Madison Hughes
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U.S. captain Madison Hughes previews Collegiate Rugby Championship; TV schedule

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This weekend’s Collegiate Rugby Championship could be a springboard to the Olympics for the nation’s best sevens players.

Just ask the current captain of the U.S. national team, Madison Hughes, who starred in the CRC as a Dartmouth freshman in 2012, when the Big Green repeated as champion.

“The CRC played a big role in my development as a rugby player,” the London-born Hughes said while on a Manhattan media tour for Penn Mutual on Wednesday. “When I first got to college, the CRC was the pinnacle of college rugby, and it had just begun [in 2010]. A lot of my teammates were speaking about it, and then when I experienced it, I think it was really my first experience of a high-level rugby tournament.”

NBC, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra will have live coverage of the CRC from Philadelphia on Saturday (pool play) and Sunday (playoff rounds and championship):

DATE COVERAGE TIME (ET) NETWORK
Sat., June 4 Rugby Rising 1 p.m. NBCSN
  Pool Play 2-4 p.m. NBCSN, Live Extra
Pool Play 4-6 p.m. NBC, Live Extra
Sun., June 5 Rugby Rising (Encore) 1 p.m. NBCSN
  Playoff Rounds 2-4 p.m. NBCSN, Live Extra
Playoff Rounds 4-6 p.m. NBC, Live Extra
Wed., June 8 Pool Play* 7 p.m. CSN Philadelphia
Thurs., June 9 Pool Play* 7 p.m. CSN Philadelphia
Fri., June 10 Pool Play* 7 p.m. The Comcast Network
Pool Play* 9 p.m. The Comcast Network

*Encore presentation

After his freshman-year title, Hughes played two more CRCs with Dartmouth before focusing on his international career in his senior season. Now, Hughes is seen as one of the safest picks to be named to the first U.S. Olympic men’s rugby sevens team in Rio later this summer.

A few more of Hughes’ current teammates on rugby’s biggest global stage — the World Series — have CRC experience. The list includes Danny Barrett (University of California), Brett Thompson (Arizona) and Peter Tiberio (Arizona).

This weekend, several more Olympic hopefuls — for Tokyo 2020 — could establish themselves at the CRC.

Three-time reigning champion California will be favored for the team title, Hughes said.

“I’ve got to back my boys at Dartmouth and say that we’re going to try and regain the title,” he said. “Life [University] have been very good the last few years. Kutztown are always very good. University of Arizona have been very good as well.”

Hughes said to expect similar game play at the CRC as there will be in the Olympics, with perhaps one notable difference.

“The game’s not going to change, but the speed of the game might increase [in Rio],” he said. “Players are bigger, faster, stronger, just because you have that full-time environment where we’re training. You’ve also got a bit more tactical elements and a bit more cohesiveness among the teams. The ball will move a bit quicker in the Olympics, but it’s the same game.”

MORE: Ebner, Isles miss U.S. rugby roster for World Series finale

World Cup Alpine season opener gets green light

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After checking the snow on the Rettenbach glacier in Soelden, Austria, FIS officials announced Thursday that the traditional World Cup season opener is set to go ahead as planned Oct. 26-27 with men’s and women’s giant slalom races.

Current conditions at Soelden show a solid 30 inches of snow at the summit. The race finishes at an altitude of 2,670 meters (8,760 feet), far above the currently snowless village.

The first races of the season are never guaranteed to have enough snow, though last year’s men’s race at Soelden had the opposite problem, being canceled when a storm blew through with heavy snowfall and high winds. 

France’s Tessa Worley won the women’s race last year ahead of Italy’s Frederica Brignone and U.S. skier Mikaela Shiffrin, who would go on to dominate the rest of the World Cup season.

The Soelden weekend is followed by three dormant weeks until the season resumes Nov. 23-24 in Levi, Finland. The World Cup circuits then switch to North America. The men will run speed events Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Lake Louise, Alberta, then head to Beaver Creek, Colo., for more speed events and a giant slalom Dec. 6-8. The women run slalom and giant slalom Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Killington, Vt., and head to Lake Louise the next weekend.

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Olympic marathon and race walk move from Tokyo to Sapporo draws some pushback

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In the wake of a dropout-plagued set of world championship endurance races in Qatar, moving the 2020 Olympic marathons and race walks from Tokyo to the cooler venue of Sapporo is a quick fix for one problem, pending the potential for untimely heat waves.

But the move has drawn some opposition for a variety of reasons.

First, many organizers and politicians appear to have been caught by surprise. Tokyo’s governor, Yuriko Koike, was “taken aback” and Sapporo’s mayor, Katsuhiro Akimoto, learned about the move from the media, Kyodo News reported. Koike even sarcastically suggested that the races could move all the way northward to islands disputed by Russia and Japan.

South African sports scientist Ross Tucker suggested that running in heat and humidity poses an interesting challenge for athletes, some of whom may be able to catch up with faster runners by preparing for the conditions.

British marathoner Mara Yamauchi made a similar point, saying the move was unfair to those who already were preparing for the heat, humidity and other conditions.

Belgian marathoner Koen Naert said he will make the best of the change but complained that some of his preparation and every runner’s logistical planning would no longer apply.

The angriest athlete may be Canadian walker Evan Dunfee, who placed fourth in the 2016 Olympic 50km race and nearly claimed bronze as a Canadian appeal was upheld but then rejected. He says runners and walkers can beat the conditions if they prepare, which many athletes did not do for the world championships in Qatar.

“So why do we cater to the ill prepared?” Dunfee asked on Twitter.

The move also takes athletes out of the main Olympic city and takes away the traditional, tough less frequent in modern years, finish in the Olympic stadium.

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