Figure skating

Skating, cycling bosses propose major changes to Olympic programs

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Presidents of the international skating and cycling unions suggested major changes to the Olympics, including cutting figure skating short programs, eliminating short track speed skating and moving summer indoor sports to the Winter Games.

International Skating Union (ISU) president Ottavio Cinquanta outlined what he called “personal opinions,” a summary of proposals he put forth for consideration in an internal letter to ISU officials. The Italian Cinquanta’s reign as ISU president, since 1994, is expected to end in 2016.

Dutch newspaper Volkskrant quoted Cinquanta’s proposed changes for speed skating and short track speed skating on Tuesday. The Chicago Tribune obtained the letter and published it.

Here’s a summary:

Figure skating ideas
Abolish all short programs.

Make free skates the same time across all four disciplines (men’s and pairs are currently 4 minutes, 30 seconds, while women and ice dance are 4 minutes).

Add synchronized skating to the Olympics.

Speed skating/Short track ideas 
Move to a mass start in speed skating with a maximum of two skaters per country per event (currently it is three or four) to ensure a nation does not sweep gold, silver and bronze in any event. Cinquanta prefaced this by noting the Netherlands “monopolized” the speed skating medals in Sochi (winning 23 of a possible 32), calling the dominance a “sign of high concern.”

Switch from a 400m oval to a 250m oval and eventually cancel short track events.

Replace speed skating’s 1000m, women’s 5000m and men’s 10,000m with 16-lap mass starts and a mixed relay.

Meanwhile, International Cycling Union (UCI) president Brian Cookson suggested discussions about moving track cycling, combat sports such as judo and indoor sports like badminton to the Winter Olympics.

“If you have a problem with Summer Olympics where the whole thing is perceived as overheated with too many facilities, too many sports, too many competitors and so on, why not look at moving some of the other sports that traditionally take place in the winter in the northern hemisphere indoors,” Cookson said, according Agence-France Presse citing Press Association Sport. “If we moved track cycling to the Winter Olympics and that allowed us to have more track cycling events and more medals then that could be a pretty good outcome.

“So let’s talk about those things and see what the stakeholders, the national federations, the teams and the competitors have to say about those options.”

It would not be unprecedented to move sports from the Summer Olympics to Winter Olympics. Ice hockey and figure skating were Summer Olympic sports before the first edition of the Winter Olympics in 1924.

Mark Spitz presents Laureus Award to Missy Franklin

Claressa Shields congratulated by famous boxing actor (video)

Claressa Shields
Getty Images
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Claressa Shields may just be the most dominant female athlete on the planet. The Flint, Mich., native is now a two-time Olympic boxing champion with a 77-1 record and a four-year unbeaten streak.

Actor Mark Wahlberg, who played boxer Micky Ward in the 2010 film “The Fighter,” took notice.

He taped a video that Shields watched before a celebration in her hometown Thursday, according to the Flint Journal.

“You are the true definition of a champion,” Wahlberg said. “You continue to inspire so many people, not only in Flint, but all over the world. I’m so proud of you. Your performance was amazing. God bless you. I look forward to seeing you, and I look forward to doing lots of things with you.”

Now Shields must decide whether to turn professional, which would end her Olympic career.

“Professional women’s boxing is not nowhere near on the same attention level as the Olympics are,” the 21-year-old Shields said, according to the Flint Journal. “I get way more attention than any female boxer who is professional right now with me being an amateur.

“So the goal is to go professional but still have that same attention and same mainstream. Hopefully, if they have the rule changed that the women professionals can come back and fight the Olympics, I would go professional to fight on TV and make a bunch of money but then come back and defend my two gold medals in 2020.”

MORE: Shields becomes first U.S. fighter to win back-to-back golds

Russian Olympic medalists gifts include racehorse

Abdulrashid Sadulaev
AP
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MOSCOW (AP) — Luxury cars, apartments, even a racehorse — being an Olympic medalist in Russia can come with great material rewards but also controversy.

Under President Vladimir Putin, it’s become a tradition for Russia’s Olympic heroes to be showered with large cash sums and sometimes unwanted gifts.

On Friday, less than 24 hours after dozens of medalists were presented with BMW cars at the Kremlin by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, an advertisement appeared online offering one of them for sale, with photographs showing the car still covered in stickers celebrating Russia’s medal haul in Rio.

The advertisement offering the BMW X6 for 4.67 million rubles ($72,000) was anonymous and quickly withdrawn. It couldn’t be independently verified by The Associated Press, though Russian agency R-Sport claimed the seller was a Russian medalist who thought the car was too big and unwieldy.

Figure skater Maxim Trankov, who received a Mercedes-Benz SUV for his gold medal in 2014, said few Olympians could afford to own such cars.

“Has no one thought that these gift cars are not only liable for the tax on luxury items, but also aren’t cheap to run and earnings can’t cover it?” he wrote on Twitter. “I’d sell mine too if it came to it … Or does everyone think all sports pay as well as soccer, hockey or tennis?”

Gymnast Seda Tutkhalyan said she wouldn’t be able to drive her new BMW because at 17 years of age she was too young to have a license.

While online commenters mostly supported an athlete’s right to sell expensive Olympic gifts, many were critical of the government for a display of conspicuous consumption at the Kremlin at a time when Russia’s pension and healthcare systems are under financial strain.

It’s not fully clear how much the prizes have cost the Russian government.

State TV channel Rossiya 24 reported that the fleet of BMWs was provided by the Olympians’ Support Fund, which is backed by a group of Russia’s richest men, but that the accompanying cash prizes of tens of thousands of dollars per medalist came in part from the federal budget.

More awards are on offer from regional governments, many of which made public displays of generosity despite financial troubles of their own.

The Caucasus region of North Ossetia last month promised a free apartment for any medalists from the area, though it isn’t clear if this has happened yet.

In another grand gesture, the head of the restive Dagestan region gave Olympic wrestling champion Abdulrashid Sadulaev 6 million rubles ($93,000) in cash and a racehorse at a lavish welcoming ceremony featured on local TV.

Still, all may not be well for Sadulaev, who’s nicknamed the “Russian Tank” for his habit of crushing opponents on the wrestling mat. He’s already facing an allegation from a Moscow radio presenter of reckless driving in his eye-catching BMW.

MORE: Putin slams Russia’s Paralympic ban