Tokyo 2020

Tokyo’s chances of hosting 2020 Olympics

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The International Olympic Committee will make the first of three major votes at its session in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Saturday.

Nearly 100 IOC members will choose the host city of the 2020 Olympics — Istanbul, Madrid or Tokyo — via secret ballot beginning at 2:45 p.m. Eastern Time with the winner scheduled to be announced between 4 and 4:30. For more on what happens Saturday, click here.

OlympicTalk will look at the chances each city has of winning the vote. Here is a rundown of Tokyo:

IOC president Jacques Rogge will take the stage at the Buenos Aires Hilton on Saturday afternoon and announce an Olympic host city one last time. Will it go like this …

“The Games of the 32nd Olympiad are awarded to the city of … (opens envelope) … Tokyo.”

The oddsmakers say it likely will. The Associated Press called the Japanese capital a “slight favorite.” A complex mathematical formula on a website dedicated to predicting Olympic bid cities spit out Tokyo at No. 1, too.

Tokyo, which hosted the 1964 Olympics, isn’t as sexy of a pick as Istanbul. It doesn’t have as much bidding experience or IOC influence as Madrid. But it is steady, with $4.5 billion in the bank and without the unrest of Turkey (and its neighbor Syria) and the economic problems of Spain.

“Discover Tomorrow” is its slogan. It may just be in the driver’s seat after bowing out in third place in the 2016 Olympic bidding, but, as Paris 2012 can attest, that’s not always the best place to be.

“There is a sense of nervous energy as we close in on a six-year dream,” Tokyo 2020 leader Tsunekazu Takeda recently told reporters. “We live in challenging and rapidly changing times, and Tokyo’s is the best bid to deliver a dynamic Games in this climate.”

Istanbul’s chances | Madrid’s chances

There is potential to dash that dream. There’s the fact that the 2018 Winter Games are in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Does the IOC want back-to-back Asia Games?

Or the threat of an earthquake or a tsunami and the growing storyline of the leak of radiation-contaminated water at the Fukushima nuclear plant, 155 miles north of Tokyo. Takeda has said Tokyo’s air and water were unaffected by the fifth and largest leak since the plant was damaged by a 2011 tsunami.

Robert Livingstone, who produces the Olympic host city vote prediction website GamesBids.com, has Tokyo as a slight favorite over Istanbul. He said the Fukushima story is a concern but called it a “bit of a red herring.”

“The IOC knows these issues, knows it will be taken care of,” Livingstone said, noting the Olympics are still seven years down the road. “Tokyo has a really good plan, a compact plan. They developed it, did a decent job last time and improved on that plan.”

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In Japan, public support has jumped, from around 50 percent last year to about 70 (IOC poll) or 90 (Tokyo 2020 poll) today. A lack of backing back home hurt its bid for 2016. Much of the infrastructure that would be used in 2020 is already in place with a strong public transport system.

The IOC called Tokyo “a modern, dynamic city that sets global trends and, at the same time, has a strong respect for its history and culture” in its evaluation commission report in April.

“Our bid has strong and passionate public support and is united across all levels of government, sport and business,” Takeda said, “and is ready to deliver outstanding Games that will showcase the importance and inspirational power of sport.”

Key information for IOC session in Buenos Aires

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Karen Chen breaks U.S. Champs scoring record; Ashley Wagner, Gracie Gold trail

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KANSAS CITY — A skater broke the U.S. Championships women’s short program scoring record Thursday night, but it wasn’t Ashley Wagner or Gracie Gold.

Karen Chen, a 17-year-old former junior star who struggled the last two years, tallied 72.82 points at the Sprint Center to lead going into Saturday’s free skate (8 p.m. ET, NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

Mirai Nagasu, a 2010 Olympian, is second, .87 of a point behind.

That leaves Wagner and Gold, who combined to win the last five U.S. titles, in third and fifth, respectively.

This is concerning for Wagner (1.88 behind Chen) and Gold (7.97 behind) given U.S. Figure Skating can send three women to worlds in two months. That selection will be made this weekend, primarily — but not totally — based off U.S. Championships results.

Tessa Hong is in fourth place, but at 14 years old is too young for senior worlds.

Full results are here.

Though Wagner and Gold are usually higher placed, the biggest surprise was Chen.

“My body’s still trembling right now,” she said, two hours after her performance.

Chen skated a clean program Thursday, rare for her in the last couple of seasons. Chen burst onto the scene as a 15-year-old two years ago, finishing third at nationals behind Wagner and Gold.

She was too young to be selected for the 2015 Worlds team. Little has been heard from Chen since.

She dropped to eighth at the 2016 U.S. Championships and came into Kansas City as the seventh-ranked U.S. woman this season. Struggling to find comfortable boots — a common skater problem — has plagued her. She went through 14 pairs in a four-month stretch.

“Everyone has doubts, and I certainly do as well,” said Chen, who choreographed her short program. “But I just kept pushing and telling myself that I’m gaining more experience, I’m learning about everything in the process and I’m just going to keep getting better.”

Wagner bounced back from her last outing — her worst Grand Prix finish in 25 career starts — with a decent program. She needed to save a double Axel near the end of her short. The 2016 World silver medalist was the pre-event favorite.

“People do not understand how difficult of a position I am in,” said Wagner, a 25-year-old bidding to become the oldest U.S. women’s champion in 90 years. “It might seem like I’m on top of the world, or second from being top of the world, but this is a very tough position to be in. It’s mentally been weighing on my shoulders all season. To be able to come out and show people I am a fighter, I’m really proud of that.”

Gold needed to show a fighting spirit given her well-publicized disaster of a fall season. And she did. Her only miss in the short program was doubling a planned triple flip.

“I can feel a huge improvement as a skater. I think everyone can see it,” Gold said. “I have made comebacks before. This doesn’t feel like a major comeback in some ways, because I felt pretty solid. … A long program is worth a lot of points, and I can certainly deliver some good long programs. I kind of feel like I’m due for a good one.”

If Gold doesn’t improve in the free skate, she could be left off the worlds team for the first time in her senior career. However, Gold believes her strong credentials in recent seasons merit consideration.

“We’ve seen different controversies where people aren’t on the [nationals] podium, and they’re still selected for events,” Gold said. “Michelle Kwan has not gone to nationals and been selected for an Olympic team [in 2006]. I believe that I deserve to be on the world team, but I’m not on the selection committee. Of course, every athlete feels like they should be on the world team.”

Earlier Thursday, the pairs short program produced surprise leaders.

The U.S. Championships continue Friday with the short dance and men’s short program. A full broadcast schedule is here.

MORE: U.S. Figure Skating boss wants Russia out of PyeongChang

Women’s Short Program
1. Karen Chen — 72.82
2. Mirai Nagasu — 71.95
3. Ashley Wagner — 70.94
4. Tessa Hong — 65.02
5. Gracie Gold — 64.85

 

Gwen Jorgensen pregnant, to sit out 2017 triathlon season

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 20: USA's Gwen Jorgensen followed by Switzerland's Nicola Spirig Hug (L) compete in the running portion of the women's triathlon at Fort Copacabana during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on August 20, 2016.(Photo by Jeff Pachoud-Pool/Getty Images)
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Olympic triathlon champion Gwen Jorgensen is pregnant and will not compete this year.

“Just kind of take this year a little bit easier,” Jorgensen said in a video posted on Facebook on Thursday.

The baby is due Aug. 3, according to Jorgensen’s social media.

Jorgensen, 30, became the first U.S. Olympic triathlon champion in Rio after going in as the heavy favorite. She has said for months that she planned to take time off to have a baby before returning to defend her Olympic title at Tokyo 2020.

Swiss Nicola Spirig, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist and 2016 silver medalist, is reportedly expecting a child in May.

In Jorgensen and Spirig’s absences, the top triathletes going into the season are defending world champion Flora Duffy of Bermuda, U.S. Olympians Katie Zaferes and Sarah True and Britons Vicky Holland and Helen Jenkins.

Jorgensen’s last competition was the New York City Marathon on Nov. 6, when she finished 14th in her first running race longer than 10 miles.

The World Triathlon Series kicks off in Abu Dhabi the first weekend of March.

MORE: Triathlon federation boss wants Olympic races shortened