Vladimir Putin, Thomas Bach

Vladimir Putin: Sochi ‘almost ready’ for Olympics

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Vladimir Putin said the “overwhelming majority” of sites for the Sochi Olympics are “almost ready” and that a “final push” remains with a little more than 100 days before the Games.

The Russian president made the comments while opening a new railway station in Sochi with new International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach.

“Now that the overwhelming majority of sites are almost ready, there’s a final push left, we need to accomplish this final milestone,” Putin said, according to Reuters. “We need to prepare everything once and for all.”

Bach, 59, praised Russia’s record $50 billion preparations for the Olympics, which begin Feb. 6.

The German is familiar with the Black Sea resort. He was the chairman of the IOC evaluation commission for the city’s bid to host the 2002 Winter Games. Sochi did not make the cut of four finalists. Salt Lake City eventually won the right to host in a landslide.

Video: McKayla Maroney’s not impressed face from 2004

“We are fully confident that the Games will be on a magnificent level,” Bach said, according to Reuters.

“We are extremely grateful to you for the magnificent co-operation we developed in recent years. Sochi and the whole region completed a very big, successful development journey and we have been deeply impressed with this path,” he said in comments translated from German into Russian as he sat next to Putin, a fluent German speaker.

Putin also offered another assurance about Russia’s anti-gay law.

“We will do everything to make sure that athletes, fans and guests feel comfortable at the Olympic Games regardless of their ethnicity, race or sexual orientation,” Putin told Bach in remarks broadcast on Russian television, according to Agence France-Presse.

Bach also questioned Putin about the amount of snow for the Olympics, which has been a question. Organizers have stowed about 500,000 cubic meters of snow from this past winter in case of a shortage.

“And we’ll add more, we hope,” Putin said, according to R-Sport.

Photos: Olympic flame’s trip to North Pole

Helen Maroulis lifts Teddy Roosevelt at Nationals game (video)

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U.S. Olympic wrestling gold medalist Helen Maroulis took down a 13-time world champion in Rio. As part of her homecoming celebration, she lifted up the 26th President of the United States.

Maroulis followed fellow Maryland native Katie Ledecky in being honored at a Washington Nationals game Thursday night.

Maroulis did not throw a ceremonial first pitch, as Ledecky did, making headlines using Bryce Harper as a medal rack.

But Maroulis had her own viral moment, showing off her strength in lifting Teddy Roosevelt off the ground after the famed Presidents Race.

Maroulis, who became the first U.S. Olympic women’s wrestling champion in Rio by dethroning Japanese legend Saori Yoshida, aims to return to training after a break and wrestle through the 2020 Tokyo Games.

MORE: Historic win for Maroulis came with stunning dietary discipline

Appeal for harsher Oscar Pistorius murder sentence denied

Oscar Pistorius
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JOHANNESBURG (AP) — A South African judge on Friday dismissed an appeal by prosecutors for a harsher sentence against Oscar Pistorius who was found guilty of murder for killing his girlfriend in 2013.

Judge Thokozile Masipa said the state’s appeal to extend the six-year sentence against the 29-year-old double amputee Olympic sprinter had a limited prospect of success.

“I am not persuaded that there are reasonable prospects of success for an appeal,” she said in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg.

Pistorius shot Reeva Steenkamp, 29, in the early hours of Feb. 14. He claimed he thought she was an intruder. The state charged that he shot her in anger after an argument. Pistorius was found guilty of murder and sentenced by Masipa to six years in prison.

The sentence was “shockingly light” and that the judge should have used 15-year minimum as starting point as Steenkamp had suffered a “horrendous death,” said prosecutor Gerrie Nel.

Pistorius never offered an acceptable explanation for having fired four shots through the toilet door, he said.

The fact that Pistorius fired four shots using hollow point bullets that are designed to inflict maximum damage meant the possibility of death was more likely and should have been an aggravating factor, said Nel.

The state may appeal Masipa’s decision at the Supreme Court of Appeals in the city of Bloemfontein, but is yet to indicate whether it will do so.

MORE: Oscar Pistorius timeline since London Olympics