Wladimir Klitschko

Wladimir Klitschko not ready to give up on Olympic dream

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NEW YORK — World heavyweight boxing champion Wladimir Klitschko still hopes to compete in the Rio Olympics, but that does not appear possible.

“Wladimir Klitschko is not eligible for any of the qualifying paths,” an International Boxing Association (AIBA) official said in an email Friday, citing qualifying procedures here and here.

In 2013, AIBA, which is boxing’s international governing body for Olympic competition, also said Klitschko was ineligible, but added then that exceptions could be made to allow certain boxers into the Olympics as it moved toward allowing professionals to compete in the Games.

On Wednesday, Klitschko did not sound ready to give up on returning to the Olympics while at Madison Square Garden, where he will fight American Bryant Jennings in a title defense April 25.

“I’m not ready to talk about it in particular, what it looks like, because AIBA, that’s the sanctioning body of amateur [boxing], needs to get along with professional boxers,” the Ukrainian Klitschko said. “I’ve heard about the rules. There’s certain amount of boxing fights and experience, whatever the rules are, I’m not right now familiar with that, because I think it hasn’t been confirmed 100 percent yet.

“If there is a chance, I would love to participate. Any other sport, they can play professionally [and play in the Olympics]. It’s a shame for boxing that professional boxers cannot perform in the Olympics.”

Klitschko declined to give a deadline on when he would decide whether he will try to make the Olympics, if given the opportunity.

“I hope not the Olympics after Rio. I’m going to be 45 next Olympics [he will actually be 44], after Rio,” he said. “I hope things will be cleared up in the next half-year, and then we’ll go from there.”

Klitschko won the Atlanta 1996 Olympic super heavyweight gold medal.

“That was my dream, to fight again at the Olympics, 20 years later,” Klitschko said. “Not just to fight, but to win the gold again.”

Klitschko smiled when asked to recall his experience in Atlanta, saying “the Olympics have changed my life.”

“I have great memories,” Klitschko said. “Meeting Muhammad Ali. … He was visiting the [athletes’] village, gathering a lot of people. I was one of them. It was exciting to see him in person. I didn’t get a chance to shake his hand.”

Klitschko said that was the first time he was close to Ali. The two Olympic champions have met several times since.

Klitschko’s second memory was of the Centennial Olympic Park bombing on July 27.

“One of the memories is the bombing of the disco, where my friends went to, and I was there before,” Klitschko said. “But I left, because I have to be in the schedule and sleep. When I heard the next morning, which was right on the other side of the campus where we were staying, it was really sad. Thankfully, nobody from my team got injured, but they were there.”

Does Klitschko’s older brother, Vitaly, regret not being an Olympian?

“I think he does in certain ways, but another side, he’s happy because I won the gold for both of us,” Klitschko said.

Vitaly is now the mayor of Kiev. Klitschko laughed when asked if Vitaly might unretire.

“I can joke about it,” Klitschko said. “Sometimes before the fights, he says, ‘Man, these are such exciting times. I am missing it.’ But of course not. His responsibility now is mayor of city of Kiev, for four million people. There’s no way.”

Michael Phelps plans to compete in April

First Olympic women’s aerials champion Cheryazova dies at 50

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MOSCOW (AP) Lina Cheryazova, the first woman to win an Olympic aerials skiing gold medal, has died. She was 50.

Officials in the Russian city of Novosibirsk, where Cheryazova was living for the last two decades, said she died “following a lengthy illness,” without giving further details.

Competing for Uzbekistan, Cheryazova won gold with a triple flip when aerials skiing debuted on the Olympic program in 1994 in Lillehammer.

Shortly after winning, she learned her mother died three weeks before.

Cheryazova’s career was derailed later that year when she suffered a serious head injury while training in the United States, and spent days in a coma. She retired after failing to qualify for the 1998 Winter Olympics.

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Clare Egan notches first World Cup podium in biathlon season finale

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In the final biathlon event of the 2018-19 season, American Clare Egan recorded her first career World Cup podium finish, placing third in the mass start in Oslo, Norway. She hit 19 of 20 targets and crossed the finish line 10.4 seconds behind winner Hanna Oberg of Sweden. Norway’s Tiril Eckhoff finished second.

Egan, 31, made her Olympic debut at the 2018 PyeongChang Games, but considered retiring from biathlon at the end of the last season. “I decided that I wanted to do one more year, just for fun, just to see how much I could learn and how good a biathlete I could become,” Egan said in a U.S. Biathlon press release.

Her decision to continue has paid off: since the start of the 2018-19 season, Egan has posted the top eight finishes of her career (including three top-10 results). She concludes the season ranked 18th in the overall World Cup standings.

“I skied much faster this year than I have in the past and I think that was due to finally finding a good balance in my training, between working hard and resting. I did not train more, but the quality was much higher. I’m very excited for the next season,” Egan told U.S. Biathlon.