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U.S. men’s results at Worlds likely to impact 2018 Olympics

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BOSTON — If two of the three U.S. men’s skaters at this week’s World Championships struggle, it could have a domino effect into the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympics.

That’s because nations’ finishes at every year’s Worlds determine entry numbers for the next year’s Worlds. And at next year’s Worlds, Olympic entry numbers are likely to be determined, though the International Skating Union hasn’t officially announced qualifying procedures yet.

The two best finishes of the three U.S. men competing this week must add up to 13 or fewer (fifth and eighth, for example) to keep three U.S. men’s spots for the 2017 Worlds.

Three spots over two at the 2017 Worlds will be key for the Olympics, because it allows the U.S. to throw away its weakest finish at 2017 Worlds for Olympic qualifying purposes. If the U.S. has only two skaters entered, there is no margin for error.

Take the last Olympic cycle for example.

In 2013, Aaron finished a respectable seventh in his Worlds debut, but veteran teammate Ross Miner was 14th. Their combined total — 21 — kept the U.S. at two men’s skaters for the Sochi Winter Games, its first time at fewer than the maximum of three since 1998.

“I was hoping and I had a feeling that Ross was going to show up because he had been there before, that he was going to lead the way, and I was going to go out there and throw everything I’ve got at it,” Aaron recalled Monday. “Unfortunately, Ross had a rough skate.”

If the U.S. had a third skater at the 2013 Worlds, it could have thrown away Miner’s 14th place and potentially secured three spots for Sochi.

It didn’t, and Aaron was left in the worst position in January 2014, missing the Olympic team by finishing third at the U.S. Championships.

This week, one of the U.S. trio of Rippon, Aaron and Worlds rookie Grant Hochstein could struggle and have his result thrown away.

Even with that cushion, reaching that 13 number will be a challenge. The field includes the top five skaters from the Grand Prix season, none of which are Americans. If everyone skates their best, sixth or seventh places might be the best the Americans can hope for.

The best previous Worlds finish by Aaron or Rippon was Rippon’s sixth in 2010.

“If I could predict the future, I would tell you what’s going to happen,” Aaron said. “Adam, with his [U.S.] champion status right now, hopefully can lead the way. … If I can bring out the quads [jumps], we’ll see.”

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Coronavirus forces Olympic soccer and boxing qualifiers to move

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Olympic qualifying events in two sports were moved from the Chinese city of Wuhan on Wednesday because of an outbreak of a deadly viral illness.

A four-nation Asian qualifying group for the women’s soccer tournament was switched from the city at the center of the health scare to Nanjing.

The Asia-Oceania boxing qualifying tournament scheduled for Feb. 3-14 in Wuhan was cancelled. No new plans were announced.

The decisions followed Chinese health authorities telling people in Wuhan to avoid crowds and public gatherings.

The Asian Football Confederation said the round-robin group — featuring host China, Australia, Taiwan and Thailand — will be played on Feb. 3-9, retaining the same dates, in Nanjing.

More than 500 people have been infected and at least 17 killed since the outbreak emerged last month. The illness comes from a newly identified type of coronavirus.

Cases have also been reported in the United States, Japan, South Korea and Thailand. All involve people from Wuhan or who recently traveled there.

In the soccer qualifiers in China, two teams advance to a four-nation playoff round in March. That will decide which two teams from Asia join host Japan at the Tokyo Olympics.

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Russia trounces U.S. boys’ hockey team to wrap up Youth Olympic Games

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Russia routed the U.S. 4-0 in the boys’ hockey gold medal game Wednesday, the final day of the Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The U.S. had more penalties (three) than shots (two) in the first period. Russia’s Matvei Michkov converted the first power play and added an even-strength goal later in the period. Another power-play goal in the second period ran the score to 3-0.

Michkov just turned 15 and is projected as a top pick in the 2023 NHL Draft.

The gold medal was Russia’s ninth of the Games, excluding events that featured mixed-nationality teams, and 27th overall medal. Both numbers were the best of the competition.

Switzerland finished second in the medal tally with nine golds and 22 total. Japan, the surprise winner in girls’ hockey, matched Switzerland with nine golds among its 17 medals.

The U.S. had two gold medals and 11 total. Kiernan Fagan took gold in the boys’ ski slopestyle and silver in ski big air. Dusty Henricksen won the boys’ snowboard slopestyle.

Fagan, who turned 18 during the Games, already has a couple of World Cup podiums and finished 12th in slopestyle in last year’s world championships. He also took silver in big air and slopestyle in last year’s world junior championships.

Henricksen, who’ll turn 17 next month, placed 17th in the World Cup big air event last month in Atlanta.

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