Even in second, Yevgeny Plushenko steals team event show

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SOCHI, Russia – If Russia wanted an Olympic moment when it selected a 31-year-old Yevgeny Plushenko for the Sochi Games after he had barely skated the past two years, that’s exactly what it got Thursday night at the Iceberg Skating Palace.

Skating to “Tango de Roxanne,” a slow but savvy Plushenko landed a quadruple toe-triple toe combination to start and then hit a triple Axel as well as a triple Lutz all before letting out a guttural cry at the crowd, which roared its approval.

“It was incredible, right?” Plushenko told NBCOlympics.com after his skate. “It was great to skate in front of a home audience. I am so happy to skate today. It was a good program.”

It was a night that was about Plushenko, who until weeks ago wasn’t assured to compete at these Olympics because of just one allotted spots in men’s singles. The three-time Olympic medalist – including gold in 2006 – was second at the Russian National Championships in December to a teenager named Maksim Kovtun, but ultimately he was chosen for the team.

WATCH: Plushenko performs his short program

With the Winter Olympics on home ice for the first time ever, Plushenko played into the crowd in only a way that Yevgeny can. The showman, known for his self-indulgence, played to the crowd as he skated in a short program that didn’t have any errors, but lacked visible speed.

It was an exceptional moment in Olympic history: the statesman Plushenko skating in a newly-created team event, making its Olympic debut, while one of the biggest celebrities in the country was performing in what is undoubtedly his swan song, having seemingly quit the sport after both the 2006 and 2010 Games.

MORE: Mixed first day for Team USA in team event

In the press mixed zone after his 91.39 score – which ultimately left him in second behind Japanese skater Yuzuru Hanyu’s 97.98 – Plushenko was in high demand, stopping for just a single question with each reporter.

“In two days we have the free program,” Plushenko said, sweat dripping off his brow. “We will talk later.”

But the country is talking about him now. The crowd roared even when Plushenko landed a jump in his warm-up; the king of skating lived another day at the Sochi Games.

World Alpine Skiing Championships on for 2021 after request to delay rejected

Alpine Skiing World Championships
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GENEVA (AP) — A request by the organizers of next year’s skiing world championships in Italy to postpone the event by one year was rejected Thursday by the International Ski Federation.

FIS ruled that the event will go ahead from Feb. 9-21, 2021, in Cortina d’Ampezzo — the highlight of an Alpine season that faces challenges to find safe protocols for international travel and attending races in Europe, North America and China.

The Veneto region of northern Italy was hit hard by the coronavirus and the season-ending World Cup races in Cortina in mid-March were canceled. That week-long event was to be a test for the 2021 worlds.

“The last month of efforts to come to this solution demonstrates the strong collaborative spirit of the ski family and stakeholders.” FIS president Gian-Franco Kasper said.

Organizers in Italy have said they expect losses of about 30 million euros ($34 million) if the worlds are also canceled. They asked for a postponement to March 2022, which would be only weeks after the Beijing Olympics.

“But we will be ready in any case and we will show that these world championships can change the history of a region despite the current difficulties,” Alessandro Benetton, president of the Cortina organizing committee, said in a statement.

Italian racer Sofia Goggia, the 2018 Olympic downhill champion, said she was “happy for Cortina because it will host the first major international event after the coronavirus epidemic.”

Cortina, which hosted the 1956 Olympics, will co-host the 2026 Winter Games with Milan and use the worlds as a showcase for the resort.

The women’s World Cup downhill on the Olympia delle Tofane course each January is one of the most scenic in the sport with a signature jump between tall outcrops of jagged rock.

The Dolomites venue was awarded the 2021 worlds by FIS after missing out as a candidate four straight times from 2013-19.

MORE: Anna Veith retires, leaves Austrian Alpine skiing in unfamiliar territory

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Russia track and field athlete clearance frozen due to unpaid fine

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MONACO (AP) — The program allowing Russian track athletes to compete internationally will be frozen because the country’s federation failed to pay a fine on time, World Athletics said Thursday.

The Russian track federation, known as RusAF, owes a $5 million fine and another $1.31 million in costs for various doping-related work and legal wrangles. World Athletics said RusAF missed Wednesday’s deadline to pay.

World Athletics said it would freeze the work of the Doping Review Board, which vets Russian athletes who want the “authorized neutral athlete” status that allows them to compete internationally, and its taskforce monitoring RusAF’s anti-doping reforms.

World Athletics said both bodies will be “put on hold” until its council meets to discuss the situation at the end of July.

“RusAF is letting its athletes down badly,” World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said in a statement. “We have done as much as we can to expedite our ANA process and support RusAF with its reinstatement plan, but seemingly to no avail.”

RusAF president Yevgeny Yurchenko earlier told the Tass state news agency that his federation’s finances were damaged by the coronavirus pandemic and that it had asked for more time to pay.

World Athletics’ statement didn’t directly address that issue, but said Russia hadn’t indicated when it would pay.

Russia was fined $10 million by World Athletics in March, with $5 million suspended for two years, after the federation admitted to breaking anti-doping rules and obstructing an investigation.

The Athletics Integrity Unit said fake documents were used under the previous management to give an athlete an alibi for missing a doping test.

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