Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy will represent Ireland at 2016 Olympics

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Rory McIlroy decided he will represent Ireland rather than Great Britain should he play at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, the first Olympic golf tournament in 112 years.

“I’ve been thinking about it a lot,” McIlroy reportedly said ahead of this week’s Irish Open on Wednesday. “I don’t know whether it’s been because the World Cup has been in Brazil and I’ve been thinking a couple of years down the line.

“Thinking about all the times that I played as an amateur for Ireland and as a boy and everything, I think for me it’s the right decision to play for Ireland in 2016.”

McIlroy is from Northern Ireland, which does not field a separate Olympic Team. Northern Ireland athletes have been known to compete for Great Britain, such as Beijing track cycling silver medalist Wendy Houvenaghel, or for Ireland, as 2010 U.S. Open winning golfer Graeme McDowell is expected to do.

McIlroy’s long-awaited decision was a difficult one, as he has shied away from talking about the subject over the last couple years. International Golf Federation officials said in May they wanted the nationality policy in place by July, two years before the Olympic golf fields are determined.

McIlroy, 25, is a two-time major champion and ranked No. 6 in the world. His path to qualifying for the Olympics is easier as an Irish golfer than a British one.

The Olympic golf field will invite everybody from the world top 15, with no more than four players per nation, from the world rankings in July 2016. Beyond the top 15, the field will be filled according to the rankings with a maximum of two players per country that does not already have two or more in the top 15.

McIlroy is currently the No. 1 golfer from Ireland or Great Britain.

The next highest ranked Irish (or Northern Ireland) golfers are No. 22 McDowell, No. 75 Shane Lowry, No. 199 Michael Hoey and No. 233 Padraig Harrington.

The next highest ranked British golfers are No. 10 Justin Rose, No. 20 Luke Donald, No. 25 Ian Poulter and No. 30 Lee Westwood.

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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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