We’re still about four years out from the Rio Games, but Irish Olympic committee chair Pat Hickey is already making pleas and concessions in hopes world No. 1 golfer Rory McIlroy will represent Ireland when his sport returns to the Olympics in 2016.
“I will say to Rory that if he declares for Ireland, then he will automatically put himself in pole position to carry the Irish Tricolor into the Olympic stadium in Rio,” Hickey told the Daily Telegraph.
“Can you just imagine what something like this would do for Rory McIlroy? It would suddenly catapult him into the realms of being one of the most instantly recognizable sporting faces on the planet.”
To be fair, the fact that McIlroy is the best athlete in one of the world’s most popular sports has probably done a good job of raising his worldwide profile. Hickey added that he thought Rory made “rash comments” and was “immature” when he recently said that he’s always felt more British than Irish.
McIlroy has since backed off those comments, saying he’s still not sure which team he’ll play for in Rio.
But, it’s probably not a good sign for Hickey or Ireland that McIlroy, who was born in Northern Ireland and can choose between the Irish and British team, was wearing the English flag like a cape while celebrating Europe’s dramatic Ryder Cup win last month. No Irish tricolor was in sight.
The 2018 Olympic men’s hockey field of 12 teams will be complete by the end of this weekend.
The last three spots will go to winners of three round-robin qualifying tournaments in Europe that run from Thursday through Sunday.
The Olympic Channel will stream the action.
The current Olympic men’s hockey groups (world ranking in parentheses):
|Czech Republic (6)
|South Korea (23 — host)
Those three qualifiers will be the winners of these three tournaments this weekend:
|Belarus (9 — host)
||Norway (11 — host)
||Latvia (12 — host)
All of the Olympic medal contenders are among the nine nations already in the Pyeongchang field, but a few notables are vying for spots this weekend.
Belarus memorably upset Sweden in the 2002 Olympic quarterfinals and wound up fourth in Salt Lake City. It last competed in the Olympics in 2010. Belarus’ biggest competition in its qualifying tournament may be Slovenia, which won two games at the Sochi Olympics and is led by Los Angeles Kings All-Star Anze Kopitar.
Like Belarus, Germany also last played at the Olympics in 2010. More recently, it beat the U.S. at the World Championship in May, behind New York Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss. To get to Pyeongchang, Germany must top a group that includes host Latvia, which made the last four Olympics and beat Switzerland in Sochi.
Norway hosts the group with the least amount of recent Olympic experience. None of France, Kazakhstan or Italy made either of the last two Olympics. Norway ought to be favored, then, since it reached the 2010 and 2014 Olympics, though it lost every contest at both Winter Games. New York Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello stars for the Norwegians.
It’s unknown whether the NHL will send its players to the 2018 Olympics.
MORE: Canada holds Soviet-like dominance after another world hockey title
LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — The IOC has stripped four more athletes — including three Russians — of medals from the 2008 Beijing Olympics after their doping samples were retested and came back positive.
A total of six athletes were sanctioned Wednesday by the International Olympic Committee based on reanalysis of their samples with improved techniques. They were among the 98 positive cases recorded in the retesting of samples from Beijing and the 2012 London Olympics.
The IOC says Tatyana Firova was stripped of her silver medal in the women’s 4×400-meter relay after testing positive for turinabol and other steroids. She also had her ninth-place finish in the individual 400m annulled.
Russia had already been stripped of the relay medal earlier this month when Anastasia Kapachinskaya tested positive.
MORE: Russian Olympic medalists gifts include racehorse