Meryl Davis, Charlie White

Meryl Davis, Charlie White eye Olympic gold after record U.S. title

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Meryl Davis and Charlie White took care of business in Boston. The next goal is to make American history in Sochi.

Davis and White, the 2010 Olympic silver medalists, won their record-breaking sixth straight U.S. Championship in ice dancing on Saturday.

In a class of their own, they padded a lead built from the short dance Friday and won with 200.19 total points and by a comfortable margin of 18.75.

They received a standing ovation at TD Garden in Boston after performing a “Scheherazade” free dance, received a perfect 60-point component score and became the first couple to break 200 points at a U.S. Championships since ice dance dropped from three programs to two in 2011.

Can they put their performance in perspective?

“It’s really hard right now,” White said on NBC. “We’re so proud of everything we’ve accomplished, and it meant so much to be able to come in here, take that title and head into the Olympics with it.”

Davis and White can turn their focus to the Olympics, where they are favored to become the first U.S. couple to win gold in ice dance.

“We’re working to earn gold,” Davis said on NBC. “We’re working really hard for it.”

They’ll lead a U.S. Olympic Team of three couples that appears cut and dry, as opposed to the drama-filled pairs. The official team that is based largely but not solely off U.S. Championships results will be announced Sunday around noon ET.

The top three couples from the short dance Friday remained the same after the free dance. Madison Chock and 2010 Olympian Evan Bates and siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani followed Davis and White.

Chock and Bates and the Shibutanis were also second and third at the 2013 U.S. Championships and were the top U.S. couples behind Davis and White during the Grand Prix season.

Chock, Bates, the Shibutanis and nearly the rest of the world appear to be fighting for bronze in Sochi.

Davis and White, who haven’t lost in nearly two years, are thought to be challenged by one couple — Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who happen to be their training partners in Canton, Mich.

Virtue and Moir are the only couple to relegate Davis and White to silver in the last four years — at the 2010 Olympics, 2010 World Championships, 2012 World Championships and 2012 Four Continents Championships.

Virtue and Moir are competing in the Canadian Championships this weekend, where they scored 76.16 points in the short dance Friday and were to perform their free dance later Saturday.

Comparing results from nationals competitions isn’t an exact science, but Davis and White scored 80.69 in the short dance in Boston on Friday.

The other top U.S. ice dancers bring international experience.

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.

The Shibutanis, who have skated together for 10 years, are set to make their first U.S. Olympic Team after their strong performance to a Michael Jackson medley Saturday.

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

“What we’re really proud of is the way we skated today and handled this whole week,” Maia Shibutani told reporters. “So if we were to be on the team it would be an absolute dream come true.”

Ice Dance Results
1. Meryl Davis/Charlie White — 200.19
2. Madison Chock/Evan Bates — 181.44
3. Alex Shibutani/Maia Shibutani — 170.44
4. Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue — 168.27

U.S. Championships broadcast schedule

Gary Bettman not bullish about NHL participation in 2018 Olympics

Gary Bettman
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PITTSBURGH (AP) — The NHL remains open to continuing to send its players to the Olympics, just so long as it doesn’t have foot the bill.

“Our teams are not interested in paying for the privilege” of Olympic participation, Commissioner Gary Bettman said Monday before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks.

NHL players have been a fixture at the Olympics since the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, thanks in large part to significant financial support from the International Olympic Committee and the International Ice Hockey Federation, which have handled most of the travel costs, accommodations and insurance for league owners.

Bettman pointed to IOC President Thomas Bach‘s stated resistance to providing subsidies for any sport as a major stumbling block to having the league stop in the middle of the 2017-18 season so over 100 players can head to Pyeongchang, South Korea for the 2018 Winter Games.

Bettman said if the issue remains unresolved “I have no doubt it will have significant impact on our decision.” He described the potential cost as “many, many millions of dollars. This is no small-ticket item.”

The Olympics has helped the NHL expand its global footprint while providing a series of iconic moments, including Sidney Crosby‘s golden goal on home soil in the 2010 final and T.J. Oshie‘s shootout performance while leading the U.S. to a victory over host Russia in Sochi two years ago.

Yet with the NHL-backed World Cup of Hockey coming to North America this fall, the league may no longer need the Olympics as much as it once did. Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly declined to speculate whether the World Cup would become a more frequent event if the NHL pulled out of the Winter Games.

“The World Cup is not going to be an isolated event, it’s something we’re committed to,” Daly said. “It’s part of a series we want to do, events we want to create that adds to international presence of NHL.”

The biggest issue concerns insurance premiums required to cover NHL players during Olympic competition. Owners want protection should one of their players get hurt during the games, an injury that could have both short- and long-term ramifications on the team and the player’s future. With salaries skyrocketing, providing coverage for 150-plus NHL players is a major financial commitment, one the IOC and IIHF appear to be in no rush to cover.

There remain other issues the league would have to work out with the NHL Players’ Association, and Bettman said there have been no “substantive” talks with the union about 2018, though if the financial specifics with the IOC and IIHF aren’t worked out, it probably won’t matter.

“It almost becomes an easy showstopper, and you don’t have to get into the other discussions,” said Bettman, who expects there to be some sort of final decision by December.

MORE: 2018 Olympic hockey groups announced

IPC president: Now is the right time to have Paralympics in Brazil

Paralympics
AP
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International Paralympic Committee president Philip Craven said the upcoming Paralympic Games, which open in 100 days, could not be going to a better city than Rio de Janeiro.

“Many people might think that it’s not the time to go there now with the economic and political problems,” Craven said in a phone interview last week. “But is that not just the right time to be going, to just show what sport can truly do to mobilize and galvanize a people?”

And the Zika virus?

“We believe that the measures that have been communicated on a regular basis, reiterated to our member nations, will be effective, and the Zika virus will not have a major effect on the Games,” Craven said.

The Paralympics will visit South America for the first time in their 15th edition. The Rio Games, which run from Sept. 7-18, will have more broadcast coverage than ever and an expected record number of athletes and nations in the largest number of sports on a single Paralympic program.

NBC and NBCSN will air a record 66 hours of coverage of the Games. The USOC will provide live coverage at TeamUSA.org, too.

How the Paralympics will deal with the well-known issues facing Brazil will be largely impacted by how the preceding Olympics handle them.

But one issue unique to the Paralympics came to light four weeks ago.

A British Paralympic champion swimmer was disqualified from a European Championships event because his Olympic rings tattoo was not covered (he later competed at the meet with the tattoo covered).

An International Paralympic Committee swimming rule states, “body advertisements are not allowed in any way whatsoever (this includes tattoos and symbols).”

The rule will cover all sports at the Rio Paralympics. Craven said he has not heard of any appeals by para-athletes to change the rule.

The IPC will take a “common-sense approach” to enforcing the rule in Rio to make sure there are no disqualifications by communicating thoroughly to national committees, Craven said.

“IPC has got very strict rules for the Paralympic Games and for other events prohibiting body advertisements, and this includes tattoos for commercial brands and non-IPC symbols, such as the Olympic rings,” Craven said. “These rules were emphasized, re-emphasized to all competing teams and swimmers at that particular event, and, similarly, we’ll be doing so prior to the Games in Rio.”

Some Paralympians identify themselves as Olympians, too — some have event competed in both Games — but Craven made the difference clear.

The 65-year-old, five-time Paralympic wheelchair basketball player likened Olympic rings tattoos at the Paralympics to an NFL player with an NBA team tattoo.

Craven added that there has been no pressure from the IOC regarding the rule and that he would expect a hypothetical Paralympian competing at the Olympics to cover up a tattoo of the Agitos, which is the Paralympic logo.

“We want Paralympic athletes to show pride in promoting the Paralympic movement, including our symbol, which is the Agitos, which is very different from the Olympic rings,” Craven said. “When you have a Paralympic athlete, a para-athlete sporting a branding from another event, then it just creates confusion. It creates confusion for the IPC. It creates confusion for the IOC.”

MORE: Paralympic champ long jumper still hopes to be allowed into Olympics