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Greg Rutherford, Olympic long jump champ on Super Saturday, to retire

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Greg Rutherford, who earned long jump gold as part of Great Britain’s “Super Saturday” at the London Olympics but has struggled with injuries in his early 30s, will retire after this season.

“At times I am in so much pain I can’t even sit on the floor and play with my two kids,” Rutherford said, according to the Guardian, noting he has had five ankle surgeries, plus procedures on his foot, groin and stomach. “I still feel I am fast. I still feel as if I am super strong. But whenever I try to sprint or jump I have to take three days off because I am limping so much. In the end it wears you down.

“I keep asking myself, what’s more important to me – trying to be a mediocre athlete holding on to past glories or moving on?”

Rutherford, a 31-year-old known for his ginger-red hair and clutch performances at major championships, said he will compete at the European Championships in August, then conclude his career at a Diamond League meet in Birmingham, Great Britain.

“I’ve achieved so much but retirement comes early to those of us for whom sport is a livelihood,” was posted on Rutherford’s Instagram. “It only feels like yesterday I was winning my first major medal but now 12 years on, I sit here as the greatest long jumper Great Britain has ever had, one of the most successful in European history and someone ready to hang the spikes up for good.”

On Aug. 4, 2012, Rutherford earned long jump gold less than 10 minutes after countrywoman Jessica Ennis won the heptathlon and less than an hour before Mo Farah prevailed in the 10,000m. Ennis retired after taking silver at the Rio Games. Farah switched to marathons after last season.

Rutherford became the second British man to earn an Olympic long jump title after Lynn Davies in 1964.

He entered the Games as a medal favorite with the joint-farthest jump in the world that season. His winning jump in London, 8.31 meters (27 feet, 3 1/4 inches), was the shortest Olympic gold-medal distance since 1972.

Carl Lewis, a four-time Olympic long jump champion, criticized Rutherford’s generation of long jumpers (Rutherford was coached by Dan Pfaff, who worked with Lewis, and improved significantly in 2012 after changing his takeoff technique to mirror the U.S. legend.)

“[World-record holder] Mike [Powell] and me were jumping 28 feet regularly,” Lewis said in March 2016. “But this generation? Rutherford? I’m sorry, but it’s pathetic to me. He’s won everything. Are you kidding me? He’s doing his best. He’s jumping great. But he shouldn’t be winning with that.”

Rutherford went on to win his next three major championships — the 2014 Commonwealth Games, 2014 Europeans and 2015 Worlds — and then took bronze in Rio (behind U.S. gold medalist Jeff Henderson).

“I’m the Olympic, World, Commonwealth and European champion now,” Rutherford said at the 2015 Worlds. “I’m hoping that’s enough for people to accept I am a half-decent British athlete.”

In 2016, Rutherford said he was risking the hearing in his left ear for the rest of his life by continuing to jump. He developed cochlear hydrops, a rare ear disorder that left him partially deaf, after sustaining whiplash in competition.

“If the room falls silent all I hear is loud white noise, so it’s been a struggle to sleep,” Rutherford said then.

He missed the 2017 Worlds at the London Olympic Stadium with ankle ligament damage and a sports hernia. He has competed in four outdoor meets since Rio, none of them at the top international level.

Rutherford’s personal-best jump of 8.51 meters ranks him joint 23rd all time and sixth among European jumpers.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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I’m incredibly proud of my career. I’ve achieved so much but retirement comes early to those of us for whom sport is a livelihood. It only feels like yesterday I was winning my first major medal but now 12 years on, I sit here as the greatest long jumper Great Britain has ever had, one of the most successful in European history and someone ready to hang the spikes up for good. • I want to thank everyone who’s had a positive impact on my career (but I’d struggle to name everyone here) Most importantly, the greatest coach I could have ever wished for – @danpfaff. My full potential would never have been reached and that Olympic gold medal would never have been won, if it wasn't for his guidance and input. • I’m going to go for the European Championships one final time. And then I’ll also be jumping in Birmingham and London for the Diamond Leagues. If you fancy coming to watch me compete one last time then please do come on down and give me a wave. It'd be so great to finish with some roaring crowds. • Thank you for all your love and support over the years. It’s been a blast & your kind comments have always given me a push in the right direction. • Grab the @guardian tomorrow to see my exclusive interview with Sean Ingle; we go in to my decision/future plans in further detail there. • @susiejverrill @andrewsteele @aurumsportsgroup @drgerryramogida @andyjburkeuk @melvintann27 @nike … Thank you so much for you help.

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Bradie Tennell trails at Skate America after rare error

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Bradie Tennell burst onto the podium at 2017 Skate America by nailing all 15 of her jumps. She missed on her first jumping pass at the same event Saturday and sits in fifth place going into Sunday’s free skate.

Japan’s Satoko Miyahara topped the short program with 73.86 points, looking to be the first woman since Yuna Kim to repeat as Skate America champion. Countrywoman Kaori Sakomoto, runner-up at last year’s Skate America, is again in second place, 2.57 behind.

Tennell, the U.S. champion and top American at the Olympics (ninth) and worlds (sixth), trails by 12.14.

She struggled with her opening triple Lutz-triple loop combination, managing just a single loop on the back end. It’s a new combo for the 20-year-old, one that only Olympic champion Alina Zagitova performed last season among senior women.

“It’s very, very rarely does that happen,” Tennell told Andrea Joyce on NBC Sports Gold. “I think I just hesitated a little bit, but these things happen. We’re all human. It’s not going to happen tomorrow.”

The Skate America free skate airs live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold on Sunday.

SKATE AMERICA: Full Results | TV Schedule

Tennell is the marquee U.S. female skater of the moment. Olympians Ashley WagnerPolina Edmunds and Mirai Nagasu are taking the Grand Prix season off. Gracie Gold is coming back in two weeks but hasn’t competed in nearly two years. The other active Olympian, Karen Chen, just withdrew from her first Grand Prix next month with a foot injury.

Only ardent skating fans knew of Tennell at this time last year.

She had been sixth and ninth at the previous two U.S. Championships and wouldn’t make her Grand Prix debut until last season’s Skate America on Thanksgiving weekend. There, she posted the top score by a U.S. woman in a year and a half, earned bronze and became a clear favorite to make the three-woman Olympic team.

Though Tennell made uncharacteristic jumping errors in PyeongChang and at worlds, she opened this season by beating Olympic silver medalist Yevgenia Medvedeva of Russia at a lower-level event in Canada last month.

Medvedeva and Zagitova make their Grand Prix season debuts the next two weeks.

As a reminder, you can watch the ISU Grand Prix Series live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. GO HERE 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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Nathan Chen wins Skate America by largest margin in history

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Nathan Chen scaled back the quadruple jumps, yet still won Skate America by the largest margin in the event’s history.

Chen, on a fall recess from Yale freshman classes, totaled 280.57 points between Friday’s short program and Saturday’s free skate, prevailing by 41.06 points over a field lacking any other Olympic or world medalists. It’s the largest gap in any discipline at Skate America under the 16-year-old points system.

It’s also the world’s top score on the young season. Yet Chen attempted four quads total in Everett, Wash., down from the eight he tried at the Olympics, to ease into the season.

“It’s a great start for me,” Chen told Andrea Joyce on NBCSN after landing three quads in a clean free skate. “I definitely had sort of lower expectations coming into this event, just because I’m in a completely new situation in life. … Watered down my programs a little bit, but I think it was definitely appropriate.”

Chen was a disappointing fifth in PyeongChang, then won the world title a month later by the largest margin in history.

With Saturday’s victory, Chen tied the U.S. men’s record of four Grand Prix series titles (Jeremy AbbottTodd EldredgeJohnny Weir, though Eldredge won more Grand Prix-level events before the series debuted in 1995).

The 19-year-old flies back to New Haven for school, returning to the Grand Prix during Thanksgiving break for Internationaux de France. That field includes two-time world bronze medalist Jin Boyang of China and Jason Brown, the top American from the Sochi Olympics.

Chen’s biggest competition are Japanese Olympic gold and silver medalists Yuzuru Hanyu and Shoma Uno. He would not face them until December’s Grand Prix Final at the earliest.

U.S. bronze medalist Vincent Zhou, sixth at the Olympics, was fifth at Skate America. The 17-year-old landed five quads between two programs but was dinged for several under-rotations.

Skate America continues later Saturday with the women’s short program, featuring U.S. champion Bradie Tennell.

SKATE AMERICA: Full Results | TV Schedule

Earlier Saturday, Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov won the pairs’ title by the largest margin at a Grand Prix in four years. The two-time world medalists totaled 204.85 points — 25.87 ahead of fellow Russians Alisa Efimova and Aleksandr Korovin — and topped the free skate by 16.27.

Tarasova and Morozov were fourth in PyeongChang but are the top returning active pair. None of the Olympic pairs’ medalists are competing in a Grand Prix.

Germans Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot are on an indefinite break. Chinese Sui Wenjing and Han Cong haven’t competed since the Games with Sui recovering from a stress fracture in her foot. Bronze medalists Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada retired.

Americans finished third (Ashley Cain, Timothy LeDuc), fourth (Olympians Alexa Scimeca Knierim, Chris Knierim) and sixth (Nica Digerness, Danny Neudecker), extending a drought of 12 years without a Grand Prix title for a U.S. pair.

The three teams combined for falls in five of their six programs. After, the Knierims said they split from coach Savchenko.

As a reminder, you can watch the ISU Grand Prix Series live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. GO HERE 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.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Starr Andrews, next leading U.S. woman?