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IOC provisionally recognizes Kosovo

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The International Olympic Committee provisionally recognized Kosovo on Wednesday, paving the way for it to be part of the Olympics for the first time in 2016.

Kosovo athletes will be able to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympics, the IOC said. The IOC’s executive board proposed Kosovo be granted full recognition at an IOC session in December.

Kosovo, which gained independence from Serbia in 2008, has never had athletes compete at the Olympics under its flag.

Kosovo is home to a two-time reigning World champion judoka, Majlinda Kelmendi, who competed for Albania at the London 2012 Games since she didn’t have an option to represent Kosovo.

“Membership of a Kosovo [National Olympic Committee] in the IOC would open this door of opportunities for our young athletes,” Kelmendi told the BBC in 2012. “It would mean that we are equal with others.”

The Serbian Olympic Committee is against Kosovo being recognized by the IOC.

“For four years now, the Serbian Olympic Committee has successfully blocked attempts by the unilaterally declared Republic of Kosovo to gain IOC membership through various channels, while the Serbian authorities have also been timely informed of these attempts,” the Serbian Olympic Committee said in a statement, according to Reuters. “We have information that the IOC is now prepared to support the initiative although we have stated several times, in cooperation with the Serbian government institutions, that such activities are unacceptable.”

*Correction: A previous version of this story stated  Majlinda Kelmendi competed for Algeria at the 2012 Olympics. She competed for Albania.

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Alysa Liu rallies to win Junior Grand Prix with another quadruple jump

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U.S. figure skating champion Alysa Liu landed a quadruple Lutz for a second straight Junior Grand Prix, rallying from fourth after the short program to win an event in Poland on Friday.

Liu, who in January became the youngest U.S. champion in history at age 13, won both of her starts in her first season on the Junior Grand Prix to become the first U.S. woman to qualify for the six-skater Junior Grand Prix Final since 2013 (Polina Edmunds and Karen Chen). The Final is held with the senior Grand Prix Final in Turin, Italy, in December.

She won Friday by 6.63 points by surpassing a pair of Russians, a rarity in this era. Her free skate is here.

Liu trailed by 4.03 points after doubling a planned triple loop in the short program. She was the lone skater in the field to attempt a triple Axel (landing three of them, including two in combination and one with a negative grade of execution) or a quad.

Liu tallied 138.99 points in the free skate and 203.10 overall. She ranks sixth in the world this season by best total scores among junior and senior skaters, though some top skaters have yet to compete.

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Rafaela Silva, first Brazilian gold medalist at Rio Olympics, claims innocence after positive drug test

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Rafaela Silva, the judoka who grew up in Rio’s most famously violent favela to become Brazil’s first gold medalist at the Rio Olympics, reportedly tested positive for a banned substance last month.

Silva tested positive for fenoterol, a substance that can be legal to treat asthma if an athlete has a therapeutic use exemption (TUE). Silva did not have a TUE before testing positive at the Pan American Games in August, according to Brazilian media.

A possible punishment has not been announced.

Silva claimed innocence at a news conference Friday afternoon, saying that a young child with whom she had bodily contact at her training location used the substance, and she plans to compete at a domestic event this weekend, according to O Globo.

Silva, 27, backed up her Rio Olympic 57kg title by taking bronze at the world championships later in August. If she is punished for the positive test, Silva could lose that bronze medal, though she said Friday that she had a clean drug test at worlds, according to O Globo.

Silva, from Rio’s Ciadade de Deus favela, has the Olympic rings tattooed on her right bicep with the inscription “God knows how much I’ve suffered and what I’ve done to get here.”

Brazil’s top female swimmer, Etiene Medeiros, reportedly tested positive for fenoterol in May 2016 but was cleared to compete at the Rio Olympics.

In PyeongChang, Slovenian hockey player Ziga Jeglic tested positive for fenoterol and was scratched before his nation’s last game before it was announced. Jeglic was suspended from the Games and, later, was suspended eight months.

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