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Kaetlyn Osmond, figure skating world champion, weighs whether to return

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World figure skating champion Kaetlyn Osmond wants to go to school, study broadcasting and work in radio. What is less clear is if she has skated in competition for the last time.

“It’s still all up in the air,” Osmond said in New York City last week, before performing at the Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park ice rink. “If I come back to competing, I will fight to be able to be back on top. I will fight for all of that, but I know what my strong suits are, and I’ll see what I can add onto that.”

The 23-year-old Canadian is on an indefinite break — taking this entire season off — after earning Olympic team event gold, individual bronze and a world title between February and March.

She’s still skating, but not in front of judges. Osmond recently finished the Thank You Canada Tour with her Olympic champion teammates, performing two-hour shows at 27 sites across the country.

“It was equally as exhausting [as a competition season], being in a different city in a different bus, a different everything for an entire two months,” she said.

In a similar stretch in the winter, Osmond had one of the greatest runs for a Canadian athlete in recent memory. She helped Canada dethrone Russia as Olympic team-event champion, became the second Canadian woman to earn an individual Olympic figure skating medal in 30 years and then the first to take a world title in 45 years.

It’s hard to rank the three medals.

“Worlds for me might have been the best one, only because I really questioned my ability; I was extremely tired after the Olympics,” she said.

A minor back injury throughout the season flared after PyeongChang. Osmond skipped some training sessions and said she was “in quite a bit of pain.” Once she arrived at worlds in Milan, Osmond sprained an ankle the first day of practice.

“My coach and I, we never actually voiced it to each other, but both of us were thinking that worlds might not be possible,” said Osmond, who has been coached by Ravi Walia for 12 years and drew attention in the last Olympic cycle for practicing at an Edmonton mall rink four times per week.

Osmond endured and rallied from fourth place after the short program with a clean free skate, scoring just 1.65 fewer points than at the Olympics. She won by 12.33 over Japanese Wakaba Higuchi in the only competition that Alina Zagitova failed to win for the season.

“To be able to make the podium was my ultimate goal,” Osmond said that day. “I never thought being champion was possible.”

Two months later, Osmond announced she was taking the fall season off “to refocus and evaluate the next steps in my career.” Two months after that, Osmond extended the break to the entire 2018-19 season.

If and when she returns, Osmond knows that the elite skating picture will likely look very different than when she left it on top. The world’s best skater this season, 16-year-old Japanese Rika Kihira, can land triple Axels in combination. A pair of Russian 14-year-olds, eligible for senior championships next season, can land quadruple jumps.

“It’s quite terrifying,” Osmond said without a laugh. “I knew it was coming. I just didn’t expect it to go so quickly.”

Four years ago, Osmond also took the entire post-Olympic season off. It was forced after she fractured her fibula swerving to avoid a skater in practice.

“When I came back, it took me a full year to be able to regain confidence to compete against everyone then, and they weren’t doing triple Axels at that time,” she said.

A return would not be about chasing an unfulfilled goal. Osmond, who began skating at age 3 by following her older sister, said she accomplished more than she ever expected when she won the Canadian novice title at 13.

“It wasn’t until I had a year off before [in 2014-15] that I started to create more goals and higher goals, ones that I still didn’t think were going to be able to be accomplished,” Osmond said. “I did [accomplish] that, plus beyond, this year. Going off that, the main reason that I would come back is … for a personal gain, the miss and love of competing, being in front of an audience and traveling the world with everyone.”

MORE: U.S. figure skating rankings going into nationals

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USOPC proposes more athletes on board as part of overhaul

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DENVER (AP) — The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee is proposing an increase in athlete representation on its board and a recasting of its mission statement to include the job of promoting athletes’ well-being.

These changes are part of a proposal, released Monday, to rewrite the USOPC bylaws.

The rewrite comes 20 days after federal lawmakers — looking for a shake-up in the wake of the sex-abuse scandal that has tainted the U.S. Olympic movement — proposed their own drastic overhaul of the law governing the USOPC.

The USOPC portrayed its proposals as merely a first step, and, indeed, the measures lack many of Congress’ more aggressive proposals.

But they would heed athletes’ calls for more representation, by increasing their makeup on the board from 20% to 33%.

They would also change the mission statement to read: “empower Team USA athletes to achieve sustained competitive excellence and well-being,” where previously the well-being part was not mentioned.

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Why a 62-year-old played at the world badminton championships

Mathew Fogarty
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Mathew Fogarty said badminton’s European elite made fun of him for playing professionally at age 59. That was three years ago. Fogarty still competes at the sport’s highest level, taking part in the world championships that began Monday in Basel, Switzerland.

Fogarty, who turns 63 on Oct. 30, is older than any U.S. Olympian in any sport since the St. Louis 1904 Games, according to the OlyMADMen.

“I play because I can, and I’m a doctor, and I think sports is a really important part of people’s health and fitness,” said Fogarty, who has played competitively since age 7, whose full-time job is a psychoanalyst and who is based in the Los Angeles area. “I’ll stop badminton when I can no longer qualify. There’s still opportunity, and I love the sport. I’m going to continue to do the best I can.”

He lost in the first round of mixed doubles at worlds on Monday. Fogarty and partner Isabel Zhong, a 27-year-old with an IMBD profile, saw their world championships end in 23 minutes, a 21-9, 21-10 loss to a Ukrainian pair.

That was more competitive than Fogarty’s last two worlds appearances — a 21-6, 21-4 loss with Zhong in 2018 and a 21-2, 21-4 loss with another partner in 2017. Fogarty’s only international match wins in the last two years came via walkover or the one time his singles opponent retired after three points, according to his World Badminton Federation profile. He won an international tournament as recently as 2011 and said his career-high mixed doubles world ranking was 32.

He and Zhong paired because they were part of the same Manhattan Beach Badminton Club, and she wanted to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Games, Fogarty said. Zhong did not respond to an interview request.

“I told her I didn’t know if we could do it, but we could try,” Fogarty said. “It’s extremely remote [chances] … slim to nil.”

The top mixed doubles team from the North and South American region is in line to qualify for the Olympics. The leaders in qualifying so far are Canadians ranked 19th in the world. Fogarty and Zhong, though they are the only U.S. mixed doubles team at worlds, are 67th in the world in Olympic qualifying and third among Americans.

The U.S. has never earned an Olympic medal in badminton, which debuted at the 1992 Barcelona Games. Mixed doubles was added starting at Atlanta 1996, but the U.S. has put just one mixed team into an Olympics, getting swept out of pool play in Rio.

Fogarty, who has never played at the Olympics, is able to play at worlds for a few reasons: he can fund his way to international events to accumulate ranking points; the U.S. is historically weak and has a lack of players with professional ambitions; mixed doubles is the least common of the Olympic disciplines.

“Matt takes it seriously,” said Dean Schoppe, a fellow 62-year-old who has known and played with Fogarty for nearly a half-century. Schoppe recently retired from pro badminton himself. “Matt still approaches the matches with the actual idea of winning,”

Schoppe called Fogarty the best American junior player of his generation in the late 1970s.

“Most badminton players retire at about 26 or 27 with their first catastrophic injury, which is usually a torn Achilles,” he said. “There are people who are born [to play], you see it in every sport. Magic Johnson, they have the peripheral vision. They have the balance. They have all the intangibles that other people have to try to learn and can’t.

“He has the gift. He can look at you peripherally and see that you’re leaning. … Fogarty can hold the serve and turn his shoulders and do crap that makes you fall over, and that infuriates.”

Mathew Fogarty
Badmintonphoto/BWF

Fogarty took breaks from the sport for medical school in the 1980s and ’90s. He returned in the late 1990s and kept playing deep into his 40s, 50s and now 60s in part, he said, to challenge corruption within the sport.

Fogarty had legal battles with USA Badminton. He said that past officials broke up his Olympic hopeful partnership with a teenager in men’s doubles to push others toward the 2000 Sydney Games.

“The last thing they wanted was a 42-year-old with an 18-year-old trying to make the Olympics,” Schoppe said.

USA Badminton recently had mass resignations among its board and top officials amid reports of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee threatening decertification.

USA Badminton’s new interim CEO, 1992 and 1996 Olympian Linda French, declined comment on Fogarty’s past issues with the organization because she was not formally involved at the time.

“We’re hopeful to move forward in a positive manner and wish all our athletes continued success,” French said.

Fogarty does not know how much longer he will travel the world, or even the U.S., to play competitively. A 43-year-old told him at a recent event that Fogarty was his inspiration to keep playing.

“The nature of sports is you can’t predict what it’s going to be,” Fogarty said.

Schoppe dismissed a question of whether it’s easier to play badminton at such a ripe age than other physically demanding sports.

“Imagine pulling out James Worthy and say, OK, James you are now starting for Golden State and you’re playing the Lakers tomorrow,” Schoppe said. “You cannot be old in badminton and do well in badminton. It’s nothing like baseball.

“We were the anomaly of anomalies to have success in our 40s. Nobody does.”

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