Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin addresses Russia’s anti-gay law, Sochi Olympic costs, hockey

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Russian president Vladimir Putin said he hopes there will be no “negative implications” around the Sochi Olympics from his country’s law banning the promotion of “non-traditional” sexual relations toward minors.

Russian officials have said that homosexuals will not be discriminated against during the Games, Feb. 7-23, but that the law will be enforced.

“We have no laws against people with non-traditional sexual orientation,” Putin said, according to a 13,000-word transcript on the Kremlin’s website. “You kind of create an illusion among millions of spectators that we do have such laws, but we do not have such laws in Russia. Russia has adopted the law banning propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors, but these are completely different things.”

Putin was asked specifically about the term “propaganda” in the law, and what that could mean. Here’s the question and answer on the Kremlin’s site:

JOHN DANISZEWSKI: When the law says it’s a crime to do propaganda, would that include things like waiving a rainbow flag or painting your body in rainbow colours? Is that propaganda for young people? Will visitors and athletes have to have these kinds of concern?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: No. In Russia, people who initiated these laws and who adopted this law (I, by the way, was not the initiator) assumed that homosexual marriages do not give children. Russia is going through hard times in terms of demographics. And we are more interested in full-fledged families and more children. It is not the main thing in the whole system of measures aimed at supporting demographic processes. But I think the authors of the law were guided by the need to solve demographic problems and were far from the idea of infringing anyone’s rights. And certainly not during the Olympic Games or other mass sport events, especially the Olympics – one can be absolutely sure that Russia will faithfully follow the principles of Olympism, which do not admit any kind of discrimination, national, gender, or sexual one, mentioned by you.

Putin also said he works with gay people and has awarded them state medals. He praised famous 19th-century Russian composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky, who was said to be homosexual.

“We have absolutely normal relations, and I don’t see anything out of the ordinary here,” Putin said, according to The Associated Press. “Truth be told, we don’t love him because of that, but he was a great musician and we all love his music.”

Putin said he would be open to meeting with members of the LGBT community.

Putin was also asked about Sochi Olympic spending and said 214 billion rubles ($6.4 billion) will be spent to prepare for the Games in February. Of the 214 billion, 100 billion came from the government and 114 billion from “private investors,” Putin said.

In February, the Russian government commission said 1.5 trillion rubles ($45 billion) would be spent, slightly more than the Olympic record cost of the 2008 Beijing Games, according to RIA Novosti.

“This country may have spent more to prepare for the Games in general, yet it has not invested more than any other country in the Olympic facilities themselves,” Putin said.

Finally, there was this exchange:

JOHN DANISZEWSKI: Are you willing tonight to predict the gold for the Russian hockey team?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Of course, I can.

JOHN DANISZEWSKI: Ok, we will see.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: And what will you see? I have not yet told you what my predictions are.

JOHN DANISZEWSKI: Oh, I thought you were predicting a Russian victory. Or maybe just snow, there’ll be a lot of snow.

Pavel Bure says Russia ‘indisputable’ favorite for men’s hockey gold

U.S. adds another medal at cross-country skiing worlds

LAHTI, FINLAND - FEBRUARY 26:  Jessica Diggins (L) of USA celebrate with team mate Sadie Bjornsen winning 3rd place in the Men's and Women's Cross Country Team Sprint Final during the FIS Nordic World Ski Championship on February 26, 2017 in Lahti, Finland.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
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Cross-country skiers Jessie Diggins and Sadie Bjornsen made it three medals for the U.S. at the world championships on Sunday.

Diggins and Bjornsen earned bronze in the team sprint event, 18.38 seconds behind winner Norway and 12.8 seconds behind silver medalist Russia. Diggins and Kikkan Randall previously earned silver and bronze in the individual sprint on Thursday.

It’s the first worlds where the U.S. has earned medals in multiple cross-country events.

On Sunday, Diggins lunged at the line to beat Sweden to third place by a fifth of a second.

“I was double poling like a maniac,” Diggins said, according to the U.S. Ski Team. “I skied the downhill the best I knew how and was able to draft her and get into my own lane with the best line — I took the inside lane so I knew I would be able to pick my track going into the final 100 meters. Then I just double poled my heart out.”

Bjornsen fell after completing the second exchange and was struck in the face by Russian Yulia Belorukova‘s ski, but was able to continue.

The team sprint is a 6×1.3km relay, with each country’s skiers alternating to race three legs each. It will be contested at the 2018 Olympics in the freestyle technique. Sunday’s event was classic skiing, marking the first American medal in worlds in the classic technique since the two disciplines were established.

Russia won the men’s team sprint after a dramatic last-lap crash wrecked the chances of the two leading teams.

Norway’s Emil Iversen was fighting for the lead with Finland’s Iivo Niskanen but they collided as the Finn moved to overtake on the inside of the final bend.

Sergei Ustyugov took the win for Russia, overtaking Italian Federico Pellegrino on the final stretch to win by 2.2 seconds. Niskanen recovered to take third, 6.5 seconds further back.

It was the second win in two days for Ustyugov, who also won Saturday’s skiathlon, and his third medal of the championships.

Ustyugov’s teammate for Sunday’s race, Nikita Kryukov, said the win was “revenge for Sochi,” a reference to the 2014 Winter Olympics, when Finland beat Russia to gold in the men’s team sprint in front of a Russian home crowd.

Also Sunday, Germany won the men’s team Nordic combined normal hill event. The Germans dominated the ski jumping to take a 44-second advantage into the 4x5km cross-country ski stage, and preserved that margin to win by 41.7 seconds from Norway.

Austria won a close battle with Japan to take third, 22 seconds behind the Norwegians.

It was Germany’s second gold medal in Nordic combined at the world championships after Johannes Rydzeck led a 1-2-3 finish in the men’s individual normal hill event Friday.

The Germans added another gold medal with a dominant victory in the mixed team ski jumping.

They led after each of the eight rounds and racked up a winning score of 1035.5 points, with strong jumps from Markus Eisenbichler, who set the longest jump at 99.5 meters, and the newly crowned women’s world champion Carina Vogt.

Austria was second on 999.3 and Japan third on 979.7.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Germany, with tie for gold, sweeps four-man bobsled medals to close worlds

INNSBRUCK, AUSTRIA - FEBRUARY 05:  Francesco Friedrich, Candy Bauer, Martin Grothkopp and Thorsten Margis of Germany compete during the final run of the 4-man Bobsleigh BMW IBSF World Cup at Olympiabobbahn Igls on February 5, 2017 in Innsbruck, Austria.  (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images For IBSF)
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With a tie for four-man gold, Germany notched the first-ever men’s bobsled medal sweep at an Olympics or world championships on Sunday.

Francesco Friedrich and Johannes Lochner tied for the four-man world title with identical times after four runs of 3:14.10 in Koenigssee, Germany. Countryman Nico Walther took bronze, .16 behind.

The top American was 2010 Olympic champion Steven Holcomb in fifth. Holcomb was .01 out of bronze going into the fourth and final run but ended up. 18 behind Walther.

“This is really hard to swallow for these guys,” U.S. coach Brian Shimer said, according to U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton. “Holcomb’s team is starting to show signs of greatness, and they’ve come a long way for such a young push crew, and Holcomb continues to get back to his old self after a couple of years of injuries. I know he’s got to be really disappointed, but this race showed we’re taking a big step in the right direction.”

Germany completed a dominant world bobsled and skeleton championships by taking eight of the 15 medals in Olympic-program events. Last weekend, Friedrich earned his fourth straight world title in two-man bobsled.

Earlier Sunday, Latvian Martins Dukurs won his fifth skeleton world title in the last six editions. Dukurs, who settled for silver at the 2010 and 2014 Olympics, beat German Axel Jungk by .37 after four runs in Koenigssee.

“I was really lucky, especially my fourth run was awful,” said Dukurs, who held on despite having the fourth-fastest third and fourth runs. “But that’s the past, luckily for me also the other guys made mistakes.”

Russian Olympian Nikita Tregybov took bronze. Olympic bronze medalist Matthew Antoine was the top American in seventh.

“I’m disappointed, seventh isn’t what I came here to achieve,” Antoine said, according to U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton. “I don’t think I slid all that poorly, but I didn’t push very well, and on a track like this, you can’t give up that much at the start and expect to have a good result. The reality is that I’m an Olympic medalist and results like this don’t mean anything to me.”

The race lacked one of the PyeongChang Olympic favorites, South Korean Yun Sung-bin, who skipped worlds to get more training time in South Korea.

The rest of the top bobsledders and skeleton sliders will join Yun in South Korea in March for training and the final World Cup stop at the 2018 Olympic venue.

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