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New European champion Sofia Samodurova eyes longevity in the sport

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With the European Championships come and gone, a new ladies’ champion was crowned in 16-year-old Sofia Samodurova. It was her first major senior-level event, and, afterward, she spoke with NBCSports.com/figure-skating about her victory and what it means to her as a late-bloomer. Samodurova hopes to start a long career like those of her idols, including Italy’s Carolina Kostner, who she shares a coach with in Alexei Mishin.

You won the European Championships by more than 15.5 points. Did you think that it was possible?

I didn’t think about winning in Minsk. But I did concentrate on my performance, in order to present two solid skates. I didn’t let myself distracted by Alina’s performance or marks [the Olympic champion Alina Zagitova, who skated just before her].

I didn’t listen and really tried to focus on my performance. I didn’t think of winning, since my results at the Lombardia Trophy had not been so good. [Note: She ended second to Russian Elizaveta Tuktamysheva]. I only realized that I had won when I saw the marks come up.

Are you close from your teammates, like Elizaveta or Carolina Kostner?

Oh yes! Lisa and I are girls and we discuss girl things. You know, like skating things but also cosmetics as well. I am also in awe in front of Carolina’s attitude. She loves skating so much. I can see that in her eyes. She always does everything our coach says, and she is always so happy to be on the ice.

Alexei Mishin always have funny sentences. What did he tell you before you took the ice in Minsk?

He said: “Don’t jump off your pants!” (She laughs).

Do you think this victory will change your mind?

I remain the same Sofia Samodurova as before. Although defeating Alina is not usual for me, it will give me more confidence for sure.

You manage to embody genuinely your free program, to the soundtrack of “Burlesque,” and to make it live with the audience. How do you relate to your programs?

Ilya Averbukh chose the music for this free program. Well, I like this program very much. It’s a lot of fun for me to skate to it and… Obviously you can see it. I have other programs in store, though, like the ones I display at my exhibitions. They present different characters and I like that.

“Burlesque,” the American movie your music comes from, stars two great singers, Cher and Christina Aguilera, and you mention that you like singing. What do you sing?

Everything! I sing a lot, any style. But it depends on my mood!

You projected lots of emotions through you skating in Minsk. Do you feel those emotions yourself, as you are skating?

In fact, I may seem quite emotional during my performances, but I’m not very emotional in real life. I mean, I’m a rather shy person. At the European Championships I had more responsibilities, of course, and that gave me more emotions. But I try to control emotions during skating, because it’s better to be focused!

Many girls in Russia are getting great results in juniors. You are coming up as a senior. Do you think it plays a role in your career?

This is true! I didn’t have that great results in the junior ranks. But maybe it was better that way for me, as I had less pressure when I arrived in the senior [ranks, this season].

What elements do you feel you need to work at in order to improve toward the world championships? Quads?

You know, I tried triple Axel two years ago. I think I’ll develop into that direction in the future, in order to land that jump. But for now, I need to work on steps (in my step sequence), on my transitions, and on the quality of each one of my elements.

Do you have a favorite sportsperson to look up to?

Yes: it’s Martin Fourcade, the French biathlete [Note: he who won five Olympic gold medals, two in Sochi in 2014 and three in PyeongChang in 2018]. I’d like to be like him, show solid performances regularly and compete at the highest level all the time. His career is stable at the top. I’d be like that: stable.

Would you like to have a long career, just like Carolina Kostner and Javier Fernandez?

Yes, I would, definitely.

Samodurova does speak English, but she elected to give her answers in Russian. Her words were translated in English by Irena Zakurdaeva, a Media Coordinator in Moscow.

MORE: European Championships analysis: Female Russian skaters stars rise fast, but burn out too soon

As a reminder, you can watch Four Continents and the world 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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Breanna Stewart to miss entire WNBA season with Achilles injury

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Breanna Stewart, the world’s top female basketball player and one of the most dominant athletes of 2018, is expected to miss the entire upcoming WNBA season after rupturing an Achilles playing in Europe on Sunday, according to the Seattle Storm.

“The situation is still a shock to me,” was posted on Stewart’s social media. “I’m feeling every emotion possible at this point but just know that the bounce back will be real and I’ll be back better than ever.”

Stewart, 24, skyrocketed in this Olympic cycle.

The Storm’s franchise player went from playing the second-fewest minutes on the 2016 Olympic team as its youngest player to leading the U.S. per game in points (16.3) and minutes (27) at the 2018 World Championship tournament.

Stewart earned MVP honors at worlds, matching her WNBA season and Finals honors. She became the first player to earn all three MVPs in one year.

Stewart is still expected to be in play for the 2020 Olympic team, given the Storm expect her to make a full recovery by the start of the following WNBA season next spring.

Tamika Catchings made the 2008 Olympic team after tearing her right Achilles in September 2007.

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Caster Semenya leads Olympians in Time 100; streak hits 16 years

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An Olympian has made the Time 100 Most Influential list every year since its annual inception in 2004. South African runner Caster Semenya, soccer players Alex Morgan and Mo Salah and LeBron James kept the streak going in 2019.

It’s the fourth appearance for James (2005, 2013, 2017), extending his record for an athlete, and the first for Semenya, Morgan and Salah. Semenya made it in the “icons” category, while the other three are “titans.”

Two-time Olympic 400m hurdles champion Edwin Moses penned an essay about the two-time Olympic 800m champion Semenya, who is fighting a legal battle with the IAAF over a potential rule change limiting women’s testosterone levels in her events. If the rule goes into effect, Semenya’s dominance (three years undefeated at 800m) is expected to vanish.

“Caster Semenya has taught us that sex isn’t always binary, and caused us to question the justness of distributing societal benefits according to “male” and “female” classifications,” Moses wrote. “Ultimately, this incredibly difficult issue is a political one for sport to resolve. But however it is addressed, Semenya will have already made a singular historical contribution to our understanding of biological sex.”

Here are Olympians and Paralympians on past Time 100 lists, counting only athletes who competed in the Games before being listed:

2018 — Kevin Durant, Roger Federer, Chloe Kim, Adam Rippon
2017 — Simone Biles, LeBron James, Neymar
2016 — Usain BoltCaitlyn JennerKatie LedeckySania MirzaRonda Rousey
2015 — Abby Wambach
2014 — Cristiano Ronaldo, Serena Williams
2013 — LeBron James, Li Na, Lindsey Vonn
2012 — Novak DjokovicLionel MessiOscar Pistorius
2011 — Lionel Messi
2010 — Yuna KimSerena Williams
2009 — Rafael Nadal
2008 — Andre Agassi, Lance Armstrong, Oscar Pistorius
2007 — Roger FedererChien Ming-Wang
2006 — Joey CheekSteve Nash
2005 — LeBron James
2004 — Lance Armstrong, Paula Radcliffe, Yao Ming
2000 (20th Century) — Muhammad Ali

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