North Pole

Sochi Olympic torch relay begins trek to North Pole

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Over the next two weeks, the Olympic flame will journey to and from the North Pole.

One of the most ambitious parts of the Sochi Olympic torch relay has started, according to Sochi Olympic Organizing Committee president Dmitry Chernyshenko.

The flame is aboard Russian icebreaker ship “50 years of victory” and will travel more then 3,000 miles from Murmansk, Russia, to the North Pole for a lighting ceremony and back to Murmansk.

Among the torch bearers for the North Pole trip is an American, University of Alaska Fairbanks Vice Chancellor Pat Pitney. Pitney, 48, won a gold medal in shooting at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

“It is humbling to be selected to represent the United States, Alaska, the Arctic, UAF and the Olympic movement,” Pitney said in a press release, according to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. “Imagine, carrying the Olympic torch around the North Pole; I am so excited.”

Torch bearers before the North Pole trip included those who carried torches during the Moscow 1980 Olympic torch relay.

A torch — but not the flame — is expected to go into space and reach the International Space Station in November.

The torch design has been tweaked for the space mission to prevent it from slipping out of a bearer’s grip during a spacewalk, according to R-Sport.

An unlit torch with an extra tether attached is to be carried into open space by cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazansky, during which time it will orbit Earth several times, said the head of the Cosmonauts’ Training Center Sergei Krikalev.

“The Olympic torch for space is just like the one for Earth, but there will be no gas in it,” he said.

“To take it into open space the object was reworked: An extra fixing element has been added to attach a tether to, just so it doesn’t happen to fly away,” Krikalev added.

Dolphin to be part of torch relay

IOC expects decisions on Russian doping cases next month

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Investigators at the International Olympic Committee expect to have “a number” of doping cases involving Russians at the Sochi Olympics resolved by the end of November, but they have no plans to dictate the eligibility of these athletes for next year’s Winter Games in PyeongChang.

The leader of an IOC delegation in charge of reviewing 28 cases involving athletes at Sochi wrote to the head of the IOC Athletes Commission this week to update the timeline of cases stemming from a report detailing a Russian doping scheme at the 2014 Olympics and beforehand.

Denis Oswald said that of the cases his committee is reviewing, priority has been given to those involving athletes looking to compete in PyeongChang. Top priority goes to six cross-country skiers whose provisional suspensions expire Oct. 31.

Oswald also said his committee would rule on these athletes’ results for Sochi, but will not determine their eligibility for PyeongChang, instead handing over evidence to their respective sports federations to decide.

The IOC also appointed a task force to look at the Russian doping scandal as a whole, the results of which could have wider repercussions on the country’s eligibility at next year’s Olympics.

In a separate letter sent to worldwide sports leaders, IOC President Thomas Bach said only that the Schmid Commission is continuing its evaluation and that “I hope that the IOC Executive Board will still be able to take a decision this year because none of us want this serious issue to overshadow” the upcoming Olympics.

The updates come amid a growing chorus of calls for a timely decision and for Russia’s ouster from PyeongChang.

The IOC commissions are operating off information from the McLaren Report, the first part of which was released in July 2016.

In explaining the timeline, Oswald wrote that because the Russian scheme involved exchanging dirty urine samples with clean ones, it took time to adopt methods to verify that samples had been tampered with — in part by finding evidence of scratch marks on collection bottles that had been opened and re-sealed.

“The task has not been easy in both establishing a methodology in an area in which there are no established protocols,” he wrote, “and then moving through the necessary scientific analysis of each individual sample in a way which would withstand legal challenge.”

MORE: USOC boss calls for immediate action on Russian doping

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Two-time Olympian becomes first woman to lead U.S. national swim team

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Two-time Olympian Lindsay Mintenko has been picked to lead the U.S. national swimming team. She is the first woman to hold the title.

USA Swimming made the announcement Wednesday.

Mintenko replaces Frank Busch, who retired Oct. 1 as managing director. She has been a member of the national team staff since 2006.

During her swimming career, Mintenko won gold medals as a U.S. team captain at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics 800m freestyle relay and added a silver in 2004 on the 400m freestyle relay.

USA Swimming also announced an organizational restructuring that will place all technical divisions, including the national team, under the oversight of chief operating officer Mike Unger.

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