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

Jesse Owens, 1936 Olympians receive recognition at White House

Jesse Owens
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Shortly after Jesse Owens returned home from his snubbing by Adolph Hitler at the 1936 Olympics, he and America’s 17 other black Olympians found a less-than-welcoming reception from their own government, as well.

On Thursday, relatives of those 1936 African-American Olympians will be welcomed to the White House and will get to shake the president’s hand – an honor Owens and the others didn’t receive, the way some of their white counterparts did, after they returned home from Berlin 80 years ago.

U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun announced the visit Wednesday night at a Team USA Awards ceremony.

“That is why I’m here 80 years later, to recognize the senselessness (of not inviting them to the White House), and to pay tribute to all the progress that has come since,” Blackmun said.

The announcement came on the same night the USOC invited Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who were booted from the 1968 Olympics for their gloved-fist protest on the medals stand, to be part of the awards show. Smith and Carlos hadn’t been involved in an official USOC event since being sent home from Mexico City. The gold- and bronze-medal-winning sprinters will be at the White House on Thursday, as well.

At the 1936 Olympics , Owens won four gold medals, but it was the message Owens’ victories sent by winning in Nazi Germany and undercutting Hitler’s white-supremacy dogma that stood as the lasting memory of those games.

Owens returned to a segregated America where he had trouble finding steady work and where, according to his interviews in later years, the president, Franklin Roosevelt, never sent him any words of congratulations or an invitation to the White House.

Decades later, Owens was acknowledged and honored at the White House. In 1976, President Gerald Ford presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The stories of the other 17 blacks on that team were less-widely known. Thursday’s event was meant to give a long-overdue White House recognition to those athletes, who accounted for 14 of America’s 56 medals in Berlin.

Owens’ daughter, Marlene Owens-Rankin, will be among the relatives at the White House.

“To be able to go to the White House 80 years later with Barack Obama as president and also with the other 1936 Olympians that really didn’t get the exposure that my grandfather did, for various reasons, I think it would make him so happy,” said Owens’ granddaughter, Marlene Dortch.

MORE: Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky big winners at Team USA Awards

Simone Biles discusses her future

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 16:  Gold medalist Simone Biles of the United States celebrates on the podium at the medal ceremony for the Women's Floor on Day 11 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Rio Olympic Arena on August 16, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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Simone Biles does not know where she will be next October, when the 2017 World Championships will be held. Understandable, considering it is hard enough for her to keep track of where she will be tomorrow.

She has been living out of a suitcase, a very organized suitcase with pants on one side and tops on the other, since winning four Olympic gold medals in Rio. Her whirlwind travel schedule is full of media appearances, sponsor visits and a USA Gymnastics tour of shows. More than once she has woken up in a hotel, unsure which city she was in.

“Everything has happened so fast,” she said in a phone interview from the Team USA Awards red carpet in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday. “But it’s definitely amazing.”

Biles, 19, reiterated that she plans on taking a break from competition for about a year.

“There’s no way I could train 100% and still do everything that I am doing now,” she said.

Biles is not ready to set a date for her return to competitive gymnastics. She is not planning on entering the 2017 P&G Championships, which will be held Aug. 17-20, almost exactly a year after the 2016 Olympics.

“Oh goodness, I think that still falls under a year,” she said. “We will see. I could always change my mind.”

The 2017 World Championships will be held next October in Montreal. None of the previous four U.S. Olympic women’s all-around champions competed at Worlds the year after their Olympic triumphs, but Biles has not ruled it out.

She was asked if she had thought about competing in Montreal.

“I have and I haven’t,” said Biles, the three-time defending world all-around champion. “I try not to think too far ahead.”

It remains to be seen who will coach her once she returns to training. Aimee Boorman, who coached Biles since she was 7, is moving from Texas for a new gymnastics job in Florida.

Biles “loves Florida” and “thinks the whole state is beautiful” based on her two visits to the Sunshine State. But she is not sure if she will follow her coach to Florida.

“Florida is quite a ways away, but anything can happen,” she said. “We will have to see whenever I decide to start up again.”

Biles was speaking on behalf DICK’s Sporting Goods, who pledged a $1,000 donation for every Olympic and Paralympic Games medal won by a U.S. athlete in Rio. By winning five Olympics medals, Biles was directly responsible for a $5,000 contribution.

There are six Olympic medals available for female artistic gymnastics. Biles did not compete in the uneven bars final in Rio, but that could change at the Tokyo Games.

“My bar just needs to be a little bit stronger,” she said. “We’ll have to see once I go back to training to up my difficulty if it’s possible for me to get a sixth.”

Until then, Biles is enjoying her celebrity status. Since Rio, she has met Beyoncé, Kim Kardashian and Usher, and even filmed a music video with Jake Miller.

“I have no idea when this whole process slows down,” Biles said. “That would be a question for the world, not me.”

MORE: Best photos from red carpet of the Team USA Awards