Baseball hopes WBC success will help Olympic bid

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While wrestling fans are new to wondering how and why their sport was unceremoniously ousted from the Olympics, the feeling is old hat for baseball and softball aficionados, who saw their sports voted out in a similar fashion back in 2005.

But with all three sports vying to reenter the Games through upcoming IOC votes, baseball and softball officials think the success of the recent World Baseball Classic has boosted their chances of regaining Olympic status for the 2020 Games.

Apparently the global ticket sales and broadcast numbers exceeded expectations, which WBSF co-president Riccardo Fraccari said “clearly indicate that our sport could help further drive the Olympic brand in key and lucrative regions.”

The other WBSF co-president, Don Porter, echoed the sentiment, saying he believes baseball and softball can be the “next global game.” No doubt that wrestlers have a different opinion.

Nathan Chen leads Yuzuru Hanyu at Grand Prix opener (video)

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U.S. champion Nathan Chen hopes to become comfortable in this spot this season — ahead of reigning Olympic and world champion Yuzuru Hanyu in the standings.

The 18-year-old Chen landed two quadruple jumps in his short program at the opening Grand Prix event in Moscow, taking a 5.69-point lead over Hanyu going into Saturday’s free skate.

Two-time world champion Yevgenia Medvedeva of Russia topped the women’s short program with 80.75 points (one tenth off her world record).

Full Rostelecom Cup results are here.

Chen’s tally — 100.54 points — is the second-highest short of his flourishing international career. It would have been higher if not for two of his three jumping passes receiving negative grades of execution for wonky landings.

The Japanese megastar Hanyu fell on his final jump, a triple toe loop, on Friday. No matter, Winnie the Pooh bears rained down on the ice from the adoring crowd, many of whom traveled from Japan.

Hanyu scored 94.85 points, one month after breaking his world record short program score with 112.72 points in a small event in Canada.

“Today I made some mistakes in my short program, but overall it didn’t feel bad,” Hanyu said, according to the International Skating Union.

Hanyu, though he is the current PyeongChang favorite, has never won his season-opening Grand Prix event in seven tries.

Chen has now outscored Hanyu, who is four years older, in four of their last eight head-to-head skates.

Hanyu was better in the two biggest programs at last season’s world championships. Chen placed sixth at worlds in April, perhaps gassed at the end of his first senior season while competing on duct-taped skates.

In the women’s standings, Medvedeva topped Olympic bronze medalist Carolina Kostner of Italy by 6.13 points.

American Mirai Nagasu landed a triple Axel that was called under rotated and fell on her other two jumping passes. She ended up ninth, two spots behind U.S. bronze medalist Mariah Bell.

In the short dance, two-time world medalists and U.S. champions Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani tallied 77.30 points.

The siblings lead by .97 over Russians Yekaterina Bobrova and Dmitry Soloviyev going into the free dance.

Russians are one-two in pairs. World bronze medalists Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov lead Olympic silver medalists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov by 5.49.

All of the free skates are Saturday, live on Olympic Channel. A full schedule is here.

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MORE: Figure skating season broadcast schedule

Rostelecom Cup
Men’s Short
1. Nathan Chen (USA) — 100.54
2. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 94.85
3. Dmitriy Aliyev (RUS) — 88.77
11. Grant Hochstein (USA) — 67.56

Women’s Short
1. Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS) — 80.75
2. Carolina Kostner (ITA) — 74.64
3. Wakaba Higuchi (JPN) — 69.60
7. Mariah Bell (USA) — 63.85
9. Mirai Nagasu (USA) — 56.15

Short Dance
1. Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA) — 77.30
2. Yekaterina Bobrova/Dmitry Soloviyev (RUS) — 76.33
3. Alexandra Stepanova/Ivan Bukin (RUS) — 71.32
7. Rachel Parsons/Michael Parsons (USA) — 59.41

Pairs Short
1. Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 76.88
2. Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov (RUS) — 71.39
3. Valentina Marchei/Ondřej Hotárek (ITA) — 68.48
7. Marissa Castelli/Mervin Tran (USA) — 54.37

Chinese farmer who traveled by rickshaw to three Olympics dies

Chen Guanming
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Chen Guanming, the Chinese farmer who traveled by rickshaw to the last three Summer Olympics, died this week, a friend confirmed.

Chen, believed to be in his early 60s, was hit by a truck in Argentina late Thursday night, friend John Beeston said.

“It’s very sad, and it’s shaken a lot of people,” said Beeston, a British insurance broker who first met Chen in London in 2012. “He made so many friends and did so much good for the Chinese community. Since he crossed over Canada and down to the Americas [for the Rio Games], everywhere he’s won more and more friends.”

Chen made headlines around the world for taking his rickshaw to the first Olympics in his home nation in Beijing in 2008, traveling 500 miles.

He then traveled across 16 countries, some 37,000 miles, in just over two years, to make it to the London Games.

“I’m a big fan of Olympic Games,” he told the BBC in 2012.

For Rio 2016, Chen flew to Canada and took his rickshaw through the U.S. and Central America to Brazil. He planned to take his rickshaw to Tokyo in 2020.

“I have seen the world and made many friends,” Chen said in Rio, according to USA Today. “I want to tell the world that the Olympics is about peace.”