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Satoko Miyahara to miss figure skating world championships

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Japanese champion Satoko Miyahara, the second-ranked women’s figure skater this season, will miss the world championships next week due to a hip injury.

The 2015 World silver medalist will be replaced on the three-woman Japanese team by Rika Hongo, the Japanese Skating Federation announced Monday, according to Japanese media.

Miyahara, 18, was the closest skater this season to Russian Yevgenia Medvedeva, who is a massive favorite to become the first woman to repeat as world champion since Michelle Kwan in 2000 and 2001. Medvedeva hasn’t lost a competition since November 2015.

Miyahara finished second to Medvedeva at December’s Grand Prix Final, the second-biggest annual competition behind worlds. Medvedeva won the event with 227.66 points.

Miyahara tallied a personal-best 218.33, the highest score in the world since the 2014 Olympics, save Medvedeva. Miyahara then won the Japanese Championships for a third straight time but withdrew ahead of February’s Four Continents Championships with the hip injury.

Miyahara’s absence from worlds should boost the U.S. women’s contingent of Ashley WagnerMariah Bell and Karen Chen. Hongo’s top score this season is 181.75 points, ranking 14th out of skaters in the worlds field.

The two best results out of Wagner, Bell and Chen must total to no more than 13 for the U.S. women to keep three spots for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics. For example, if Wagner finishes fifth and Bell finishes eighth, the U.S. would get three spots on the number.

With Miyahara out, the U.S. skaters’ rankings in the world championships field this season by best scores in international competitions:

Wagner: No. 8
Bell: No. 10
Chen: No. 17

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IOC group proposes Olympic ‘host’ can be multiple countries

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International Olympic Committee members will decide next month whether to tweak the definition of an Olympic host to make it clear that it does not necessarily refer to a single city but can also mean multiple cities, regions and even countries, IOC President Thomas Bach said Wednesday.

“It’s not an encouragement to spread the Games out as much as possible,” Bach said in announcing the IOC’s executive board approved the measure. “It may be preferable to have a region as a signatory or an additional signatory of the host city contract rather than just a city, and therefore, we wanted to enjoy this flexibility. This, on the other hand, does not change our vision, our request and our focus on having not only an Olympic Village, but to have an Olympic center.”

It’s one of six proposed changes by a working group chaired by Australian IOC member John Coates to examine the bid process. Another is to make the timing of Olympic host city elections more flexible. Typically, hosts are elected seven years before the Games, though two years ago an exception was made in the double awarding of the 2024 and 2028 Games to Paris and Los Angeles.

Bach repeated that the proposals are “to avoid producing too many losers as we had it in the past candidature procedures.”

The IOC previously said in 2014, in announcing Agenda 2020, that it “will allow events held outside the host city or, in exceptional cases, outside the host country, notably for reasons of geography and sustainability.”

This shift manifests in Stockholm’s 2026 Winter Olympic bid plan to have sliding sports in Sigulda, Latvia, home of the nearest existing track for bobsled, luge and skeleton, rather than building a costly new track in Sweden.

IOC members will vote to choose the 2026 Winter Games host next month. The finalists are Stockholm and a joint Italian bid of Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo, after five other potential candidates were dropped for various reasons.

There is precedent for events held far from the Olympic host city. In 1956, Melbourne held the Summer Games and had equestrian events in Stockholm due to quarantine laws in Australia. Similarly, equestrian at the 2008 Beijing Games was held in Hong Kong.

Soccer matches are often held in cities across the host country. Recent Winter Olympics have had mountain events in a different city or area than arena events.

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IOC board recommends AIBA suspension, boxing stays in Olympics

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The International Olympic Committee executive board recommended that AIBA has its recognition as boxing’s international federation suspended but that the sport remains on the Olympic program at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

An IOC decision on the recommendation will be made next month. The IOC created a group to organize 2020 Olympic boxing qualifying and competition if AIBA will not be allowed to run it.

“We want to ensure that the athletes can live their dream and participate in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 while drawing the necessary consequences for AIBA,” IOC president Thomas Bach said in a press release. “At the same time, we offer a pathway back to lifting the suspension, but there needs to be further fundamental change.”

The IOC said in October that boxing’s place in the Olympics was “under threat” after being introduced at the 1904 St. Louis Games and held at every Games since except Stockholm 1912.

In November, the IOC ordered an inquiry into AIBA, which has been in financial turmoil, faced claims of fixed bouts at the Rio Games and elected a president linked to organized crime.

That president, Uzbek Gafur Rakhimov, stepped aside in March to let an interim leader take charge but said he was not resigning. Rakhimov is on a U.S. Treasury Department sanctions list for suspected links to an organized crime group in former Soviet Union republics involved in heroin trafficking. He denies any wrongdoing.

“Serious governance issues remain, including breaches of the Olympic Charter and the IOC Code of Ethics regarding good governance and ethics, leading to serious reputational, legal and financial risks for the IOC, the Olympic Movement and its stakeholders,” the inquiry committee concluded. “AIBA has been unable to demonstrate a sustainable and fair management of refereeing and judging processes and decisions, increasing the lack of confidence that athletes can have in fair competitions.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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