Pyeongchang urges NHL to reconsider its position on Olympics


PARIS (AP) The president of the Pyeongchang Olympic organizing committee is still hoping for an NHL U-turn.

“I don’t think they made the final decision so far,” committee president Lee Hee-beom said Monday at a news conference. “(There is) still room to discuss and negotiate.”

Last month, the NHL announced that it will not stop its season to allow players to compete at the Feb. 9-25 Olympics for the first time in 20 years. And Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly reiterated the NHL’s stance last week, despite International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel saying that his organization was still hopeful of working out a solution to bring the sport’s biggest stars to Pyeongchang.

Lee met with Fasel in Paris on Monday morning to discuss the issue. Paris is co-hosting the hockey world championship with the German city of Cologne, with the quarterfinals later this week.

“I had a very useful breakfast meeting with Rene Fasel this morning and I also met many ice hockey leaders in Europe,” Lee said. “We totally agreed between IIHF and Pyeongchang organizing committee that we are in the same boat. We will cooperate with the IIHF to further develop the Olympic (hockey) venues.”

He said he hopes further negotiation with the NHL will prove fruitful.

“I’m ready to meet with their (the NHL) delegations wherever it is they say to do so,” Lee said. “Very recently I met their delegation in Pyeongchang, not only the athletes’ side, but also the labor union side. Not only in Pyeongchang, but also in New York. Nothing is concluded until the final conclusion is made.”

IOC President Thomas Bach is also lending his support.

“I have discussed with him over the phone last week. We are widely open to discuss this matter,” Lee said. “We are discussing not only with IIHF but also with the IOC in many channels.”

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Laurie Hernandez plans on competing in 2019, agent says

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Olympic gymnastics champion Laurie Hernandez plans on competing in 2019, her agent said.

Hernandez has not competed since taking team gold and vault silver at the Rio Olympics, followed by winning “Dancing with the Stars” later that fall.

She said in October that she hoped to compete in 2018 but would not rush a comeback. Hernandez since decided not to compete at the U.S. Championships this August.

No member of the Final Five has competed at the elite level since Rio, though Madison Kocian is in her sophomore season at UCLA and Simone Biles plans to return this summer.

Aly Raisman said in September 2016 that she planned to take one year off, then return to training for a Tokyo 2020 run. But her focus shifted in the last year to something more important — taking on USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee after Larry Nassar sexual-abuse crimes.

The last member of the Final Five, 2012 Olympic all-around champion Gabby Douglas, has not said in widely reported comments if or when she will return to competition.

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Sonja Henie record at stake; figure skating worlds pairs preview

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When Aljona Savchenko won her first gold medal at her fifth Olympics with her third different partner in PyeongChang, she said she “wrote history.”

She can write some more this week.

Savchenko, who at 34 became the oldest female figure skating champion in Winter Olympic history, and partner Bruno Massot are the only pairs medalists from PyeongChang who are back for the world championships in Milan.

The Germans headline the field for the short program Wednesday and free skate Friday.

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Savchenko can tie Norwegian Sonja Henie for the female record of 11 world championships medals. She can grab a share of second on the all-time pairs list with a sixth world title, four shy of Soviet Irina Rodnina‘s record.

Savchenko, who won four crowns with now-retired Robin Szolkowy, goes for her first world title with Massot. They’re clear favorites.

Olympic silver medalists Sui Wenjing and Han Cong withdrew from worlds due to Sui’s foot injury. Olympic bronze medalists Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford retired.

It’s arguably a surprise that Savchenko and Massot chose to compete in Milan. They’re the first Olympic pairs champions to compete at a post-Olympic worlds since 1992.

Their top challengers are Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov, who outscored Savchenko and Massot in the Olympic short program but dropped off the podium in the free skate with a fall on their throw.

U.S. champions Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Christopher Knierim, 15th at the Olympics, made the top 10 in all of their four world championships appearances with a best finish of seventh. The last U.S. pairs medal came in 2002, the nation’s longest drought in any figure skating discipline.

The Knierims were the only U.S. pair in PyeongChang, but in Milan they’re joined by Deanna Stellato and Nathan Bartholomay.

Stellato earned singles silver at the 2000 World Junior Championships, then retired at age 17 due to hip injuries. She came back at age 32 in 2016 in pairs and, with the Sochi Olympian Bartholomay, took bronze at this year’s nationals.

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