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World bobsled and skeleton championships, stripped from Sochi, get new host

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Germany will host this season’s bobsled and skeleton world championships, which were pulled out of Russia after numerous competitors considered a boycott in response to that nation’s widespread doping program.

Koenigssee was the track selected by the International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation for the championships, which will be held Feb. 13-26 — even though some nations felt they could be moved a week earlier. Koenigssee will also host a weekend of World Cup racing in January.

Sochi lost the hosting rights last week in the fallout of the Russian doping scandal. The track at Krasnaya Polyana was used for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, which World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren concluded was corrupted by a state-backed doping program.

That led to a number of athletes and teams talking boycott.

“For me personally, I’m just happy that it was moved and we will still get to have a world championships with full participation from all nations,” said U.S. skeleton slider Matt Antoine, who was going to boycott if the event was in Russia as scheduled. “I still want to compete in the world championships. I just wasn’t going to do it in Russia.”

Koenigssee has a history of stepping in as a replacement site. The 2011 World Championships were originally awarded to Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, then moved to Koenigssee two years before the event because of track concerns.

This time, they’re moving with worlds less than two months away — an unprecedented scramble following an unprecedented scandal.

The Russians have said they will not boycott worlds, even going as far as to say that they understood why the IBSF made the decision.

Many athletes cited the integrity of the doping process as their primary concern about competing at the worlds in Russia, especially after the second McLaren report was released showing the depth of the doping program there.

McLaren’s report showed that some Russian gold medalists from the Sochi Games were tainted by doping. Russia won gold medals in two-man bobsled, four-man bobsled and men’s skeleton at the Olympics, though none of the athletes who got those victories has been implicated by any known positive or tampered-with tests.

“We will come and prove that we are able to fight at any championship,” Russian Bobsled Federation president Alexander Zubkov, a winner of two gold medals at the Sochi Games, told reporters from Russia last week.

Park City, Utah, was also under consideration to host.

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Eliud Kipchoge sets next marathon

Eliud Kipchoge
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Eliud Kipchoge will race the London Marathon on April 26 before he is expected to defend his Olympic title in Japan on Aug. 9, which would mark the shortest break between marathons of his career.

Kipchoge, who in his last 26.2-mile effort became the first person to break two hours at the distance, won all four of his London Marathon starts, including breaking the course record in 2016 and 2019.

His time this past April 28 — 2:02:37 — is the third-fastest time in history. Kipchoge has the world record of 2:01:39 set at the 2018 Berlin Marathon. His sub-two-hour marathon in Vienna on Oct. 12 was not in a record-eligible race.

Kipchoge’s previous shortest break between marathons came in 2016, when he also ran London and the Olympics. The Olympics will be two weeks earlier in 2020 than in 2016.

Kipchoge, 35, has won 11 of 12 marathons since moving to road racing after failing to make Kenya’s 2012 Olympic track team.

He has yet to race the two most prestigious marathons in the U.S. — Boston and New York City — but has said they are on his bucket list.

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Canadians become first female doubles luge team in World Cup

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WHISTLER, British Columbia (AP) — Caitlin Nash and Natalie Corless made luge history Saturday, becoming the first female team to compete in a World Cup doubles race.

The 16-year-olds from Whistler combined to finish 22nd in a field of 23 sleds, though that seemed largely irrelevant. There have been four-woman teams in what is typically called four-man bobsledding, but luge has never seen a pairing like this until now.

The German sled of Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken won the race in 1 minute, 16.644 seconds. Germany’s Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt finished second and the Russian team of Vsevolod Kashkin and Konstantin Korshunov placed third for their first medal of the season.

The U.S. team of Chris Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman placed 11th.

But the story was the Canadian teens, who qualified for the World Cup event on Thursday. They were nearly a half-second behind any other finisher and almost 2.7 seconds back of Eggert and Benecken. But they’ll forever be able to say that they were winning the race at one point — a technicality because they were the first ones down the hill at the Whistler Sliding Center, but accurate nonetheless.

The only sled they beat was the Italian team of Ivan Nagler and Fabian Malleier, who crashed in the second heat.

There are women’s singles and men’s singles races on the World Cup luge circuit, but there is no rule saying doubles teams must be composed of two men. There have been more female doubles racers at the junior level in recent years, and it was generally considered to be just a matter of time before it happened at the World Cup level.

That time became Saturday.

Canada had the chance to qualify a second sled into the doubles field because some teams typically on the circuit chose to skip this weekend’s stop, and Nash and Corless got into by successfully finishing a Nations Cup qualifying race on Thursday.

They were 11th in that race out of 11 sleds, more than a full second behind the winner and nearly a half-second behind the closest finisher. But all they had to do was cross the line without crashing to get into Saturday’s competition, and earned their spot in the luge history books as a result.

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