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Two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu says he is ‘100 percent’ ahead of World Championships

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SAITAMA, Japan (AP) — Two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu says he has recovered from an ankle injury and is ready to compete for the title at the world figure skating championships.

“Before the season, I wasn’t in what I would say was an ideal 100 percent,” Hanyu told a news conference Tuesday, on the eve of the championships. “But I can say I’m 100 percent heading into the world championships and I’m looking forward to competing.

“I’ve been in this position before where I came back from injury before the Olympics and that was valuable experience that will help.”

Hanyu arrived in Japan on a flight from Toronto late Monday accompanied by coach Brian Orser. On Tuesday, he practiced for about 30 minutes at the arena in front a large crowd of fans who applauded every jump he made.

The 24-year-old missed last year’s worlds because of injury. He last won the title at the 2017 world championships in Helsinki. His first win was in 2014 at Saitama Super Arena, the same venue as this year’s worlds.

After twisting his right ankle in a fall in practice at the Rostelecom Cup on Nov. 17, Hanyu was told he needed three weeks of rest and one month of rehabilitation to recover from a ligament injury sustained in the fall.

He claimed his second straight Grand Prix series title of the season despite the injury, but was forced to withdraw from the Grand Prix Final and the Japan nationals in December.

Hanyu sustained a similar injury at the 2017 NHK Trophy before making a comeback at last year’s Pyeongchang Olympics, where he became the first male figure skater to win consecutive Olympic golds since American Dick Button in 1948 and 1952.

Defending champion Nathan Chen practiced at Saitama Super Arena on Monday and said he had fully recovered from a cold.

Coming off a long break from the U.S. Nationals in January, when he captured his third straight national title, Chen said his plan is pretty much to stick with that program at the worlds.

During the nationals, Chen landed four quad jumps in his free skate routine, one of which was in combination.

Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno, the 2018 world championship silver medalist, will also be a medal contender on home ice.

“I’m emphasizing results at a competition for the first time,” the 21-year-old Uno said. “I’ve always tried to perform in a way so I would be satisfied. I didn’t really put an emphasis on the results.”

Uno heads into the worlds on a high having won the Four Continents last month. In that competition, Uno showed his resolve when he finished fourth in the short program and then won the free skate to claim the overall title. It marked the first time he won a major international competition.

Uno also had an impressive 2018, winning Skate Canada, the NHK Trophy and the Japanese nationals.

The world championships begin with the women’s short program on Wednesday. The men’s short program is on Thursday.

MORE: World Championships ladies’ preview: Japanese, Russian skaters face off for top prize

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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Justin Morneau nixes Olympic baseball qualifying return

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Justin Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP with the Minnesota Twins, was taken off Canada’s Olympic baseball qualifying roster before he would have played his first competitive game in more than two years.

Morneau, 38, experienced an unspecified setback in training and was replaced on Canada’s roster for next month’s Premier12. The global tournament marks the first opportunity for many world baseball powers to qualify for the sport’s return to the Olympics.

Morneau never played in the Olympics before baseball was cut from the Games after 2008; active MLB players have never competed in the Games. But he was on Canada’s roster at all four World Baseball Classics from 2006 through 2017.

At November’s Premier12, the top nation from North and South America will qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. Japan and Israel are already qualified. Those that do not qualify will get another chance next year.

Morneau could become the second Major League Baseball MVP to play Olympic baseball as a medal sport. The other was Jason Giambi, who made the U.S. team in 1992, the same summer he was drafted in the second round by the Oakland Athletics.

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MORE: Joe Girardi replaced as U.S. baseball manager by World Series champion

Kolohe Andino is first U.S. Olympic surfing qualifier; Kelly Slater faces last chance

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Kolohe Andino is the first American to qualify for surfing’s Olympic debut, which leaves one spot left for 47-year-old Kelly Slater to chase at the final contest of the season.

Andino, a 25-year-old Californian whose first name means “rascal” in Hawaiian, clinched his place in Tokyo on Friday at the penultimate stop on the World Surf League Championship Tour in Portugal. He is ranked fifth in the world, trailing a trio of Brazilians.

One more American man will join Andino on the Olympic team. It will be one of Slater, the 11-time world champion, John John Florence, the 2016 and 2017 World champion, and rising 22-year-old Hawaiian Seth Moniz.

Slater was handed a golden opportunity to qualify when Florence announced in early July that he tore an ACL for the second time in 13 months. Florence had won two of the first five events this season.

Slater has been chasing the sidelined Florence in the standings ever since. But it has not been easy.

Slater hasn’t made the quarterfinals in any of his last seven contests going into December’s finale — the prestigious Billabong Pipeline Masters on the North Shore of Oahu.

“Ninth place, to me, used to be a pretty awful result. I’m used to at least a quarterfinal on for most of my career,” he said in July, noting a back injury. “I’m not horrified by my results, but I’m also not surprised. Maybe other people are because everyone focuses on my age and that kind of thing. It’s not like I’m going to all of a sudden forget how to do this thing, you know?”

Slater, who won the Pipe Masters seven times between 1992 and 2013, must reach the quarterfinals at this year’s event to have any chance of passing Florence to qualify for the Olympics.

Complicating matters: Florence said in August it was his “goal to get better for Pipeline in case I have to come back and compete and gain points,” according to ESPN.com. If Florence does return for the December contest, and makes the quarterfinals, Slater could only pass him with a victory.

Moniz goes into the finale ranked one spot behind Slater, meaning he, too, can grab that second and final Olympic spot with a win or a runner-up.

Slater, who turns 48 on Feb. 11, would be the oldest U.S. Summer Olympic rookie competitor in a sport other than equestrian, sailing or shooting (or art competitions!) in the last 100 years, supplanting Martina Navratilova, according to the OlyMADMen.

MORE: Top U.S. surfer has links to Egg McMuffin, Guinness World Record holder

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