IOC, IIHF, NHL bosses to meet regarding Olympic hockey

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The head of the International Olympic Committee is joining high-level talks over whether the world’s best hockey players will participate when the South Korea Winter Olympics begin 12 months from now, two people familiar with the meeting told The Associated Press on Thursday.

The IOC and the International Ice Hockey Federation requested a meeting Friday with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHL Players Association Executive Director Don Fehr, the people said on condition of anonymity because the development was not formally announced.

The meeting is the first to include IOC President Thomas Bach, IIHF President Rene Fasel, Bettman and Fehr regarding the NHL’s participation in the 2018 Olympics, they said.

Fasel has been talking and meeting with Bettman and Fehr for months, trying to make sure the top hockey players compete in a sixth straight Olympics.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said last weekend league owners are leaning against it .

“If the status quo remains, I don’t expect us to be in the Olympics,” Daly said during last weekend’s All-Star break.

The NHL has been the only professional sports league that pauses its season to allow its athletes to participate in the Olympics. It simply might not be willing to do that again next season.

The IOC has provided some compensation in the past, paying for travel and insurance expenses to get hockey’s best to each Winter Olympics since 1998. The IOC, though, doesn’t want to continue that practice. It spent about $14 million to cover travel and insurance for NHL players for the 2014 Olympics in Russia. Even if travel and insurance costs are covered, however, there’s no guarantee the league and union will agree to go to South Korea.

While Friday’s meeting might move the parties closer to a decision, it might take months for it to be resolved. Before the last Winter Olympics in Russia, a decision was not made until the previous summer.

The NHL is hoping to have a resolution sooner than later so that it can set next season’s schedule.

PyeongChang is 14 hours ahead of New York, making it difficult for TV viewers in North America to watch the games, and South Korea isn’t a market the NHL is as excited about as China’s in the 2022 Olympics.

Most players have expressed interest in playing for their home nations and competing for Olympic gold. Washington star Alex Ovechkin has said that he would play for Russia in PyeongChang even if the NHL doesn’t stop its season for players to participate.

Capitals owner Ted Leonsis said he will support Ovechkin and others if they choose to defy the league’s wishes next year.

“It’s a players’ league,” Leonsis said Wednesday. “If Alex Ovechkin and Braden Holtby and Nick Backstrom tell us, ‘We want to go play for our country,’ how am I going to say no? I might get fined. I might get punished in some way, but I feel I’m in partnership with Nick and Braden and Alex. It’s a tough decision.”

MORE: 2018 Olympic hockey groups set

12-year-old skateboarders earn medals at world championships

Chloe Covell
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At the world skateboarding championships, 12-year-olds Chloe Covell from Australia and Onodera Ginwoo from Japan earned silver and bronze medals, respectively, in Sunday’s street finals.

In the women’s event, Covell took silver behind Brazilian 15-year-old Rayssa Leal, who was a silver medalist herself at the Tokyo Games.

Frenchman Aurélien Giraud, a 25-year-old who was sixth in skateboarding’s Olympic debut in Tokyo, won the men’s final in the United Arab Emirates. Ginwoo was third behind Portugal’s Gustavo Ribeiro.

The top Americans were Olympic men’s bronze medalist Jagger Eaton in sixth and 15-year-old Paige Heyn in seventh in the women’s event.

Nyjah Huston, a six-time world champion who placed seventh in Tokyo, missed worlds after August surgery for an ACL tear.

Up to three men and three women per nation can qualify per event (street and park) for the 2024 Paris Games. World rankings come June 2024 determine which Americans qualify.

In Tokyo, four of the 12 skateboarding medalists were ages 12 or 13.

Japan’s Kokona Hiraki, then 12, won silver in women’s park to become the youngest Olympic medalist since 1936, according to Olympedia.org. Japan’s Momiji Nishiya, then 13, won women’s street and became the youngest gold medalist in an individual event since 1936.

Worlds conclude this week with the men’s and women’s park events. The finals are Saturday.

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Francesco Friedrich, most decorated bobsledder in history, rebounds for 12th world title

Francesco Friedrich
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A week after his first major championships defeat in seven years, German Francesco Friedrich returned to his winning ways to close the world bobsled championships on Sunday.

Friedrich’s four-man sled won the world title by 69 hundredths of a second over British and Latvian sleds that tied for silver, combining times from four runs over the last two days in St. Moritz, Switzerland. It marked Great Britain’s first world championships men’s bobsled medal since 1966.

Geoff Gadbois drove the lone U.S. sled in the field, finishing 18th.

Friedrich, the most decorated bobsledder in history, extended his records with a fifth consecutive world four-man title and 12th world championship between two- and four-man events.

Germany swept all four titles at bobsled worlds with four different drivers taking gold.

Friedrich had won 12 consecutive Olympic or world titles before taking two-man silver at worlds last week in St. Moritz, Switzerland. He was dethroned in that event by countryman Johannes Lochner.

Friedrich has been hampered recently by a muscle injury from sprint training in late December. Going into worlds, Lochner had won four consecutive World Cup two-man races, while Hall won the last two World Cups in four-man.

Friedrich, 32, said before this season that he plans to make the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games his final competition. Friedrich and push athlete Thorsten Margis can break the record of four career Olympic bobsled gold medals that they currently share with retired Germans Andre Lange and Kevin Kuske.

The World Cup season concludes with stops in Igls, Austria, and Sigulda, Latvia, the next two weekends.

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