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IOC closer to 2024, 2028 Olympic double vote

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PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) — The International Olympic Committee has moved closer toward picking both Los Angeles and Paris to host a Summer Games in an unprecedented double vote this year.

IOC President Thomas Bach has repeatedly hinted at awarding the hosting rights for both the 2024 and 2028 Games at the IOC Session on Sept. 13 in Lima, Peru. Only the 2024 Games is currently scheduled to be voted on in Lima.

“All the options are on the table, and this includes also the ’24-’28 procedure and vote,” Bach said Friday when announcing a working group to study changing the candidate process.

The IOC executive board asked its four vice presidents to “explore changes” in Olympic bidding and report back in July.

“We have two excellent candidates there from two major Olympic countries,” Bach said at a news conference after a two-day board meeting. “This is a position you like to be in.”

Bach said the four-man working group will make proposals to the board and full membership. They meet from July 9-12 in Lausanne, Switzerland, where LA and Paris will make formal presentations of their 2024 hosting plans.

A full IOC meeting can change the Olympic Charter, which currently says host cities must be picked seven years in advance.

“You must always have room for interpretation to adapt to changing times,” said Bach, who noted that he co-wrote the current book of Olympic rules. “The charter is flexible enough also in this respect.”

Los Angeles and Paris are in a two-candidate race after several rivals dropped out facing public opposition to expected spiraling costs and doubts about the long-term value of being an Olympic host.

Since December, Bach has repeated warnings about a bid process that produces “too many losers,” suggesting concerns that the city which lost a 2024 vote would not return with a candidacy for the 2028 Olympics.

“We are in a comfortable situation. Now it will be up to the working group how to best explore, how to best exploit, the positive situation,” Bach said. “We should not miss the opportunity to explore this opportunity.”

The four vice presidents are John Coates of Australia, Yu Zaiqing of China, Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr. of Spain and Ugur Erdener of Turkey.

Bach returned his focus to curbing excessive spending by hosts by welcoming budget cuts by organizers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Talks between government and Olympic officials have reduced the expected costs to $15.2 billion from an initial $30 billion estimate, Bach said, adding that “even more savings can be made.”

A discrimination issue for the Tokyo Games could be resolved this weekend, Bach said.

The Kasumigaseki Country Club, which was picked to stage men’s and women’s golf tournaments, will have a board meeting to review its policy of not allowing women as full members.

“The Olympic Games are about non-discrimination in every respect,” Bach said, adding he hoped the club will “grant the same rights to women as for men.”

Also, Kenya avoided being suspended by the IOC after its national Olympic committee officials backtracked and agreed to pass a new constitution and hold elections.

Kenya had its funding from the IOC cut last week and faced a ban after refusing to make the changes the IOC called for. But the National Olympic Committee of Kenya wrote to the IOC this week promising to “rectify the situation,” the IOC said in a statement to The Associated Press.

NOCK must now adopt the new constitution at a meeting on March 28 and then organize elections.

The IOC executive board decided funding to Kenya would continue to be on hold “until further notice.”

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Olympic ski cross champion suffers serious knee injury

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Canadian Marielle Thompson, the reigning Olympic and World Cup ski cross champion, ruptured an ACL and MCL in a training crash in Switzerland.

Alpine Canada did not say when the accident happened or what Thompson’s chances are of returning to defend her Olympic title in PyeongChang.

Thompson flew from Switzerland to Vancouver for an MRI that confirmed the injury.

“I’ll be making a plan with my team moving forward and when the time is right getting back on the ski cross course stronger than ever,” Thompson said in a press release.

Thompson, 25, tore a meniscus in January 2015 and returned to competition 11 months later. She won seven of the 13 World Cup races last season.

Other Olympic medal contenders include Swede Sandra Näslund and Swiss Fanny Smith.

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Nathan Chen leads Yuzuru Hanyu at Grand Prix opener (video)

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U.S. champion Nathan Chen hopes to become comfortable in this spot this season — ahead of reigning Olympic and world champion Yuzuru Hanyu in the standings.

The 18-year-old Chen landed two quadruple jumps in his short program at the opening Grand Prix event in Moscow, taking a 5.69-point lead over Hanyu going into Saturday’s free skate.

Two-time world champion Yevgenia Medvedeva of Russia topped the women’s short program with 80.75 points (one tenth off her world record).

Full Rostelecom Cup results are here.

Chen’s tally — 100.54 points — is the second-highest short of his flourishing international career. It would have been higher if not for two of his three jumping passes receiving negative grades of execution for wonky landings.

The Japanese megastar Hanyu fell on his final jump, a triple toe loop, on Friday. No matter, Winnie the Pooh bears rained down on the ice from the adoring crowd, many of whom traveled from Japan.

Hanyu scored 94.85 points, one month after breaking his world record short program score with 112.72 points in a small event in Canada.

“Today I made some mistakes in my short program, but overall it didn’t feel bad,” Hanyu said, according to the International Skating Union.

Hanyu, though he is the current PyeongChang favorite, has never won his season-opening Grand Prix event in seven tries.

Chen has now outscored Hanyu, who is four years older, in four of their last eight head-to-head skates.

Hanyu was better in the two biggest programs at last season’s world championships. Chen placed sixth at worlds in April, perhaps gassed at the end of his first senior season while competing on duct-taped skates.

In the women’s standings, Medvedeva topped Olympic bronze medalist Carolina Kostner of Italy by 6.13 points.

American Mirai Nagasu landed a triple Axel that was called under rotated and fell on her other two jumping passes. She ended up ninth, two spots behind U.S. bronze medalist Mariah Bell.

In the short dance, two-time world medalists and U.S. champions Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani tallied 77.30 points.

The siblings lead by .97 over Russians Yekaterina Bobrova and Dmitry Soloviyev going into the free dance.

Russians are one-two in pairs. World bronze medalists Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov lead Olympic silver medalists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov by 5.49.

All of the free skates are Saturday, live on Olympic Channel. A full schedule is here.

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Rostelecom Cup
Men’s Short
1. Nathan Chen (USA) — 100.54
2. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 94.85
3. Dmitriy Aliyev (RUS) — 88.77
11. Grant Hochstein (USA) — 67.56

Women’s Short
1. Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS) — 80.75
2. Carolina Kostner (ITA) — 74.64
3. Wakaba Higuchi (JPN) — 69.60
7. Mariah Bell (USA) — 63.85
9. Mirai Nagasu (USA) — 56.15

Short Dance
1. Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA) — 77.30
2. Yekaterina Bobrova/Dmitry Soloviyev (RUS) — 76.33
3. Alexandra Stepanova/Ivan Bukin (RUS) — 71.32
7. Rachel Parsons/Michael Parsons (USA) — 59.41

Pairs Short
1. Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 76.88
2. Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov (RUS) — 71.39
3. Valentina Marchei/Ondřej Hotárek (ITA) — 68.48
7. Marissa Castelli/Mervin Tran (USA) — 54.37