Lights out for USA Luge at Olympic sliding center

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The U.S. luge team’s training was cut short Monday afternoon at the Sanki Sliding Center in Sochi after power went out in the area.

“We didn’t really know what was going on,” said USA Luge Sports Program Director Mark Grimmette, a silver medalist at the 2002 Salt Lake Games, on a conference call with reporters. “I walked up to the finish area and started talking to the event and track manager who said that there was problem with the power in the next town over. We’re currently in the dark right now.”

A media relations representative from USA Luge said that American athletes there — Erin Hamlin, Julia Clukey, Kate Hansen, Chris Mazdzer and the doubles team of Preston Griffall and Matt Mortensen — were at their hotel in the dark, playing cards.

“We were about halfway through with our session when the power went completely out,” Grimmette said. “The lights on the track went off, the speakers went off and you could tell that everything was quiet and that all of the power had gone off on the track.”

USA Luge said power went out around 2 p.m. local time, but that it was only at the sliding center in the mountain cluster, not in the coastal city of Sochi itself.

“The team is functioning in candle light in their hotel after they had to abort their training session,” said Sandy Caligiore, the media and public relations director for USA Luge. “They were up on the track for 90 minutes.”

The U.S. is one of 31 nations training in Sochi this week,which includes 140 athletes total. The team is scheduled to be there through Thursday, though USA Luge officials said they believed the athletes would be granted a longer stay or given more runs prior to Sochi. A total of 50 runs were guaranteed to the Americans; they’ve completed 24.

“I’m sure that the FIL (International Luge Federation) is doing everything they can to make sure that everything is fair at the end of the day; they’ll figure it out,” said Gordy Sheer, USA Luge’s marketing director. “At this point, the athletes are more concerned with conserving the batteries on their cell phones.”

Living by candlelight here in Russia. #NoProblem

A photo posted by Erin Hamlin (@erinhamlin) on

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Yuzuru Hanyu sets short program record; Wagner in medal territory at NHK Trophy

Yuzuru Hanyu
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Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu set the new short program world record – raising his own world record by about five points from when he set it in Sochi – to lead the men’s field at the NHK Trophy in Nagano, Japan.

The 20-year-old landed two clean quads, one in combination, and a triple Axel in front of a home crowd. In his other Grand Prix appearance, two of those three jumps received zero points.

China’s Jin Boyang and Hanyu’s countryman Takahito Mura sit in second and third place, respectively, though Hanyu has built a 10-point lead heading into tonight’s free program. Jin landed two quads and a triple Axel cleanly, a program that surely would lead in any other field, while Mura was clean, too.

By holding off the competition, which seems likely, Hanyu can clinch a berth into the Grand Prix Final, where he is reigning champion.

Richard Dornbush and Grant Hochstein are the only U.S. men in the competition, as Jason Brown withdrew due to a back sprain. Dornbush is seventh and Hochstein is eighth before tonight’s free program.

2015 Worlds silver medalist Satoko Miyahara of Japan leads the ladies’ field after the short program over the other Japanese skater highlighting the field, Mao Asada (currently fourth), and two of the U.S.’ skaters. Courtney Hicks is second while Ashley Wagner is third. Vancouver Olympian Mirai Nagasu is fifth.

Miyahara landed three triples in her short program, compared to Hicks and Wagner, who both turned out of their planned triple-triple combinations. Nagasu was relatively clean in her short program. Asada fell on her signature triple Axel attempt and singled her planned triple Lutz.

Asada made her return to competition this season after winning the 2014 World title but skipping the subsequent season. Both Asada and Wagner can clinch berths to the Grand Prix Final by winning medals of any color in tonight’s free program. More on that process here.

It seems it is impossible to discuss figure skating results without mentioning the Russian dominance in the ladies’ field; however, in the short program, their competitors sat a lackluster seventh, ninth, and 11th in a field of 11. Russia’s Maria Artemieva, Alena Leonova and Anna Pogorilaya each had at least one fall in their short programs.

Canadian pairs team Meaghan Duhamel and Eric Radford are in the hunt for their ninth straight international win and a Grand Prix Final berth – a feat made a lot easier after the withdrawl of Olympic pairs champs Tatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov of Russia. The Canadian pair leads over Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim of the United States, currently second, also looking for a berth with a medal in Japan.

Men’s free skate — Saturday, 2:30 a.m. ET (start order here)
Women’s free skate — Saturday, 5:35 a.m. ET (start order here)

Russia vows to follow all WADA recommendations on doping

Russia Olympic Committee
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MOSCOW (AP) Russia says it will follow any recommendations from the World Anti-Doping Agency to clean up its own troubled drug-testing body.

A WADA commission’s report this month accused the Russian anti-doping agency, RUSADA, of covering up failed drug tests by top athletes. RUSADA was suspended by WADA following the report’s publication.

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko met WADA director general David Howman in Germany on Thursday.

According to an account of the meeting posted by the ministry, Mutko said Russia would “follow all recommendations from WADA aimed at the necessary transformations in the activities and structure of RUSADA.”

The ministry also quoted Howman as saying he welcomed Mutko’s assurances “with pleasure.”

Russia’s track and field team was also suspended this month by the IAAF and could miss next year’s Olympics in Brazil.

MORE: Ashton Eaton named male IAAF Athlete of the Year