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

Teddy Riner, dominant judoka, to skip 2018, 2019 Worlds

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French judoka Teddy Riner, arguably the world’s most dominant athlete, will reportedly skip the next two world championships before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

French coach Franck Chambily said Riner will compete a light international schedule the next two years ahead of what would be his fourth Olympics, according to Agence France-Presse.

Riner, a 29-year-old, 6-foot-8-inch native of Guadeloupe, is undefeated since 2010 with a reported 144-match winning streak. That includes Olympic titles in 2012 and 2016 and world titles in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017.

Before the streak, Riner also earned world titles in 2007, 2009 and 2010, plus an Olympic bronze at age 19 in 2008.

He could compete through the 2024 Paris Games.

“When I am invincible, I will stop,” Riner said in 2013, according to The Associated Press.

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Maggie Nichols wins NCAA all-around title with perfect 10

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Even after a perfect 10 in the last rotation, Maggie Nichols didn’t know that she had won the NCAA all-around title. Her coach at Oklahoma, K.J. Kindler, had to tell her.

The reaction?

“Excitement,” Nichols said Friday night on ESPNU. “I just wanted to go out there and feel out the equipment, staying calm and doing my routines that I have been doing in training.”

Nichols, a 2015 World team champion who retired from elite gymnastics after missing the 2016 Olympic team (set back by a torn meniscus that year), became the first Sooner to win the NCAA all-around in 30 years.

The sophomore tallied 39.8125 points and topped Olympic alternate MyKayla Skinner of Utah by .0875 for the title in St. Louis. It came one year after Nichols was 29th in the all-around with a balance beam fall.

Oklahoma and Utah will be joined in Saturday night’s Super Six team finals by UCLA, LSU, Florida and Nebraska. The Sooners eye their third straight national title.

Nichols capped her night with one of two perfect scores between the two semifinal sessions, matching 2012 Olympic alternate Elizabeth Price‘s 10 on uneven bars. It gave Nichols a second career gym slam, a perfect score on every apparatus for the season.

On Jan. 9, Nichols came forward as “Athlete A,” who first reported to USA Gymnastics that she was sexually abused by Larry Nassar in summer 2015.

“She has had a really unique year probably like no one else, and her strength showed through,” Kindler said Friday, according to the University of Oklahoma. “It was tough, and to come out on this side this year is really special.”

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