Semyon Varlamov

Russian politician says goalie Semyon Varlamov’s arrest meant to weaken Olympic team

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A senior Russian politician says Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov‘s arrest over domestic violence charges is motivated by the U.S. attempting to weaken Russia’s hockey team for the Sochi 2014 Olympics.

“I’m confident of Semyon’s innocence,” State Duma deputy Igor Ananskikh said, according to R-Sport. “I think it is sports and political move, as Varlamov is a candidate for the Russian national team. The main goal is to suspend him from training and games so that he loses practice and misses the Olympics.”

Ananskikh elaborated, according to Voice of Russia.

“The situation is really strange, given that the Sochi Olympics will take place soon and Varlamov is a candidate to become part of our national hockey team which we do count on. What about presumption of innocence? It’s not normal at all. Varlamov will fall out of the training process which will have an impact on his readiness before the Olympics in Sochi. The first thing that comes to my mind is that it is an effort to weaken our national team.”

Varlamov has been the top Russian goalie in the NHL this season and could start for the team at the Sochi Games. The U.S. plays Russia on the second Saturday of the Olympics.

ProHockeyTalk has the details on Varlamov turning himself in after charges of second-degree kidnapping and third-degree assault.

Varlamov’s father told R-Sport that no crime was committed.

UPDATE: Russian hockey executive director Valery Fesyuk had this to say, according to a Russian report translated by Yahoo!:

“This is an unpleasant situation. We can only hope that everything is resolved positively. … It would have been better not to have these types on news at all with less than 100 days before the start of the Games, to the success of which we are investing all our resources.”

Martin Brodeur picks Canada’s Olympic goalies

Olympic flame arrives in Brazil (video)

Brazil Olympic flame
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BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — The Brazilian torch relay for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics has kicked off with volleyball player Fabiana Claudino running the first leg after the torch was ignited by embattled President Dilma Rousseff.

Rousseff says “Brazil is ready to host the most successful Olympics in history.”

The Olympic flame arrived in a lantern on a flight from Switzerland a few hours earlier and was taken to the Planalto presidential palace.

The three-month relay across Brazil, ending at the opening ceremony on Aug. 5 at the Maracanã Stadium in Rio, will involve 329 cities and 12,000 torchbearers. Rio organizers hope it will build enthusiasm for the games, which has lagged as Brazil battles bribery and corruption scandals and its deepest recession in decades.

The start of the relay comes just a week before the Brazilian senate is expected to suspend Rousseff for six months as it considers her impeachment.

MORE: Rio Olympic flame will live downtown — not in stadium

Michael Phelps left with one meet before Olympic Trials

Michael Phelps
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Michael Phelps could face his lightest-ever competition run-up to an Olympic Trials after opting not to swim at a meet in Atlanta next week.

Last week, Phelps noted one other scheduled meet before the U.S. Olympic Trials (June 26-July 3). That’s in Austin, Texas, from June 3-5.

In his previous four Olympic cycles, Phelps swam at least two meets in the final two months before the Olympic Trials, according to USA Swimming statistics.

Phelps’ training plan in May and June will be impacted by the impending birth of his first child. Fiancée Nicole Johnson is 36 weeks pregnant, according to her Instagram.

Without Phelps, the Atlanta meet is expected to include five-time 2015 World champion Katie Ledecky, 12-time Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin, Olympic 100m free champion Nathan Adrian and rising sprint freestyler Caeleb Dressel.

VIDEO: Phelps’ interview with Matt Lauer