Scott Blackmun

USOC will focus on 2024 Olympic bid after Sochi Games

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The U.S. Olympic Committee won’t narrow down its list of candidate cities for a 2024 Olympic bid until after the Sochi Games.

A USOC group scheduled visits to potential bid cities including Boston, Dallas, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and San Francisco, Around the Rings reported in November. City visits will continue into December and January, USOC CEO Scott Blackmun said after a board of directors meeting Tuesday.

“We’re on track to make our decision by the end of 2014, whether we want to bid, and if we do, who our city would be,” said Blackmun, who didn’t want to discuss individual U.S. cities yet but said the USOC is in “active discussions” with less than 10.

The earliest the USOC would “make changes to the list” would probably be in April. The International Olympic Committee will select the host city for the 2024 Olympics in 2017.

“It is our intention to bid for 2024, if all of the elements that we had talked about previously are in place,” USOC chairman Larry Probst said. “That obviously includes: do we have the right message, do we have the right technical plans, do we have the right bid leaders, do we have the financial support from the local community, do we have governmental support. So a lot of things have to fall in place.”

IOC president Thomas Bach said last week he thinks “it’s time for the United States to present a strong bid.”

Probst said he’s heard “a lot of encouragement” from IOC members in travels to Buenos Aires, Argentina, Lausanne, Switzerland, and Rome the last few months.

The U.S. hasn’t hosted an Olympics since the 2002 Winter Games and is in the middle of its longest stretch between hosting Olympics since a 28-year gap between 1932 and 1960. The USOC sent letters to more than three dozen cities earlier this year to gauge interest in potentially hosting the Olympics.

It is conducting a more informal process of selecting a host city than for the 2016 Olympics, when cities spent north of $10 million trying to earn the U.S. bid. It went to Chicago, which lost in the first round of IOC voting eventually won by Rio de Janeiro.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors unanimously backed a group exploring whether the California city should make a bid for the 2024 Olympics on Tuesday. The chairman said San Diego hosting the Games is “probably a long shot,” according to ABC News in San Diego.

Other potential 2024 bids could come from Paris, Italy and South Africa.

In other news, Blackmun said the USOC hoped Jesse Owens‘ gold medal that is being auctioned will end up “in a place that people can see it.”

Blackmun was asked if he thought the tearing down of the 1996 Olympic Stadium (Turner Field) could hurt a potential U.S. bid, given that it could be perceived the U.S. isn’t concerned enough with creating a long-lasting legacy after hosting a Games.

“if that’s our biggest issue, I think our bid’s going to be pretty strong,” he said.

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Carolina Kostner tops Alina Zagitova in world champs short program

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Italian Carolina Kostner is the surprise leader after the short program at figure skating worlds, topping a woman half her age, Olympic champion Alina Zagitova, by .76 of a point in Milan on Wednesday.

Kostner, 31, tallied a personal-best 80.27 as she eyes a second world title to join her 2012 crown. Kostner earned the 2014 Olympic bronze medal and was fifth in PyeongChang as the oldest woman in the field by more than six years.

She can become the oldest women’s world champion by more than four years if she hangs on in Friday’s free skate, according to reports when Maria Butyrskaya won at age 26 in 1999.

“If I think back 15 years ago, when I started skating internationally, nobody in Italy followed figure skating,” said Kostner, who could retire after worlds. “Now, there’s a venue full of people sharing this passion with me.”

Zagitova, 15 and trying to become the youngest world champion since Tara Lipinski in 1997, struggled on the back end of her triple-triple jump combination. Her score of 79.51 was 3.41 points fewer than her world record at the Olympics.

“I felt, somehow, tight in my body,” Zagitova said through a translator. “I think it was nerves, but I don’t know why.

“I was more nervous here than at the Olympic Games.”

Zagitova, undefeated in her first senior international season, entered as the clear favorite with Olympic silver medalist and 2016 and 2017 World champion Yevgenia Medvedeva withdrawing from the event due to a right foot injury.

Japan’s Satoko Miyahara and Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond are in third and fourth, reversing their final placements from the Olympics. The U.S. women are in seventh (Bradie Tennell), ninth (Mirai Nagasu) and 17th place (Mariah Bell).

Full results are here.

The top two U.S. women’s results must add up to no more than 13 (sixth and seventh, for example), or they will be dropped to two spots at the 2019 World Championships. The last time the U.S. had fewer than the maximum three spots at an Olympics or worlds was 2013.

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Tennell, the 20-year-old U.S. champion who led the Americans at the Olympics in ninth, swung her fist after a clean short that scored 68.76 points. She was .18 off her personal best from the Olympic team event.

Nagasu, who was 10th at the Olympics, performed a double Axel rather than the triple she landed in the Olympic team event. She also had her triple-triple combination downgraded to a triple-double.

Bell, the second alternate who made the team after Olympian Karen Chen withdrew and Ashley Wagner passed, struggled on her opening combination, only able to tack on a single jump.

Key Free Skate Start Times (Friday ET)
Mariah Bell (USA) — 2:32 p.m.
Bradie Tennell (USA) — 4:05 p.m.
Mirai Nagasu (USA) — 4:12 p.m.
Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN) — 4:36 p.m.
Satoko Miyahara (JPN) — 5 p.m.
Alina Zagitova (RUS) — 5:08 p.m.
Carolina Kostner (ITA) — 5:16 p.m.

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South Korea women’s hockey team ‘misses’ playing with North Koreans

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Something is missing as the South Korean women’s hockey team prepares for its lower-level world championship tournament next month.

North Koreans.

“Right now, we have some injured players, and having the North players would definitely help our roster have more numbers,” Sarah Murray, the Minnesota native who coaches the South Korean team and coached the unified Korean Olympic team, said Wednesday, according to Yonhap News Agency. “But we just miss practicing with them. They brought a different level of intensity to practice and it was just fun to have them around.”

South Korea plays at the third-tier worlds in Italy in two weeks in a six-team group with China, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia and Poland.

It earned a spot in that tournament by topping its group in the fourth tier last year, including a 3-0 win over North Korea at a PyeongChang Olympic venue.

If South Korea tops its group this year, it moves to the second-tier worlds in 2019, one level below the ultimate tournament with the likes of the U.S. and Canada.

Murray initially had mixed feelings about North Koreans joining her team for the Olympics. The joint Korean team went winless in five games, giving up 28 goals and scoring two.

“We have really enjoyed working with the North’s players and coaches, and we really do want to help them in the future,” Murray said after their last game in Gangneung, according to The Associated Press, adding that a possible “exchange game” was discussed to maintain the connection. “They want to get better, they want to keep learning from us and we want to help them. And there are things that we can learn from them, too.”

North Korea’s team is scheduled to play in the fourth-tier worlds that start next week in Slovenia. A joint North-South team could return for the 2022 Olympics.

“I think that would be good to do it in 2022, to go to the Beijing Olympics, to keep the North and South Korean team,” IIHF president Rene Fasel said at the Olympics, according to the AP. “It is a message of peace, and we hope to continue that. We will try.”

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