Maria Kuchina, Anna Chicherova
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Five Russian track and field stars set to miss Rio Olympics

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Russia’s ban from Olympic track and field means some of the sport’s most successful athletes are not eligible for the Rio Games.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport rejected the appeal by 68 Russian track and field athletes seeking to overturn the ban imposed by the IAAF following allegations of state-sponsored doping and cover-ups.

Here are five Russian Olympic or World champions who are set to miss the Rio Games:

Yelena Isinbayeva, Pole Vault
Olympic champion in 2004, 2008
World champion in 2005, 2007, 2013
World-record holder

Isinbayeva, a 34-year-old converted youth gymnast, is the greatest female pole vaulter of all time and one of the greatest athletes in Russian history across all sports. She has broken the world record 17 times.

Isinbayeva is certainly past her prime, and her fitness a complete unknown after taking 2014 and 2015 off due to pregnancy and her build-up to Rio set back by injuries. She went three years between competing until June 21, when she cleared the highest height in the world this year.

MORE: Russian Olympic ban upheld by court | Ten U.S. athletes who may benefit

Anna Chicherova, High Jump
Olympic champion in 2012
World champion in 2011

Chicherova has been the most consistent female track and field athlete in the world the last decade. She and Usain Bolt are the only track and field athletes to earn individual medals at every Olympics and World Championships since 2007.

However, the 33-year-old reportedly failed a recent retest of 2008 Beijing Olympic doping samples, putting her bronze medal from those Games in jeopardy. Like Isinbayeva, Chicherova is in the twilight of her career. Her best clearance in domestic competitions this year would rank No. 4 in the world.

Sergey Shubenkov, 110m Hurdles
World champion in 2015

At age 25, Shubenkov is arguably the biggest Russian track and field star at or near a career peak. He was eliminated in the first round at 2011 Worlds, then the semifinals of the 2012 Olympics before winning bronze at the 2013 Worlds and gold last year.

Shubenkov has struggled this year while not being able to compete internationally, with a best time of 13.20 seconds that would be joint ninth place in world rankings, according to Tilastopaja.org.

Shubenkov said before Thursday’s ruling that he would “get drunk” if Russia lost its appeal.

Natalya Antyukh, 400m Hurdles
Olympic champion in 2012

Antyukh, 34, beat American Lashinda Demus by .07 for London Olympic gold, eight years after taking bronze in the Athens Olympic 400m (without hurdles).

Antyukh has also been a longtime member of the 4x400m relay pool for Russia, a close rival to the U.S. over the last 10 to 15 years. Her Rio Olympic 400m hurdles chances were not great, given she ranked No. 42 in the world last year and withdrew before the 2015 World Championships.

Maria Kuchina, High Jump
World champion in 2015

Kuchina, 23, set a personal best to win the 2015 World Championship, continuing a strong tradition of female Russian high jumpers. She was expected to make her Olympic debut in Rio.

Kuchina told NBC News in June that she has never taken performance-enhancing drugs, nor been urged to take performance-enhancing drugs.

“Why should I pay for someone else’s mistakes?” she said, according to NBC News.

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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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