Coed swim relays at the Olympics?

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FINA, swimming’s governing body, is apparently throwing a 4x50m coed medley relay onto the schedule at its World Cup meet in Dubai this week, and maybe seven other events later this year. If all goes well we could soon see the race at the world championships and eventually even the Olympics.

The teams will be made up of two men and two women, and, for sake of strategy and a bit of fun, the teams are allowed to put together their legs of the race however they see fit, meaning they can pit men against women depending on what advantage the group is attempting to gain.

“It will be extremely exciting for the first couple of years,” 100m breast champ Cameron Van der Burgh told the Associated Press Monday. “No one knows what will happen. Who are the favorites? How it will work? Who they will choose? I’m all for making sport bigger.”

While smart money and zealous assumptions would suggest an American team made up of famous names like Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin, and Ryan Lochte… a little math says that none of those gold medal swimmers would have made the cut for a hypothetical American squad in London.

Why? When you look at the results you realize that the disparity between men’s and women’s times in the backstroke and breaststroke is greater than in the butterfly and freestyle by a full second or two, so you’d want to put girls in the latter two strokes and the men in the first two.

In London that probably would have meant the Americans starting with Matt Grevers, who won gold with an Olympic record in the 100m back in London, followed by breaststroke bronze-medalist Brendan Hansen in the second leg. Then you’d definitely put world record holder Dana Vollmer in the butterfly (Team USA’s biggest advantage) and Jessica Hardy, who finished seventh in the 50m freestyle as the anchor.

Sure, you might not want to anchor with your weakest swimmer, so maybe you swap her for Cullen Jones – who won silver in the men’s 50m free – but then you risk giving up an extra second or two by swapping out Hansen for Rebecca Soni in the breaststroke. And can you really leave Phelps, Lochte, Missy, Soni, and Nathan Adrian off this team?

See, this is when it gets fun, and why we can’t wait to see this race added to the Olympics. Fingers crossed.

See also: Germans take first 4×50 mixed relay

Canada in control of hockey rivalry going into Olympics

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Four years ago, the U.S. women’s hockey team rode a four-game winning streak over rival Canada into the Olympics, then lost both games in Sochi, including a gut-wrenching overtime final.

This time, Canada goes into the Winter Games having won four straight.

The Canadians beat the Americans 2-1 in overtime in Edmonton on Sunday night, taking their pre-Olympic series 5-3 overall.

“I don’t think it was our best performance,” Canada coach Laura Schuler said. “There’s still more work to do.”

The Canadians were led by their stalwarts — captain Marie-Philip Poulin scored in regulation, Sochi gold medalist Jennifer Wakefield scored 26 seconds into overtime and longtime goalie Shannon Szabados stopped 34 of 35 shots.

Hilary Knight netted the U.S. goal, with Maddie Rooney making 24 saves.

“The goal for us is to be hitting on all cylinders in February,” U.S. coach Robb Stauber said.

The U.S. appeared to be in that kind of form until about two weeks ago.

Before this losing streak, the U.S. had a 12-4 record against Canada since the start of 2015, including taking the last three world championship finals.

At one point, the U.S. won six straight games over a 12-month stretch, its longest streak over Canada since it famously won eight straight going into the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics then lost the gold-medal game.

Canada also beat the U.S. in their last four meetings before the 2006 Olympics and five straight going into the 2010 Olympics.

The U.S. Olympic team will be announced Jan. 1. The national-team roster is at 25 players (22 skaters, three goalies), but the Olympic roster is 23 (20 skaters, three goalies).

“Can’t live in the past, can’t live in the future, so tonight we were worried about this game,” U.S. captain Meghan Duggan said, according to the Canadian Press. “We weren’t looking ahead to February.”

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Yuzuru Hanyu to miss Japan Figure Skating Championships

Yuzuru Hanyu
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Yuzuru Hanyu, the reigning Olympic and world figure skating champion, will miss his national championships this week due to ankle and knee injuries suffered in a Nov. 9 practice fall, according to Japanese media citing the Japan Skating Federation.

Hanyu can (and very likely will) be named to Japan’s three-man Olympic team despite missing nationals.

Hanyu has reportedly been off the ice for more than one month since the fall.

“It is an important selection competition, and the Olympics are a big goal, so with that in mind we would like to think things through together,” Japan Skating Federation director Yoshiko Kobayashi said last week, according to Kyodo News.

Hanyu, who turned 23 on Dec. 7, fell on a quadruple Lutz attempted and then favored his right ankle in a Nov. 9 practice at a Grand Prix event (video here).

He skated the run-through for his free skate, although he elected not to do any more jumps.

“I have been told by the doctor that I need 10 days of complete rest,” Hanyu said in a statement on Nov. 12, according to Kyodo. “Following that, it will take three to four weeks to return and get back to where I was.”

Hanyu and world silver medalist Shoma Uno are favored to lead Japan’s Olympic men’s figure skating team. The third spot is likely to go to Takahito Mura or Keiji Tanaka.

Hanyu competed twice this season.

He posted a world-record short program score in his debut at a small September event in Canada, but struggled to fifth place in the free skate and finished second overall behind two-time world champion Javier Fernandez of Spain.

He then finished second to U.S. champion Nathan Chen at the first Grand Prix event of the season in Moscow in October.

Chen is the only undefeated male singles skater this season.

Hanyu won four straight national titles before missing last season’s event with the flu.

He was still named to Japan’s team for worlds, where he won his second title in four years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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