Bobsled and Skeleton World Championship moved out of Russia

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The International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) announced Tuesday they have decided to move the 2017 IBSF World Championship, which had been set for Sochi, Russia at the Olympic Sanki Sliding Centre from February 13-26.

In a press release the IBSF explained:

“The IBSF decided to move the IBSF World Championships 2017 from Sochi, Russia to another location which will be determined in the coming days.

The IBSF Executive Committee felt that during this difficult time it is prudent not to organize such an event in Russia. This decision was made for two primary reasons:

1st: to allow athletes and coaches from all Nations to participate in a competition that focuses on sport rather than accusations and discussions – whether justified or not.

2nd: The Russian Bobsleigh Federation has put a great effort in the preparation of the World Championships, but the current climate would make it nearly impossible to appreciate the efforts of the Organizing Committee to host a great event or the quality of the Sanki Sliding Center as one of the best tracks in the World.

Having stated that, the IBSF asks all Members and athletes for Fair Play and Respect, which also includes the assumption of innocence for any athlete, regardless of national affiliation, until proven guilty.”

This news comes after several athletes and national federations, which include the U.S., Canada, Latvia, Great Britain, South Korea, Germany and Austria, discussed boycotting the 2017 IBSF World Championships if it were held in Sochi amid the latest reports of Russia’s doping cover-up by the Independent McLaren Investigation.

With one of the sport’s most high-profile athletes, Latvia’s skeleton federation made it clear on December 11 they would boycott the event if it were not moved out of Sochi. Latvia’s best skeleton athlete, Martins Dukurs finished second in Olympic skeleton in 2010 and 2014, behind Canadian Jon Montgomery in Vancouver and Russian Alexander Tretiakov in Sochi. Great Britain’s Lizzy Yarnold, the 2014 Olympic gold medalist in women’s skeleton, has also joined the chorus of athletes wanting a change in venue.

The USOC issued a statement saying they supported an athlete’s right to choose when and where they would compete but would not go as far as to support a “blanket boycott.”

News of the change reached Team USA skeleton athlete and Sochi bronze medalist Matt Antoine as he was leaving a training session in Lake Placid, NY – site of this weekend’s World Cup event.

Antoine, reacted to the news, telling the AP, “It’s the right decision and I’m happy to see they took the proper steps. I’m sure there’s some people who are happy and some people who aren’t too happy about it. But it’s the reality of the situation. It’s an unfortunate dark cloud that’s over our sport right now. The process probably isn’t going to be clean or pretty, but this needs to be fixed.”

After meetings were held during the 2016 Rio Olympics with winter sport federations, news surfaced that any plans to hold events in Russia should be put on hold, and alternative locations should be investigated. The IOC then pivoted saying this approach should only apply to events still in the bid process. The IBSF settled on holding the 2017 World Championship in Sochi back in 2013.

MORE: Over 1,000 Russian athletes involved in organized doping, McLaren report says

Nick Goepper opens Olympic qualifying on podium; contenders crash out

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BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. — U.S. Olympic men’s ski slopestyle qualifying is underway with Sochi bronze medalist Nick Goepper delivering the first blow.

Goepper finished second at Dew Tour Breckenridge, taking the early edge in Olympic qualifying.

With a victory at any of the remaining selection events, Goepper would be looking good for one of up to four spots on the team for PyeongChang.

“I was really hoping to ski my best today, and I think I skied 98 percent,” Goepper said. “The Olympic selection podium is a bonus and eases the pressure a little bit for the next couple, but the pressure wasn’t really there. I’m just thinking of these as individual events [instead of Olympic qualifiers].”

Alex Hall (fifth place) and Sochi silver medalist Gus Kenworthy (sixth place) also got their Olympic qualifying attempts off to a decent start, but in order to be automatically nominated to the Olympic team, skiers need a minimum of two top-three finishes among five selection events.

Goepper was the only U.S. skier able to crack the podium in Breckenridge.

Sweden’s Henrik Harlaut (first place) and Norway’s Oystein Braaten (third place) played the role of spoiler for the rest of the U.S. team. Harlaut and Braaten are both considered medal contenders for PyeongChang.

Crashes took their toll on several U.S. Olympic hopefuls.

McRae Williams, the reigning world champion, was forced to drop out after crashing on his first run. Colby Stevenson and 2014 Olympian Bobby Brown also did not finish the contest after taking spills of their own.

The contest also missed the reigning Olympic gold medalist. Joss Christensen sat out the event as he rehabs from a torn ACL but plans to return in January for the final four selection events.

On the women’s side, Maggie Voisin remains on track for a nomination to the U.S. Olympic team.

She finished fourth, best among Americans, in the Olympic qualifier at Breckenridge on the strength of a run that featured three 900s.

Voisin won the first qualifier for women’s slopestyle, which was held last season.

She still needs one more top-three finish at any of the three remaining selection events to be eligible for an automatic nomination, but she has consistently been the top performer among the U.S. women.

With two-time X Games gold medalist Kelly Sildaru sidelined with a knee injury this season, the field looks wide open for PyeongChang.

Voisin, then 15, was slated to make her Olympic debut in Sochi as the youngest American in any sport but was injured just days before the competition.

As long as she stays healthy, she will be a medal contender in PyeongChang, as will Norway’s Johanne Killi and France’s Tess Ledeux.

Killi narrowly edged out Ledeux, who recently turned 16, for the victory in Breckenridge. Sarah Hoefflin of Switzerland rounded out the podium.

Four U.S. selection events remain for the men, and three events remain for the women. Olympic qualifying resumes in January with a series of contests in Aspen, Colo., and Mammoth Mountain, Calif.

U.S. Olympic Qualifying Standings
Ski Slopestyle 
(women through two of five events; men through one of five)
1. Maggie Voisin — 150*
2. Devin Logan — 82
3. Darian Stevens — 81
4. Taylor Lundquist — 52
5. Nadia Gonzales — 28

1. Nick Goepper — 80*
2. Alex Hall — 45
3. Gus Kenworthy — 40
4. Bobby Brown — 32
5. Cody LaPlante — 29

**Has automatic qualifying minimum of two top-three results.
*Has one top-three result.

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MORE: List of athletes qualified for U.S. Olympic team

Maame Biney, J.R. Celski join U.S. Olympic short track team

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Maame Biney will become the second African-born athlete to compete for the U.S. at the Winter Olympics and the first black woman on a speed skating team.

J.R. Celski, a three-time medalist, is going to a third Winter Games.

Biney, Celski and Aaron Tran qualified in short track at the Olympic Trials in Kearns, Utah, after the 500m on Saturday.

The team is now at five skaters — John-Henry Krueger and Lana Gehring qualified on the first night Friday.

Three more skaters will qualify Sunday after 1000m races — two men and one woman.

One of Katherine Reutter-Adamek and Jessica Kooreman, the top U.S. women at the last two Olympics, is guaranteed to miss the PyeongChang team.

Neither could keep up with the 17-year-old Biney, who moved to the D.C. area from Ghana with her father at age 5, on Saturday.

Biney swept the 500m finals, taking leads from the start and holding off more experienced women. She actually fell — while celebrating after crossing the finish line in the last race.

Afterward, NBC Sports’ Andrea Joyce told Biney that eight-time Olympic medalist Apolo Ohno believes Biney doesn’t know how good she is.

“People have been telling me that forever, and I think right now I’m kind of seeing it, but I feel like I have a long ways to go, but thanks Apolo,” said Biney, who won a junior world championships bronze medal last season.

Celski did not win the men’s 500m, where he is the world-record holder. Krueger did, with Tran in second.

But the fact that Krueger finished in the top two in Friday’s 1500m and the 500m means that Celski gets on the team via his second-place finish in the 1500m.

Celski won two bronze medals at the 2010 Olympics and another relay silver in Sochi.

He took a full season off after Sochi — undergoing hip surgery — and overcame further knee and back injuries the last two years to return to the World Cup podium this season.

Celski is the only American to earn an individual World Cup medal this season (a bronze) in 24 total races.

Celski won’t be able to race the 500m in PyeongChang if Thomas Hong makes the Olympic team on Sunday.

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MORE: U.S. Olympic short track skater gets 4-year doping ban

U.S. Olympic Short Track Trials

Day Time (ET) Events Network
Friday 6:45-8 p.m. 1500m rounds STREAM LINK
8:30-10 p.m. 1500m finals NBCSN | STREAM LINK
Saturday 12-1:45 p.m. 500m rounds STREAM LINK
2:30-4 p.m. 500m finals NBC | STREAM LINK
Sunday 10:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m. 1000m rounds STREAM LINK
1-3 p.m. 1000m finals NBC | STREAM LINK