Figure skating

Skating, cycling bosses propose major changes to Olympic programs

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Presidents of the international skating and cycling unions suggested major changes to the Olympics, including cutting figure skating short programs, eliminating short track speed skating and moving summer indoor sports to the Winter Games.

International Skating Union (ISU) president Ottavio Cinquanta outlined what he called “personal opinions,” a summary of proposals he put forth for consideration in an internal letter to ISU officials. The Italian Cinquanta’s reign as ISU president, since 1994, is expected to end in 2016.

Dutch newspaper Volkskrant quoted Cinquanta’s proposed changes for speed skating and short track speed skating on Tuesday. The Chicago Tribune obtained the letter and published it.

Here’s a summary:

Figure skating ideas
Abolish all short programs.

Make free skates the same time across all four disciplines (men’s and pairs are currently 4 minutes, 30 seconds, while women and ice dance are 4 minutes).

Add synchronized skating to the Olympics.

Speed skating/Short track ideas 
Move to a mass start in speed skating with a maximum of two skaters per country per event (currently it is three or four) to ensure a nation does not sweep gold, silver and bronze in any event. Cinquanta prefaced this by noting the Netherlands “monopolized” the speed skating medals in Sochi (winning 23 of a possible 32), calling the dominance a “sign of high concern.”

Switch from a 400m oval to a 250m oval and eventually cancel short track events.

Replace speed skating’s 1000m, women’s 5000m and men’s 10,000m with 16-lap mass starts and a mixed relay.

Meanwhile, International Cycling Union (UCI) president Brian Cookson suggested discussions about moving track cycling, combat sports such as judo and indoor sports like badminton to the Winter Olympics.

“If you have a problem with Summer Olympics where the whole thing is perceived as overheated with too many facilities, too many sports, too many competitors and so on, why not look at moving some of the other sports that traditionally take place in the winter in the northern hemisphere indoors,” Cookson said, according Agence-France Presse citing Press Association Sport. “If we moved track cycling to the Winter Olympics and that allowed us to have more track cycling events and more medals then that could be a pretty good outcome.

“So let’s talk about those things and see what the stakeholders, the national federations, the teams and the competitors have to say about those options.”

It would not be unprecedented to move sports from the Summer Olympics to Winter Olympics. Ice hockey and figure skating were Summer Olympic sports before the first edition of the Winter Olympics in 1924.

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Sam Girard, Olympic short track champion, surprisingly retires at age 22

Sam Girard
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Sam Girard, who avoided a three-skater pileup to win the PyeongChang Olympic 1000m, retired from short track speed skating at age 22, saying he lost the desire to compete.

“I leave my sport satisfied with what I have accomplished,” Girard said in a press release. “This decision was very well thought through. I am at peace with the choice that I’ve made and am ready to move onto the next step.”

Girard and girlfriend and fellow Olympic skater Kasandra Bradette announced their careers end together in a tearful French-language press conference in Quebec on Friday.

Girard detailed the decision in a letter, the sacrifices made to pursue skating. Notably, moving from his hometown of Ferland-et-Boilleau, population 600, to Montreal in 2012. His hobbies had been of the outdoor variety, but he now had to drive an hour and a half from the training center just to go fishing.

In PyeongChang, Girard led for most of the 1000m final, which meant he avoided chaos behind him on the penultimate lap of the nine-lap race. Hungarian Liu Shaolin Sandor‘s inside pass took out South Koreans Lim Hyo-Jun and Seo Yi-Ra, leaving just Girard and American John-Henry Krueger.

Girard maintained his lead, crossing .214 in front of Krueger to claim the title. He also finished fourth in the 500m and 1500m and earned bronze in the relay.

“My first Olympics, won a gold medal, can’t ask for more,” he said afterward.

Though Girard was already accomplished — earning individual silver medals at the 2016 and 2017 Worlds — he came to PyeongChang as the heir apparent to Charles Hamelin, a roommate on the World Cup circuit whom Girard likened to a big brother. Girard earned another world silver medal this past season.

Hamelin, after taking individual gold in 2010 and 2014, left PyeongChang without an individual medal in what many expected to be his last Olympics. However, he went back on a retirement vow and continued to skate through the 2018-19 season.

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Maia, Alex Shibutani extend break from ice dance competition

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Brother-sister ice dance duo Maia and Alex Shibutani will not compete next season, the Olympic bronze medalists announced via U.S. Figure Skating on Friday.

“We’re healthier and stronger than we were after the Olympics, and we’re continuing to push ourselves,” Maia Shibutani said in a press release.

“We’ve continued to skate a lot, and we feel like we’ve benefited from some time away to create in different environments and focus on experiences that can help us grow,” Alex said.

The “Shib Sibs” won the U.S. title in 2016 and 2017. They won their first world medal in 2011 (bronze) before reaching the world podium again in 2016 and 2017 with silver and bronze, respectively.

They most recently competed at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, where they earned bronze both individually and in the team event.

Maia and Alex Shibutani are now the second ice dance medalists from PyeongChang to announce they’ll sit out at least part of next season. Gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada will tour instead this fall and are not expected to return to competition.

The siblings haven’t stayed away from the ice entirely in their break from the sport, though — they’ve also been touring and performing in shows.

The Shibutanis became the second set of siblings to earn Olympic ice dance medals after France’s Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay in 1992.

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