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Flame Watch: Sochi confirms Olympic Torch spacewalk

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Sochi CEO Dmitry Chernyshenko confirmed Monday that this year’s record-breaking Relay will include a handoff out in the vacuum of space.

“Nobody has done this before. The spacewalk by two Russian cosmonauts with the Sochi 2014 Olympic torch will be an historic moment in the history of the Olympic torch relay,” Chernyshenko said. “I want to thank the Federal Space Agency for its support which will enable us to take the Sochi 2014 OlympicTorch Relay to the final frontier.”

The Torch will ride to the International Space Station aboard the Soyuz TMA-11M spaceship on November 7, and then Russia cosmonauts Sergei Ryazansky and Oleg Kotov will take it out for a spacewalk sometime during their mission, which was moved up from a few weeks from November 25 in order to accommodate the historic Relay.

Of course, for safety reasons, Chernyshenko stressed that the Flame won’t be lit during its trip.

But while the spacewalk is certainly unique, this will actually be the third time the Torch has traveled outside of Earth’s atmosphere. In 1976, the Flame was converted to an electronic impulse in Greece, then beamed into space and sent back down to Canada via satellite – science! And in 2000 the Torch made a trip aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis ahead of the Sydney Games.

This year’s relay, which starts October 7, will take 123 days, stretch more than 50,000 miles and include more than 14,000 Torchbearers before it lands in Sochi for the Opening Ceremony on February 7.

Mikaela Shiffrin likely to return next week

Mikaela Shiffrin
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Mikaela Shiffrin will probably race the next World Cup slalom in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, next Monday, according to the Denver Post.

Shiffrin, 20 and the reigning Olympic, World and World Cup slalom champion, has been out since suffering a right MCL tear and a bone fracture in a Dec. 12 warm-up crash.

Her timetable for a return this season has shifted in the last eight weeks.

The rescheduling of a canceled Jan. 31 slalom for next Monday changed her previous plans to return the final weekend of February, according to the report.

“Our goal is to have her be really close to 100 percent, if not 100 percent [before competing],” said Shiffrin’s mother, Eileen, in an earlier Denver Post report. “We’ve heard all these horror stories about athletes who went back too soon and then sustained injuries that did end their careers.”

The World Cup season concludes March 20. There are four slaloms left on the calendar, and Shiffrin trails slalom standings leader Frida Hansdotter by 305 points.

A winner receives 100 points per victory, so Shiffrin could take her fourth straight World Cup season title, but it would all but require her to win all four remaining slaloms and for Hansdotter (and others) to struggle.

MORE: Lindsey Vonn’s winning streak snapped

Tony Parker plans to play in Olympic qualifying, Rio Games

Tony Parker
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Tony Parker said he plans to play in both Olympic qualifying in July and the Rio Games in August, according to L’Equipe.

Parker, 33, previously said he could miss the tournaments this summer, at least in part due to his wife’s pregnancy, according to French media.

Parker said his wife is due in late July, which would fall in between France’s Olympic qualifying tournament (July 4-10 in the Philippines) and the Rio Games (Aug. 6-21).

Parker led France at the 2012 Olympics with 15.7 points per game. The French lost two games in London, to the gold medalist U.S. in group play and silver medalist Spain in the quarterfinals.

Parker led all players with 19 points per game at 2013 EuroBasket, won by France.

In September, Parker and France fell in the EuroBasket semifinals to Spain in a winner-goes-to-Rio game.

The defeat forced France to a last-chance, winner-take-all, six-team Olympic qualifying tournament in the Philippines in July.

In the Philippines, France will face a field that includes Canada, which had nine NBA players on its roster (including Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins) at August’s FIBA Americas yet was stunned in a winner-goes-to-Rio game by Venezuela, which had zero NBA players.

France is likely to be without Chicago Bulls All-Star Joakim Noah this summer as he underwent season-ending left shoulder surgery in January and hasn’t played a major tournament for the national team since 2011 EuroBasket.

Other French NBA players include Charlotte Hornets swingman Nicolas Batum, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, San Antonio Spurs forward Boris Diaw and Orlando Magic guard Evan Fournier.

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