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Vincent Zhou expects to bounce back at Skate America

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Despite a “difficult summer” of dealing with a recurring back problem, Vincent Zhou believes he’s ready to perform at Skate America this weekend in Everett, Wash.

He spent the off-season healing his back; it was the same injury that plagued him at the 2018 World Championships in Milan in March. He was third after the short, but fell three times in the free skate and plummeted to 14th overall. Compare that to the PyeongChang Olympics, where finished sixth overall.

And month ago, he finished fourth overall at the U.S. International Classic. He said he is now back to full strength, consistently landing all of his quads again. During a recent media teleconference, he said that he is planning “more than two” quads for the Skate America free skate, but hasn’t settled on a total. His approach to this season, he said, is that it’s not all about the jumps.

The summer also gave Zhou time to recharge, especially through participating in so many shows.

“There’s not as much pressure to land quads – there’s no pressure to land quads, unless you’re crazy and wanna do quads in shows. It was just a fun way to enjoy the sport that I love. Because so much of the time, skating gets to be about the everyday pressure and stress and ‘you have to do this, you have to win.’

“Doing shows this summer has definitely helped me get a little more comfortable with engaging with the audience. I’m still nowhere near good enough but I do my best. I’m working on choreography every day and it’s helping me to learn more aesthetic ways to engage with the audience. The transition from junior to senior involves learning how to actually keep your skating interesting, as opposed to throwing an arm towards the crowd and looking at them just to say you engaged with them. So, like I said, still got a long way to go. We’re working on all aspects of my skating.”

It’s a good reminder that the Olympic year was Zhou’s first season as a senior. He’s focused on the big picture, including the next Winter Olympics, Beijing 2022.

“You don’t see Asian-themed programs too much,” he said of his free skate music choice to skate to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. “I thought it would be good. It has appeal, too because a lot of the skating community is Asian and if I can do something that they can sort of relate to, then win-win. Nothing is certain but because the 2022 Olympics are in Beijing, and I might be going for hopefully the gold in those Olympics, I want to start understanding what it’s like to that type of music at a high level.”

He’s taken a few Kung fu lessons, too, so he can “understand the position a little better, because I know that a lot of Western ideas of Asian martial arts are just like, ‘okay, here’s a cool flexed hand position.’ I wanted to learn the foundation of how to move in a more accurate way.”

The men’s short program is Friday.

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 to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating 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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Tahiti chosen for Olympic surfing competition at 2024 Paris Games

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Paris 2024 Olympic organizers want the surfing competition to be held in Tahiti, an island in French Polynesia that is nearly 10,000 miles from Paris.

It would break the record for the farthest Olympic medal competition to be held outside the host. In 1956, equestrian events were moved out of Melbourne due to quarantine laws and held five months earlier in Stockholm, some 9,700 miles away.

The Paris 2024 executive board approved the site Thursday — specifically, the village of Teahupo’o — and will propose it to the IOC. It beat out other applicants Biarritz, Lacanau, Les Landes and La Torche, all part of mainland France.

Surfing will debut at the 2020 Tokyo Games but is not on the permanent Olympic program. Surfing was among sports added to the Paris 2024 program in June and could be added for the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

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Adam Jones, five-time MLB All-Star, becomes Olympic eligible

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Should the U.S. qualify for baseball’s Olympic return, a five-time MLB All-Star could be eligible for its roster in Tokyo. And he has interest.

Outfielder Adam Jones signed with the Orix Buffaloes of Japan’s domestic league, which, unlike MLB, will take an Olympic break next summer to allow players to take part in the first Olympic baseball tournament in 12 years.

Jones, 34, made no mention of Olympic eligibility in a social media post announcing the signing. His Instagram avatar is a photo of him in a Team USA jersey from the World Baseball Classic.

Jones’ agent later said that Jones does have interest in playing for the U.S. in Tokyo, should an American team qualify in the spring.

“To play over in Japan has always been a desire of Adam’s, and the timing worked out that the Olympics happens to be played in Tokyo the first year of his contract,” Jones’ agent wrote in an email. “It wasn’t one of the factors on his decision BUT more of a [sic] addition to the overall package to decide to go.”

Jones called being part of the U.S.’ 2017 WBC title, “probably the best experience of my life so far, especially with sports,” according to The Associated Press. He was one of five players to be on the U.S. team at each of the last two World Baseball Classics.

The U.S. still faces a difficult task to qualify for the Tokyo Games. It lost to Mexico last month in its first of up to three chances at qualifying tournaments, using a roster of mostly double-A and triple-A caliber players.

Major Leaguers are not expected to be made available for qualifying or for the Tokyo Games.

The next two qualifying tournaments will be in late March (an Americas qualifier in Arizona) and early April (a final, global qualifying event in Chinese Taipei). It remains to be seen how MLB clubs will go about releasing minor leaguers for a tournament that will take place during spring training.

Jones could become the third player with prior MLB All-Star experience to compete at the Olympics from any nation, joining Australian catcher Dave Nilsson and Canadian pitcher Jason Dickson.

Jones made five All-Star teams during an 11-year stint with the Baltimore Orioles from 2008-18 before playing for the Arizona Diamondbacks last season.

Many players competed at the Olympics before making an MLB All-Star team, including Stephen Strasburg and Jason Giambi.

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