IIHF not giving up on NHL Olympic agreement

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AARHUS, Denmark (AP) — Like Russia’s star Alex Ovechkin, the International Ice Hockey Federation thinks NHL players need not miss the 2018 Winter Olympics – though team owners likely now need a “game-changer” offer on the table.

“We are continuing to try to find solutions,” the governing body’s general secretary Horst Lichtner told The Associated Press on Tuesday, after the NHL said it would not take part in the games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Lichtner spent much of the day in talks with IOC officials and winter sports leaders about the NHL’s announcement late Monday. The league ended negotiations aimed at ensuring it would shut down for the Olympic period in February and let its superstars play in South Korea.

Ovechkin said Tuesday he would play at the Winter Games anyway, suggesting the NHL was bluffing.

Lichtner also said the door is not closed, though he acknowledged that the Switzerland-based IIHF must make a better offer.

“Then we can re-open the discussion, maybe not for ever but to come back with some so-called game changers to the (NHL team) owners which would then probably help to find a better decision than we have now,” he said.

The IIHF had already agreed to meet players’ travel and insurance costs when the IOC ended its long-time commitment to pay. The NHL sought more concessions, but the IOC would not concede a share of marketing rights to a commercial league.

Lichtner said the IIHF was focused on a five-year plan for the sport in Asia, leading up to the 2022 Beijing Winter Games in the coveted Chinese market.

“We have a strategy and that would of course be easier and much nicer if this is with the NHL than without,” the German official said of a plan that includes the Russia-based KHL.

A Chinese delegation is due to attend the annual world championships, staged in May in France and Germany.

Though a two-Olympic deal was part of recent NHL talks, Lichtner did not rule out finding a separate solution to the Beijing Olympics.

“I don’t think we should predict now what will happen until 2022,” he said. “We will always try to do the best for ice hockey – and this is put the best players on the ice and let them play, because they want it.”

That includes Ovechkin, the Washington Capitals star who said Tuesday that “I’m pretty sure everything is going to be fine.”

“It’s my country,” Ovechkin said in Toronto. “It’s the biggest opportunity in your life to play in the Olympic Games. Somebody going to tell me I don’t go. I don’t care, I just go.”

The IIHF’s Lichtner predicted that others players could follow.

“I actually think there will be some more Ovechkins in this world who want to use the Olympic stage to show their skills,” Lichtner said.

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MORE: 2018 Olympic hockey groups set

12-year-old skateboarders earn medals at world championships

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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

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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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