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

Katie Ledecky wins race by 30 seconds, takes back No. 1 ranking

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In her last race of the year, Katie Ledecky ensured she would finish 2019 as the world’s fastest 1500m freestyler.

Ledecky clocked 15:35.98 at the U.S. Open in Atlanta, winning the longest event on the Olympic pool program by 29.97 seconds. Typical for Ledecky, who owns the nine fastest times in history. This one came in at No. 8. Full meet results are here.

Ledecky scratched the 1500m free final at the summer world championships due to illness. Italian Simona Quadarella went on to win that title in 15:40.89, which was the world’s fastest time this year until Saturday night.

“I didn’t have time on my mind at all today. I just wanted to have a consistent swim,” Ledecky, undefeated in 1500m free finals for nine years, said on NBCSN. “That’s probably the best mile that I’ve had in a while.”

The women’s 1500m freestyle debuts at the Olympics in Tokyo. Ledecky is expected to add that to her Rio Olympic individual lineup of 200m, 400m and 800m frees, assuming she is top two in each event at the June Olympic trials.

In other events Saturday, Erika Brown handed Simone Manuel a rare defeat in the 100m freestyle. Brown, a University of Tennessee senior, clocked 53.42 and lowered her personal best by .71 between prelims and the final. Brown moved from sixth to fourth in the U.S. rankings this year, upping her stock as a contender to make the Olympic 4x100m free relay pool via a top-six finish at trials.

Brown previously lowered her personal best in the 50m free on Thursday. She ranks third in the U.S. this year in that event.

Emily Escobedo dealt Lilly King a rare domestic defeat in the 200m breaststroke. Escobedo lowered her personal best by .87 and clocked 2:22.00, moving to seventh fastest in the world this year and remaining fourth among Americans.

In the men’s 200m breast, Olympic champion Dmitriy Balandin of Kazakhstan was beaten by Cody Miller, the Olympic 100m breast silver medalist. Both were slower than their best times this year.

The next significant swim meet is a Tyr Pro Series stop in Knoxville, Tenn., from Jan. 16-19.

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Mikaela Shiffrin runner-up in Lake Louise downhill

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LAKE LOUISE, Alberta (AP) — Here’s a scary thought for her competition: Mikaela Shiffrin is still getting comfortable with the intensity and the speed of the downhill.

That’s why podium finishes are still a little surprising even to her.

The American three-time overall World Cup champion finished runner-up to Nicole Schmidhofer of Austria in a downhill race Saturday. Schmidhofer cruised through the course in 1 minute, 49.92 seconds to edge Shiffrin by 0.13 seconds. Francesca Marsaglia of Italy wound up third.

Schmidhofer has four career World Cup wins, with three of them arriving at Lake Louise.

Known as a tech specialist, Shiffrin is steadily getting up to speed in the speed events. This was Shiffrin’s fourth career World Cup podium finish in the downhill, which includes a Lake Louise win in 2017.

So, does Shiffrin anticipate this kind of downhill success?

“No, no, no,” the 24-year-old from Colorado said. “It’s certainly not normal (for a downhill podium). Even racing downhill doesn’t feel normal. But I feel every year like I have more experience and get more comfortable.”

Shiffrin currently sits at 62 World Cup wins, which ties her with Austrian great Annemarie Moser-Proell for second-most on the women’s side. Lindsey Vonn had 82 wins before her retirement.

“I’m certainly more comfortable with the long skis,” Shiffrin said of downhill racing. “Right now, it’s enjoying it, because speed is a little bit extra for me. My goal is to be able to succeed in speed as well. It’s making the transition and trying to have fun with it.”

Czech Republic skier and snowboarder Ester Ledecka finished fourth Saturday. She was the surprise winner of Friday’s season-opening downhill, which was delayed and shortened by heavy snowfall on the mountain. The race Saturday was restored to its full length.

Next up, a super-G on Sunday.

“It’s always been a little bit tricky for me from downhill skis to super-G skis and to change the timing a little bit,” Shiffrin said. “I’m going to have fun.”

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