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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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Javier Fernandez, Alina Zagitova highlight action at European Championships

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Spain’s Javier Fernandez competes for what is expected to be the final time this weekend at the European Figure Skating Championships in Minsk, Belarus. Olympic champion Alina Zagitova of Russia is also looking to defend her title in the ladies’ field.

NBC Sports Gold’s “Figure Skating Pass” will live stream every program starting on Wednesday, and NBCSN and NBC will also have coverage.

MORE: Schedule/ How to watch

Men

Fernandez, the 2018 PyeongChang bronze medalist, owns six European titles. No man since Austrian Karl Schaefer – who won eight consecutive European titles beginning in 1929 – has won as many straight titles as Fernandez. Fernandez traded world titles during the last Olympic quadrennial with his training partner Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan. They both train in Toronto under Brian Orser.

Also in the field are Michal Brezina from the Czech Republic, who most recently finished fourth at the Grand Prix Final at age 28, and three Russian men: Mikhail Kolyada, Maxim Kovtun, and Alexander Samarin.

Ladies

Reigning Olympic gold medalist Zagitova could lead a Russian podium sweep at the 2019 European Championships with teammates Stanislava Konstantinova and Sofia Samodurova.

The competition-within-the-competition at Europeans is also notable: Russia will not choose their World team until after the event. For example, two-time world champion Yevgenia Medvedeva is not competing at Europeans, and 2015 world champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva was already told to train for Worlds despite not competing at Europeans.

Pairs

French pair Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres will try and buck a trend at Europeans, where teams representing Russia or the Soviet Union have won 47 of the last 54 titles. Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov are looking for a three-peat, though have been inconsistent so far this season and recently returned to last season’s short program.

James and Cipres missed out on bronze by 0.01 points at the 2018 Europeans, and could become the first French pair to win the event since 1932. The last non-Russian team to win Europeans was Germany’s Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy in 2011.

Ice dance

Three-time world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France should coast to the gold medal in Minsk for a fifth consecutive title. Other dance teams have won more European titles, but no team has ever won five in a row.

The rest of the podium is more unclear. The Italians, Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri, will likely split the difference between the two Russian teams – who have their own domestic battle to contend with: Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov and Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin.

As a reminder, you can watch the European Championships 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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How to watch the European Figure Skating Championships

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Javier Fernandez returns to competition for probably a final time with his eyes on a seventh title at the European Figure Skating Championships in Minsk, Belarus Jan. 23-27.

Olympic champion Alina Zagitova looks for a second European title in the ladies’ field, while two couples from France look to top the podiums in the dance and pairs’ fields.

NBC Sports Gold’s “Figure Skating Pass” will live stream every program from Minsk starting Wednesday with the ladies’ short program.

NBCSN and NBC will also have coverage throughout the weekend.

Preview: Javier Fernandez, Alina Zagitova highlight Europeans

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European Figure Skating Championships broadcast schedule (all times Eastern)

Wednesday

Ladies’ short program: 3 a.m. (GOLD) begins at 4:30 p.m. on NBCSN

Pairs’ short program: 10:45 a.m. (GOLD)

 

Thursday

Men’s short program: 4 a.m. (GOLD) begins at 7 p.m. on NBCSN

Pairs’ free skate: 11 a.m. (GOLD), begins at 11 p.m. on NBCSN

 

Friday

Rhythm dance: 3:30 a.m. (GOLD) begins at 2 p.m. on NBCSN

Ladies’ free skate: 10 a.m. (GOLD) begins at 6 p.m. on NBCSN

 

Saturday

Men’s free skate: 3:15 a.m. (GOLD) begins at 11 a.m. on NBCSN

Free dance: 8:25 a.m. (GOLD)

 

Sunday

Ladies’ and men’s free skate: 1:30 p.m. on NBC