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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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Mark Spitz takes on Katie Ledecky’s challenge

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Swimmers around the world took on Katie Ledecky‘s milk-glass challenge since it became a social media sensation, including one of the few Americans with more Olympic gold medals.

Mark Spitz, who won seven golds at the 1972 Munich Games, took 10 strokes in an at-home pool while perfectly balancing a glass of what appeared to be water on his head.

“Would’ve been faster with the ‘stache, @markspitzusa, but I still give this 7 out of 7 gold medals,” Ledecky tweeted.

Spitz joined fellow Olympic champions Susie O’Neill of Australia and American Matt Grevers in posting similar videos to what Ledecky first shared Monday.

In Tokyo next year, Ledecky can pass Spitz’s career gold-medal count of nine if she wins all of her expected events — 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles and the 4x200m free relay.

Then she would trail one athlete from any country in any sport — Michael Phelps, the 23-time gold medalist who has yet to post video of swimming while balancing a glass on his head.

MORE: Spitz puts Michael Phelps’ career in perspective

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Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis eyeing Grand Slam record

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Serena Williams travels with “like 50 masks” and has been a little bit of a recluse since early March and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t have full lung capacity, so I’m not sure what would happen to me,” Williams said Saturday, two days before the start of the WTA’s Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky., her first tournament since playing Fed Cup in early February. “I’m sure I’ll be OK, but I don’t want to find out.”

Williams, 38, has a history of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms. She faced life-threatening complications following her Sept. 1, 2017, childbirth that confined her to a bed for six weeks. She said her daily routine was surgery and that she lost count after the first four.

More recently, Williams enjoyed “every part” of the last six months at home in Florida, her longest time grounded since her teens.

“I’ve been a little neurotic, to an extent,” on health and safety, she said. “Everyone in the Serena bubble is really protected.”

Williams is entered to play next week in Lexington and at consecutive tournaments in New York City later this month — the Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open, the latter starting Aug. 31.

Williams is the highest-ranked player in the Lexington field at No. 9. Others include 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, older sister Venus Williams and 16-year-old Coco Gauff.

She has been bidding ever since having daughter Olympia to tie Margaret Court‘s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, albeit many of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and, notably at the Australian Open, against small fields lacking the world’s best players. Williams reached the last two Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals, losing all of them.

She showed her seriousness in committing early to this year’s U.S. Open by installing a court at home with the same surface. Three of the top 10 female singles players already said they will skip the U.S. Open due to travel and/or virus concerns, including No. 1 Ash Barty.

“Tennis is naturally a socially distanced sport, so it was kind of easy to go back and just walk on my side of the court and have my hitter walk on his side of the court,” Williams said.

The French Open starts two weeks after the U.S. Open ends. Williams was asked if she will fly to Europe for tournaments this autumn.

“I see myself doing it all, if it happens,” she said.

The Tokyo Olympics are too far away to make plans.

“We’ll have to kind of wait to see what happens in the fall,” she said. “One thing I have learned with this pandemic is don’t plan.”

MORE: Past U.S. Open champions get wild cards

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