Olympic torch launches into space (video, photos)

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We have liftoff.

An Olympic torch blasted into space aboard a Russian rocket in a special part of the Sochi torch relay from Kazakhstan at 11:14 ET on Wednesday night.

NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio, Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin and Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata took the torch aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket with Sochi 2014 designs.

An Olympic torch has gone into space at least once before. A ceremonial torch went on the space shuttle Atlantis to the International Space Station before the 2000 Olympics, but this will be the first time it will go into open space on a spacewalk, scheduled for Saturday.

Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy will take the torch as part of a six-hour spacewalk beginning at 9:30 a.m. ET, according to Space.com. It will be tethered to make sure it doesn’t fly away.

The torch will not be lit on the expedition for safety reasons. Photos and video are expected to be made available after the spacewalk.

“We’d like to showcase our Olympic torch in space,” Kotov said, according to Engineering & Technology magazine. “We will try to do it in a beautiful manner. Millions of people will see it live on TV, and they will see the station and how we work.”

UPDATE: The torch reached the International Space Station on Thursday morning.

The torch is expected to return to Earth at 9:50 p.m. ET on Sunday, landing in Kazakhstan.

The crew that will stay at the International Space Station for six months will be able to watch the Olympics (on a delay), according to Interfax.

One of the three Sochi Olympic mascots — a polar bear — was also aboard the rocket:

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Screencap via Space.com

Here are photos from before the launch:

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Journalist says torch flame has gone out at least 44 times

Jessica-Ennis Hill gives birth to second child

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Great Britain’s two-time Olympic medalist, heptathlete Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill, announced the birth of her second child on Instagram inviting her family, friends and fans to welcome Olivia Ennis-Hill to the world.

In her Instagram post, Olivia is holding Ennis-Hill’s three year old son Reggie’s finger as the two siblings meet for the first time.

Reggie meeting his beautiful baby sister 😊 Olivia Ennis-Hill, she was born Saturday night. We are all so in love with her 💕

A post shared by Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill (@jessicaennishill) on

After winning heptathlon gold at the 2012 London Olympics and a silver in the same event in Rio in 2016, Ennis-Hill announced her retirement from competition in October of last year.

About that title of Dame, in April at a ceremony held in Buckingham Palace, the Duke of Cambridge (aka Prince William) bestowed damehood upon Ennis-Hill.

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The Ennis-Hill family are darlings of the English press, so expect to see more photos in the future of the now two-time Olympic mom.

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Slovakia’s Sagan first to win three-straight road race world titles

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In a dramatic photo finish, Slovakia’s Peter Sagan became the first man ever to win three consecutive men’s world championship road race titles when he crossed the finish line in Bergen, Norway.

Norway’s Alexander Kristoff rounded the final turn toward home with a slight lead, churning for the finish, but Sagan sprinted up his right side to edge the Norwegian on the final extension at the finish.

An estimated 100,000 spectators watched the riders repeatedly try to establish a lead pack throughout the race which ended with 12 loops through the streets of Bergen, but no one could find a way to make a clean break. Sagan would bide his time in the peloton for much of the race.

Adding even more drama to an already thrilling road race, with 3km left France’s Julian Alaphilippe began pulling away from a bunched peloton, which kicked off the final lap en masse. With Alaphilippe appearing in control, the cameras shooting from the lead pack motorcycle lost power.

Television commentators and everyone watching on TV or online were left in the dark, waiting to catch a glimpse of the lead riders. Tension mounted while viewers were stuck looking at a road void of cyclists near one of the final turns toward the finish.

“Where are the riders at the front of this race!” lamented NBC’s Paul Sherwen.

When the riders finally came into view, Alaphilippe was no longer in the lead, and 25-30 riders were jockeying for position as they rushed to the finish, but it was Sagan who would cross first in the end.

“For the last five kilometers, I said to myself, it’s already done. But it’s unbelievable. This is something special. You saw in the climb, we were in pieces. And at the finish, it all happened in seconds,” Sagan said after the race according to The Guardian.

“I want to dedicate this win to Michele Scarponi, it would have been his birthday tomorrow. And I want to dedicate this victory to my wife. We are expecting a baby.”

Italian cyclist Michele Scarponi was killed after being hit by a van while training near his home in Filottrano back in April. The loss was one that was felt across the entirety of the cycling world.

Michael Matthews of Australia finished the race in third.

Full results can be found here.

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