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Olympic figure skater lands quadruple Axel in harness

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A quadruple Axel has never been landed in competition, but Canadian Olympian Keegan Messing looked pretty strong completing one with the aid of a harness.

Messing, a 26-year-old Alaskan who finished 12th in PyeongChang, landed the jump while connected to a harness attached to a pole held by a man in a video posted on his Instagram on Wednesday night.

“My coach and I are going around the idea of starting the quad Axel,” Messing said at the world championships in March, according to Inside Skating. “It’s a dream I’ve had for a very, very long time – as soon as I found out that no one did it, I wanted to be the first.”

Other skaters have attempted quad Axels in a harness, including 2013 U.S. champion Max Aaron (video here) and French Olympian Chafik Besseghier (video here). Russian Artur Dmitriev Jr. tried one without a harness (video here).

Yuzuru Hanyu, the 2014 and 2018 gold medalist, has said he wants to master the quad Axel.

“No one in competition has achieved successful quadruple Axel jumps and there are very few people actually practicing even during training,” Hanyu said in PyeongChang, according to The Associated Press. “I want to continue my challenge towards achieving my dream of successfully performing the quad Axel, even if I may not be the first person to do so.”

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Kaetlyn Osmond, world figure skating champion, to skip Grand Prix season

AP
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Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond, the reigning world champion and Olympic bronze medalist, will skip the fall Grand Prix figure skating season “to refocus and evaluate the next steps in my career.”

“While I still love competing and performing, I will be exploring other exciting opportunities during this time,” Osmond said in a Skate Canada press release.

Osmond could return for Canadian nationals in January and the world championships in Japan in March.

The 22-year-old took bronze in PyeongChang behind Russians Alina Zagitova and Yevgenia Medvedeva, then jumped from fourth after the short program to win the world title a month later.

She became Canada’s first women’s singles world champion in 45 years, giving the nation yet another highlight in a deep recent stretch across all skating disciplines that included Olympic team event gold. The Canadian contingent will look very different next season.

Patrick Chan, a three-time world champion and 2014 Olympic silver medalist, has retired. As have two-time pairs world champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford. Two-time Olympic ice dance gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are not expected to compete again but have not announced a retirement.

Grand Prix entries are expected to be announced in early summer.

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Softball star Danielle Lawrie unretires for sport’s Olympic return

Danielle Lawrie
Charles Blackburn
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Two-time NCAA Player of the Year Danielle Lawrie-Locke is coming out of a three-year retirement as softball readies for its Olympic return in 2020.

Lawrie-Locke, a 31-year-old Canadian pitcher with two daughters, advanced from a preliminary national team selection camp in January to a final camp from May 30-June 10 that will determine the 17-player roster for the world championship in August.

“I never thought I would be playing into my 30s, but I also think when you are married and have kids … I think you start to get an itch for some type of competitiveness again,” Lawrie-Locke said, according to the Langley Times in her native British Columbia. “The big light at the end of the tunnel is I want to try and get a medal at the 2020 Olympics with my family in the stands.”

Lawrie-Locke is one of the greatest players in NCAA history, one of three women to earn multiple NCAA Player of the Year Awards along with Cat Osterman and Keilani Ricketts. Before her University of Washington career, Lawrie-Locke made waves at the first World Cup of Softball in 2005, when, at age 18, she handed the U.S. its first defeat in three years.

Lawrie-Locke then led the University of Washington to a national title as a junior, her first of two straight seasons as NCAA Player of the Year. That came after she took a year off from the NCAA to play for Canada at the 2008 Beijing Games, thought to be softball’s final Olympics until the sport was added for Tokyo 2020 almost two years ago.

Lawrie-Locke pitched her final professional game in 2014 after having her first daughter, Madison, on Dec. 16, 2013. She and husband Drew Locke also have a 1-year-old daughter, Audrey.

Lawrie-Locke reportedly said she first thought about a comeback while watching the World Cup of Softball last August. She listened as analyst Michele Smith, a two-time U.S. Olympic champion pitcher, said she believed her own athletic peak came at age 34 or 35.

“At that moment, it hit me,” Lawrie-Locke said, according to the newspaper. “It just hit me when she said that, and it took me a couple of weeks to come to terms with the idea.”

Lawrie-Locke’s motivation partly stemmed from an unsatisfying 2008 Olympics. Canada lost its last four games, including in the semifinals, to finish fourth overall.

“I had a lot of bad emotions based on that ’08 experience,” Lawrie-Locke said, according to the newspaper. “(And) I was probably not as good a teammate as I should have been.” (She clashed with a Canadian coach, according to the Seattle Times.)

The world champion becomes the first nation to qualify for the Tokyo Games (Japan is already in as host nation). Softball, previously on the Olympic program from 1996 through 2008, is not guaranteed to remain in the Games beyond 2020.

The U.S. and Canada, ranked Nos. 1 and 3 in the world, can also qualify for the Olympics by finishing in the top two of the 2019 Pan American Championship.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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