Ilya Kovalchuk

Ilya Kovalchuk should be Russia flagbearer, Vladislav Tretiak says

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A candidate to light the Sochi Olympic cauldron has one man in mind to carry another Russian honor at the Opening Ceremony.

Vladislav Tretiak, the legendary, three-time Olympic champion Soviet goalie, said current Russian hockey star forward Ilya Kovalchuk should be the Russian flagbearer at the Opening Ceremony.

“When people have come up to me and asked who could carry the Russian flag, I named Kovalchuk,” said Tretiak, 61, president of the Russian Hockey Federation, according to R-Sport. “He deserves it. I don’t want to offend the other players like [Pavel] Datsyuk, [Evgeni] Malkin or [Alex] Ovechkin, but they’ll be in Sochi later.”

He’s right. There might not be any NHL players at the Opening Ceremony on Feb. 7 because the NHL season does not begin its Olympic break until Feb. 9.

Kovalchuk, 30, does not play in the NHL anymore. He signed a 15-year, $100 million deal with the New Jersey Devils in September 2010 but now plays for SKA St. Petersburg after retiring from the NHL in July 2013.

He’s a three-time Olympian for Russia, winning bronze with the 2002 team.

Russia’s other top athletes seen as candidates to carry its flag in the Parade of Nations include three-time Olympic medalist figure skater Yevgeny Plushenko, two-time medalist bobsled driver Aleksander Zubkov and 2006 silver medalist luger Albert Demtchenko.

In 2010, Russia’s Opening Ceremony flagbearer was also a KHL player, former Pittsburgh Penguins forward Aleksey Morozov.

Plushenko was the Closing Ceremony flagbearer in 2006.

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Mirai Nagasu enters worlds motivated by Olympic finish, future undecided

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A sense of validation coursed through Mirai Nagasu. Probably in PyeongChang, when she became the first U.S. woman to land a triple Axel at the Olympics. Definitely two weeks ago, when she attended the Academy Awards.

“It felt like I had really made it,” she said in an interview with NBC Sports Research. “The Oscars was open bar, so I had a little champagne there.”

The 24-year-old had earned at least that much, but somewhere in the back of her mind on March 4 had to be Milan, where she would be in two weeks for the world championships.

“It’s hard to [train] programs when you want to go on vacation and sip a mimosa,” Nagasu said, “but something about alcohol and training doesn’t mix well.”


Most of the other big-name U.S. Olympic figure skaters — including Adam Rippon and Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani — withdrew from worlds, along with many international medalists, after the Olympics. For some, there were simply too many off-ice opportunities to fit in training. Others, exhaustion. Or retirement.

None of the above for Nagasu.

“Part of the reason I want to go to worlds [is] because I know I’m capable of performing better than I did in the long,” she said.

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Nagasu wasn’t referring to her memorable long program from the Olympic team event, where she helped the U.S. secure a bronze medal with that triple Axel.

Rather, she meant the individual free skate.

A fatigued Nagasu popped her planned triple Axel for zero points and singled a triple Lutz. She finished 10th overall, part of the worst U.S. women’s results in Winter Olympic history (but not completely unexpected given the pre-Olympic world rankings).

Nagasu knew that she was a dark-horse bronze-medal pick after her personal-best free skate in the team event. She scored nearly 18 fewer points in the individual long program.

So Nagasu decided to compete at worlds after making the U.S. team outright for the annual event for the first time since 2010.

She hopes to land the triple Axel in both programs Wednesday and Friday. That might be necessary to challenge for the podium. Most of the top women from the Olympics are in this week’s field, except silver medalist Yevgenia Medvedeva of Russia and Japan’s Kaori Sakamoto, who placed sixth.

It could be the last competition of Nagasu’s career. She has not decided if she will compete in the fall.

“Some days I want to throw my skates in the trash, and other days I’m like, I still love this and I want to kill myself doing programs every day,” she said. “Right now I want to do my best at worlds, and that’s what I’m focused on. … I can’t even really think about competing next season.”

NBC Sports figure skating researcher Sarah Hughes contributed to this report.

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Sprinters age 100, 102 break records at USATF Masters Indoors (video)

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100-year-old sprinter Orville Rogers broke five world records in the 100-plus age group at the USATF Masters Indoors Championships over the weekend.

The retired pilot did so in the 60m (19.13 seconds), 200m (1:40.94), 400m (4:16.90), 800m (9:56.44) and 1500m (20:00.91), according to USA Track and Field.

Not to be outdone, 102-year-old Julia “Hurricane” Hawkins broke 100-plus age group records in the 60m and the shot put as the oldest female competitor in meet history.

In the 60m, Hawkins clocked 24.79 seconds, smashing Ida Keeling‘s record of 58.34 from February. Hawkins also threw the shot put 2.77 meters (or 9 feet, 1.25 inches).

Full meet results are here.

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