USOC CEO: ‘It’s our strong desire that our athletes comply with the laws of every nation’

Scott Blackmun
5 Comments

U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun is waiting on clarification on Russia’s anti-gay law, like the International Olympic Committee is, but would like to see U.S. athletes comply with any laws in place.

“It’s our strong desire that our athletes comply with the laws of every nation that we visit,” Blackmun told R-Sport on Wednesday. “This law is no different.”

The Russian news agency asked Blackmun his interpretation of the law.

“We’re looking to the IOC for some leadership in this issue,” Blackmun said. “They have been in discussions with the Russian authorities, so we’re awaiting for some clarification from them.

“Our job, first and foremost, is to make sure that our athletes are prepared to compete and aren’t distracted while they’re here. We’re a sports organization, and we’ll leave the diplomacy on the legal issues to the diplomats, and we’re not going to get involved.”

Asked about involvement if an athlete makes a protest, Blackmun responded:

“You can’t judge in advance what you’re going to do. Each Games is different. The athletes are always going into countries with laws different than his or her own country. They’re going to agree with those laws in some ways, they’re going to disagree with those laws in other ways.”

On Monday, the Russian Interior Ministry said its employees will “act in the framework” of a law banning the promotion of “non-traditional sexual relations” toward minors “during the Olympics as well as during any other time.”

It also said fears of sexually-based discrimination of Olympic athletes and guests are “absolutely groundless and farfetched.”

The Russian Interior Ministry controls the country’s police force, according to R-Sport. Here are the full comments made to Russian news agency Interfax:

“The law mentioned above has come into effect and operates in Russia.”

“Due to this, employees of the Russian Interior Ministry will act in the framework of the Russian law in general and the law protecting children from harmful information in particular during the Olympics as well as during any other time.

“This law applies to individuals “whose goal is to provoke underage persons to get involved in non-traditional sexual relations.

“Law enforcement authorities will take measures against individuals performing such actions in accordance with the Russian law.

“Law enforcement authorities can not have any questions of people of non-traditional sexual orientation not committing such actions, not holding any provocations and peacefully participating with everyone in the Olympic events.”

“Thus, fears of rights violations of representatives of non-traditional sexual orientation, preventing them from participating in the Olympics and sexually-based discrimination of Olympic athletes and guests are absolutely groundless and farfetched.”

The head of Russia’s National Olympic Committee, Alexander Zhukov, agreed with the interior ministry’s statement, according to R-Sport.

“If a person does not put across his views in the presence of children, no measures against him can be taken,” Zhukov said Monday. “People of nontraditional sexual orientations can take part in the competitions and all other events at the Games unhindered, without any fear for their safety whatsoever.”

The IOC has said the last two weeks that it “received a number of assurances from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the Games.”

On Friday, IOC president Jacques Rogge said the Russian government gave the IOC assurances about the law Thursday but more clarifications were required. Rogge cited translation issues.

Here’s how Russian news outlet RT.com explained the law:

The legislation “prohibiting propaganda of homosexuality to minors” was enacted on June 30, when it was signed by president Putin. It’s an amendment to the law “On protecting children from information harmful to their health and development”.

If found guilty of promoting “non-traditional sexual relationships”, individuals could face fines of up to 5,000 rubles (US$150). The sum would be multiplied by 10 if those individuals appear to be civil servants. Organizations, meanwhile, would have to pay 1 million rubles (about $30,000) or have their activity suspended for 90 days if they do not comply with the fresh amendment.

Bolt photographer calls image ‘pure luck’

Japanese pair edges Americans for historic Grand Prix Final figure skating title

Riku Miura, Ryuichi Kihara
Getty
0 Comments

Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the biggest title ever for a Japanese figure skating pair, taking the Grand Prix Final and consolidating their status as the world’s top active team.

Miura and Kihara, last season’s world silver medalists, barely outscored world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier in Turin, Italy, in both Thursday’s short program and Friday’s free skate to win the six-pair event that is a preview of March’s worlds.

The Japanese totaled 214.58 points, distancing the Americans by a mere 1.3 points after Frazier erred on both of their side-by-side jumping passes in the free skate. Italians Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii took bronze.

“We had a very late start to our season than initially planned, so as we have been performing at each event, I see us getting stronger, improving things,” said Frazier, who with Knierim had their best short program and free skate scores of the autumn.

Knierim and Frazier didn’t decide to continue competing together this season until July.

“I feel a little personally disappointed tonight just for myself for my jumps,” Frazier continued. “I was a little all over the place and, normally, I can execute better, so I feel a little bad, but I’m very proud of us overall. We’ve done a great job of improving each competition and looking forward to the second half of the season where we can start tapping into our best skating.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Miura and Kihara, who partnered in June 2019 and train in Ontario, both waited with trepidation for their final score to be posted, worried that each’s separate mistake on jumps might cost them the title. When they learned they won, both burst into tears.

“This was the first time in eight years that I made a mistake with a Salchow, so I thought we might not get a good score, and it would be my fault,” Kihara said.

Miura and Kihara entered the competition ranked No. 1 in the world by best scores this season ahead of Knierim and Frazier, who in March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979.

Last season, Miura and Kihara became the second Japanese pair to make a Grand Prix podium and to earn a world championships medal. Their ascension helped Japan win its first Olympic figure skating team event medal in February (a bronze that could be upgraded to gold pending the Kamila Valiyeva case).

In Grand Prix Final history, Japan had won 11 gold medals and 40 total medals, all in singles, before this breakthrough.

Knierim and Frazier, already the first U.S. pair to compete in the Grand Prix Final since 2015, became the first U.S. pair to win a Grand Prix Final medal. The Final has been held annually since 1996, though it was canceled the last two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Miura and Kihara and Knierim and Frazier ascended to the top of the sport while the top five teams from the Olympics from Russia and China have not competed internationally since the Winter Games.

All Russian skaters are ineligible for international competition due to the war in Ukraine. China’s pairs, including Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, didn’t enter last March’s worlds and did not compete in the fall Grand Prix Series.

Later Friday, world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan led the women’s short program with 75.86 points, 1.28 ahead of countrywoman Mai Mihara. American Isabeau Levito, the 15-year-old world junior champion, was fifth of six skaters in her Grand Prix Final debut.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier topped the rhythm dance with 85.93 points, edging Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates by .44. Both couples are bidding for the biggest international title of their careers. None of the Olympic medalists competed internationally this fall.

The Grand Prix Final ends Saturday with the men’s and women’s free skates and free dance, all live on Peacock.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

A Winter Olympic medal still being decided, 10 months later

Fanny Smith, Daniela Maier
It's still unknown whether Fanny Smith (green) or Daniela Maier (blue) is the Olympic ski cross bronze medalist. (Getty)
0 Comments

There is a second Winter Olympic medal result still in question, 10 months after the Games.

While the figure skating team event results are still unknown due to the Kamila Valiyeva case, the bronze medal in women’s ski cross is also in dispute.

Originally, Swiss Fanny Smith crossed the finish line in third place in the four-woman final at the Winter Games in February. Upon review by the International Ski Federation (FIS) jury, she was minutes later demoted to fourth place after making contact with German Daniela Maier near the end of the course. Maier, who originally was fourth, was upgraded to bronze.

“I tried to be OK with the fourth place. I was very disappointed, I have to say, [then] the jury was like this,” Maier said then. “I am really sorry for Fanny that it’s like this right now. … The jury decided like this, so accept it and be happy with the medal.”

Smith and the Swiss ski federation appealed. FIS reinstated Smith as the bronze medalist nine days after the race and six days after the Closing Ceremony. A FIS appeals commission met four times and reviewed video and written documentation for several hours before deciding that “the close proximity of the racers at that moment resulted in action that was neither intentional or avoidable.”

But that wasn’t the end. The case ended up reportedly going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), whose rulings are usually accepted as final. The CAS process is ongoing, European media reported this week.

CAS has not responded to a request for comment. A FIS contact said Friday, “There is currently no update to provide in regards to the bronze medal in ski cross. Should there be any update, we will inform you.”

Smith said there should be news soon regarding the case, according to Blick.

Maier still has the bronze medal at her home and enjoys looking at it, according to German media, which also reported that the German ski federation expects Maier to win the case and keep the medal. Smith and Maier spoke extensively about it in recent training sessions and cleared things up. Maier said the best outcome would be bronze medals for both of them, according to the report.

For now, FIS lists Smith as the bronze medalist. The IOC lists Maier as the bronze medalist.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!