Bobsled and Skeleton World Championship moved out of Russia

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The International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) announced Tuesday they have decided to move the 2017 IBSF World Championship, which had been set for Sochi, Russia at the Olympic Sanki Sliding Centre from February 13-26.

In a press release the IBSF explained:

“The IBSF decided to move the IBSF World Championships 2017 from Sochi, Russia to another location which will be determined in the coming days.

The IBSF Executive Committee felt that during this difficult time it is prudent not to organize such an event in Russia. This decision was made for two primary reasons:

1st: to allow athletes and coaches from all Nations to participate in a competition that focuses on sport rather than accusations and discussions – whether justified or not.

2nd: The Russian Bobsleigh Federation has put a great effort in the preparation of the World Championships, but the current climate would make it nearly impossible to appreciate the efforts of the Organizing Committee to host a great event or the quality of the Sanki Sliding Center as one of the best tracks in the World.

Having stated that, the IBSF asks all Members and athletes for Fair Play and Respect, which also includes the assumption of innocence for any athlete, regardless of national affiliation, until proven guilty.”

This news comes after several athletes and national federations, which include the U.S., Canada, Latvia, Great Britain, South Korea, Germany and Austria, discussed boycotting the 2017 IBSF World Championships if it were held in Sochi amid the latest reports of Russia’s doping cover-up by the Independent McLaren Investigation.

With one of the sport’s most high-profile athletes, Latvia’s skeleton federation made it clear on December 11 they would boycott the event if it were not moved out of Sochi. Latvia’s best skeleton athlete, Martins Dukurs finished second in Olympic skeleton in 2010 and 2014, behind Canadian Jon Montgomery in Vancouver and Russian Alexander Tretiakov in Sochi. Great Britain’s Lizzy Yarnold, the 2014 Olympic gold medalist in women’s skeleton, has also joined the chorus of athletes wanting a change in venue.

The USOC issued a statement saying they supported an athlete’s right to choose when and where they would compete but would not go as far as to support a “blanket boycott.”

News of the change reached Team USA skeleton athlete and Sochi bronze medalist Matt Antoine as he was leaving a training session in Lake Placid, NY – site of this weekend’s World Cup event.

Antoine, reacted to the news, telling the AP, “It’s the right decision and I’m happy to see they took the proper steps. I’m sure there’s some people who are happy and some people who aren’t too happy about it. But it’s the reality of the situation. It’s an unfortunate dark cloud that’s over our sport right now. The process probably isn’t going to be clean or pretty, but this needs to be fixed.”

After meetings were held during the 2016 Rio Olympics with winter sport federations, news surfaced that any plans to hold events in Russia should be put on hold, and alternative locations should be investigated. The IOC then pivoted saying this approach should only apply to events still in the bid process. The IBSF settled on holding the 2017 World Championship in Sochi back in 2013.

MORE: Over 1,000 Russian athletes involved in organized doping, McLaren report says

Kyle Dake repeats as world wrestling champ; next challenge: Jordan Burroughs

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Kyle Dake recovered from an unspecified freak accident that required surgery, and not wrestling in a meet for eight months, to repeat as world champion at 79kg, a non-Olympic weight class, on Sunday.

The next six months will bring another challenge — beating Jordan Burroughs for an Olympic spot.

“Every year I have a goal of being the best guy in the world. Last year, I proved it. This year, I proved it,” Dake told Trackwrestling.com. “I’ve got my work cut out for me, coming up.”

Dake, a four-time NCAA champion at Cornell who considered quitting after finishing second at U.S. trials year after year, is now in his freestyle prime. He backed up going unscored on at worlds last year by beating his four opponents in Kazakhstan this week by a combined 27-4, capped by topping Azerbaijan’s Jabrayil Hasanov 4-2 in a final rematch.

Kid Dynamite is unquestionably one of the world’s best pound-for-pound wrestlers.

That was not the case four years ago. Then, an internationally inexperienced Dake moved out of the 74kg division, and up to 86kg for the Olympic year, to avoid facing Burroughs because Burroughs had a bye into the Olympic trials final as the reigning world champion. Dake ended up losing the 86kg trials final to J’den Cox, who on Saturday repeated as world champion himself.

The four-year difference would seem to favor Dake over Burroughs at April’s trials, where Dake has a bye into the semifinals and Burroughs into the final.

Burroughs, at 31 years old, is on the back end of his career. He just missed the finals of back-to-back world championships for the first time, though he came back for bronze medals. Burroughs has made every U.S. world or Olympic team at 74kg dating to 2011 and earned a medal every time, save his tearful Rio Olympic exit.

Dake, reluctant four years ago to detail his decision to move out of 74kg, determined before this week’s worlds that he would choose 74kg over 86kg (where Cox likely waits again).

“74 seems like a good spot for me,” Dake told Trackwrestling last month.

The number of weight classes drops from 10 at worlds to six at the Olympics, ensuring that at least two of these Americans will not make the Tokyo team:

Burroughs — 5x Olympic/world champion
Dake — 2x world champion
David Taylor — 2018 World champion (missed 2019 while injured)
Cox — 2x world champion
Kyle Snyder — 2x Olympic/world champion

Later Sunday, Snyder rallied from being upset in the 97kg semifinals on Saturday to snag a bronze medal with a 5-0 win over Georgian Elizbar Odikadze. A potential third straight world final between Snyder and Russian Abdulrashid Sadulayev was the most anticipated match of the championships, but Snyder was beaten one match early by Azerbaijan’s Sharif Sharifov.

Sadulayev, meanwhile, blanked Sharifov 4-0 to complete a 30-3 romp through his four matches to repeat as world champ.

“The hardest part about it I would say is just the fact that I didn’t get to wrestle Sadulayev again,” said Snyder, a Rio Olympic champion and a 2015 and 2017 World champion who shared bus and elevator rides with Sadulayev on Saturday and Sunday. “I felt prepared for him.”

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MORE: Jordan Burroughs: Time is running out

Israel is first nation to qualify for 2020 Olympic baseball tournament

Margo Sugarman
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Israel’s baseball team, which captivated at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, is headed to its first Olympics next summer.

Israel won a joint European-African tournament to become the first nation to qualify for baseball’s return to the Games after the sport was voted off the program after Beijing 2008.

It joins host nation Japan. Four more countries will qualify — two at the global Premier12 in November, another from the Americas and one more from a last-chance qualifier next year.

Israel, ranked 19th in the world, advanced via its best opportunity in Italy this week. It upset the highest-ranked European nations — the Netherlands (No. 8) and host Italy (No. 16) — and wrapped it up with an 11-1 win over South Africa on Sunday.

Its run came two years after Israel, then ranked 41st, beat South Korea, Chinese Taipei, the Netherlands and Cuba before bowing out of the World Baseball Classic. And one week after Israel finished fourth at the European Championship.

Israel’s roster at this week’s Olympic qualifier lacked many of the MLB veterans that it had at the World Baseball Classic. Israeli citizenship was not required at the WBC.

Its most recognizable player is Danny Valencia, an infielder who played parts of nine MLB seasons from 2010-18. Joey Wagman, its starting pitcher for its first and last games this week, plies his trade for the independent-league Milwaukee Milkmen.

MLB players are unlikely to feature at the Tokyo Games, but minor leaguers are expected to be eligible as in the past.

The rest of the Olympic field is likely to be nations from North America (such as the U.S., Cuba, Mexico or Canada) or Asia (South Korea, Chinese Taipei) or Australia.

Baseball will not be on the 2024 Olympic program but could be added for the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

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MORE: USA Baseball taps longtime catcher to be Olympic qualifying manager