Tatyana McFadden

NBC Olympics, U.S. Olympic Committee acquire media rights to Paralympics in 2014, 2016

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NBC and NBCSN will air 116 combined hours of coverage of the next two Paralympic Games — Sochi 2014 and Rio 2016 — as NBC Olympics and the U.S. Olympic Committee partnered to acquire U.S. media rights.

NBC and NBCSN will air 50 hours of TV coverage of the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, beginning March 7 with the opening ceremony, continuing with daily coverage and ending with the closing ceremony March 16.

The networks will air 66 hours of coverage of the Rio Paralympics in September 2016, an increase of 60.5 hours from the coverage of the London 2012 Paralympics.

The USOC will provide live coverage of the Sochi and Rio Paralympics at TeamUSA.org, too.

“With the support of the IPC, USOC and leading corporate sponsors, we are thrilled to provide an unprecedented level of coverage for the Paralympic Games from both Sochi and Rio,” said Gary Zenkel, president of NBC Olympics. “We look forward to telling the inspiring stories of the athletes and capturing the compelling competition across NBC and NBCSN.”

In Sochi, NBCSN will broadcast 46.5 hours, and NBC will air an additional 3.5 hours. The Paralympic Winter Games span Alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing, sled hockey, wheelchair curling and the new discipline of snowboardcross.

The USOC will add live coverage of all competition, including 72 medal events, and the opening and closing ceremonies.

“We are absolutely delighted to announce this two-Games agreement with NBC and the USOC as it provides more airtime of the Paralympics than ever before in the U.S.,” said Sir Phillip Craven, president of the International Paralympic Committee. “Following the success of London 2012, we said it was absolutely essential for the growth of the Paralympic Movement and the Paralympic Games that in future years U.S audiences had a greater opportunity to watch some of the world’s best elite athletes in action.

“This is tremendous news for sports fans, too, many of which will be able to watch a Paralympic Games live for the first time. I am sure they will be as captivated and emotionally enthralled as the billions around the world who tuned into London 2012 last summer.”

U.S. Paralympic star from 2012 shoots for Sochi Games

More Olympic distance-running medalists banned for doping

Gamze Bulut
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MONACO (AP) — Turkish runner Elvan Abeylegesse has been banned for doping and stands to lose two Olympic silver medals.

The IAAF says Abeylegesse tested positive for the banned steroid stanozolol in a retest of a sample she gave at the 2007 World Championships.

She has been banned for two years and had her results wiped out from 2007-09.

Abeylegesse won Olympic silver medals in the 5000m and 10,000m at the 2008 Beijing Games and silver in the 10,000m at the 2007 world championships.

The IAAF also said it had imposed a four-year ban on another Turkish runner, Gamze Bulut, for a violation of its biological passport program. Bulut won 1500m silver at the 2012 London Olympics.

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Maria Sharapova not fully committed to 2020 Olympic run

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The rumors and reports have been out for months, but asked directly, Maria Sharapova wasn’t immediately quite sure how to answer when asked about going for the 2020 Olympics.

“Ooh, I don’t, umm,” Sharapova said, laughing lightly, sitting across from retired U.S. Olympic soccer champion Julia Foudy at a conference in Rancho Mirage, Calif., on Tuesday (video here). “It’s a question I’ve been asked, and I’d love to sit here today and say yes, in three-so years that is where I want to be. But it’s hard. It’s hard to look that far, also being a woman that’s also [turning] 30 years [old in three weeks]. I want to have a family. I want to be a mother. Those are definitely long-term goals of mine. But of course to compete in another Olympics, that’s an athlete’s dream. I’d love to be a part of that.”

Sharapova is set to return from her 15-month meldonium ban next month. What stings the most about her suspension?

“Something was taken away from you that you’ve done so passionately since you were a little girl,” she said. “Although I’m at a stage and an age in my career and in my life where you’re closer to the end than you are to the beginning, you always want to end your career or a chapter in your life on your terms and in your voice. And to be in a moment where you feel or you felt like it could have ended on someone else’s voice and someone else’s terms was very difficult to accept. That’s why I fought so hard for the truth to be out. You don’t realize how much you love something and how much something it means to you until you lose it for some time. It gave me a chance also to live.”

Sharapova joked about going to Coachella last year.

“There’s 120,000 people doing drugs that I’m not aware of?” she said, laughing. “And completely being out of my element. I was like, OK? … I’m skipping Coachella this year, because I got my day-job back.”

The fans’ reaction when she gets back on the competition courts?

“I don’t know if there’s much that I can control,” she said.

Earlier this month, her agent reportedly said he thought that Sharapova will play through the 2020 Tokyo Games if healthy.

Sharapova will be 33 years old come the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, two years older than any previous Russian Olympic tennis player. She will likely have to be ranked among the top four Russians in the world in spring 2020 to qualify for the Games outright.

Sharapova’s passion for the Olympics is well documented.

She carried the Russian flag into the London 2012 Opening Ceremony and carried the Olympic flame into Fisht Stadium at the Sochi 2014 Opening Ceremony, where she worked for NBC Olympics.

“It was the one thing that my parents allowed me to watch on TV late into the evening was the Olympics,” Sharapova said Tuesday. “I grew up watching figure skating and hockey and a little bit of tennis. … Just capturing the Opening Ceremonies and seeing all the countries and the little hats that they wore, and I, as a little girl, I just imagined that maybe it would be me. But I never, ever thought that I would be carrying the flag.

“I received that [flag] honor in a text message, which is a very Russian way of communicating. I originally thought it was a joke, a big fat joke. Then I showed it to my mother, and she [said], no, they probably wouldn’t joke like that.”

In February 2016, Sharapova entered a Fed Cup tie, despite saying she was injured, in order to receive Olympic eligibility.

One month later, her failed drug test was announced.

Two women’s players, Steffi Graf and Serena Williams, have achieved the singles career Golden Slam — winning all four majors and the Olympics. Sharapova, beaten by Williams 6-0, 6-1 in the London 2012 final, is a Tokyo title away from joining them.

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