Tatyana Firova, Kseniya Ryzhova

Russian women kissing after relay victory at World Championships causes stir

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A photo of two members of the Russian women’s 4×400-meter relay team kissing after receiving their gold medals made headlines on the final day of the World Track and Field Championships.

The kiss was looked at by some as a protest to Russia’s law banning the “propagandizing” of “nontraditional sexual relations toward minors.”

Unidentified Russian track team sources denied that it was, according to Sky News.

Sources in the Russian camp claimed Kseniya Ryzhova and Tatyana Firova – who had just won gold in the 4×400 metres relay – were just exchanging a congratulatory kiss and there was no political message involved.

Firova and Ryzhova’s kiss on the podium wasn’t their first that day. They also kissed on the track after the victory, as shown in the photo on the right.

It also wasn’t the only kiss by Russians on the podium. Pretty much the entire four-woman team exchanged pecks, as you can see in this video.

source: Getty Images
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Other athletes made definitive statements about the Russian law at the World Championships, from American Nick Symmonds dedicating his silver medal in the 800 meters to his gay and lesbian friends to Russia’s most famous track and field star, Yelena Isinbayeva, who was reported making comments supporting the law in English. A day later, she said her comments were misunderstood in translation.

Then there are the two Swedish athletes who painted their nails in rainbow colors. Sweden was told by the IAAF, track and field’s international governing body, that it broke rules as a “political statement.” The athlete who competed after the IAAF response, high jumper Emma Green Tregaro, switched her nails to red Saturday.

Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko, who has said the law will be enforced at the Sochi Olympics in February, said Sunday the law won’t infringe on the private lives of those at the Olympics.

“I can say once again that the freedoms of Russian and foreign athletes and guests who come to Sochi will be absolutely protected,” he said, according to The Associated Press. “In my view, Western media, media outside Russia, give more attention to this than we do in Russia.

“We want to protect our children whose psyches have not formed from the propaganda of drug use, drunkenness and non-traditional sexual relations,” he said, according to the AP.

Usain Bolt wins third gold, dances barefoot

Russia’s goal for 2018 Olympics to top medal standings

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 07:  Bobsleigh racer Alexander Zubkov of the Russia Olympic team carries his country's flag during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
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Russia’s goal for the 2018 Olympics is to repeat its success from Sochi by topping the medal standings for a second straight Winter Games, the Russian Olympic Committee president reportedly said Thursday.

“Our team finished in the first place of the unofficial medals standings during the Olympics in Sochi,” Russian Olympic Committee president Alexander Zhukov said, according to Russian news agency TASS. “This is why the priority task for the national team is to maintain its leading position at the 2018 Games.”

Zhukov cautioned that there has been a recent decrease in potential medalists, plus no longer having the home-field advantage as it had in Sochi.

Zhukov’s comments came one day before the second part of a World Anti-Doping Agency-commissioned report investigating Russian doping allegations is to be published.

In May, The New York Times reported that dozens of Russian athletes, including 15 Sochi medalists, were on a state-run doping program leading into the 2014 Winter Games.

So far, no Russian medalists have been found guilty of cheating for the Sochi Olympics.

In Sochi, Russia earned 33 medals and 13 golds. The next highest totals were 28 medals by the U.S. and 11 golds by Norway.

The last time the Winter Games were in East Asia, Russia placed third in total medals and golds behind Germany and Norway at Nagano 1998.

MORE: Russian Olympic champion to oversee RUSADA

Bob McKenzie: ‘It doesn’t look like the NHL is going to South Korea’

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If the status quo doesn’t change, the NHL will likely decide in January not to send players to the 2018 Olympics, insider Bob McKenzie said on NBCSN on Wednesday night.

The NHL Board of Governors is meeting in Florida on Thursday and Friday, and the Olympics are expected to be discussed, but no decision on NHL participation in Pyeongchang is expected.

“Absent some new X-factor that comes into the equation, something that changes up the minds of the governors or other people involved in this Olympic decision, it doesn’t look like the NHL is going to South Korea,” McKenzie said. “But that decision won’t be made until probably January.”

The International Ice Hockey Federation recently met with hockey federations, which asked about a Plan B should the NHL not participate in the Olympics for the first time since 1994.

“There was no real answer, don’t worry, we’ll cross that bridge if we come to it,” McKenzie said. “There are some federations who believe that it’s going to be absolute chaos. For the very simple reason that if you think the National Hockey League doesn’t want to shut down its league, neither do a lot of the European leagues, whether it be Sweden or Finland, Czech Republic, Russia, you name it.”

Earlier this fall, the world’s second-best league — the KHL in Russia — said it planned to take its usual break and release players for the Olympics like it has done for recent Winter Games. KHL rosters for its 29 teams include double-digit Canadians and double-digit Americans, some with NHL experience.

An official from Sweden’s top league said in October that it had not decided if it will take an Olympic break and was following the discussions between the NHL and IIHF.

Finland’s top league said in October that it was planning to take a break in its season to send players to the Olympics, but a final decision had not been made.

NCAA rules allow players to leave their programs for Olympic tryouts and the Games themselves. One active NCAA player competed in the 2014 Olympics — Bowling Green’s Ralfs Freibergs, who missed two college games that season to participate in Sochi for Latvia.

“If the NHLers aren’t going, it could be the wild, wild, west,” McKenzie said. “Try and find a player anywhere to represent your country.”

MORE: 2018 Olympic men’s hockey groups set