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IOC, IIHF, NHL bosses to meet regarding Olympic hockey

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The head of the International Olympic Committee is joining high-level talks over whether the world’s best hockey players will participate when the South Korea Winter Olympics begin 12 months from now, two people familiar with the meeting told The Associated Press on Thursday.

The IOC and the International Ice Hockey Federation requested a meeting Friday with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHL Players Association Executive Director Don Fehr, the people said on condition of anonymity because the development was not formally announced.

The meeting is the first to include IOC President Thomas Bach, IIHF President Rene Fasel, Bettman and Fehr regarding the NHL’s participation in the 2018 Olympics, they said.

Fasel has been talking and meeting with Bettman and Fehr for months, trying to make sure the top hockey players compete in a sixth straight Olympics.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said last weekend league owners are leaning against it .

“If the status quo remains, I don’t expect us to be in the Olympics,” Daly said during last weekend’s All-Star break.

The NHL has been the only professional sports league that pauses its season to allow its athletes to participate in the Olympics. It simply might not be willing to do that again next season.

The IOC has provided some compensation in the past, paying for travel and insurance expenses to get hockey’s best to each Winter Olympics since 1998. The IOC, though, doesn’t want to continue that practice. It spent about $14 million to cover travel and insurance for NHL players for the 2014 Olympics in Russia. Even if travel and insurance costs are covered, however, there’s no guarantee the league and union will agree to go to South Korea.

While Friday’s meeting might move the parties closer to a decision, it might take months for it to be resolved. Before the last Winter Olympics in Russia, a decision was not made until the previous summer.

The NHL is hoping to have a resolution sooner than later so that it can set next season’s schedule.

PyeongChang is 14 hours ahead of New York, making it difficult for TV viewers in North America to watch the games, and South Korea isn’t a market the NHL is as excited about as China’s in the 2022 Olympics.

Most players have expressed interest in playing for their home nations and competing for Olympic gold. Washington star Alex Ovechkin has said that he would play for Russia in PyeongChang even if the NHL doesn’t stop its season for players to participate.

Capitals owner Ted Leonsis said he will support Ovechkin and others if they choose to defy the league’s wishes next year.

“It’s a players’ league,” Leonsis said Wednesday. “If Alex Ovechkin and Braden Holtby and Nick Backstrom tell us, ‘We want to go play for our country,’ how am I going to say no? I might get fined. I might get punished in some way, but I feel I’m in partnership with Nick and Braden and Alex. It’s a tough decision.”

MORE: 2018 Olympic hockey groups set

Gymnastics doctor’s lawyers want trial moved, cite media coverage

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Attorneys for a former Michigan State and USA Gymnastics doctor accused of molesting dozens of athletes are pushing to have his trial moved out of the Lansing area.

The Lansing State Journal reports that attorneys representing Larry Nassar filed a change-of-venue request because of what they called “inflammatory and sustained media coverage” that they say has made it difficult for Nassar to get a fair trial in the area.

The media attention grew more intense this week when 21-year-old 2012 Olympic gold medal gymnast McKayla Maroney wrote on Twitter that Nassar started assaulting her when she was 13.

Nassar has pleaded not guilty to nearly two dozen charges in Michigan. He has pleaded guilty to three child pornography charges in an unrelated case but has not been sentenced.

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MORE: Aly Raisman speaks out about USA Gymnastics scndal

Nathan Chen holds off Yuzuru Hanyu to win first Grand Prix

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U.S. champion Nathan Chen opened the Grand Prix season by beating Olympic gold-medal favorite Yuzuru Hanyu.

Chen, 18, held off Hanyu at Rostelecom Cup in Moscow, totaling 293.79 points to win by 3.02 over the Japanese megastar.

Russian Yevgenia Medvedeva easily won the women’s title despite a rare fall in her free skate. Medvedeva is undefeated since 2015 Rostelecom Cup.

Full scores are here.

Chen landed four quadruple jumps in a strong but imperfect free skate for his first Grand Prix title in his second senior international season.

“I got a little tired halfway through the program and started faltering a little bit on the second quad toe – that was a big mistake,” Chen said, according to the International Skating Union .”I can’t let things like that happen in the future. But this is my first Grand Prix win, and I’m very happy with that.”

Hanyu outscored Chen in the free skate, but the American benefited from his 5.69-point lead from Friday’s short program.

Hanyu, the reigning Olympic and world champion, has never won his opening Grand Prix start in eight tries.

He did three quadruple jumps in Saturday’s free skate rather than the planned five, but did not fall as he did in the short program.

Chen has now outscored Hanyu in three of their last four head-to-head events dating to February. Hanyu got the better of Chen at the most important event — winning the world championships, where the American was sixth.

Also Saturday, two-time world medalists Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani won the ice dance with 189.24 points, sweeping both the short and free programs.

The siblings and U.S. champions have now won four straight Grand Prix titles (not counting the Grand Prix Final).

They won by 4.5 points over Russians Yekaterina Bobrova and Dmitry Soloviyev.

The world’s top two couples were not in the field — Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron.

Russia swept the pairs podium, led by world bronze medalists Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov.

The top pairs teams from the rest of the world — including world champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong — were not in the field.

The Rostelecom Cup women’s free skate is later Saturday.

The Grand Prix season continues next weekend with Skate Canada, headlined by three-time U.S. champion Ashley Wagner and three-time world champion Patrick Chan.

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MORE: Figure skating season broadcast schedule

Rostelecom Cup
Men
1. Nathan Chen (USA) — 293.79
2. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 290.77
3. Mikhail Kolyada (RUS) — 271.06
11. Grant Hochstein (USA) — 206.09

Women
1. Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS) — 231.21
2. Carolina Kostner (ITA) — 215.98
3. Wakaba Higuchi (JPN) — 207.17
6. Mariah Bell (USA) — 188.56
9. Mirai Nagasu (USA) — 178.25

Ice Dance
1. Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA) — 189.24
2. Yekaterina Bobrova/Dmitry Soloviyev (RUS) — 184.74
3. Alexandra Stepanova/Ivan Bukin (RUS) — 179.35
7. Rachel Parsons/Michael Parsons (USA) — 148.75

Pairs
1. Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 224.25
2. Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov (RUS) — 204.43
3. Kristina Astakhova/Aleksey Rogonov (RUS) — 199.11
7. Marissa Castelli/Mervin Tran (USA) — 170.53