October 06, 2015

MILAN (AP) With her suspension coming to an end, Olympic bronze medalist Carolina Kostner already has her sights set on the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang.

The Italian figure skater will be eligible to return to competition on Jan. 1 after serving a suspension for helping her ex-boyfriend evade doping controls.

''The desire is there, and it includes also obviously a possible Olympics,'' the 28-year-old Kostner said Tuesday.

Kostner received clearance this week from the Court of Arbitration for Sport to return to competition next year after agreeing to have her 16-month suspension extended by five months, but then backdated, freeing her to skate earlier than anticipated.

As part of the agreement, Kostner also agreed to act as a spokeswoman against doping, her lawyer said.

But Kostner said it was too soon to lay out a program for her comeback.

''Knowing that I can return to competition in 2016 gives me great strength and great serenity to make a decision,'' Kostner said.

Italian skating federation president Andrea Gioss said it would be difficult for Kostner to qualify for the European championships from Jan. 25-31 because of time constraints. She would have time to qualify for the world figure skating championships in Boston in March by picking up points at sanctioned international competitions.

As she has in the past, Kostner admitted she ''made an error,'' by helping her ex-boyfriend, Olympic race walking gold medalist Alex Schwazer, evade a doping test and other infractions. She has said she was unaware he was doping.

''This period for me was a moment of great growth and maturation,'' she said, adding she has broken off all contact with Schwazer but did not wish him ill.

Kostner, who missed out on the worlds last year but won bronze at the Sochi Olympics, said she has been concentrating on the artistic aspects of skating since the suspension took effect in January, and will be able to return to full training in federation-sanctioned rinks from Nov. 1. In the meantime, she is preparing for an ice show in Verona this week, and spent last winter in a dance studio practicing ballet.

Kostner said she misses competing but that she had nothing to prove by returning to the rink.

''I have a big trove of experience, Olympics that have gone well, Olympics gone badly, falls, getting back up,'' Kostner said. ''In a certain sense, I feel the desire and need to give it all meaning, if only to be part of a team and have the young future Italian champion turn to me and ask advice, `You, at those moments, what did you do?'''

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