Steve Holcomb

Steve Holcomb wins first two-man bobsled race of Olympic season

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Olympic champion Steve Holcomb won his fifth straight international two-man bobsled race on North American ice, taking the season-opening Calgary World Cup in track-record time on Friday night.

Holcomb and push athlete Steve Langton led after both runs, clocking a two-run total of 1 minute, 49.22 seconds. Swiss Beat Hefti and Alex Baumann were second, .16 of a second behind. Canadians Chris Spring and Jesse Lumsden were third.

The other two U.S. sleds, piloted by Cory Butner and Nick Cunningham, were ninth and 10th.

“It’s an interesting feeling knowing that no one has been faster than us down this track,” Holcomb said, according to the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation (USBSF). “It’s pretty cool to have a track record on an established track, and it’s actually my first track record in two-man.”

Holcomb is the reigning Olympic four-man champion but ranked higher in the two-man in last year’s World Cup standings (fourth versus sixth in the four-man).

Holcomb, 33, wore a blue Superman shirt under his black racing suit.

“Langton gave me two great starts,” Holcomb said, according to USBSF. “I think we could have pushed even faster, but I’m getting old and not recovering as quickly from traveling as I used to. I made a few mistakes that added up and I think there’s still some room to go even faster.”

His biggest competition in the two-man going into the Olympics is unclear. Hefti could be it, given he won three of his five World Cup starts last season, including the finale in at the Sochi Olympic track.

The Calgary World Cup stop concludes with two-woman and four-man races on Saturday. Universal Sports will have coverage.

Calgary Two-Man

1. Steve Holcomb/Steve Langton (USA) 1:49.22
2. Beat Hefti/Alex Baumann (SUI) 1:49.38
3. Chris Spring/Jesse Lumsden (CAN) 1:49.42
9. Cory Butner/Andreas Drbal (USA) 1:49.81
10. Nick Cunningham/Johnny Quinn (USA) 1:49.85

Bobsled, skeleton season storylines

More Olympic distance-running medalists banned for doping

Gamze Bulut
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MONACO (AP) — Turkish runner Elvan Abeylegesse has been banned for doping and stands to lose two Olympic silver medals.

The IAAF says Abeylegesse tested positive for the banned steroid stanozolol in a retest of a sample she gave at the 2007 World Championships.

She has been banned for two years and had her results wiped out from 2007-09.

Abeylegesse won Olympic silver medals in the 5000m and 10,000m at the 2008 Beijing Games and silver in the 10,000m at the 2007 world championships.

The IAAF also said it had imposed a four-year ban on another Turkish runner, Gamze Bulut, for a violation of its biological passport program. Bulut won 1500m silver at the 2012 London Olympics.

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Maria Sharapova not fully committed to 2020 Olympic run

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The rumors and reports have been out for months, but asked directly, Maria Sharapova wasn’t immediately quite sure how to answer when asked about going for the 2020 Olympics.

“Ooh, I don’t, umm,” Sharapova said, laughing lightly, sitting across from retired U.S. Olympic soccer champion Julia Foudy at a conference in Rancho Mirage, Calif., on Tuesday (video here). “It’s a question I’ve been asked, and I’d love to sit here today and say yes, in three-so years that is where I want to be. But it’s hard. It’s hard to look that far, also being a woman that’s also [turning] 30 years [old in three weeks]. I want to have a family. I want to be a mother. Those are definitely long-term goals of mine. But of course to compete in another Olympics, that’s an athlete’s dream. I’d love to be a part of that.”

Sharapova is set to return from her 15-month meldonium ban next month. What stings the most about her suspension?

“Something was taken away from you that you’ve done so passionately since you were a little girl,” she said. “Although I’m at a stage and an age in my career and in my life where you’re closer to the end than you are to the beginning, you always want to end your career or a chapter in your life on your terms and in your voice. And to be in a moment where you feel or you felt like it could have ended on someone else’s voice and someone else’s terms was very difficult to accept. That’s why I fought so hard for the truth to be out. You don’t realize how much you love something and how much something it means to you until you lose it for some time. It gave me a chance also to live.”

Sharapova joked about going to Coachella last year.

“There’s 120,000 people doing drugs that I’m not aware of?” she said, laughing. “And completely being out of my element. I was like, OK? … I’m skipping Coachella this year, because I got my day-job back.”

The fans’ reaction when she gets back on the competition courts?

“I don’t know if there’s much that I can control,” she said.

Earlier this month, her agent reportedly said he thought that Sharapova will play through the 2020 Tokyo Games if healthy.

Sharapova will be 33 years old come the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, two years older than any previous Russian Olympic tennis player. She will likely have to be ranked among the top four Russians in the world in spring 2020 to qualify for the Games outright.

Sharapova’s passion for the Olympics is well documented.

She carried the Russian flag into the London 2012 Opening Ceremony and carried the Olympic flame into Fisht Stadium at the Sochi 2014 Opening Ceremony, where she worked for NBC Olympics.

“It was the one thing that my parents allowed me to watch on TV late into the evening was the Olympics,” Sharapova said Tuesday. “I grew up watching figure skating and hockey and a little bit of tennis. … Just capturing the Opening Ceremonies and seeing all the countries and the little hats that they wore, and I, as a little girl, I just imagined that maybe it would be me. But I never, ever thought that I would be carrying the flag.

“I received that [flag] honor in a text message, which is a very Russian way of communicating. I originally thought it was a joke, a big fat joke. Then I showed it to my mother, and she [said], no, they probably wouldn’t joke like that.”

In February 2016, Sharapova entered a Fed Cup tie, despite saying she was injured, in order to receive Olympic eligibility.

One month later, her failed drug test was announced.

Two women’s players, Steffi Graf and Serena Williams, have achieved the singles career Golden Slam — winning all four majors and the Olympics. Sharapova, beaten by Williams 6-0, 6-1 in the London 2012 final, is a Tokyo title away from joining them.

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