Adelina Sotnikova
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Adelina Sotnikova’s return headlines Rostelecom Cup; preview

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Don’t be surprised if Olympic champion Adelina Sotnikova finishes off the podium at the Rostelecom Cup Grand Prix event in Moscow this weekend, the Russian’s biggest competition since her Sochi triumph.

That’s because Sotnikova, who essentially missed all of last season with an ankle injury, appears to be slowly trying to regain her form. She finished fourth among a decorated field at the free skate-only Japan Open exhibition and second in a lower-level Russian event, both in October.

“I had certain problems with motivation after my recovery from injury,” Sotnikova said, according to Agence France-Presse. “But after a short period of hesitation I understood that I’m too young to finish my career. I want to show the fans something different, some new features of my skating.

“I was really missing the competitions throughout this year. I want to feel adrenalin in my blood ahead of the new start again.”

This week, she must deal with two countrywomen who weren’t age-eligible to compete when Sotnikova became the first woman to win an Olympic title with zero prior World Championships medals.

The Rostelecom Cup favorites are arguably 16-year-olds Yevgenia Medvedeva and Yelena Radionova, the last two winners of Skate America and the World Junior Championships.

Medvedeva will clinch a spot in December’s six-skater Grand Prix Final if she finishes on the podium after Saturday’s free skate. Radionova, who was third at Cup of China two weeks ago, will clinch a Grand Prix Final spot if she wins Rostelecom Cup.

Both skaters can make it with lower finishes depending on the performances of other skaters in Moscow and next week at NHK Trophy in Japan, the final Grand Prix Final qualifier.

World champion Javier Fernandez leads the men’s field in Moscow. He will clinch a spot in the Grand Prix Final in his home nation in Barcelona if he lands on the podium Saturday, after his Cup of China victory.

Needing better finishes are U.S. silver medalist Adam Rippon and Canadian champion Nam Nguyen, who took fourth and fifth at Skate Canada.

Icenetwork.com will stream for subscribers live coverage of men’s, women’s, pairs and ice dance short programs and free skates. NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra will have coverage Sunday from 12-1:30 p.m. ET.

Men’s short program — Friday, 8:25 a.m. ET (start order here)
Women’s short program — Friday, 12:30 p.m. ET (start order here)
Men’s free skate — Saturday, 7:35 a.m. ET
Women’s free skate — Saturday, 11:35 a.m. ET

MORE FIGURE SKATING: Olympic bronze medalist lives in trailer with bed bugs

Top Grand Prix season scores

WOMEN
1. Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS) — 206.01 (Skate America)
2. Gracie Gold (USA) — 202.80 (Skate America)
3. Ashley Wagner (USA) — 202.52 (Skate Canada)
4. Mao Asada (JPN) — 197.48 (Cup of China)
5. Rika Hongo (JPN) — 195.76 (Cup of China)
6. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS) — 188.99 (Skate Canada)
7. Satoko Miyahara (JPN) — 188.07 (Skate America)

MEN
1. Patrick Chan (CAN) — 271.14 (Skate Canada)
2. Javier Fernandez (ESP) — 270.55 (Cup of China)
3. Jin Boyang (CHN) — 261.23 (Cup of China)
4. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 259.54 (Skate Canada)
5. Max Aaron (USA) — 258.95 (Skate America)
6. Shoma Uno (JPN) — 257.43 (Skate America)
7. Daisuke Murakami (JPN) — 252.25 (Skate Canada)

Swimming short-course records in peril as FINA recognizes ISL times

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In the debut season of the International Swimming League, six U.S. short-course records have fallen. USA Swimming has recognized the new circuit’s times from the outset.

International body FINA, which at first threatened to ban swimmers who participated in the ISL and then said it would not recognize records from the team-based league, which debuted in October and will hold its first final meet Dec. 20-21 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, is now recognizing those times, and the effects on its statistics have been drastic.

MORE: Ledecky sets U.S. record in ISL debut

This morning, a downloaded list of the top times in the world this year included no ISL times. By the afternoon, times from the ISL’s meet over the weekend in College Park, Md., accounted for most of the times on the lists, including the top 10 in the women’s 50m freestyle and women’s 100m freestyle.

So far, the ISL hasn’t figured into the top five on many all-time FINA lists. But the best short-course times are typically posted near the end of the year, and the ISL has two meets remaining.

The U.S. record book has already changed. In October, Katie Ledecky set the 400m freestyle record (3:54.06) and Melanie Margalis set the 200m medley mark (2:04.18).

In College Park this weekend, Margalis also set the U.S. 400m medley record (4:24.46) and Ian Finnerty set two records the 50m breaststroke (25.99), with runner-up Michael Andrew also beating the previous record, and the 100m breaststroke (56.29). Also, Caeleb Dressel set the 50m butterfly record (22.21).

Only half of the swimmers in the ISL will advance to the final, and qualification isn’t necessarily in their hands. After the College Park meet, the Cali Condors and LA Current clinched spots in Las Vegas. That’s bad news for Andrew (New York Breakers), Finnerty (DC Trident) and Ledecky (DC Trident).

Dressel, Margalis and Lilly King — all representing the Condors — will have another shot at records in Vegas. 

FINA, as usual, is running its World Cup circuit during the fall and early winter, and some swimmers — including overall World Cup champions Vladimir Morozov and Cate Campbell — are pulling double duty between the World Cup and ISL.

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IOC announces deal with Airbnb to add housing for future Olympics

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The International Olympic Committee has moved to help with the scramble to house the influx of athletes, staff and spectators with each Olympics, making a deal with online housing broker Airbnb to add accommodations for the Games through 2028.

“The agreement includes accommodation provisions that will reduce costs for Olympic Games organizers and stakeholders, minimize the need for construction of new accommodation infrastructure for the Olympic Games period, and generate direct revenue for local hosts and communities,” the IOC announced.

Airbnb’s partnership also includes accommodation for disability athletes for the Paralympic Games, and the company will join large global companies such as Coca-Cola, Visa and Panasonic as worldwide Olympic partners.

Athletes also will have a chance to make money by hosting travelers.

“As an Olympian host, you can create and lead an experience inspired by your expertise and interests,” reads an explanation on the Olympic athlete support portal Athlete365.

Outside the Olympics and Olympic athlete experiences, the IOC and Airbnb are pledging to work together on long-term support to refugees.

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