Paralympics

Ukraine may leave Sochi Paralympics if situation escalates

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Ukraine’s athletes are set to compete in the Paralympics, but the nation may pull out of Sochi if the nation’s current situation with Russia escalates, its Paralympic head said before the Opening Ceremony on Friday.

Russia reportedly made military moves in the Crimea region of Ukraine beginning Saturday, and the area’s parliament voted to break away from Ukraine and join Russia on Thursday. NBC News has full coverage of the Russia-Ukraine situation here.

On Friday, Ukraine Paralympic Committee president Valeriy Sushkevich said if “some acts happen to escalate the conflict … we will leave [Sochi], we will not be able to be here,” according to R-Sport.

“I declare that should this happen we will leave the Games,” Sushkevich said, according to the BBC. “We cannot possibly stay here in this case.”

Sushkevich said he discussed the situation with Russian president Vladimir Putin in a half-hour meeting on Thursday night and that “no guarantees” were given by either side, according to reports.

“I told Putin my one and most important request, linked to that during the Paralympics there was peace,” he said. “So that concrete, significant steps were made so that human rights are preserved during the Paralympic Games.”

He added Friday that Ukraine’s athletes, a team of 23 according to The Associated Press, could have trouble concentrating on the competition.

“I don’t remember a situation when the organizing country during a Paralympics started an intervention on the territory of a country taking part,” Sushkevich said, according to R-Sport. “I don’t know what to extent the team can focus on the result now.”

The Opening Ceremony is set for Friday at 11 a.m. ET.

Five competition storylines to watch at Paralympics

Teddy Riner, dominant judoka, to skip 2018, 2019 Worlds

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French judoka Teddy Riner, arguably the world’s most dominant athlete, will reportedly skip the next two world championships before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

French coach Franck Chambily said Riner will compete a light international schedule the next two years ahead of what would be his fourth Olympics, according to Agence France-Presse.

Riner, a 29-year-old, 6-foot-8-inch native of Guadeloupe, is undefeated since 2010 with a reported 144-match winning streak. That includes Olympic titles in 2012 and 2016 and world titles in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017.

Before the streak, Riner also earned world titles in 2007, 2009 and 2010, plus an Olympic bronze at age 19 in 2008.

He could compete through the 2024 Paris Games.

“When I am invincible, I will stop,” Riner said in 2013, according to The Associated Press.

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Maggie Nichols wins NCAA all-around title with perfect 10

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Even after a perfect 10 in the last rotation, Maggie Nichols didn’t know that she had won the NCAA all-around title. Her coach at Oklahoma, K.J. Kindler, had to tell her.

The reaction?

“Excitement,” Nichols said Friday night on ESPNU. “I just wanted to go out there and feel out the equipment, staying calm and doing my routines that I have been doing in training.”

Nichols, a 2015 World team champion who retired from elite gymnastics after missing the 2016 Olympic team (set back by a torn meniscus that year), became the first Sooner to win the NCAA all-around in 30 years.

The sophomore tallied 39.8125 points and topped Olympic alternate MyKayla Skinner of Utah by .0875 for the title in St. Louis. It came one year after Nichols was 29th in the all-around with a balance beam fall.

Oklahoma and Utah will be joined in Saturday night’s Super Six team finals by UCLA, LSU, Florida and Nebraska. The Sooners eye their third straight national title.

Nichols capped her night with one of two perfect scores between the two semifinal sessions, matching 2012 Olympic alternate Elizabeth Price‘s 10 on uneven bars. It gave Nichols a second career gym slam, a perfect score on every apparatus for the season.

On Jan. 9, Nichols came forward as “Athlete A,” who first reported to USA Gymnastics that she was sexually abused by Larry Nassar in summer 2015.

“She has had a really unique year probably like no one else, and her strength showed through,” Kindler said Friday, according to the University of Oklahoma. “It was tough, and to come out on this side this year is really special.”

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