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Javier Fernandez to skip Grand Prix, still compete next season

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Javier Fernandez, who in PyeongChang became the first Spanish Olympic figure skating medalist, will skip the fall Grand Prix series but return for January’s European Championships, which could be his final competition.

Europeans will be Fernandez’s focus for the season, his agent said Tuesday.

Fernandez, 26, added an Olympic bronze medal to his 2015 and 2016 World titles. He has said that his third Olympics in PyeongChang would be his last. But Fernandez did not say he would retire after the Winter Games, though he did skip the world championships in March.

Fernandez now plans to compete in his 13th straight European Championships in Minsk in January. He won the last six titles. It’s unknown if he will continue on to the world championships in Saitama, Japan, in March.

In Fernandez’s absence, the top male singles skaters in the fall Grand Prix season should be double Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, PyeongChang silver medalist Shoma Uno and American Nathan Chen, who was fifth at the Olympics after a disastrous short program but ran away with March’s world title by the largest margin in history.

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MORE: Adam Rippon opines on figure skating future

Chloe Kim lands trick never done in women’s halfpipe competition

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Chloe Kim hasn’t competed in seven months — and the new season doesn’t start in earnest for another two — but she just threw a trick that no woman has ever done in competition.

Kim, in a video shared on her social media Sunday, landed a frontside double cork 1080, according to the International Ski Federation, training in Switzerland.

It’s another first for the 18-year-old who figures to rule the sport for years to come.

In PyeongChang, Kim became the youngest female Olympic snowboarding gold medalist with the first back-to-back 1080s in an Olympic women’s contest. Shaun White was the first man to do it, en route to gold at the 2006 Torino Games.

That was already a signature of Kim’s run, as she became the first woman to land back-to-back 1080s in any contest in February 2016, scoring 100 points.

The double cork 1080 was the must-have trick for the men leading into the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games. That was also won by White, with back-to-back double cork 1080s before his victory-lap run that had the “Tomahawk,” the double McTwist 1260 named after a 30-ounce T-bone steak he had recently devoured.

Last season, Kim became the first halfpipe rider to sweep the Olympics, X Games and U.S. Open in one winter.

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MORE: Shaun White ‘pretty terrible’ in first skateboard bowl contest

April Ross, Alix Klineman get early Olympic beach volleyball qualifying boost

April Ross, Alix Klineman
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The U.S. Olympic qualifying chase in women’s beach volleyball figures to be among the most dramatic for the Tokyo Games.

Take last week’s Yangzhou Open, the biggest tournament so far in an Olympic qualification window that runs into June 2020.

April Ross, a 2016 Olympic bronze medalist and 2017 World silver medalist, and new partner Alix Klineman won the FIVB World Tour event in China, sweeping Brazilians Ana Patricia and Rebecca 21-19, 21-16 in Sunday’s final.

“Almost didnt get into China bc didnt realize visa was in my old passport, heroes helped, figured out a way,” was tweeted from Ross’ account. “We played terribly in pool, enlisted more help, believed. Called on more help to prepare for unknown teams, fought hard, won.”

The other top U.S. team from last season, Sara Hughes and Summer Ross, rallied for bronze in Yangzhou, 16-21, 23-21, 15-5 over Canadians Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes.

Those medal matches came after April Ross and Klineman eliminated triple Olympic champion Kerri Walsh Jennings and Kelly Claes in the round of 16. Ross and Walsh Jennings earned bronze together at the Rio Games, then split last year.

Walsh Jennings’ partner for an Olympic run is not Claes but Brooke Sweat, which slightly lessened the impact of the Yangzhou defeat.

Walsh Jennings, a 40-year-old mother of three looking to become the oldest Olympic beach volleyball player, and Sweat will play for the first time in this week’s FIVB World Tour event in Las Vegas, which doubles as a stop on Walsh Jennings’ new p1440 circuit. The event has the same amount of Olympic qualifying points as Yangzhou.

No more than two pairs per gender per nation can qualify for the Olympics, adding results from the next 18 months of international competitions.

That means at least one of Ross/Klineman, Hughes/Ross and Walsh Jennings/Sweat will not make Tokyo.

MORE: U.S. women’s volleyball has worst global result in 12 years

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