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Satoko Miyahara to miss figure skating world championships

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Japanese champion Satoko Miyahara, the second-ranked women’s figure skater this season, will miss the world championships next week due to a hip injury.

The 2015 World silver medalist will be replaced on the three-woman Japanese team by Rika Hongo, the Japanese Skating Federation announced Monday, according to Japanese media.

Miyahara, 18, was the closest skater this season to Russian Yevgenia Medvedeva, who is a massive favorite to become the first woman to repeat as world champion since Michelle Kwan in 2000 and 2001. Medvedeva hasn’t lost a competition since November 2015.

Miyahara finished second to Medvedeva at December’s Grand Prix Final, the second-biggest annual competition behind worlds. Medvedeva won the event with 227.66 points.

Miyahara tallied a personal-best 218.33, the highest score in the world since the 2014 Olympics, save Medvedeva. Miyahara then won the Japanese Championships for a third straight time but withdrew ahead of February’s Four Continents Championships with the hip injury.

Miyahara’s absence from worlds should boost the U.S. women’s contingent of Ashley WagnerMariah Bell and Karen Chen. Hongo’s top score this season is 181.75 points, ranking 14th out of skaters in the worlds field.

The two best results out of Wagner, Bell and Chen must total to no more than 13 for the U.S. women to keep three spots for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics. For example, if Wagner finishes fifth and Bell finishes eighth, the U.S. would get three spots on the number.

With Miyahara out, the U.S. skaters’ rankings in the world championships field this season by best scores in international competitions:

Wagner: No. 8
Bell: No. 10
Chen: No. 17

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USA Hockey to start reaching out to potential replacement players

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USA Hockey will begin reaching out to “alternate players” to determine their interest in playing for the U.S. at the women’s world championship next week amid a potential boycott by its national team.

The contact is taking place in the event a resolution cannot be reached between USA Hockey and the women’s national team in a wage dispute.

“It’s important for everyone to understand clearly that our objective is to have the players we named as the U.S. women’s national team be the ones that compete in the world championship,” said Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey, in a statement. “Productive conversations have taken place this week and are ongoing in our collective efforts to reach a resolution.”

The alternate players are in the professional NWHL and college, according to USA Today, a report that USA Hockey would not confirm.

U.S. captain Meghan Duggan has said every player in the U.S. national team player pool, plus under-18 national team players, committed to not playing at worlds unless the wage dispute is resolved.

The world championship tournament starts March 31 in Plymouth, Mich.

As of Thursday evening, no resolution has come between USA Hockey and its women’s national team. They met formally on Monday for more than 10 hours, with both sides calling it productive.

Neither side has said when its next scheduled meeting will take place.

On Tuesday, USA Hockey said it postponed a pre-worlds camp that was to run through next Tuesday in Traverse City, Mich., and canceled a scheduled Friday exhibition against Finland.

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NHL asked for decision on Olympics by end of April

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International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel tells The Associated Press he needs to know by the end of April whether NHL players will be cleared to play in the South Korea Olympics next year.

NHL team owners have made it clear they don’t want to stop their season again for the Winter Games and put their stars at risk of injury. The reluctance has come up before and yet the NHL has participated in the Olympics since 1998. This time, however, there seems to be an impasse.

The head of the NHL Players Association, Donald Fehr, says the players want to participate and hopes the league will take advantage of the chance to market the game in Asia.

However, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly says without “material change to the current status quo, NHL players will not be participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics.”

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