Potential 2020 Olympics hosts react to IOC report

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Olympics officials from Tokyo, Istanbul, and Madrid have all apparently done a quick read-through of the IOC Evaluation Commission report released Tuesday morning, and all believe they have a shot at earning the right to host the worldwide event.

Tokyo, which has slowly but steadily made its way to the front of the pack during the bidding process, received high marks from the IOC for being a “modern, dynamic city that sets global trends” and for having an efficient transportation system that will serve officials, athletes, and fans.

“We are proud that the report confirms our bid’s very strong technical excellence, which offers certainty in uncertain times for sport,” Tokyo bid leader and Japanese IOC member Tsunekazu Takeda told the AP. “We are also aware that we must deliver much more than just a strong report.”

Meanwhile Istanbul, which is amid its fifth bid in the last six Olympic cycles dating back the 1996 Games, carries the highest price tag at $19 billion, but earned points for its unique ability to literally and figuratively bridge European and Asian continents through the Olympics.

Istanbul’s bid also earned support from 83 percent of its citizens, the most by of the three potential host cities. But massive construction, issues with traffic, and recent violent protests seem to have hurt Istanbul’s chances despite the country having more than seven years to fix any looming issues.

“This report confirms that Istanbul’s bid is firmly on track,” Istanbul Olympic official Hasan Arat said. “We particularly welcome the IOC’s clear endorsement of Istanbul’s unique strengths. We know that we are at least on an equal footing with others in this race… We feel Istanbul is in a very good position.”

Lastly Madrid, in its third straight bid for the Games, seems to be in the back of the pack, as Spain is in the middle of a four year recession and have an unemployment rate hovering around 27 percent. But the high level of support from citizens, the 28 already standing venues, and the extremely low price tag – only $1.9 billion, just one tenth that of Istanbul – is keeping Madrid afloat as they enter the finals stages of bidding.

“The commission believe that the degree of financial risk facing Madrid 2020 should be manageable over seven years within the Spanish economy and taking into account government guarantees.”

IOC members will now spend the next week reading the 110-page report before meeting to discuss it at IOC headquarters on July 3 and 4. Then the three cities will each make one more final pitch to the IOC in Buenos Aires on September 7 before the final secret ballot vote that will determine which city earns the honor.

U.S. figure skating could have its best world team since 2006

Nathan Chen performs during the men's free skate competition at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP
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KANSAS CITY — U.S. figure skating has a shot at medals in three of four disciplines at the world championships in Helsinki in two months, which hasn’t happened in 11 years.

Before this year, the U.S. men and U.S. women hadn’t boasted simultaneous medal contenders in a decade. Johnny Weir and Evan Lysacek spent the 2010 Olympic cycle in the world elite, while the U.S. women faded. After they stopped competing, Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold moved into the women’s medal field while the U.S. searched for a new leading man.

He’s arrived. Nathan Chen confirmed he is one of the world’s best male skaters by landing a record seven quadruple jumps between two programs at Sprint Center this past week.

The 17-year-old already made the podium in an event that featured the world’s best, earning silver at the Grand Prix Final in December. Chen struggled with his short-program jumps at the Grand Prix Final and attempted one fewer quad overall yet still outscored everybody but Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu.

Of all of the U.S. medal hopes at worlds, Chen may face the stiffest trio of challengers. Not only is there Hanyu, but also two-time reigning world champion Javier Fernandez of Spain, plus Japan’s Shoma Uno, all of whom rank higher than Chen in best total scores in international competition this season.

MORE: Chen believes Olympic gold is possible after U.S. title

Wagner, who shares a coach with Chen, did not have her best nationals. She finished second to surprise winner Karen Chen (no relation to Nathan), who has yet to factor internationally.

But Wagner said before and after the U.S. Championships that her focus was to peak for the world championships. The goal for nationals was to make the world team, which required not winning but finishing in the top three. Mission accomplished.

The concern with Wagner is that she hasn’t produced a world medal-caliber result yet this season. Her best score from the fall ranks her sixth among women going to worlds. But Wagner has shown in the last few seasons that she can pull it together for major events. There’s her 2016 World Championships silver medal, plus her three straight Grand Prix Final medals from 2012-14.

At worlds, Wagner will have to deal with a Russian trio capable of sweeping the podium, three strong Japanese skaters, plus the revelation of this season, Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond.

VIDEO: Wagner passed Puffs in emotional press conference moment

The U.S.’ strongest discipline continues to be ice dance. Maia and Alex Shibutani and Madison Chock and Evan Bates finished second and third at the 2016 World Championships. They went one-two at the U.S. Championships this past week.

But two ice dance medals don’t appear to be in the cards in Helsinki. That’s because Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who earned gold and silver at the last two Olympics, came back this season after a two-year break.

Virtue and Moir broke international scoring records in the fall, sweeping their four starts. The two-time reigning world champions, Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France, also beat the U.S. couples at the Grand Prix Final.

The Shibutani siblings and Chock and Bates have never finished ahead of Virtue and Moir in competition. Neither has bettered the French since the December 2014 Grand Prix Final, either.

But all it takes is one dance medal, plus Chen and Wagner at their best in Helsinki, and the U.S. could go into the Olympic year in its best place since 2006.

MORE: Gracie Gold comments on split from coach Frank Carroll

Laurie Hernandez discusses life after Rio, new book on TODAY (video)

Laurie Hernandez
TODAY
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Laurie Hernandez‘s book, “I Got This: To Gold and Beyond,” is out Tuesday, and the Olympic champion gymnast stopped by TODAY on Monday to discuss its contents and life post-Rio.

An excerpt on Hernandez’s experience in Rio and the story of her floor-exercise wink to judges, is here.

On TODAY, Hernandez discussed another interesting anecdote from the book about tissues.

“Before Olympic Trials, we went out to eat, and I had a little breakdown because practice was really rough, and my routines weren’t coming the way I wanted them to,” she said. “This poor waitress kept bringing me over piles of tissues. … We were leaving, and my sister [Jelysa] told my dad, I’m going to save these tissues. I’m going to give them to her when she makes the team. I’m thinking to myself, you guys are crazy, this is not going to happen.”

Hernandez went on to finish second to Simone Biles at the Olympic Trials and make the five-woman Olympic team as the first U.S. female Olympian born in the 2000s.

The family celebrated the achievement, where Jelysa handed the tissues to Hernandez in a bag.

“Even when you fell, you couldn’t believe in yourself, we were there for you,” Jelysa told her.

“So it was a really defining moment,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez is away from gymnastics while promoting her book and touring with “Dancing with the Stars,” but she is expected to return to the sport at some point.

MORE: Hernandez explains 2017 goals: First date, driver’s license, Law & Order