Andy Murray

Scotland could have its own team at Rio 2016 Olympics

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Imagine if Andy Murray won Olympic gold at Wimbledon last year … for Scotland.

Scotland could vote for its independence next September. If it does, it will take steps to establish its own Olympic team for Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

“We’re comfortable and assured Scotland will have its own Olympic and Paralympic team. It will bring many benefits,” Scotland sports minister Shona Robison told the BBC.

Scottish athletes helped Great Britain to fourth place in the overall medal standings at the 2012 Olympics, winning around 18 percent of Team GB’s medals, according to The Associated Press.

The Guardian reported that support among voters for independence is as low as 35 percent, but that 40 to 50 percent of voters could be undecided or willing to switch sides.

The most high-profile Scottish Olympians were Murray, track cyclist Chris Hoy (now retired) and swimmer Michael Jamieson. Hoy won seven medals over four Olympics — six gold — making him the most decorated British Olympian of all time.

Murray is the No. 3 ranked men’s singles tennis player in the world. The next highest British player is No. 152.

Keep in mind golf, which returns to the Olympics in 2016, originated in Scotland. There are no Scottish men’s golfers in the top 60 in the Official World Golf Ranking, so having a separate Scottish team could open up spots for the likes of Martin Laird and Richie Ramsay. Team GB could also lose World No. 4 Rory McIlroy, who may compete for Ireland. McIlroy is from Northern Ireland.

The top-ranked British women’s golfer is Scottish. That’s No. 10 Catriona Matthew, 44, winner of the 2009 British Open. Britain otherwise has only one woman in the top 100.

Robison said Scotland meets the criteria for Scotland to be an Olympic nation: being an independent state recognized by the international community, having a solid sports structure and at least five national federations affiliated to international federations of Olympic sports.

Scotland to host Duel in the Pool in December

Final three Pyeongchang Olympic men’s hockey spots set to be filled

Anze Kopitar
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The 2018 Olympic men’s hockey field of 12 teams will be complete by the end of this weekend.

The last three spots will go to winners of three round-robin qualifying tournaments in Europe that run from Thursday through Sunday.

The Olympic Channel will stream the action.

The current Olympic men’s hockey groups (world ranking in parentheses):

Group A Group B Group C
Canada (1) Russia (2) Finland (3)
Czech Republic (6) USA (4) Sweden (5)
Switzerland (7) Slovakia (8) Qualifier 1
South Korea (23 — host) Qualifier 3 Qualifier 2

Those three qualifiers will be the winners of these three tournaments this weekend:

Tournament 1 Tournament 2 Tournament 3
Belarus (9 — host) Germany (10) Norway (11 — host)
Denmark (13) Latvia (12 — host) France (14)
Slovenia (15) Austria (17) Kazakhstan (16)
Poland (20) Japan (21) Italy (18)

All of the Olympic medal contenders are among the nine nations already in the Pyeongchang field, but a few notables are vying for spots this weekend.

Belarus memorably upset Sweden in the 2002 Olympic quarterfinals and wound up fourth in Salt Lake City. It last competed in the Olympics in 2010. Belarus’ biggest competition in its qualifying tournament may be Slovenia, which won two games at the Sochi Olympics and is led by Los Angeles Kings All-Star Anze Kopitar.

Like Belarus, Germany also last played at the Olympics in 2010. More recently, it beat the U.S. at the World Championship in May, behind New York Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss. To get to Pyeongchang, Germany must top a group that includes host Latvia, which made the last four Olympics and beat Switzerland in Sochi.

Norway hosts the group with the least amount of recent Olympic experience. None of France, Kazakhstan or Italy made either of the last two Olympics. Norway ought to be favored, then, since it reached the 2010 and 2014 Olympics, though it lost every contest at both Winter Games. New York Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello stars for the Norwegians.

It’s unknown whether the NHL will send its players to the 2018 Olympics.

MORE: Canada holds Soviet-like dominance after another world hockey title

Four more Beijing 2008 medalists stripped after doping retests

FILE - In this Aug. 7, 2008 file photo, a protective fence shows a Beijing 2008 logo outside the National Stadium, known as the "Birds Nest", in Beijing. Three Olympic champion weightlifters from China and eight other medalists stand to be stripped of their titles after failing retests of their doping samples from the 2008 Olympics. Chinese gold medalists Cao Lei, Liu Chunhong and Chen Xiexia all tested positive for GHRP-2, which stimulates growth hormone production, while Liu also tested positive for the stimulant sibutramine.
(AP Photo/Petr David Josek, file)
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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — The IOC has stripped four more athletes — including three Russians — of medals from the 2008 Beijing Olympics after their doping samples were retested and came back positive.

A total of six athletes were sanctioned Wednesday by the International Olympic Committee based on reanalysis of their samples with improved techniques. They were among the 98 positive cases recorded in the retesting of samples from Beijing and the 2012 London Olympics.

The IOC says Tatyana Firova was stripped of her silver medal in the women’s 4×400-meter relay after testing positive for turinabol and other steroids. She also had her ninth-place finish in the individual 400m annulled.

Russia had already been stripped of the relay medal earlier this month when Anastasia Kapachinskaya tested positive.

MORE: Russian Olympic medalists gifts include racehorse