Vladimir Putin, Barack Obama

Vladimir Putin: No Olympic bets with Barack Obama

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Russian president Vladimir Putin and U.S. president Barack Obama will not be making any friendly wagers over the Sochi Olympics.

“No, we never make bets like that,” Putin told reporters in Russia last week (entire transcript here). “Mr. Obama also loves sports, I can tell, he looks fit, and he pays a lot of attention to it, not only by doing sports, but also to the development of sport. Practically all American presidents have made it a priority in their policy and taken effective measures.  That is why the U.S. team traditionally achieves very good and impressive results.

“We wish success to our American friends, to all American athletes. I know that a lot of people in our country, millions of people admire American athletes and truly sincerely love them.”

Putin was also asked about Obama putting gay athletes Brian BoitanoCaitlin Cahow and Billie Jean King on the delegation to Sochi.

“People have different sexual orientation,” Putin said. “We would welcome all athletes and all guests at the Olympics. At some point President Obama asked me to help make arrangements for a large U.S. delegation to come. His request was related to a limited membership of national teams, including both athletes and members of various administrative bodies.

“The International Olympic Committee has its rules, but we did the best we could. We found solutions to that, bearing in mind that the U.S. has traditionally had a larger delegation at the Olympic Games than other countries, they have a large team and many representatives. We complied with their request. So, I certainly will be glad to see the representatives of any countries, including the United States, there can be no doubts as to that. If they would like to meet me and discuss anything, they are welcome, I see no problems here.”

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Alina Zagitova eyes more gold at worlds; women’s preview

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Alina Zagitova hasn’t lost internationally in 18 months, and that doesn’t figure to change this week at the world championships in Milan.

The 15-year-old Russian is favored to become the youngest world gold medalist since Tara Lipinski (duplicating her feat from the Olympics) and make it five straight Olympic or world titles for Russian women, the longest streak for one country since American Carol Heiss won six straight Olympic/world titles from 1956 through 1960.

Zagitova would also become the first Olympic women’s champion to win worlds the following month since Kristi Yamaguchi in 1992. That’s largely because Olympic champions usually skip worlds in Olympic years. Since Yamaguchi, the only one to compete was Yuna Kim, who grabbed silver in 2010.

Zagitova may be young, but she may not have the longevity of Kim to make it to a second Olympics. Russia turns over a new class of elite women’s skaters every year.

Two weeks ago, 13-year-old Alexandra Trusova won the world junior title as the first woman to land two different quadruple jumps in one program. Trusova isn’t old enough to compete at the senior worlds until 2020.

Zagitova’s current rival and training partner, Olympic silver medalist and 2016 and 2017 World champion Yevgenia Medvedeva, withdrew from worlds due to injury.

WORLDS: TV Schedule | Pairs Preview | Nagasu’s Outlook

Which leaves the last two Olympic bronze medalists, Kaetlyn Osmond of Canada and Carolina Kostner of Italy, plus PyeongChang fourth-place finisher Satoko Miyahara of Japan as the top challengers this week.

None finished within seven points of Zagitova at any competition this season, the Russian’s first on the senior international level.

Zagitova set herself apart at the Olympics by putting all of her jumps in the second half of her programs for 10 percent bonuses and landing them all with positive grades of execution.

The U.S. contingent includes national champion Bradie Tennell, two-time Olympian Mirai Nagasu and Mariah Bell (replacement for 2017 U.S. champion Karen Chen).

It is the end of a challenging season for U.S. women. In the autumn, none qualified for the Grand Prix Final for a second straight year (after at least one had done so each of the previous seven seasons).

In PyeongChang, no U.S. woman finished in the top six for the first time in Winter Games history. Tennell, who emerged this season after placing ninth at 2017 Nationals, was the top U.S. Olympic finisher in ninth.

Tennell goes into worlds as the top seeded American — seventh — by best international scores this season.

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Olympic golf qualifying, format largely unchanged for 2020

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The Tokyo 2020 Olympic golf tournaments qualifying and format will remain largely the same as they were for the sport’s return to the Games in 2016, according to Golf Channel, citing a memo sent to PGA Tour players.

The format will again be four rounds of stroke play with 60 men and 60 women taken from the world rankings, according to the report.

The qualifying window to determine the rankings will be July 1, 2018 to June 22, 2020 for men and July 8, 2018 to June 29, 2020 for women. That’s a slight change, as for 2016 the dates were the same for men and women.

The 2016 process saw a maximum of two men and two women per country, or up to four if they were ranked in the top 15.

Then-PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said one month after the Rio Games that he hoped the Olympic golf format would be changed to have more medals awarded.

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