Yulia Lipnitskaya

Yulia Lipnitskaya under ‘constant stress’ since Sochi gold

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Russian figure skater Yulia Lipnitskaya has admitted to feeling incredible pressure since she starred in the Sochi Olympic team event in February.

Lipnitskaya, 16, said she has “no freedom” and that under the media microscope in an interview published on Russia’s figure skating website, translated by The Associated Press.

”Whatever you do, everything is interpreted the wrong way and then has to be justified,” Lipnitskaya said, according to the AP. ”It’s not life, it’s constant stress.

”I’m a person like everyone else. I try to work on the things people expect of me, but I can’t live up to everyone’s desires and whims.”

Lipnitskaya spoke after finishing second at her first top-level event this season, the Cup of China in Shanghai last weekend. She finished second to countrywoman Elizaveta Tuktamysheva in Shanghai, losing her short program lead after she fell on one jump and popped two others in her free skate.

“This is the worst skate in all my life,” Lipnitskaya said after the free skate.

Lipnitskaya missed the awards ceremony and was fined. She said she thought the ceremony would be at a different time and was already back at her hotel when she received a phone call asking where she was.

Lipnitskaya shot to fame in her Olympic debut in Sochi. She led all women in the team event, being chosen to represent Russia over Adelina Sotnikova. Russia won gold, leading many to tap Lipnitskaya as the biggest threat to Yuna Kim in the later women’s event. Lipnitskaya became the second-youngest Olympic figure skating gold medalist ever.

But Lipnitskaya fell in her short program and free skate in the individual event, placing fifth, breaking into tears and saying nervousness and fatigure played a role. Sotnikova became the surprise gold medalist.

Lipnitskaya rebounded to win World Championships silver in March, though she again fell on her triple Salchow in the free skate.

Lipnitskaya’s next scheduled competition is the Trophee Bompard in France next week. She is the only woman with an Olympic medal who is competing in the Grand Prix season, after Sotnikova withdrew with an ankle injury.

Notes from USADA drug-testing statistics update

Iran banned from judo for instructing athlete to withdraw rather than face Israel opponent

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Iran has been banned from international judo for instructing one of its athletes to withdraw from August’s world championships rather than face an Israeli judoka.

The International Judo Federation said Iran authorities instructing Saeid Mollaei to withdraw rather than face Israeli judoka Sagi Muki was “a serious breach and gross violation” of its code of ethics and the Olympic Charter.

IJF spokesman Vlad Marinescu said any ban won’t apply to the Tokyo Olympics. That’s because it’s the Iranian Olympic Committee, not the Iranian Judo Federation, which formally enters the Olympic team.

“We have been informed by IJF that they will launch a proper procedure giving all concerned parties the right to be heard,” an International Olympic Committee spokesperson said. “Should the issue become an Olympic issue we will take the result of this procedure into consideration.”

An IJF disciplinary commission said it “has a strong reason to believe that the Iran Judo Federation will continue or repeatedly engage in misconduct” given its history of similar actions with its athletes potentially facing Israelis.

Mollaei, a 2018 World champion, said he was afraid to return to Iran after disobeying those orders at worlds. He competed anyway but lost one round before a potential final with Muki.

“I want to compete wherever I can,” Mollaei said in a statement from the IJF. “I live in a country whose law does not permit me to. We have no choice, all athletes must comply with it. All I did today was for my life, for a new life.

“I need help. Even if the authorities of my country told me that I can go back without any problems, I am afraid.”

The IJF said it would help Mollaei prepare for next year’s Olympics, also in Tokyo. If Iran refuses to enter him, one option could be the International Olympic Committee-backed team of refugee athletes.

Iranian sports teams have for several decades had a policy of not competing against Israelis, which the country does not recognize. The IJF has said Iranians have thrown matches and used “questionable injuries” to avoid competing against Israelis.

Mollaei’s case came four months after judo officials hailed a breakthrough in relations with Iran, publishing a letter signed by Salehi Amiri pledging to “fully respect the Olympic charter and its non-discrimination principle.”

Back in August, Iranian Sports Minister Masoud Soltanifar accused the IJF of trying to “create problems” with Mollaei, the IRNA news agency reported. He said Iran will send a protest letter to the IOC.

Iranian team manager Majid Zareian also criticized the IJF, saying “everything was set in advance to put Mollaei against a participant from (Israel).”

“They did not allow me to be present next to my athlete in exercise salon,” Zareian said. “After the competitions they changed hotel of Mollaei without my permission, against the regulations.”

He denied reports Iranian authorities had put pressure on Mollaei.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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MORE: Israel, judo federation hail letter from Iran; Tehran silent

Jacarra Winchester, after foe bites her, wins first wrestling world title

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Jacarra Winchester missed the Rio Olympic wrestling trials after tearing her knee playing soccer. She missed a medal at the 2018 World Championships after a semifinal-winning takedown was reversed.

There was no denying her on Wednesday.

Winchester, who picked up wrestling a decade ago as a high school junior, became the first American to earn a medal at the worlds in Kazakhstan this week. And it was gold.

She came back to beat Japanese Nanami Irie 5-3 in the final of the 55kg division, a weight class that is not on the Olympic program. Winchester must move to 53kg or 57kg next year.

But for now she can celebrate quite a journey. At 26, she’s one of the older wrestlers to become a first-time world champion. She believed she had what it took last year, when a reversed call kept her from the final and she subsequently lost a bronze-medal match.

Winchester, who has problems sleeping, said she replayed the end of that semifinal in her head ever since.

“There’s no reason why I should have gotten beat,” she said Wednesday. “Clearly I have what I need on the mat. I just need to change my mindset. … Just knowing you’re the best, pushing yourself and not letting anything get to me.”

That helped in Tuesday’s semifinals, where Winchester said her Turkish opponent bit her, pulled her hair and twisted her fingers. Winchester, who grew up in the Oakland, Calif., area, said that when she started wrestling she had no Olympic goals.

“I had a mindset of I’m not a quitter,” she said.

Earlier Wednesday, Adeline Gray reached Thursday’s 76kg final, where she will try to become the first American to earn five world titles.

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