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Skateboarders’ petition against Olympic inclusion likely a misunderstanding, IOC official says

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TOKYO (AP) — IOC vice president John Coates is pleased with the “balanced package” of proposed additional sports for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and expects that skateboarding will soon be represented by a single international federation to push its case for inclusion in the games.

Baseball-softball, surfing, skateboarding, karate and sports climbing were recommended for inclusion last month by the Tokyo organizing committee.

A final decision on which sport or sports to add to the Tokyo program will be made by the International Olympic Committee next August. Under new IOC rules, a host city can propose the addition of one or more sports to their games.

“Our reaction is that it’s a very good balanced package,” Coates said Wednesday. “We have traditional sports, innovative new sports that appeal to the youth of the world. We have outdoor sports, indoor sports. It’s the assessment of the package as a whole that is very important.”

Coates was in Tokyo as head of an IOC “project review” of the city’s Olympic preparations.

In response to media reports citing opposition among some skateboarding groups to be recognized as an Olympic event, Coates said the IOC will recognize a separate skateboarding federation independent of the International Roller Sports Federation.

“Skateboarding is a comparatively new sport,” Coates said. “There are a number of federations that conduct skateboarding events internationally, and we are in discussion with them, and I would expect that one of the federations will be identified in the near future that we will work with and recognize.”

Coates said that a petition by skateboarders not to have their sport included was likely the result of a misunderstanding.

“I’ve seen tremendous support from international and national skateboarders on the basis that there will be a new federation representing them,” Coates added.

Baseball and softball have been out of the Olympics since the 2008 Beijing Games, and their proposed inclusion as a joint bid had been considered a virtual certainty because of the high popularity of those sports in Japan.

A recent gambling scandal has tarnished the image of baseball in Japan, but Coates said it was unlikely that would hurt the sport’s chances to get back on the Olympic program.

A pitcher for the Yomiuri Giants, Japan’s most popular baseball team, was suspended for betting on games, including those involving his own team.

“Certainly Illegal betting on games, the IOC has zero tolerance for that,” Coates said. “In drafting the rules for participation of athletes in the games, we make it quite clear that athletes are not allowed to bet on games. … This s a problem that is frowned on in sports in Japan and it’s not going to effect the decision to be taken with baseball.”

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Cyclist in induced coma after Tour of Poland crash

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Dutch cyclist Fabio Jakobsen was put into an induced coma Wednesday after suffering injuries in a crash on the final stretch of the Tour of Poland, organizers said.

A massive crash at the finish of the first stage resulted in Dylan Groenewegen‘s disqualification from the race.

Leading a bunch sprint, Groenewegen veered toward the right barrier, pinching countryman Jakobsen, who barreled into the barrier meters from the finish line.

Jakobsen went head over heels, his bike went airborne and the barriers exploded onto the road, causing more cyclists to crash.

Jakobsen was airlifted to a hospital in serious condition and was put into an induced coma, the Tour de Pologne press office said.

Doctor Pawel Gruenpeter of the hospital in Sosnowiec said Jakobsen suffered injuries to the head and chest but that his condition was stable at the intensive care unit. Jakobsen will need surgery to his face and skull, Gruenpeter told state broadcaster TVP Sport.

Groenewegen crossed the finish line first but was disqualified, giving Jakobsen the stage win, according to the stage race website.

Groenewegen, a 27-year-old Jumbo-Visma rider, owns four Tour de France stage wins among the last three years.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) “strongly condemned” Groenewegen’s “dangerous” and “unacceptable” behavior. It referred Groenewegen’s actions to a disciplinary commission for possible sanctions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Figure skating Grand Prix Series will be held as ‘domestic’ competitions

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Figure skating’s Grand Prix Series will go ahead as scheduled this fall, with modifications due to the coronavirus pandemic, the International Skating Union decided Monday.

Each of the series’ six tops around the globe will be “a domestic run event,” limited to skaters of the event’s host country, who regularly train in the host country and from a respective geographical area. The number of disciplines and skaters at each event are to be worked out.

The Grand Prix Series, held annually since 1995, is a six-event fall season, qualifying the top six skaters and teams per discipline to December’s Grand Prix Final. The annual stops are in the U.S., Canada, China, France, Russia and Japan, leading up to the Final, which is held at a different site each year.

The Final is the second-biggest annual competition after the world championships, which are typically in late March. The Final is still scheduled for Beijing, though whether or when it can be held will be discussed.

The series begins in late October with Skate America, which debuted in 1979 and has been held every year since 1988 as the biggest annual international competition in the U.S. Skate America’s site is Las Vegas, just as it was in 2019.

Skaters typically compete twice on the Grand Prix Series (three times if they qualify for the Final). ISU vice president Alexander Lakernik said skaters will be limited to one start in the six-event series before the Final, according to a Russian media quote confirmed by Phil Hersh.

The ISU has not confirmed or denied Lakernik’s assertion.

Most, if not all, top-level U.S. skaters train in the U.S. or Canada. That makes the first two Grand Prix stops — Skate America and Skate Canada — likely destinations. Grand Prix assignments have not been published.

“I appreciate the ISU is open to adapting competitive formats and is working to give athletes opportunities to compete,” Evan Bates, a U.S. ice dance champion with Madison Chock who trains in Montreal, wrote in a text message to Hersh. “This announcement gives reassurance that the ISU is doing their best to ensure a season will still take place. Of course, it’s hard to predict what will happen, and we’re not sure about what country we would compete in. It would probably depend on what the quarantine rules are at that time.”

The January 2021 U.S. Championships are scheduled for San Jose, Calif. The March 2021 World Championships are set for Stockholm.

In July, the ISU canceled the Junior Grand Prix Series for skaters mostly ages 13 to 18, including two-time U.S. champion Alysa Liu, who cannot enter the senior Grand Prix until 2021.

Other early season senior international competitions scheduled for September were also canceled or postponed.

U.S. Figure Skating said in a statement that it will have more details on the Grand Prix Series in the coming weeks after collaborating with an ISU-appointed group.

“This is a great example of the figure skating community coming together to ensure that the world’s premier figure skating series will continue during these challenging times,” the statement read. “Figure skaters want to compete and figure skating fans from all around the world want to see their favorite athletes skate, and this format will ensure just that.”

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