Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela’s illness puts potential South Africa Olympic bid on backburner

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A South African member of the International Olympic Committee said the nation will bid on an Olympics, but right now the focus is on Nelson Mandela, according to Around the Rings.

Mandela, 94, the former South African president, has been hospitalized for a month with a recurring lung infection. The latest report from The Associated Press on Tuesday was that he was in critical but stable condition and breathing with a respirator.

“We definitely will be bidding, but we don’t know which one,” IOC member Sam Ramsamy told Around the Rings. “We have to work that out. But with the situation with Mandela everything is put on the backburner. Without government support we can’t do it.

“My personal view is 2028,” Ramsamy said of when South Africa could bid for the first Olympics in Africa. “I think most of the cities are already lining up (for 2024) with Paris, a city from the USA looking at it and Qatar definitely.”

The United States Olympic Committee sent letters to more than 30 U.S. cities in February to gauge interest in a potential bid for 2024. It’s believed around 10 have either signed on or are considering it. The USOC hopes to narrow that list in December and decide on if to bid for 2024 next year.

Qatar is the controversial host of the 2022 World Cup, which could be moved from the U.S. summer to the winter to keep temperatures down. If so, it could run into or near the dates of the 2022 Winter Games.

South Africa became the first African country to host the World Cup in 2010. The nation was barred from the Olympics from 1964 to 1988 because of apartheid. It returned in 1992 and had its most successful Games since in London with six medals, including three gold.

“We could be a very good challenger to (the 2024 suitors), but we won’t decide until after September,” Ramsamy said.

On Sept. 7, the IOC will vote on the host of the 2020 Olympics. The finalists are Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo.

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Ashley Wagner leads U.S. 1-2 at Skate America

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Ashley Wagner bolstered her international reputation again, winning Skate America on Saturday in her first top-level full competition since her world championships silver medal in April.

Wagner totaled 196.44 points over two programs in Hoffman Estates, Ill., holding off countrywoman Mariah Bell by 4.85 points. U.S. champion Gracie Gold was fifth. Full results are here.

“The short program was definitely one of my world-class programs,” Wagner said on NBC. “Long program, I left a little bit out on the table.”

Wagner, who led by 3.75 points after Friday’s short program, was flawed in her free skate, including singling the back end of a jump combination and under-rotating two more jumps.

Still it was enough to overtake Bell, who had the highest free skate score by 3.73 points but was sixth in the short program.

It marked the first U.S. women’s one-two in a Grand Prix event since 2012 Skate America (Wagner and Christina Gao).

“I’m starting to realize my own potential and believe in myself,” Bell, who shares a coach with Wagner, said on NBC. “I’m very excited for the future.”

Gold fell in both of her programs as she tries to bounce back from dropping from first to fourth at last season’s world championships. Gold had her lowest Grand Prix finish (excluding Grand Prix Final) since her debut at 2012 Skate Canada.

Wagner notched her fifth career Grand Prix series win (only Michelle Kwan and Sasha Cohen own more among U.S. women). Wagner joined Kwan as the only women to bag multiple Skate America and U.S. Championships titles.

The women Wagner must be compared with are Russian teens. Wagner ended a 10-year U.S. medal drought at worlds last year, but Russia still rules women’s skating.

None of the top Russians competed at Skate America. Wagner is slated to face 2015 World gold and bronze medalists Elizaveta Tuktamysheva and Yelena Radionova at her next event, Cup of China, in four weeks.

The reigning world champion, Yevgenia Medvedeva, makes her Grand Prix season debut at Skate Canada next week. Medvedeva and Wagner could go head-to-head at the Grand Prix Final in Marseille, France, in December.

Earlier Saturday, Japan’s Shoma Uno topped the men’s short program with 89.15 points, landing one of his two quadruple jump attempts.

Uno, 18, was followed by the last two U.S. champions, Adam Rippon (87.32, no quads) and Jason Brown (85.75, fall on single quad attempt).

The men’s free skate is Sunday at 12:30 p.m. ET (NBC and NBC Sports app).

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Simone Schaller, oldest living Olympian, dies at 104

FILE - In this July 15, 1936, file photo, Simone Schaller, lower right, waves with members of the United States women's Olympic track and field team as they depart for Europe on the SS Manhattan. Schaller, an American hurdler who competed at the 1932 and 1936 Summer Games and was believed to be the oldest living Olympian, died of natural causes Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016,  in the Arcadia, Calif., home she and her husband built when they married in the 1930s, her grandson Jeffrey Hardy said, Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016. She was 104. (AP Photo/File)
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ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) — Simone Schaller, an American hurdler who competed at the 1932 and 1936 Summer Games and was believed to be the oldest living Olympian, has died. She was 104.

Grandson Jeffrey Hardy said Saturday that Schaller died of natural causes Thursday in the home she and her husband built when they married in the 1930s.

Schaller tied Babe Didrikson Zaharias for the world record in the first round of the 80-meter hurdles at the 1932 Los Angeles Games. Schaller finished fourth in the final behind Didrikson, who set another record. According to Olympic historian David Wallechinsky, Schaller had taken up hurdling only three months earlier.

At the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Schaller made it to the semifinals.

She won the hurdles at the 1933 U.S. Championships. She was also an avid tennis player.

Schaller had three children, seven grandchildren, a dozen great-grandchildren and numerous great-great-grandchildren.

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