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More Russian bobsledders banned by IOC

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Three more Russian bobsledders were retroactively disqualified from the Sochi Winter Games and banned from the Olympics for life, the IOC said Wednesday.

Aleksandr Kasjanov, Aleksey Pushkarev and Ilvir Khuzin were punished as part of IOC investigations into reports of widespread Russian doping leading up to and during the Sochi Olympics.

That makes 22 total Russians banned from Sochi (seven bobsledders) and from the Olympics for life by the IOC. Eleven of Russia’s Sochi Games-leading 33 medals have been stripped. Full lists of athletes and medals stripped are here.

The IOC is set to announce its decision Tuesday on Russia’s participation in the PyeongChang Olympics.

Kasjanov, Pushkarev and Khuzin were part of a four-man bobsled that finished fourth in Sochi.

They were in line to be upgraded to bronze after members of the gold-medal four-man bobsled, including driver Aleksandr Zubkov, were previously banned by the IOC as part of the Russian investigation.

Now, the fifth-place sled from Great Britain is in line for bronze, assuming the original silver medalists from Latvia and bronze medalists from the U.S. are also upgraded.

Kasjanov, Pushkarev and Khuzin were part of a four-man bobsled that won the most recent World Cup race in Whistler, B.C., on Saturday.

Kasjanov and Pushkarev’s white two-man sled had the words “THE TRUTH IS ON OUR SIDE” and “SOCHI 2014” written in black on its side for a World Cup race Friday, after Zubkov’s DQ was handed down.

The International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation banned the trio from international competition on Wednesday, two hours after the IOC announcement.

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Canada in control of hockey rivalry going into Olympics

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Four years ago, the U.S. women’s hockey team rode a four-game winning streak over rival Canada into the Olympics, then lost both games in Sochi, including a gut-wrenching overtime final.

This time, Canada goes into the Winter Games having won four straight.

The Canadians beat the Americans 2-1 in overtime in Edmonton on Sunday night, taking their pre-Olympic series 5-3 overall.

“I don’t think it was our best performance,” Canada coach Laura Schuler said. “There’s still more work to do.”

The Canadians were led by their stalwarts — captain Marie-Philip Poulin scored in regulation, Sochi gold medalist Jennifer Wakefield scored 26 seconds into overtime and longtime goalie Shannon Szabados stopped 34 of 35 shots.

Hilary Knight netted the U.S. goal, with Maddie Rooney making 24 saves.

“The goal for us is to be hitting on all cylinders in February,” U.S. coach Robb Stauber said.

The U.S. appeared to be in that kind of form until about two weeks ago.

Before this losing streak, the U.S. had a 12-4 record against Canada since the start of 2015, including taking the last three world championship finals.

At one point, the U.S. won six straight games over a 12-month stretch, its longest streak over Canada since it famously won eight straight going into the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics then lost the gold-medal game.

Canada also beat the U.S. in their last four meetings before the 2006 Olympics and five straight going into the 2010 Olympics.

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Yuzuru Hanyu to miss Japan Figure Skating Championships

Yuzuru Hanyu
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Yuzuru Hanyu, the reigning Olympic and world figure skating champion, will miss his national championships this week due to ankle and knee injuries suffered in a Nov. 9 practice fall, according to Japanese media citing the Japan Skating Federation.

Hanyu can (and very likely will) be named to Japan’s three-man Olympic team despite missing nationals.

Hanyu has reportedly been off the ice for more than one month since the fall.

“It is an important selection competition, and the Olympics are a big goal, so with that in mind we would like to think things through together,” Japan Skating Federation director Yoshiko Kobayashi said last week, according to Kyodo News.

Hanyu, who turned 23 on Dec. 7, fell on a quadruple Lutz attempted and then favored his right ankle in a Nov. 9 practice at a Grand Prix event (video here).

He skated the run-through for his free skate, although he elected not to do any more jumps.

“I have been told by the doctor that I need 10 days of complete rest,” Hanyu said in a statement on Nov. 12, according to Kyodo. “Following that, it will take three to four weeks to return and get back to where I was.”

Hanyu and world silver medalist Shoma Uno are favored to lead Japan’s Olympic men’s figure skating team. The third spot is likely to go to Takahito Mura or Keiji Tanaka.

Hanyu competed twice this season.

He posted a world-record short program score in his debut at a small September event in Canada, but struggled to fifth place in the free skate and finished second overall behind two-time world champion Javier Fernandez of Spain.

He then finished second to U.S. champion Nathan Chen at the first Grand Prix event of the season in Moscow in October.

Chen is the only undefeated male singles skater this season.

Hanyu won four straight national titles before missing last season’s event with the flu.

He was still named to Japan’s team for worlds, where he won his second title in four years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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