Eddy Alvarez

Eddy Alvarez, Emily Scott make U.S. Olympic Short Track Team

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J.R. Celski and Jessica Smith dominated again, and two more skaters qualified for the U.S. Olympic Team at the short track trials Saturday.

Celski and Smith, who won the 1500m on Friday, swept 500m races Saturday to earn Olympic berths in a second distance. Eddy Alvarez
and Emily Scott finished second, again, on Saturday to clinch their first Olympic berths.

The U.S. Olympic Short Track Speed Skating Trials conclude with 1000m races at the Utah Olympic Oval on Sunday. Four more skaters will earn Olympic spots.

Alvarez is in line to join Celski in both the 500m and 1500m in Sochi given they both went one-two in the events the last two days. The U.S. has one other Olympic spot in those events. Who will fill it is yet to be determined.

Alvarez, 23, is one of three U.S. men’s skaters to win individual World Cup medals this season. “Eddy the Jet” is from Miami, the son of Cuban immigrants, and a former inline skater and all-conference shortstop at Salt Lake Community College.

He’s been skating with Celski since they were 6, dating to their inline days. Celski already has one Olympics under his belt. Now, Alvarez gets to join him in Sochi.

“It sounds pretty awesome, don’t you think?” Alvarez said on NBCSN before performing a special handshake with Celski.

Earlier Saturday, John-Henry Krueger scratched out the 1500m with the swine flu, which has had a recent outbreak in Salt Lake City. Krueger, a World Cup medalist this season, was a favorite to make the Olympic Team before the trials.

He was fourth in four- and nine-lap time trials Thursday but did not qualify for either A final in the 1500m on Friday. He could still earn a spot on the Olympic Team on Sunday, if he competes and fares well.

Whoever finishes first or second in the 1000m Sunday will make the Olympic Team. Whatever spots still available will then go to the next highest skaters in the overall standings.

That makes the next three highest men in the overall standings — 2010 Olympian Jordan MaloneKyle Carr and Chris Creveling — the favorites to secure the final three men’s Olympic berths Sunday.

One Olympic spot is left to be determined on the women’s team. Scott, 24, was unaware that all she had to do was finish second behind Smith in the final 500m race Saturday to clinch an Olympic berth.

“I’m speechless,” Scott said on NBCSN after learning she made her first Olympic Team. “I didn’t even know until my coach brought me over and congratulated me. It’s been a long time coming.”

The winner of the women’s 1000m standings Sunday will make the Olympic Team. If that winner is Smith or Scott, the second-place skater will make the Olympic Team. If Smith and Scott go one-two, in either order, the top skater in the overall distance standings will make the Olympic Team.

Here are the individual distance standings:

Men’s 500m — FINAL
1. J.R. Celski — 2,500 (clinched Olympic berth)
2. Eddy Alvarez — 1,920 (clinched Olympic berth)

Men’s 1000m
1. J.R. Celski — 500
2. Chris Creveling — 400
3. Eddy Alvarez — 320
4. John-Henry Krueger — 256
5. Jordan Malone — 205

Men’s 1500m — FINAL
1. J.R. Celski — 2,500 (clinched Olympic berth)
2. Eddy Alvarez — 1,632 (clinched Olympic berth)

Women’s 500m — FINAL
1. Jessica Smith — 2,500 (clinched Olympic berth)
2. Emily Scott — 1,840 (clinched Olympic berth)

Women’s 1000m
1. Jessica Smith — 500
2. Emily Scott — 400
3. Alyson Dudek — 320
4. Kimberly Goetz — 256
5. Sarah Chen — 205

Women’s 1500m — FINAL
1. Jessica Smith — 2,300 (clinched Olympic berth)
2. Emily Scott — 2,200 (clinched Olympic berth)

Here are the overall distance standings:

Men
1. J.R. Celski — 5,000 (clinched Olympic berth)
2. Eddy Alvarez — 3,552 (clinched Olympic berth)
3. Jordan Malone — 2,714
4. Kyle Carr — 2,389
5. Chris Creveling — 2,264

Women
1. Jessica Smith — 4,800 (clinched Olympic berth)
2. Emily Scott — 4,040 (clinched Olympic berth)
3. Alyson Dudek — 3,360
4. Sarah Chen — 2,509
5. Kimberly Goetz — 1,559

Apolo Ohno makes TV analyst debut

Yulia Stepanova, doping whistleblower, appeals her Olympic ban

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - JULY 06:  Yuliya Stepanova looks on after finishing last in the Womens 800m heats during day one of the 23rd European Athletics Championships at Olympic Stadium on July 6, 2016 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images for European Athletics )
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Whistleblower Yulia Stepanova‘s hopes of competing in the Summer Olympics are all but over. Her fight to expose doping and corruption is not.

“It’s OK to lose a good fight,” Stepanova’s husband, Vitaly Stepanov, told The Associated Press on Monday.

They have appealed to the International Olympic Committee to reverse its decision, handed down Sunday, that denies Stepanova a chance at competing in the Rio Games, which begin Aug. 5. The decision, the Stepanovs claim, is based on incorrect information, including the IOC’s framing of Stepanova’s decision to become a whistleblower as a too-little-too-late desperation play made after the Russian team had cast her aside.

It’s a conclusion that both the World Anti-Doping Agency and track’s governing body, the IAAF, disagree with; both recommended Stepanova be allowed to compete in Rio.

But Stepanov said he received several signals that the IOC would not go along, beginning with a general lack of interest from the key decision makers. He said that during the push for Olympic eligibility, he spoke with two separate IOC officials for a total of 90 minutes.

“I think what the IOC didn’t do is spend enough time to understand how big the problem is in Russia and how much covering up is happening in Russian sports,” he said.

Stepanova was the 800-meter runner who was entrenched in the Russian doping system but later came forward with details about the cheating. That triggered investigations that led to the banning of the Russian track team from the Olympics. After receiving more information about Russian sports as a whole, the IOC opted against a ban of the entire Russian team.

Part of that decision included a ruling that any Russian with a previous doping ban would not be allowed in Rio. That includes Stepanova, though the legality of that ruling is in question: In 2011, the Court of Arbitration for Sport invalidated the IOC’s Rule 45, which called for Olympic bans for any athlete who’d served more than a six-month doping penalty. CAS said it amounted to double jeopardy.

It was one of several facets from the decision handed down Sunday that indicated the difficulty the IOC had in finding the right balance between, as president Thomas Bach called it, “individual justice and collective responsibility.” There also were political concerns; a Russian official addressed the IOC executive board and told members not to cave into geopolitical pressure.

While Russia largely welcomed the decision, it was roundly criticized by those in the anti-doping world. The move to ban Stepanova was widely viewed as the worst part of the judgment.

“The decision to refuse her entry in to the Games is incomprehensible and will undoubtedly deter whistleblowers in the future from coming forward,” said Travis Tygart, CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

Stepanov said his wife got a bout of the stomach flu on Sunday – making a bad day that much worse.

She was training for the Olympics, knowing that if she made it, she would not compete for a medal, the way she had in the past.

“Her goal is to participate,” Stepanov said. “In my view, she deserved to be an Olympian a lot more than when she was a doped athlete.”

But the odds are against her.

Stepanov said there is no money to fund an appeal to CAS, which would have the last say on her possible ban.

“Sunday was a day to cry a little, to get disappointed,” Stepanov said. “But today’s Monday. We feel we’re trying to fight for the right thing, so we wake up and start fighting again.”

MORE: Russian whistleblower denied bid to compete in Rio Olympics

Gabby Douglas ‘a very strong possibility’ for all-around, Martha Karolyi says

Gabby Douglas
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Gabby Douglas has “a very strong possibility” to get a chance to defend her Olympic all-around title in Rio, U.S. national team coordinator Martha Karolyi said Monday.

“Gabby’s preparation is in a very, very good direction, and I foresee that she can be in the all-around, but we’re not taking this decision as of now yet,” Karolyi said.

The U.S. will put no more than three women from its five-woman team in the all-around in qualifying. The top two Americans in qualifying will advance to the all-around final, the most prestigious individual competition in the sport.

“We have a tentative lineup, but that’s absolutely tentative and we would not reveal that lineup at the moment yet, because most likely there will be changes as time goes,” said Karolyi, adding that the lineup won’t be finalized until next week.

Simone Biles is considered a lock to be one of the all-arounders in qualifying. Who joins her is unclear.

Douglas and Aly Raisman were tapped at the 2015 World Championships, with Biles and Douglas topping Raisman in qualifying and then going one-two in the all-around final.

However, both Raisman and first-year senior Laurie Hernandez finished higher than Douglas in the all-around at the P&G Championships and the Olympic Trials in the last month.

Karolyi said that Douglas, who fell off the balance beam on both nights at the Olympic Trials, has improved at a pre-Olympic training camp. Karolyi also said that Douglas would not perform the difficult Amanar vault in Rio, which carries five tenths more in start value than the vault Douglas used at the Olympic Trials.

Biles and Raisman both perform the Amanar. If Biles, Douglas and Raisman do the all-around in qualifying, Douglas will go in with a start-value disadvantage in the chase to grab two available final spots.

In 2012, Douglas, Raisman and Jordyn Wieber all did the all-around in qualifying, with the 2011 World all-around champion Wieber finishing third out of the Americans (and fourth overall), missing the all-around final.

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