Ice dancing coach can’t choose between gold, silver

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SOCHI, Russia – Marina Zoueva loves her job. She wouldn’t change it for the world. She actually thinks it’s easy.

Monday night inside the Iceberg Skating Palace the St. Petersburg-born Michigan resident will watch as her two star ice dance teams battle it out for the gold medal, four years after they did the same in Vancouver in 2010.

“I just wish for a good sleep and to be ready for tomorrow,” Zoueva said when asked if she would have a difficult time sleeping Sunday night. “I love my skaters skating – I can’t wait to get up and work again. They are beautiful, both teams. You can see they have different skates, different approaches. I truly enjoy it.”

It’s one of the many confusing intricacies of the figure skating world that baffles and awes us every four years: coaches, even those of the highest-caliber athletes, train skaters who oftentimes compete against one another, including on Monday in ice dancing for Olympic gold.

VIDEO: Davis, White dance to new world record

Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White hold the lead over Vancouver gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada, the two teams coached by Zoueva in the same suburban Detroit rink, a situation unfathomable if you put it this way: What if the U.S. and Canada played again in the gold-medal hockey match? And were coached by the same coach?

“They never try,” shrugged Zoueva. “Maybe they should try.”

What Zoueva has tried to do herself the last four-plus years is explain how it works, coaching the two best teams in the world. Sunday night she shuffled between the two, first watching Virtue/Moir skate their short dance, sitting in the Kiss and Cry with them before walking back across the far end of the rink to a warm-up room where Davis/White were prepping for their own skate.

VIDEO: Reigning world champs sit in second

“Marina does an incredible job,” Davis said at the short dance press conference. “If you want to delve into it, the two teams have very different styles and approaches and strengths. She’s an incredible coach. She knows a lot about life in general and she brings that to the ice with her. When those complexities arise between the two teams she does a wonderful job implementing necessary solutions.”

“I just do my job,” said Zoueva, simplifying the situation. “I have two talented – extremely talented –  teams and I just do my job properly. It’s not hard.”

Other prominent coaches have faced similar situations in figure skating. At the Sochi Games, former Olympic medalist Brian Orser was on the boards for two medal contenders: Yuzuru Hanyu (who won the gold) and Javier Fernandez (who finished fourth).

VIDEO: Sochi’s twizzles sizzle on ice

But no one at these Games has faced what Zoueva will on Monday.

“I always so much enjoy for the team that wins and am very sorry – sometimes cry – for the team that lost,” Zoueva explained. “For me they are individuals, I keep in my heart both of them.”

Emily Sweeney posts fastest time in qualifier for luge World Cup opener

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World championship bronze medalist Emily Sweeney placed first in the Nations Cup luge race Friday in Innsbruck, Austria, qualifying with ease for the first World Cup event of the season.

Twelve women, including fellow American Summer Britcher, were seeded directly into the World Cup race. Sweeney, Brittney Arndt and Ashley Farquharson all qualified from the Nations Cup race. Britcher has finished third in the overall World Cup standings for two straight years and is a contender in a wide-open year with seven-time defending champion Natalie Geisenberger taking a year off while pregnant.

MORE: Geisenberg will not race in 2019-20

In the men’s competition, Jonny Gustafson and Olympic silver medalist Chris Mazdzer finished third and fifth in the Nations Cup race to advance. Tucker West claimed the second-to-last qualifying spot to get all three U.S. sliders in Sunday’s World Cup race.

Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman qualified for the doubles competition, ensuring all eight U.S. sliders will see the weekend races.

OlympicChannel.com will have live streaming this weekend (all times ET):

  • Women: Saturday, 4:15 a.m. and 5:40 a.m.
  • Doubles: Saturday, 7:05 a.m. and 8:25 a.m.
  • Men: Sunday, 4 a.m. and 5:35 a.m.
  • Team relay: Sunday, 7:40 a.m.

Highlights will be on television at the following times:

  • Saturday: Olympic Channel, 5:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, Olympic Channel, 5:30 p.m.
  • Sunday: NBCSN, 4:30 p.m.

Next weekend, the World Cup series heads to Lake Placid, N.Y.

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Russian track and field federation faces expulsion threat over new doping allegations

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MOSCOW (AP) — The governing body for track and field will consider expelling Russia from membership following new charges that senior officials faked medical records.

Russia has been suspended by World Athletics, formerly known as the IAAF, over widespread doping since 2015. There will be a review of whether vetted Russians should still be allowed to compete in international events as neutrals.

“We need to deal with renegade factions like this,” World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said Friday in Monaco.

World Athletics has frozen talks about lifting the long-running suspension and asked its Russia task force for recommendations on expelling the country’s track federation.

“It’s not symbolic,” said Coe, who said the charges and suspensions against Russian officials were so wide-ranging that they left the task force with almost no one left to talk to.

One route could be to close the Russian track federation and set up a new national governing body. Russia’s sports minister said he had referred the federation to a commission which oversees such matters.

Federation president Dmitry Shlyakhtin and four other senior officials are accused of obstructing the investigation into 2017 world championship silver medalist Danil Lysenko, who was accused last year of failing to make himself available for drug testing.

Lysenko allegedly provided fake medical documents as an alibi with help from the officials. He and his coach have also been suspended by the Athletics Integrity Unit pending full disciplinary hearings.

Also Friday, the three-time world high jump champion Mariya Lasitskene assailed Russian track leaders after they were charged Thursday, saying they have made a “doping nightmare” even worse.

Lasitskene called for swift and radical reforms, and the removal of officials appointed by Shlyakhtin.

Shlyakhtin took office shortly after the federation was suspended from international competition for widespread doping. The suspension remains in place four years later.

“The new team, whose task was to take us out of this doping nightmare, has turned out no better than the old one. And in some ways worse,” Lasitskene wrote on Instagram. “Shlyakhtin and his team must quit their posts immediately and never come back. And I will make sure this happens.”

Lasitskene has won two of her three world titles as a neutral athlete as a result of Russia’s suspension, which also caused her to miss the 2016 Olympics.

“Our track and field is in its death throes and we can’t procrastinate anymore,” she wrote. “We’ve lost four years already. Clean athletes are still defenseless and not sure they’ll be able to compete tomorrow.”

Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov expressed concern about the “emergency situation” and referred the federation to a ministry commission which could officially withdraw its government recognition.

“The future fate of the track and field federation will be examined,” Kolobkov said Friday in a video statement. “For us now, the main thing is that the training process isn’t interrupted. That means all of the athletes will get the help they need to continue the training and competition process.”

Earlier, the Kremlin said the charges against Shlyakhtin and others won’t derail the country’s preparations to compete in next year’s Olympics.

“Undoubtedly, this (situation) requires attention from the sports authorities, and I’m sure they’re dealing with it,” said Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin. “But I don’t see a direct connection with Russia’s participation in the Olympics here.”

With Shlyakhtin suspended, the federation is set to select an interim president at a board meeting on Saturday.

Russia is also facing a World Anti-Doping Agency ruling next month on whether it manipulated data from a lab in Moscow.

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