Evgeni Plushenko

Yevgeny Plushenko may not be chosen for Sochi Olympics

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Russian Yevgeny Plushenko wants to skate only in the team event at the Sochi Olympics, but that may not be possible.

Plushenko plans to compete in the new Olympic team event and then cede a potential singles spot to a younger skater, he said after finishing second at the Russian National Championships on Christmas.

“I think I’ll choose the team event and will give the individual competition to a young and prospective athlete,” Plushenko said, according to R-Sport. “I understand everything adequately. It will be enough for me to take part in the team event.”

An official from Russia’s figure skating federation differed. Russia qualified one men’s skater for the Olympics out of the maximum possible three, and using different skaters for the team and individual events may not be possible.

“The final decision on who will be the main representative and who will be the reserve will be taken after the European Championships [Jan. 13-19],” federation general director Valentin Piseyev said, according to Agence France-Presse citing R-Sport.

Piseyev said Plushenko’s comments were spoken “out of emotion” and were not logical, according to the report.

Piseyev pointed out that the same skater must represent a nation in the team event and the later singles competition, unless the skater was injured from the team event.

“Not all the sportsmen know the precise rules,” Piseyev said.

This very issue was presented to the International Skating Union in an email last month when reports first surfaced that Plushenko might only want to do the team event.

An ISU communications coordinator responded, writing, “The ISU cannot comment on potential decisions that are the responsibility of the Russian NOC or the IOC,” and suggested contacting the IOC.

An email to the IOC on Thursday was not immediately returned.

Plushenko, 31, was expected to be Russia’s lone men’s Olympic singles entry if he wanted it despite finishing second at the Sochi Olympic venue Wednesday.

Plushenko is coming off a left knee injury that forced him to withdraw from a Grand Prix event in Moscow in November. Before that, he won a minor event in Riga, Latvia.

That was his first competition since withdrawing after the short program of the last season’s European Championships in January with a back injury.

The team event calls for short and long programs just as the men’s singles event does but with three days between the men’s programs as opposed to one day in men’s singles. Plushenko would be more likely to win a medal in the team event than in men’s singles if he competes in both.

At Russian Nationals, Plushenko was beaten by Maksim Kovtun, 18, giving up his lead after the short program. Plushenko scored 261.37 total points (free skate video here) to Kovtun’s 267.13 (free skate video here).

“I cannot call my skate a success,” Plushenko said, according to Agence France-Presse. “I need more practice so that my legs don’t die on me.”

Plushenko won Olympic silver in 2002, gold in 2006 and silver in 2010.

With one Sochi medal, he will become the second skater to win four Olympic medals. Swede Gillis Grafstrom won gold in 1920, 1924 and 1928 and silver in 1932.

Russia, Canada, Japan and the U.S. are expected to vie for medals in the team event, which starts the night before the Opening Ceremony.

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Mother, son set to compete in same Olympics for first time

Nino Salukvadze, Tsotne Machavariani
AP
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TBILISI, Georgia (AP) — Going into her eighth Olympics, former shooting champion Nino Salukvadze has plenty of reasons to be proud of her long career.

She has something even more special to celebrate in Rio de Janeiro: She and her 18-year-old son will both be competing.

While there have been previous cases of parents and their children competing at the same games, this is believed to be the first time a mother and son will participate in the same Olympics.

Salukvadze’s son, Tsotne Machavariani, shot a personal-best in the 10-meter air pistol at the European championships in February to snatch a surprise Olympic qualifying spot.

“I am very happy as the representative of the Georgian shooting federation but a million times happier as a mother that my son managed to do this,” the 47-year-old Salukvadze told The Associated Press.

In the 28 years since she won a 25-meter pistol gold medal for the Soviet Union at the 1988 Seoul Games, Salukvadze and her family have kept Olympic shooting alive in the former Soviet republic of Georgia.

Salukvadze and her father handle the coaching at a tiny range in the basement of the Sports Ministry which she helped pay to build. The main hall is bedecked with her medals, but the range can hold only five shooters at a time, meaning mother and son often head abroad to train at more modern facilities.

Over the decades, Vakhtang Salukvadze has mentored his daughter and grandson as they became world-class shooters, but he won’t be going to Rio because of his age.

“His dream always was to see me and my son competing at the same Olympic Games. We made his dream true earlier then he thought,” Nino Salukvadze said. “He’s 85 and taking into account the Brazilian weather and the length of the flight, it was decided that he’ll stay home.”

Salukvadze briefly became a celebrity during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, which took place during a war between Georgia and neighboring Russia. After winning a bronze medal, she kissed a Russian shooter on the podium in a demonstration of peace.

“Why did it surprise everyone so much?” she said. “We’re athletes. There’s no conflict between us.”

In the 120-year history of the modern Olympics, it has not been uncommon for fathers and sons to compete at the same games, a reflection of the historical preponderance of men’s events on the program, but mother-child partnerships are much rarer.

Olympic historian Bill Mallon said there have been 56 cases of fathers and sons at the same games, 12 of father and daughter, two of mother and daughter, but none of mother-son — until now.

While Salukvadze won gold at her first Olympics, her son said he’s not under pressure to match her achievement.

“My mother tells me that although she was almost my age when she won her Olympic gold, she represented the Soviet Union at that time and had better training conditions, more experience in tournaments,” he said. “She tells me that we do not have that luxury and she does not demand any results from me. I think this her way to calm me down and minimize my nervousness during the tournament.”

While she can provide on-the-spot coaching, any motherly advice will remain a family secret, Machavariani said with a smile.

“At the Olympics I will be representing my mother, my country and myself,” he said.

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IIHF president doesn’t expect NHL participation in 2018 Olympics

Sidney Crosby
Getty Images
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SOCHI, Russia (AP) — The head of ice hockey’s international body says there’s a strong possibility that NHL players won’t be competing at the next Winter Olympics.

International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel puts the chances at 60 percent that the NHL will decline to go to the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, because of a lack of money to cover player insurance.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Fasel said the IOC has canceled its contribution to player travel and insurance costs for Pyeongchang, leaving the IIHF facing a $10 million shortfall and “begging” for money around the world.

“It’s always difficult to get (to) the Olympics, the Games,” he said. “And now with some problems on our side, 50-50 is very positive. I would be more 60 percent that they are not coming.”

Negotiations and brinkmanship over finances are common in the lead-up to Olympic hockey tournaments. For the 2014 tournament in Sochi, Russia, the NHL’s participation was assured only in July 2013, seven months before the games. But the IOC’s refusal to cover player insurance adds an additional dimension for 2018.

While the IOC gives the IIHF around $40 million of revenue each Olympics, Fasel insists that money is earmarked for developing hockey and wants national Olympic committees and hockey federations to plug the gap.

The IOC pulled its extra subsidy because its leaders are “a bit scared that other (sports) federations will come and also ask for some compensation for traveling and insurance,” said Fasel, who is also an IOC member and serves on its rule-making executive board.

“I think my idea is to work closer together with the national Olympic committees, as they have normally to pay transportation and insurance for the athletes when they come to the games, so I can imagine that some of the NOCs are also ready to spend some money there, so we have to go around and do some begging,” he said.

Fasel said the end of this year is the deadline to reach a deal because of the NHL’s need to draw up a calendar for the Olympic season.

“If you don’t have the best, (the Olympics) will be a different competition for sure,” he said, but warned: “At the end somebody has to pay. That’s the question. On my side I will do everything possible to make it happen.”

Fasel also dismissed the suggestion that the NHL’s revived World Cup of Hockey could offer some players less incentive to demand to be allowed to play at the Olympics.

“There is nothing like the Olympics,” he said. “I think for an athlete to win the gold medal is so different from winning the Stanley Cup. You can win the Stanley Cup every year.”

In Pyeongchang in 2018 and Beijing in 2022, the Winter Olympics move to Asia and away from the North American and European nations that have historically been the bedrock of hockey.

South Korea, which has built a team mixing import players with locals, plays in the second level of the IIHF’s world championship and hopes not to be a walkover in 2018. China, however, is far less competitive.

After losses to Iceland and Spain last month, China will be in the fifth tier for next year and in 2022 could become the first Winter Olympic host not to enter a hockey team — a situation which worries the IIHF, given China’s potential to become a huge market for the sport.

“One thing they do not like is to lose the face, so they cannot do that,” Fasel said. “I hope and I think they will have a Chinese player, Chinese team in Beijing in 2022. We cannot put them on the ice and they will be beaten 15, 20-nothing. We cannot do that.”

Things are looking up for China, with increased government interest and the Russia-based Kontinental Hockey League due to open a team there this year, but Fasel said the NHL is key to unlocking potentially vast commercial rewards in China.

“A North American brand in China has a very special taste. We can see that with the NBA,” he said. “I think what we need is to have a Chinese NHL player, like Yao Ming with basketball.”

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