Jessica Smith

No U.S. women’s short track relay at Sochi Olympics

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There will be no U.S. women’s short track relay team at the Olympics for the first time come February.

The team was disqualified in the heats of a World Cup event in Kolomna, Russia, last week. The World Cup event was one of two Olympic qualifiers where the combined placements determined which seven nations (plus host Russia) would earn Olympic berths.

Given the U.S. finished seventh in the first of two qualifiers, the DQ was a knockout blow in the second one.

Now, the U.S. will send three women’s short track skaters to Sochi for individual events rather than the maximum five allowed for nations with relay teams, U.S. Short Track coach Stephen Gough told the Chicago Tribune.

There are three individual events (500m, 1000m, 1500m), but a skater can compete in all three if they qualify. The U.S. Olympic Trials are Jan. 2-5.

“Obviously it’s a massive disappointment as the coaching staff felt that the team was on the right track this season,” Gough told the newspaper. “We never doubted that they could skate at the level of the top four ranked teams and challenge them for a place in the Olympic final. Unfortunately, this won’t happen.”

The 3000m relay was considered the U.S. women’s best chance for a medal in Sochi. The U.S. won silver in 1992, bronze in 1994 and bronze in 2010.

It’s not totally clear what exactly happened to cause the disqualification in Kolomna. Gough said there was an incident followed by a lengthy review after which the U.S. was disqualified.

“It’s not official they won’t qualify, but it doesn’t put us in a very good position to earn those spots,” US Speedskating said in an email last week. “After this weekend is over, the ISU will determine how many spots each country has, and we will know for certain then.”

US Speedskating did not respond to follow-up emails last week asking for details on how/why the relay team was disqualified and, on Monday, if the ISU made the determination.

ISU said in an email early Tuesday morning the list of qualifiers would be published on its website shortly.

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Salt Lake City forms committee to weigh Olympic bid

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Salt Lake City has formed an exploratory committee to decide if the city will bid to host the Winter Olympics in either 2026 or 2030 — taking a key step toward trying to become a rare two-time host city.

The group made up of elected officials, business leaders and one key member of the organizing committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City said Monday that it plans to make a recommendation to state leaders by Feb. 1.

The announcement comes after the U.S. Olympic Committee board said Friday that it was moving forward with discussions about bringing the Winter Games to America for either 2026 or 2030.

Because Los Angeles was recently awarded the 2028 Summer Games, a bid for 2030 would make more sense, chairman Larry Probst said Friday.

The USOC has until next March to pick a city; those expressing interest include Salt Lake City, Denver and Reno, Nevada.

Innsbruck, Austria, said Sunday it wouldn’t bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics, taking one more city out of the running. The hosting rights are set to be awarded in July 2019.

The same country hasn’t hosted back-to-back Olympics since before World War II, though when the International Olympic Committee scrapped its traditional rules and awarded 2024 (Paris) and 2028 (LA) at the same time, it indicated it was certainly open to new ideas.

Since 2012, Salt Lake City has been letting Olympic officials know the city was ready and willing to host again with a plan based on renovating and upgrading venues that have been in use since the Games ended.

The city had previously estimated it could put on a Winter Olympics for about $2 billion, but the committee will come up with a new cost estimate, said Jeff Robbins, the president and CEO of the Utah Sports Commission.

Robbins is one of three co-chairs on the committee along with Utah Senate President Wayne Niederhauser and Fraser Bullock, a key player in Salt Lake City’s 2002 Olympics.

Robbins said he thinks the city has a great shot at winning a bid based on the relatively low cost and because it has demonstrated it knows how to maintain venues and keep them in use, putting the city in line with Agenda 2020, the blueprint that IOC President Thomas Bach created for future Olympics calling for less spending on new venues and infrastructure.

There’s an eight-lane interstate running from the Salt Lake airport, which was upgraded for the Olympics, to Park City, which is the home of U.S. Ski and Snowboard. Park City is the host for key U.S. training centers for freestyle skiing, speedskating and cross country skiing.

Overall, the area has hosted about 75 World Cup and world-championship events in winter sports since the Olympic cauldron was extinguished more than 15 years ago.

He said an expanded light rail train line grid around Salt Lake City and a $3 billion airport renovation already underway are two examples of how Salt Lake City is even better prepared now to host than in 2002.

But he and other organizers will also have to answer questions about a bidding scandal that marred the 2002 Games and resulted in several International Olympic Committee members losing their positions for taking bribes.

“You can’t control the past,” Robbins said. “The results of what happened I think would certainly speak volumes. While there was some challenges, we hosted arguably one of the best Olympics ever hosted.”

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Simone Biles announces new coach

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When Simone Biles begins her comeback in earnest next month, she’ll be training under a new coach — Laurent Landi — who coached one of her Olympic teammates, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Landi, a 39-year-old former French gymnast, guided Rio uneven bars silver medalist Madison Kocian at the Dallas-area gym WOGA, along with wife Cecile.

“[Landi] was in Dallas, which is not far away, and had recently left WOGA, and I had worked with alongside him and know how he is with athletes,” Biles said, according to the newspaper. “He does a good job not letting pressure get to the athletes. You can see some coaches get stressed but he doesn’t.”

Biles’ previous coach since she was 7, Aimee Boorman, left their Houston-area gym for a gymnastics job in Florida after the Rio Games.

Biles said last week she plans to return to full-time training Nov. 1 and return to competition next summer.

Kocian is now at UCLA and uncertain to return to elite gymnastics.

Two other Final Five members — Aly Raisman and Laurie Hernandez — have said they plan to return to training for a Tokyo 2020 run. But neither has announced a return to the gym like Biles.

The last member — 2012 Olympic all-around champion Gabby Douglas — has not said whether she will come back.

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