Sochi Olympic choir that sang ‘Get Lucky’ among plane crash victims

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MOSCOW (AP) — The Russian military choir that lost most of its singers in a plane crash Sunday is often described as the Kremlin’s “singing weapon.”

The Alexandrov Ensemble, sometimes referred to as the Red Army choir, was founded in the 1920s. It won global fame with its patriotic repertoire during Soviet times, but in recent years has sought to cater to modern audiences. Many of its performances have gone viral, including a rousing rendition of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” by singers in full military dress at the opening of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Sixty-four members of the ensemble, including director Valery Khalilov, were heading from Sochi to Russia’s air base in Syria to perform a New Year’s concert for troops when their plane crashed into the Black Sea on Sunday. All 92 people on board are presumed dead.

“It’s difficult to grasp the scale of that tragedy,” Moscow city’s culture department head Alexander Kibovsky said in televised remarks. “They were raising pride for our culture, our country, across the entire world.”

As word of the crash spread Sunday, people placed bouquets of flowers outside the ensemble’s Moscow headquarters.

“We all loved this ensemble,” said Moscow resident Mark Novikov. “We valued it. They are our brothers, our friends, our colleagues.”

The 186-member ensemble includes a band and a dancing troupe along with the choir that had about 70 singers. Viktor Yeliseyev, head of the rival choir of the Russian National Guard, said most of the Alexandrov Ensemble’s singers were on the plane.

Among the few who stayed back was soloist Vadim Ananyev, whose wife just delivered a baby and pleaded with him to remain at home to help. The couple has three small children.

“I feel as if I were hit over the head,” he said. “I still can’t believe it. They are telling me now I was born with a silver spoon.”

The Interfax news agency said another member of the choir was denied access to board at the last minute because his foreign passport has expired.

The choir was founded in 1928 by composer and conductor Alexander Alexandrov, and after his death in 1946 was led by his son, Boris Alexandrov. Alexandrov, who headed the choir for more than 40 years, made it famous worldwide.

Pavel Kogan, the director of Moscow State Academic Symphonic Orchestra, described the choir as “a symbol of the country.”

“It was impossible to imagine what happened, even in a nightmare,” he said, according to Snob online publication.

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Boglarka Kapas, world champion swimmer, tests positive for coronavirus

Boglarka Kapas
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Boglarka Kapas, the Hungarian swimmer and world 200m butterfly champion, said she tested positive for the coronavirus.

“I don’t have any symptoms yet, and that’s why it’s important for you to know that even if you feel healthy you can spread the virus,” was posted on her social media. “Please be careful, stay at home and stay healthy.”

Nine total members of the Hungarian national team — including swimmers and staff — have tested positive, according to the federation.

Kapas said her first test was negative but a second test showed she had the virus. She was staying in quarantine at home for two weeks.

Kapas, 26, won the 200m fly at last summer’s world championships by passing Americans Hali Flickinger and Katie Drabot in the last 25 meters. She clocked 2:06.78 to prevail by .17 of a second.

Kapas also took bronze in the Rio Olympic 800m freestyle won by Katie Ledecky.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

NHL players: Marie-Philip Poulin is world’s best female hockey player

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The U.S. may have the world’s best women’s hockey team, but NHL players believe Canadian Marie-Philip Poulin is the world’s best player.

Poulin received the most votes out of 496 responses in the 2019-20 NHLPA Player Poll, conducted before the season was suspended. The tally:

Poulin: 39.92%
Hilary Knight (USA): 36.29%
Kendall Coyne Schofield (USA): 15.52%
Emily Pfalzer Matheson (USA): 1.41%
Other: 6.85%

Last year, Knight received the highest percentage of votes from 203 NHL players (27.59), edging Poulin (24.14) with Amanda Kessel third (12.81) and Coyne Schofield and Pfalzer Matheson each receiving 5.91 percent.

Why were Poulin and Knight swapped this year? Perhaps Poulin’s Canadian team winning the debut of the NHL All-Star Skills Competition women’s 3-on-3 game on Jan. 24, even though Knight scored and Poulin did not.

Poulin, now 29, scored both goals in the 2010 Olympic final and the game-tying and -winning goals in the 2014 Olympic final. Even before her Olympic debut at age 18, the daughter of Quebec hospital workers was dubbed “the female Sidney Crosby.”

Knight, 30, led last April’s world championship tournament with seven goals as the U.S. won a fifth straight title. Poulin played 4 minutes, 44 seconds, total at the tournament, missing time with a knee injury.

This spring’s tournament, which was to start Tuesday, was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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