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IIHF president: NHL would put Beijing 2022 at risk by skipping PyeongChang

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International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel reportedly repeated that if the NHL does not send players to the PyeongChang Olympics, it might not have the opportunity to do so at the 2022 Beijing Winter Games.

“I consider [NHL commissioner] Gary Bettman as a smart person so he knows that not coming [to PyeongChang] would then put in danger participation in Beijing.” Fasel said Tuesday, according to insidethegames, echoing his similar reported comments from 2016. “It [the Olympics] is a strong brand. Not using this platform would be a mistake and, as I said I consider him [Bettman] as a very smart person. I think it’s a risk if he’s not coming.”

Bettman and other NHL officials have said that the league will not send players to the PyeongChang Olympics if the current status quo does not change. However, they have not definitively ruled out NHL participation, nor have they set a deadline to decide.

Bettman has said league owners are feeling “fatigue” after going to the last five Olympics. They are worried about another midseason interruption and potential injury risk.

Fasel said the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association should jointly find a way to ensure NHL participation in PyeongChang, according to insidethegames. The NHLPA is believed to be overwhelmingly in favor of Olympic participation.

“Maybe the National Hockey League is just sitting back, waiting for the National Hockey League Players’ Association to provide a concession or an inducement or something that would change the owners’ mind about going to PyeongChang,” insider Bob McKenzie said on NBCSN in February.

Bettman has been more open to sending NHL players to the 2022 Olympics in a country more ripe for growth as a hockey market.

“The question is would the fact that the Winter Olympics in Beijing would introduce that country to hockey, give us an opportunity to make a real impression in China, where hockey is really in an embryonic state?” Bettman said in November 2015. “And that’s a discussion we have to have to determine whether or not there is an opportunity to grow the game in China by using the Winter Games with NHL players as a catalyst. That’s the question. I don’t know the answer.”

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U.S. Olympic, USA Gymnastics leaders set for another Senate hearing

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Recently replaced U.S. Olympic Committee acting CEO Susanne Lyons, USA Gymnastics President and CEO Kerry Perry and Michigan State interim president John Engler are scheduled witnesses for a Senate subcommittee hearing next Tuesday on reforms following the Larry Nassar sexual-abuse crimes.

The hearing is titled, “Strengthening and Empowering U.S. Amateur Athletes: Moving Forward with Solutions” and will stream live at https://www.commerce.senate.gov/ on Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. ET.

“The hearing will focus on changes made by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), USA Gymnastics (USAG), and Michigan State University (MSU) to protect Olympic and amateur athletes from abuse,” according to the subcommittee’s website. “It will examine recent reforms to provide safe environments for athletes and how these reforms are being implemented.”

The subcommittee held hearings April 18 and June 5 with testimonies from gymnasts and other athletes who were abused, former Michigan State president Lou Anna Simon and former senior vice president of USA Gymnastics Rhonda Faehn. Former USA Gymnastics CEO Steve Penny also attended the June 5 hearing but refused to answer questions.

Lyons and Perry were questioned at a House subcommittee hearing May 23.

The USOC last Thursday named Sarah Hirshland its new CEO, replacing Lyons, who had been in the role on an interim basis since Scott Blackmun resigned in February. Blackmun, who had been CEO since January 2010, left citing prostate cancer and the USOC’s need to immediately address the USA Gymnastics sexual-abuse scandal.

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Annemiek van Vleuten wins La Course with epic comeback (video)

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Annemiek van Vleuten, the cyclist who returned from a horrific Rio Olympic road race crash to become world champion, repeated as La Course winner with an epic last-kilometer comeback on Tuesday.

Van Vleuten sprinted from several seconds behind countrywoman Anna van der Breggen to win the one-day race, including four categorized climbs, contested on part of the Tour de France stage 10 course later that day.

“With 300 meters to go, I still thought I got second, and then I saw her dying,” Van Vleuten said, adding later, according to Cyclingnews.com, “With 500 meters to go my team director in the car gave up and stopped cheering for me.”

In Rio, van Vleuten suffered three small spine fractures and a concussion when her brakes appeared to lock, and she flipped over into a ditch during the road race. Van Vleuten was alone in the lead at the time with about seven miles to go of the 87-mile course.

She was eventually hospitalized in intensive care.

Van der Breggen went on to win the Olympic title, while van Vleuten returned quick enough to race at the October 2016 World Championships.

Van Vleuten, 35, won her first world title 13 months after the Rio Games, taking the time trial crown ahead of van der Breggen by 12 seconds. She also won the 10-stage Giro Rosa that concluded on Sunday.

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