Meryl Davis, Charlie White

Meryl Davis, Charlie White take first dance toward record title

Leave a comment

Meryl Davis and Charlie White began what’s expected to be a record-breaking weekend with the highest short dance score in U.S. Championships history on Friday.

Davis and White posted 80.69 points for a 7.28-point lead over a hopeless field at TD Garden in Boston. They’re on pace to earn their sixth straight national title on Saturday, breaking a tie with four past couples who won five championships.

“I think that today we really reached a comfort level with this program that we haven’t achieved in competition so far,” Davis told reporters. “We feel really confident.”

U.S. Championships schedule, broadcast times

The reigning world champions who haven’t lost anywhere in almost two years put up a fast-paced but flowing dance to “My Fair Lady.”

Davis and White could plunge in the free dance Saturday and still be named to the U.S. Olympic Team, which will include three couples overall.

The two next highest couples in the standings are expected to join Davis and White in Sochi. After the short program, that would be Madison Chock and 2010 Olympian Evan Bates and siblings Alex and Maia Shibutani

Chock and Bates and the Shibutanis have been the top U.S. ice dancers behind Davis and White this season.

Chock and Bates posted a personal-best 73.41 points for second place. Bates finished 11th at the 2010 Olympics with partner Emily Samuelson, suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in September 2010 and changed partners to Chock in summer 2011.

They were second at the 2013 U.S. Championships behind Davis and White and won two bronze medals in international Grand Prix events this season.

Chock skated with sore shoulders after taking a hard fall in practice Thursday, crashing into the boards.

“Our coach just said, ‘Skate to win,'” Bates said. “He wants us to be pushing upwards toward Meryl and Charlie.”

The Shibutanis, who have skated together for 10 years, scored 68 points after struggling on twizzles during a jazzy dance to Michael Buble.

The affectionately known ShibSibs are the 2011 world bronze medalists and haven’t finished lower than third in their three senior-level U.S. Championships appearances.

“It definitely wasn’t our best,” Alex said. “We left some points out there.”

The top couple looking to move into the top three Saturday will be Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, who placed fourth and third at the last two U.S. Championships. They’re 1.31 points behind the Shibutanis.

Short Dance
1. Meryl Davis/Charlie White — 80.69
2. Madison Chock/Evan Bates — 73.41
3. Alex Shibutani/Maia Shibutani — 68.00
4. Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue — 66.69
5. Alexandra Aldridge/Daniel Eaton — 63.71
6. Lynn Kriengkrairut/Logan Giulietti-Schmitt — 61.22

Plushenko changes mind about Sochi

IOC will not enforce complete ban on Russia for Rio Olympics

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27:  Maria Sharapova of the Russia Olympic tennis team carries her country's flag during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
Getty Images
2 Comments

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Olympic leaders stopped short Sunday of imposing a complete ban on Russia from the Rio de Janeiro Games, leaving individual global sports federations to decide which athletes should be cleared to compete.

The decision, announced after a three-hour meeting of the International Olympic Committee’s executive board, came just 12 days before the Aug. 5 opening of the games.

“We had to balance the collective responsibility and the individual justice to which every human being and athlete is entitled to,” IOC President Thomas Bach said.

The IOC rejected calls from the World Anti-Doping Agency and many other anti-doping bodies to exclude the entire Russian Olympic team following allegations of state-sponsored cheating.

Russia’s track and field athletes have already been banned by the IAAF, the sport’s governing body, a decision that was upheld Thursday by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and was accepted by the IOC again on Sunday.

Calls for a complete ban on Russia intensified after Richard McLaren, a Canadian lawyer commissioned by WADA, issued a report Monday accusing Russia’s sports ministry of overseeing a vast doping program of its Olympic athletes.

McLaren’s investigation, based heavily on evidence from former Moscow doping lab director Grigory Rodchenkov, affirmed allegations of brazen manipulation of Russian urine samples at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, but also found that state-backed doping had involved 28 summer and winter sports from 2011 to 2015.

But the IOC board, meeting via teleconference, decided against the ultimate sanction, in line with Bach’s recent statements stressing the need to take individual justice into account.

“An athlete should not suffer and should not be sanctioned for a system in which he was not implicated,” Bach told reporters on a conference call after Sunday’s meeting.

Back acknowledged the decision “might not please everybody.”

“This is not about expectations,” he said. “This is about doing justice to clean athletes all over the world.”

Russian Olympic Committee president Alexander Zhukov presented his case to the IOC board at the beginning of Sunday’s meeting, promising full cooperation with investigations and guaranteeing “a complete and comprehensive restructuring of the Russian anti-doping system.”

The IOC also rejected the application by Russian whistleblower Yulia Stepanova, the 800-meter runner and former doper who helped expose the doping scandal in her homeland, to compete under a neutral flag at the games.

The IOC said Stepanova, now living in the United States, did not meet the criteria for running under the IOC flag and, because she had committed doping violations, did not satisfy the “ethical requirements” to compete in the games. However, the IOC added that it would invite her and her husband, Vitaly Stepanov, to attend the games.

While deciding against an outright ban, the IOC said it was imposing tough eligibility conditions, including barring entry for the Rio Games of any Russian athlete who has ever been sanctioned for doping.

The IOC said it would accept the entry only of those Russian athletes who meet certain conditions set out for the 28 international federations to apply.

The federations “should carry out an individual analysis of each athlete’s anti-doping record, taking in account only reliable adequate international tests … in order to ensure a level playing field,” the IOC said.

The committee asked the federations to examine the information and names of athletes and sports implicated in the McLaren report. Any of those implicated should not be allowed into the games, it said.

The IOC said the federations would have to apply their own rules if they want to ban an entire Russian team from their events in Rio, as the IAAF has already done for track and field.

Russian entries must be examined and upheld by an expert from the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the IOC said.

Russian athletes who are cleared for the games will be subjected to a “rigorous additional out-of-competition testing program.”

The IOC also reiterated its “serious concerns” about the weaknesses in the fight against doping, and called on WADA to “fully review their anti-doping systems.” The IOC said it would propose measures for more transparency and independence.

The decision for the IOC was loaded with geopolitical ramifications.

Never has a country been kicked out of the Olympics for doping violations. And Vladimir Putin‘s Russia is a sports powerhouse, a huge country seeking to reaffirm its status on the world stage, and a major player in the Olympic movement. Many international Olympic officials and federation leaders have close ties to Russia, which has portrayed the exclusion of its track athletes and calls for a complete ban as part of a political, Western-led campaign.

Putin, citing the U.S. and Soviet-led boycotts of the 1980 and 1984 Games, said the Olympic movement “could once again find itself on the brink of a division.” And former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev wrote an open letter to Bach on Friday to plead against a blanket ban.

Anti-doping leaders had argued that the extent of state-backed doping in Russia had tainted the country’s entire sports system, and the only way to ensure a level playing field was to bar the whole team, even if some innocent athletes will lose out.

Russia faces a possible ban from the Paralympic Games. Citing evidence in McLaren’s report of doping among Russian Paralympic athletes, the International Paralympic Committee said Friday it will decide next month whether to exclude the country from the Sept. 7-18 event in Rio.

MORE: Russia loses Olympic track and field ban appeal

Leaks, electrical outages found in Rio Olympic athletes village

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 23:  Preparations continue at the Olympic Athlete Village for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games as seen during a media tour of the venue on June 23, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Australian athletes will not move into their rooms at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics until serious plumbing, electrical and cleaning problems are fixed, with the troubled South American games opening in under two weeks.

Kitty Chiller, the head of the Australian delegation, said in a statement Sunday that team members “will not move into our allocated building” at the Athletes Village. She gave no hint of when they might. Teams from Britain and New Zealand were also reported to be having similar problems.

This comes as the sprawling 31-building village, which will house 18,000 athletes and officials at the height of the games, opened officially on Sunday with some athletes expected to arrive.

This is the latest problem for the troubled games, which have been hit by the Zika virus, water pollution and severe budget cuts.

The International Olympic Committee and local organizers held emergency talks Sunday, but did not reply immediately to emails from The Associated Press.

“We’re having plumbing problems, we’ve got leaking pipes,” Mike Tancred, the spokesman for the Australian team, said in an interview with AP. “We’ve got electrical problems. We’ve got cleaning problems. We’ve got lighting problems in some of the stairwells.”

He said more than 20 staff members have been unable to stay in the building, and said the first Australian athletes were to arrive Monday.

“We did a stress test on Saturday, turned on the taps and flushed the toilets, and water came flooding down the walls,” Tancred said.

Chiller listed the same problems, and added more.

“Water came down walls, there was a strong smell of gas in some apartments and there was ‘shorting’ in the electrical wiring,” she said. “We have been living in nearby hotels because the village is simply not safe or ready.”

She said teams from Britain and New Zealand had similar problems, which have been going on for at least a week.

The United States Olympic Committee acknowledged there were small problems.

“As is the case with every Games, we’re working with the local organizers to address minor issues and make sure the village is ready for team USA athletes,” spokesman Patrick Sandusky told AP.

Local reports said about 5 percent of the apartments had gas, water and electrical faults, and some were without toilet fixtures.

Scott Field, spokesman for the British team, declined to comment but acknowledged problems were being tackled.

Chiller said the IOC will ask local organizers to do stress tests “throughout the Olympic Village,” a process that could force major delays and require people living there now to relocate.

The 31-building compound contains tennis courts, soccer fields, seven swimming pools – with mountains and the sea as a backdrop – topped off by a massive dining-kitchen compound that’s as large as three football fields.

The 3,600 apartments are to be sold after the Olympics with some prices reaching $700,000. The development costs about $1.5 billion, built by the Brazilian billionaire Carlos Carvalho.

“From the exterior it looks like the Hilton Hotel,” Tancred said. “But inside it’s not finished.”

MORE: Ready or Not: Rio Olympics open doors at Athletes Village