Aussie swim coach calls expectations a “fantasy”

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The Australian swim team is freaking out and pointing fingers at everyone and everything following a less than stellar performance in London, where they took home only one gold medal, six silver, and three of whatever the other shade is. Most are blaming a lack of cohesion and some prank phone calls and doorbell ditching, neither of which should hamper world class swimmers from winning medals.

The more likely scenario was posed by head coach Leigh Nugent in a letter to the Australian Swimming board, which was then leaked to the Sydney Morning Herald and eventually the rest of the media. In it Nugent argues that maybe expectations for the team were a bit too high, and that past performance doesn’t necessarily dictate future results.

“It appears evident following the barrage of criticism the expectation placed on this team was based on the fantasy that the result from four years prior will automatically repeat itself regardless of the comparative world positioning,” he wrote.

And while everyone agrees that Australia underperformed, especially following six golds in Beijing (note: two fewer than Michael Phelps), the team has only averaged roughly four golds per Games at the five previous Olympics, compared to the Americans twelve per Games over the same period. The Aussies only won five at their home Olympics in Sydney.

So yes, disappointing, but aside from missing the podium in the men’s 4x100m free relay, which James Magnussen and Co. were favorites to win, the rest can probably just be chalked up to a bad year.

To his credit, Nugent acknowledged the performance and is already putting a plan in motion so that the Rio Games will be more successful for his team and country: “Our process is to evaluate objectively and to continue to improve from the low base we started from in 2009,” Nugent added. “And establish a higher platform to launch from in 2013. This is a time where we all need to pull together, not fall apart.”

Chinese figure skating judges banned for biased Olympic scoring

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Two Chinese figure skating judges were suspended by the International Skating Union for biased judging at the PyeongChang Olympics.

Chen Weiguang and Huang Feng had “preferential marking” for top Chinese skaters Jin Boyang (fourth place in PyeongChang) and the silver medalist pairs’ team of Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, respectively, according to the ISU.

Chen was banned two years and excluded from the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Huang got a one-year ban.

Chen awarded her highest grades of execution scores of the men’s competition to Jin, as well as her second-highest program components scores, trailing only gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu. Both sets of scores, in both the short and long programs, were out of line with the other eight judges.

“There is evidence of preference for the Chinese skater and prejudice against his strongest competitors,” an ISU report read. “Her marks were completely unrealistic.”

The pairs’ judge Huang “obviously favored his pair also vis-à-vis the other top candidates for the Olympic gold medal,” the ISU said in a report, referencing inflated scores for Sui and Han and lower scores for gold and bronze medalists Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany and Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada.

Huang was warned one month before the Olympics by the ISU for biased judging at the December 2017 Grand Prix Final pairs’ event.

Both suspensions are subject to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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Javier Fernandez to skip Grand Prix, still compete next season

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Javier Fernandez, who in PyeongChang became the first Spanish Olympic figure skating medalist, will skip the fall Grand Prix series but return for January’s European Championships, which could be his final competition.

Europeans will be Fernandez’s focus for the season, his agent said Tuesday.

Fernandez, 26, added an Olympic bronze medal to his 2015 and 2016 World titles. He has said that his third Olympics in PyeongChang would be his last. But Fernandez did not say he would retire after the Winter Games, though he did skip the world championships in March.

Fernandez now plans to compete in his 13th straight European Championships in Minsk in January. He won the last six titles. It’s unknown if he will continue on to the world championships in Saitama, Japan, in March.

In Fernandez’s absence, the top male singles skaters in the fall Grand Prix season should be double Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, PyeongChang silver medalist Shoma Uno and American Nathan Chen, who was fifth at the Olympics after a disastrous short program but ran away with March’s world title by the largest margin in history.

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