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One year after winning Olympic gold, Mikael Kingsbury is still striving for more

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While watching the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics, then-nine-year-old Mikael Kingsbury printed out the Olympic symbol on a piece of paper and wrote below it that he would win a gold medal. He taped it to the ceiling above his bed at his home in Quebec so that he could see it every night before he fell asleep.

Sixteen years later, Kingsbury stood on top of the podium at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics – and over 6,000 miles away in Quebec, his brother scribbled across the sign so it read, ‘you did win.’ The edited version is still hanging above Kingsbury’s childhood bed today.

If anyone thought Kingsbury, 26, would take it easy now that he’s accomplished the goal he set at age nine, they were wrong. He opened his post-Olympic season with four-straight World Cup wins. If anything, he says his success in PyeongChang just inspired him more. “Winning gold just gave me more motivation,” he said in a phone interview at the end of January. “Once you reach the top, [you] want to stay there.”

In addition to his gold medal from PyeongChang, Kingsbury also owns silver from the 2014 Sochi Games. His dominance on the World Cup circuit is even more impressive. In 96 starts, he has stood on the podium 78 times, including 54 wins. His recent success is even more staggering: in his last 30 starts in singles moguls, he has won 23 times – and only finished off the podium twice. His strong results have helped him win seven-straight World Cup titles – and he’s well on his way to claiming an eighth this season. His consistency is even more improbable when you consider the unforgiving nature of moguls, an event that combines speed, form, and style – and is held on snowy slopes in ever-changing conditions.

Kingsbury’s record isn’t as flawless in world championship competition, though, something he says he’s hoping to improve upon this week in Park City, Utah. The singles competition will be held on Friday night, while the non-Olympic dual moguls event will take place on Saturday. At the 2017 World Championships, Kingsbury claimed bronze in singles, but placed 13th in duals.

“My last world championships didn’t go as well as I wanted it to,” Kingsbury said in January. “This year, [the world championships] are my main goal… I’m trying to be at my peak there.” Kingsbury has had plenty of previous success on ‘Champion,’ the slope at Deer Valley where this year’s World Championships are being held. (‘Champion’ is also the slope that was used at the 2002 Salt Lake Games, the competition that sparked Kingsbury’s gold-medal goal.) He has won the last four World Cup events at the venue,

The two-time Olympic medalist’s approach to competition is calculated carefully. In practice, he frequently skis up to a second-and-a-half faster than he generally does in competition. Because he typically qualifies in the top position heading into the final round, he’s able to watch his competitors go before him, and adjust his speed and tricks based on the score he thinks he needs.

Kingsbury also says his goals have changed since the PyeongChang Olympics, “Before it was only win, win, win. Now, it’s more about reaching my full potential.” He’s been working on new tricks to include in his repertoire and says he has a cork 1440 (four twists off-axis with skis crossed) ready to go if one of his competitor’s throws down the gauntlet.

He also trains double flips in the off-season, which are currently not approved for competition by the international ski federation (FIS). “I want to make sure I’m in the loop so if one day they say, ‘Ok, you can throw doubles,’ I’ll be ready.”

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Naomi Osaka, Coco Gauff set Australian Open duel

Naomi Osaka, Coco Gauff
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Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff will meet in the third round of a second straight Grand Slam, this time at the Australian Open on Friday.

Osaka, the defending champion and world No. 4, and Gauff, the 15-year-old American phenom, each won second-round matches in Melbourne to reach the final 32.

Osaka swept Chinese Zheng Saisai 6-2, 6-4 on a windy Wednesday afternoon. Later, Gauff followed her first-round win over Venus Williams by eliminating Romanian veteran Sorana Cirstea 4-6, 6-3, 7-5.

“I know what to expect,” Gauff said. “I’m excited.”

Osaka beat Gauff 6-3, 6-0 in the U.S. Open third round on Aug. 31. In the most memorable moment of that night, Osaka urged Gauff to share the on-court victor’s interview at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“It’s better than going into the showers and crying,” Osaka told Gauff in front of a packed crowd. “Let these people know how you feel.”

Gauff obliged after at first declining.

“I’m not the type of person who wants to cry in front of everyone,” she said later. “I didn’t want to take that moment away from [Osaka], as well.”

Gauff, ranked No. 684 at this time last year, is now No. 67. She broke through by beating Williams in the Wimbledon first round, then reaching the round of 16.

Gauff won a lower-level WTA Tour event in October and now ranks fifth in U.S. Olympic singles qualifying. The top four after the French Open qualify for the Tokyo Games, though Gauff has fewer than half the points as No. 4 Alison Riske.

“It’s been really cool to watch her grow because it’s happened so fast,” Osaka said.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

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John Isner leaning toward skipping Olympics again

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John Isner, the highest-ranked U.S. male singles tennis player, is considering skipping the Olympics for a second straight time.

“I haven’t put a ton of thought into it, but as of right now, I think I’m leaning towards not playing,” the 19th-ranked player said at the Australian Open on Tuesday. “It’s about scheduling. I know the Olympics, it’s a fantastic honor. There’s no doubt about that. … Right now, at this stage in my career, it’s not a huge priority for me. So that’s probably the main reason I won’t be going. I certainly love playing in the summer in America, and I’m going to focus on that.”

The Tokyo Games take place the same week as a lower-level ATP Tour event in Atlanta that Isner, a former University of Georgia star, has won five times.

Other notable male players already said they will pass on Tokyo, including Sam Querrey, the top American in Olympic qualifying standings.

Austrian Dominic Thiem, a two-time French Open finalist, is prioritizing an ATP event in Kitzbühel the week of the Olympics. The U.S. doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan are not planning to play the Olympics in their final season before retirement, their manager said in November.

“The Olympics is very tough on the schedule … especially with Davis Cup,” Isner said in 2016, according to USA Today. “I think the fact that they have no [ATP ranking] points [at the Olympics], to be honest, was a pretty big factor as well. Obviously the Olympics is not about the money, but no points I think hindered me a bit.”

Isner, who turns 35 on April 26, is likely giving up his last chance to play Olympic singles. In his only Olympic participation, he reached the quarterfinals of the 2012 London Games, plus lost an opening-round doubles match there with Andy Roddick.

The top four U.S. men qualify for Tokyo, assuming they are among the top 60 overall qualifiers (maximum four per country) after this spring’s French Open.

Taylor FritzReilly Opelka, Steve Johnson and Tommy Paul are the U.S. men currently in Olympic qualifying position if excluding Querrey and Isner.

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