home in Florida, her longest time grounded since her teens.

“I’ve been a little neurotic, to an extent,” on health and safety, she said. “Everyone in the Serena bubble is really protected.”

Williams is entered to play next week in Lexington and at consecutive tournaments in New York City later this month — the Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open, the latter starting Aug. 31.

Williams is the highest-ranked player in the Lexington field at No. 9. Others include 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, older sister Venus Williams and 16-year-old Coco Gauff.

She has been bidding ever since having daughter Olympia to tie Margaret Court‘s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, albeit many of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and, notably at the Australian Open, against small fields lacking the world’s best players. Williams reached the last two Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals, losing all of them.

She showed her seriousness in committing early to this year’s U.S. Open by installing a court at home with the same surface. Three of the top 10 female singles players already said they will skip the U.S. Open due to travel and/or virus concerns, including No. 1 Ash Barty.

“Tennis is naturally a socially distanced sport, so it was kind of easy to go back and just walk on my side of the court and have my hitter walk on his side of the court,” Williams said.

The French Open starts two weeks after the U.S. Open ends. Williams was asked if she will fly to Europe for tournaments this autumn.

“I see myself doing it all, if it happens,” she said.

The Tokyo Olympics are too far away to make plans.

“We’ll have to kind of wait to see what happens in the fall,” she said. “One thing I have learned with this pandemic is don’t plan.”

MORE: Past U.S. Open champions get wild cards

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