IOC: Refugees eligible to compete in Olympics for first time

Thomas Bach
AP
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UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Highly qualified athletes who are refugees will be allowed to compete in the Olympic Games for the first time in 2016, the president of the International Olympic Committee announced Monday.

IOC chief Thomas Bach made the announcement to the U.N. General Assembly, which adopted a resolution urging all countries to stop fighting and observe a truce during the 2016 Summer Olympics and Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Bach appealed to all 193 U.N. member states to help the IOC identify talented refugee athletes.

“This will be a symbol of hope for all the refugees in our world and will make the world better aware of the magnitude of this crisis,” he said.

Until now, Bach said, qualified refugee athletes were not able to participate because they couldn’t represent their home countries and their national Olympic committees. But he said the IOC has decided to welcome refugee athletes to the 2016 Olympics, at which they will live in the Olympic Village alongside 11,000 athletes from 206 national Olympic committees.

“Having no national team to belong to, having no flag to march behind, having no national anthem to be played, these refugee athletes will be welcomed to the Olympic games with the Olympic flag and with the Olympic anthem,” he said.

Currently, there are about 20 million refugees in the world, and the number is growing. The U.N. refugee chief, Antonio Guterres, said earlier this month that more than 500,000 refugees and economic migrants have entered Europe this year, and thousands more are following in their footsteps.

Bach said the IOC has created a $2 million fund “to bring hope through sport to refugees.”

“At the same time, we are assisting high-level refugee athletes to continue their sports careers,” he said. “We help them to make their dream of sporting excellence come true, even when they have to flee from violence and hunger.”

Bach said the IOC needs help in identifying high-level refugee athletes. He stressed that in Olympic sports, “all people are equal, regardless of their race, gender, social status, cultural background, faith or belief.” He said the Olympic Games are the culmination of this vision and the principle of nondiscrimination.

Bach alluded to world soccer’s corruption-hit governing body, FIFA, in telling the General Assembly that the IOC “has ensured that we are in compliance with the highest standards of good governance and transparency.”

“In this respect, we are asking other major sports organizations to undertake the necessary and swift reforms in order to restore their reputation,” the IOC president said.

The Olympic Truce resolution was introduced by Carlos Nuzman, president of the Rio organizing committee, on behalf of the Olympic movement and Brazil. It was approved by consensus, with about 180 countries as co-sponsors. It urges all U.N. member states to observe the truce beginning seven days before the Olympics take place, from Aug. 5 to 21, 2016, and continuing until seven days after the end of the Paralympic Games, which will be held from Sept. 7 to 18, 2016.

The resolution recalls an ancient Greek tradition in which the legendary oracle of Delphi called for a cessation of hostilities to encourage a peaceful environment and ensure safe passage and participation for athletes in the ancient Olympics.

The General Assembly revived the tradition in 1993 and, since then, has adopted resolutions before the summer and winter Olympic Games, but countries have continued fighting wars, regardless of the Olympics.

MORE IOC: Thomas Bach speaks out against boycotts

World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

Kyle Smaine
Getty
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Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”

Ilia Malinin wins U.S. Figure Skating Championships despite quadruple Axel miss

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One year ago, Ilia Malinin came to the U.S. Championships as, largely, a 17-year-old unknown. He finished second to Nathan Chen in 2022 and was left off the three-man Olympic team due to his inexperience, a committee decision that lit a fire in him.

After the biggest year of change in U.S. figure skating in three decades, Malinin came to this week’s nationals in San Jose, California, as the headliner across all disciplines.

Though he fell on his quadruple Axel and doubled two other planned quads in Sunday’s free skate (the most ambitious program in history), he succeeded the absent Chen as national champion.

Malinin, the world’s second-ranked male singles skater, still landed two clean quads in Friday’s short program and three more Sunday. He totaled 287.74 points and prevailed by 10.43 over two-time Olympian Jason Brown, a bridge between the Chen and Malinin eras.

“This wasn’t the skate that I wanted,” said Malinin, who was bidding to become the second man to land six quads in one program after Chen. The Virginia chalked up the flaws at least partially to putting more recent practice time into his short program, which he skated clean on Friday after errors in previous competitions.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Results

Brown, a 28-year-old competing for the first time since placing sixth at the Olympics, became the oldest male singles skater to finish in the top three at nationals since Jeremy Abbott won the last of his four titles in 2014. As usual, he didn’t attempt a quad but had the highest artistic score by 9.41 points.

Brown’s seven total top-three finishes at nationals tie him with Chen, Michael WeissBrian Boitano, David Jenkins and Dick Button for the second-most in men’s singles since World War II, trailing only Todd Eldredge‘s and Hayes Jenkins‘ eight.

“I’m not saying it’s super old, but I can’t train the way I used to,” Brown said after Friday’s short program. “What Ilia is doing and the way he is pushing the sport is outstanding and incredible to watch. I cannot keep up.”

Andrew Torgashev took bronze, winning the free skate with one quad and all clean jumps. Torgashev, who competed at nationals for the first time since placing fifth in 2020 at age 18, will likely round out the three-man world team.

Japan’s Shoma Uno will likely be the favorite at worlds. He won last year’s world title, when Malinin admittedly cracked under pressure in the free skate after a fourth-place short program and ended up ninth.

That was before Malinin became the first person to land a quad Axel in competition. That was before Malinin became the story of the figure skating world this fall. That was before Malinin took over the American throne from Chen, who is studying at Yale and not expected to return to competition.

Malinin’s next step is to grab another label that Chen long held: best in the world. To do that, he must be better than he was on Sunday.

“You always learn from your experiences, and there’s always still the rest of the season to come,” he said. “I just have to be prepared and prepare a little bit extra so that doesn’t happen again.”

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