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Stanislava Konstantinova aiming for better, more consistent skating at Winter World University Games

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Stanislava Konstantinova was the least well-known of the Russian ladies competing at the European Championships. She seemed more mature as well, compared to teammates Alina Zagitova and champion Sofia Samodurova. She didn’t make it to the podium in Minsk, finishing fourth, but the 18-year-old delivered the second-highest scoring free skate of the event.

She took time to sit with NBCSports.com/figure-skating at the conclusion of the European Championships to explain how her late-blooming on the ice nonetheless enhances her maturity, and even could contribute to a longer-lasting career.

You were wonderful in your “Anna Karenina” free skate, but 11th in the short program. You also had to make up ground at Grand Prix France. Does that happen often?

No, not at all! I’m really upset with my short program in Minsk. I want to apologize both for my skating and my behavior, as I couldn’t find the words for the media. I’ll have to improve on this also [Editor’s note: Konstantinova declined to make any comments as she left the ice after the short program].

Legendary coach Tatiana Tarasova, who was commenting for Russian television, said that in her opinion you didn’t do to your short program only to skate, but to win. Did you feel the same?

Yes, I agree with this. I understand that I can be on the top, but I need to be more confident in the process. For me, failing in the short program was a real pity. I was not prepared for this. I came to Minsk to win. I’ve shown good results in the past, and I hope I can repeat them soon.

You once said that you were a late bloomer. What impact does it have on your skating career, in a country where wunderkinds seem to be the norm?

I’m not competing to hit the top for a short period of time. I’m competing to express myself and to show myself embracing a whole career, not to show myself as a baby skater or a wunderkind. I’m interested in a career like that of Alexei Yagudin’s. This is one of the advantages I have, being more mature. I understand more how I can express myself, not only showing elements but also displaying my choreography and what I have inside of myself during a performance.

I started to skate late, it’s true. In fact, I didn’t even start skating to become a good athlete. I was in a group of children who skated to be healthy. When [coach Valentina] Chebotareva saw that I had some potential, when I was 9 years old, she started working with me. I was then included into her team.

Sometimes I worry about the fact that I didn’t start skating at a younger age. But that’s also good, in a way, because it allowed me to mature.

I now have the strong intention to keep developing and bettering myself. I don’t think I’m old! But there’s no way my career could be like all the other girls who started to skate so early.

You are skating alongside Mikhail Kolyada in Chebotareva’s team. Both of you missed one of your two programs – you, the short, and he, the free. What does your coach say?

That’s quite a coincidence! I definitely need to change this situation (she laughs). Our coach is soft. She doesn’t say bad things. I’m grateful that she considers us as adults. We respect each other in the team – myself, the other skaters, our coaches. We have a great working atmosphere. Our coaches find the right words for me.

Your free skate was also very mature, and maybe that added to the support you received from the audience?

I’m glad people support me. I want to make them happy through my performance. This is my way to thank them.

Do you think you will be selected for Worlds? [Editor’s note: The Russian Federation has not yet announced their picks for the world championships in March, but will likely do so soon.]

The Russian Federation didn’t ask me for a place to achieve in Minsk. But it was important for me to take a good placement. For sure Russia has excellent skaters, and they can decide to replace me in the team. This doesn’t disturb me. It’s like competition – it’s good for me.

Securing a podium spot might have eased the Russian selection for Worlds, but before anything else it would have been good for me to be on that European podium. Now it belongs to the Russian Federation to take the results and make a decision.

What will be your next outings?

Now I’ll be preparing for the Universiades [Winter World University Games] in early March. My goal will definitely be to skate two clean programs.

Will you take your revenge there?

I don’t think it will be a revenge, as I’m always glad to compete and represent Russia. To go to the Universiades is a big honor for me. It will be a question of honor for me to show a good performance there. If it is a revenge, then it will be a revenge for myself to show good skating.

This European Championship was a failure for me. But it gave me the experience of competing at a higher level than I used to. It’s a way for me to grow.

Do you plan to learn other jumps, like quads?

I already tried quads and triple Axels, but I’m not working on them at the moment. It’s very dangerous, and actually not professional, to learn a quad during the skating season. It’s too risky. You have to think of learning harder elements later after the competitive season is over. I think I will work on triple Axel.

Are you on social media networks? What do you think of it?

It depends on my mood! My sports psychologist advised me not to go on social networks during the competition. I did close myself off during the European Championships, until the free program was over. After that I started answering the questions I had received again.

Do you have other endeavors, besides skating?

Yes, I love drawing. I make paintings of my own costumes. I like to view how I will be dressed. I participate in the making. I hope I can develop in this aspect.

Konstantinova 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.

Four Continents reporter’s notebook: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4

As a reminder, you can watch 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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Geraint Thomas cuts Julian Alaphilippe’s Tour de France lead

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FOIX, France (AP) — When one French rider starts to fade, another comes to the fore. One way or the other, France may still be on course for its first Tour de France winner since 1985.

Dancing over his saddle, his mouth wide open and gasping for air, Thibaut Pinot launched a ferocious attack Sunday and profited from the first signs of weakness in the high mountains from French race leader Julian Alaphilippe to edge closer to the yellow jersey in the overall standings.

Ascending the last uphill finish in the Pyrenees with a display of power and fluidity that signaled that he’ll also be a major contender to win the Tour, Pinot gained time on all his rivals for the second consecutive day following his triumph at the famed Tourmalet mountain in the previous stage.

Heading to the second and final rest day Monday ahead of what promises to be a climactic final week in the Alps, the race is exquisitely poised. Six riders are all within 2 minutes, 14 seconds of each other at the top of the standings.

The six terrible ascents above 2,000 meters (6,500 feet) in the Alps, peppered over three mountain stages, will likely decide who will stand on top of the podium on the Champs-Elysees next Sunday.

TOUR DE FRANCE: TV Schedule | Full Standings

“The high mountains have only just begun,” said Alaphilippe. “The Alps are going to be a big mouthful.”

Surging from the mist and rain, Pinot crossed the finish line of Sunday’s Stage 15 in second place, 33 seconds behind Simon Yates, who posted a second stage win after a long solo raid, three days after his first stage victory in the southwestern mountain range.

The 29-year-old Pinot was irresistible when he made his move seven kilometers from the summit. Only Emanuel Buchmann and defending champion Geraint Thomas’ teammate Egan Bernal could follow. But Pinot accelerated again about 2 kilometers later to drop them for good.

Pinot moved to fourth place overall, 1 minute, 50 seconds behind Alaphilippe.

“The weather conditions and the stage were good for me, I had good sensations, I needed to make the most of it,” said Pinot. “I need to keep going up in the general classification, the most difficult stages are looming.”

While Pinot was escorted by his faithful Groupama-FDJ teammate David Gaudu in the final ascent toward Prat d’Albis, Alaphilippe was isolated without a single teammate to help him in the 12-kilometer climb and cracked, yet managed to salvage his yellow jersey.

Alaphilippe was so exhausted after his effort up the hill, where he grimaced through the rain, that he had to grip a roadside barrier afterward while he caught his breath.

“If I crack I hope he’ll carry the torch for the French,” Alaphilippe said about Pinot.

Thomas, who had already conceded time to Pinot at the Tourmalet, remained second in the general classification. He got dropped when Pinot took the lead from a reduced group of contenders but did not panic. He rode at his pace until he accelerated with 1.5 kilometers left to cut the overall gap on Alaphilippe from 2 minutes, 2 seconds to 1:35. Steven Kruijswijk of the Netherlands stood third overall, 1:47 off the pace.

Thomas said after the stage he could have tried to follow Pinot earlier but instead opted for a conservative approach because he did not want to bring back Alaphilippe to the front. Bernal was with Pinot and the Welshman would not take the risk of chasing down their common rival. Bernal, a Colombian with excellent climbing skills, remains involved in the fight for the yellow jersey, 2:02 behind Alaphilippe.

“I felt better than yesterday but I needed to try to pace it when it all kicked off,” Thomas said. “It’s a difficult one, tactics wise. I wanted to go, I had the legs to go but I wasn’t going to chase down Egan Bernal with Alaphilippe on my wheel.”

Coming right after the ascent of the Tourmalet, Stage 15 ran close to the ancient Cathar castles and was a punishing ride totaling more than 39 kilometers of climbing.

Alaphilippe was so exhausted after his effort up the hill, where he grimaced and dribbled through the rain, that he had to grip a roadside barrier afterward while he caught his breath.

“If I crack I hope he’ll carry the torch for the French,” Alaphilippe said about Pinot.

Yates, the Vuelta defending champion, was given a free reign by the peloton when he took part in an early breakaway as he was not a threat overall. He made his decisive move about 9 kilometers from the line.

“I’m very proud of that,” Yates said of his second victory at this Tour.

Watch world-class cycling events throughout the year with the NBC Sports Gold Cycling Pass, including all 21 stages of the Tour de France live & commercial-free, plus access to renowned races like La Vuelta, Paris-Roubaix, the UCI World Championships and many more.

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Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce turns back the clock, wins another Diamond League

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Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce continues to show she’s just as fast as before childbirth, winning a Diamond League 100m in 10.78 seconds in London on Sunday.

Fraser-Pryce, a 32-year-old, two-time Olympic champion, beat a field that included the two fastest women of 2018, Brit Dina Asher-Smith (10.92) and Ivorian Marie-Josee Ta Lou (10.98).

It lacked the only woman ranked higher than Fraser-Pryce this season, Rio Olympic champion Elaine Thompson, who edged her countrywoman at the Jamaican Championships on June 21.

But Fraser-Pryce has now broken 10.79 three times this season, her first time doing so since 2013. She could become the oldest woman to win an Olympic or world 100m title in Doha in two months.

“10.78 is a fabulous time,” she said. “My aim for Doha is definitely to be on the podium. For me, it’s a long season from here, so I am hoping my experience will come into play.”

Full London results are here. The meet lacked U.S. stars who are preparing for this week’s USATF Outdoor Championships, where world champs spots are at stake. The Diamond League resumes Aug. 18 in Birmingham, Great Britain.

Also Sunday, Kenyan Hellen Obiri won an anticipated head-to-head with Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan in the 5000m. Obiri, the world champion, clocked 14:20.36, the world’s fastest time in two years. Hassan, who nine days ago broke the mile world record, took third in a European record 14:22.12.

Swede Daniel Ståhl won a discus that included the world’s top three this year and the reigning Olympic and world gold and silver medalists. Stahl launched a 68.56-meter throw to overtake Jamaican Fedrick Dacres.

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