Tatyana Volosozhar, Maksim Trankov

Six months since Sochi: international figure skaters

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Since coming home from Sochi, Olympic figure skaters have kept pretty busy. Take a look at what the international stars have been up to.

Women

Adelina Sotnikova said she “grew up” since winning a controversial gold at home, becoming the first Russian Olympic women’s figure skating champion. She’s entered in two Grand Prix season events this fall. (notable Grand Prix assignments here)

The Korea Skating Union’s complaints about judging bias – filed on behalf of silver medalist Yuna Kimwere rejected by the International Skating Union.

Kim, remembered also for her Vancouver gold, retired. She recently attended a coaching workshop, and South Korean media reported she also applied to graduate school.

Italian bronze medalist Carolina Kostner will sit out the upcoming season but hasn’t retired.

Yulia Lipnitskaya, who helped Russia to gold in the Sochi team event, received a letter from director Steven Spielberg that read, “I am writing to tell you how moved I was by your gold medal performance as the little girl in red and accompanied by John Williams’ music from my film Schindler’s List… You are the best discovery of the Sochi Olympics and we will be watching you in PyeongChang in 2018.”

Mao Asada bounced back from her sixth-place showing in Sochi to win the World Championship in Saitama, Japan, in March. She will sit out the upcoming season, but like Kostner, hasn’t retired yet.

Six months since Sochi: U.S. figure skaters

Men

Japan’s first men’s gold medalist, Yuzuru Hanyu, also captured World Championship gold at home. He’s slated to compete this season.

Two-time Sochi silver medalist Patrick Chan of Canada skipped the World Championships and will sit out the Grand Prix season, but he’s on the Canadian National Team.

Denis Ten, Kazakhstan’s bronze medalist, is entered in two Grand Prix events, including Skate America.

Yevgeny Plushenko, who infamously withdrew moments before he was scheduled to perform in the Sochi singles competition, has since retired, unretired, had back surgery and said he hasn’t ruled out competing at the 2018 Olympics.

Pairs

Tatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov will compete this season after winning double gold in Sochi.

Rival German pair and bronze medalists Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy split with Szolkowy’s retirement. Savchenko partnered with France’s Bruno Massot, but the pair is still deciding which country they will represent internationally.

Ice Dance

Sochi silver medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are, like Chan, on the Canadian National Team yet not entered in Grand Prix season events. It’s unknown if or when they will perform again.

Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov, who won ice dance bronze and team gold, split in April. Ilinykh since partnered with Ruslan Zhiganshin, and Katsalapov will skate with Zhiganshin’s former partner, Viktoria Sinitsina.

Yuna Kim: ‘The classification I received was what I deserved’

World Cup Alpine season opener gets green light

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After checking the snow on the Rettenbach glacier in Soelden, Austria, FIS officials announced Thursday that the traditional World Cup season opener is set to go ahead as planned Oct. 26-27 with men’s and women’s giant slalom races.

Current conditions at Soelden show a solid 30 inches of snow at the summit. The race finishes at an altitude of 2,670 meters (8,760 feet), far above the currently snowless village.

The first races of the season are never guaranteed to have enough snow, though last year’s men’s race at Soelden had the opposite problem, being canceled when a storm blew through with heavy snowfall and high winds. 

France’s Tessa Worley won the women’s race last year ahead of Italy’s Frederica Brignone and U.S. skier Mikaela Shiffrin, who would go on to dominate the rest of the World Cup season.

The Soelden weekend is followed by three dormant weeks until the season resumes Nov. 23-24 in Levi, Finland. The World Cup circuits then switch to North America. The men will run speed events Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Lake Louise, Alberta, then head to Beaver Creek, Colo., for more speed events and a giant slalom Dec. 6-8. The women run slalom and giant slalom Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Killington, Vt., and head to Lake Louise the next weekend.

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Olympic marathon and race walk move from Tokyo to Sapporo draws some pushback

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In the wake of a dropout-plagued set of world championship endurance races in Qatar, moving the 2020 Olympic marathons and race walks from Tokyo to the cooler venue of Sapporo is a quick fix for one problem, pending the potential for untimely heat waves.

But the move has drawn some opposition for a variety of reasons.

First, many organizers and politicians appear to have been caught by surprise. Tokyo’s governor, Yuriko Koike, was “taken aback” and Sapporo’s mayor, Katsuhiro Akimoto, learned about the move from the media, Kyodo News reported. Koike even sarcastically suggested that the races could move all the way northward to islands disputed by Russia and Japan.

South African sports scientist Ross Tucker suggested that running in heat and humidity poses an interesting challenge for athletes, some of whom may be able to catch up with faster runners by preparing for the conditions.

British marathoner Mara Yamauchi made a similar point, saying the move was unfair to those who already were preparing for the heat, humidity and other conditions.

Belgian marathoner Koen Naert said he will make the best of the change but complained that some of his preparation and every runner’s logistical planning would no longer apply.

The angriest athlete may be Canadian walker Evan Dunfee, who placed fourth in the 2016 Olympic 50km race and nearly claimed bronze as a Canadian appeal was upheld but then rejected. He says runners and walkers can beat the conditions if they prepare, which many athletes did not do for the world championships in Qatar.

“So why do we cater to the ill prepared?” Dunfee asked on Twitter.

The move also takes athletes out of the main Olympic city and takes away the traditional, tough less frequent in modern years, finish in the Olympic stadium.

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