Vanessa Mae

Vanessa-Mae to challenge ski ban, calls it ‘nonsense’

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Violinist Vanessa-Mae will challenge a four-year ban by the International Ski Federation (FIS), which said she took part in fixed races to qualify for the Sochi Olympics.

She called the ban “nonsense” in a statement Thursday. Vanessa-Mae’s ban came Tuesday, hours before she played a concert in Prague.

“We will of course take it to the international Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS),” Vanessa-Mae said in the statement, according to German press agency DPA.

Vanessa-Mae, who skied in Sochi for Thailand as Vanessa Vanakorn, was last among 67 finishers in the Olympic giant slalom, 11.35 seconds behind the 66th-place finisher and 50.1 seconds behind winner Tina Maze.

She was a late qualifier into the Olympics, following four giant slalom races Jan. 18-19 whose results were “manipulated,” according to FIS. Those races were organized at the request of Vanessa-Mae’s management and were her last opportunities to qualify for the Sochi Olympics.

FIS outlined eight ways the races were manipulated, including listed competitors not being present and one skier falling in a run and finishing second, with her time adjusted afterward by more than 10 seconds.

In July, the Slovenian Ski Association president said the qualifying race results were “fixed at the behest of Thai ski officials to meet her qualifying criteria for Sochi,” according to The Associated Press.

Vanessa-Mae, 36, has sold in excess of 10 million albums since her 1995 debut, according to the Guardian. She began playing violin at age 5 and was a child prodigy, one year after she started skiing.

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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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