Sochi 2014

Russian athletes to learn English before Sochi Olympics

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Russia is pulling out all the stops ahead of the 2014 Olympics, including foreign-language training.

Athletes selected for the 2014 and 2016 Games will get the chance to learn English from an English First program, according to Russian reports.

The Kremlin hopes the Sochi Olympics will improve Russia’s image abroad, and the ability for its athletes to speak English will aid the cause, opined the Moscow Times.

“Our Olympians need English to travel to training camps, communicate with colleagues and give interviews to foreign press,” Russian Olympic Committee president Alexander Zhukov said in an English First statement.

The company ranks Russia 29th out of a pool of 54 countries in English proficiency, worse than any of the European nations included and one spot below Iran.

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Aliya Mustafina off Russia’s World Gymnastics Championships team

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Top Russian gymnast Aliya Mustafina withdrew from the World Gymnastics Championships after being set back by injuries this summer, according to the Russian news agency TASS.

Mustafina’s place on the Russian team wavered in September as she tried to overcome health issues, most notably a back injury.

She was included on an original team of seven athletes — of which one would have to be an alternate — on Sept. 23 after being quoted by Russian media earlier in the month saying she would miss the World Championships in Glasgow in the last week of October.

Mustafina, 21, won all-around medals at the 2010 World Championships (gold), 2012 Olympics (bronze) and 2013 World Championships (bronze) and was fourth in 2014 while dealing with health problems.

Mustafina has been a stalwart in the Russian program. With her, the Russian team took silver behind the U.S. at the 2012 Olympics and bronze at the 2014 World Championships.

The seven-woman Russian team for Worlds includes Viktoria KomovaMaria Paseka and Ksenia Afanasyeva, 2012 Olympians who missed the 2013 and 2014 Worlds. Komova took all-around silver at the 2011 Worlds (behind Jordyn Wieber) and the 2012 Olympics (behind Gabby Douglas)

The new Russian star may be Daria Spiridonova, who won the Russian Cup all-around earlier this month and was also put on the seven-woman team for Glasgow.

MORE GYMNASTICS: Fierce Five member to miss World Championships

Usain Bolt beaten in race by boy YouTube sensation on Ellen

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Usain Bolt wasn’t dressed to race, but he took up a challenge from an unlikely opponent at The Ellen DeGeneres Show on Tuesday.

The six-time Olympic champion went on the show as part of a Los Angeles visit, three days after he partied at Oktoberfest in Munich for a third straight year. Also Tuesday, Bolt met with USC sprinter Andre De Grasse, who shared bronze in the World Championships 100m behind the gold medalist Bolt in Beijing on Aug. 23.

On Ellen, Demarjay Smith, an 8-year-old YouTube sensation for his videos as a personal trainer, said he could beat Bolt in a race. Watch the segment here.

“100 percent,” the Bronx boy said. “Trust me.”

Then Ellen brought Bolt out from off stage, all three of them did push-ups together and then headed to a parking lot for a race.

“Come on, Usain, don’t be scared of me,” the kid said.

Bolt, wearing jeans, did not back down, even though the starting blocks were positioned backwards. Smith clearly false-started, but Bolt didn’t call it back.

They sprinted for about 15 seconds, with Bolt unable to catch Smith and pulling up before the finish line, holding the back of his right leg.

“I got cramps,” Bolt said. “You got lucky, man. I want a rematch, though.”

Also on Ellen, Bolt talked about training for his last Olympics and that he’s considered moving into acting after his planned 2017 retirement. Watch part of that interview here.

MORE BOLT: Bolt receives gift from Segway cameraman

Big deal business.. Check me out tomorrow on @theellenshow

A photo posted by Usain St.Leo Bolt (@usainbolt) on