Olympic gold medal contender Takanashi wins at Hinzenbach

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Expected to be one of the primary figures in the battle for the first-ever Olympic gold medal in women’s ski jumping, Japan’s Sara Takanashi earned her ninth FIS World Cup win of the season today in windy Hinzenbach, Austria.

The 17-year-old Takanashi, who figures to duel with Team USA’s Sarah Hendrickson for that Sochi gold, will have her final event before the Olympics tomorrow (again at Hinzenbach).

Her jumps of 87.0 and 90 meters led her to a score of 231.7, enough to top Austrian runner-up Daniela Iraschko-Stolz and her score of 226.9 (jumps of 82 and 90.5 meters). Maja Vtic of Slovenia was third (score: 223.5; jumps of 88.5 and 85.0 meters), earning her first career World Cup podium.

“The wind was changing a lot, as you could see,” Takanashi said in an FIS release. “But I did my best and at the end I could win. This success gives me self-confidence for the Olympic Games.”

Takanashi is looking forward to competing in Sochi and, in particular, with Hendrickson – who returned to jumping last month after sustaining a torn ACL, MCL and meniscus in her right knee during a crash in Germany last August.

“It’s not so much fun jumping without [Hendrickson],” she said about her American counterpart in December. “I have learned a lot of things from her. To me, she is a sort of icon rather than a rival. I don’t consider myself champion.”

The inaugural Olympic women’s ski jumping competition takes place on Tuesday, Feb. 11.

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IOC expects decisions on Russian doping cases next month

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Investigators at the International Olympic Committee expect to have “a number” of doping cases involving Russians at the Sochi Olympics resolved by the end of November, but they have no plans to dictate the eligibility of these athletes for next year’s Winter Games in PyeongChang.

The leader of an IOC delegation in charge of reviewing 28 cases involving athletes at Sochi wrote to the head of the IOC Athletes Commission this week to update the timeline of cases stemming from a report detailing a Russian doping scheme at the 2014 Olympics and beforehand.

Denis Oswald said that of the cases his committee is reviewing, priority has been given to those involving athletes looking to compete in PyeongChang. Top priority goes to six cross-country skiers whose provisional suspensions expire Oct. 31.

Oswald also said his committee would rule on these athletes’ results for Sochi, but will not determine their eligibility for PyeongChang, instead handing over evidence to their respective sports federations to decide.

The IOC also appointed a task force to look at the Russian doping scandal as a whole, the results of which could have wider repercussions on the country’s eligibility at next year’s Olympics.

In a separate letter sent to worldwide sports leaders, IOC President Thomas Bach said only that the Schmid Commission is continuing its evaluation and that “I hope that the IOC Executive Board will still be able to take a decision this year because none of us want this serious issue to overshadow” the upcoming Olympics.

The updates come amid a growing chorus of calls for a timely decision and for Russia’s ouster from PyeongChang.

The IOC commissions are operating off information from the McLaren Report, the first part of which was released in July 2016.

In explaining the timeline, Oswald wrote that because the Russian scheme involved exchanging dirty urine samples with clean ones, it took time to adopt methods to verify that samples had been tampered with — in part by finding evidence of scratch marks on collection bottles that had been opened and re-sealed.

“The task has not been easy in both establishing a methodology in an area in which there are no established protocols,” he wrote, “and then moving through the necessary scientific analysis of each individual sample in a way which would withstand legal challenge.”

MORE: USOC boss calls for immediate action on Russian doping

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Two-time Olympian becomes first woman to lead U.S. national swim team

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Two-time Olympian Lindsay Mintenko has been picked to lead the U.S. national swimming team. She is the first woman to hold the title.

USA Swimming made the announcement Wednesday.

Mintenko replaces Frank Busch, who retired Oct. 1 as managing director. She has been a member of the national team staff since 2006.

During her swimming career, Mintenko won gold medals as a U.S. team captain at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics 800m freestyle relay and added a silver in 2004 on the 400m freestyle relay.

USA Swimming also announced an organizational restructuring that will place all technical divisions, including the national team, under the oversight of chief operating officer Mike Unger.

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