Gary Bettman
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Gary Bettman quashes renewed Olympic hope in talk with IIHF boss

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IIHF president René Fasel and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman reportedly spoke Tuesday about possible NHL Olympic participation in PyeongChang.

They did not get very far.

“[Bettman] told me again, René the decision is we will not go,” Fasel said, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger. “Only death is final, but Gary was very clear yesterday when he said we’re not going, so what can I do?”

Renewed hope that the NHL could participate in a sixth straight Olympics sprang last weekend, when Fasel was reported in German media saying he was talking with the NHL about possible Olympic participation and set a July deadline.

The IIHF later denied talks with the NHL. Fasel clarified that he meant the NHL Players’ Association in a news conference Tuesday, according to the Canadian Press.

With Fasel making no ground, the IIHF boss is resting hopes on the NHLPA.

“The players are the ones to go,” Fasel said, according to Dreger. “They have to make an important step here.”

The NHL said in an April 3 statement that it intended to proceed without taking an Olympic break in 2018 and considered the matter “officially closed.” That would snap a streak of five straight Winter Olympics with NHL participation starting in 1998.

The NHL previously asked for concessions (mostly financially driven) from the IOC, IIHF or the NHLPA to entice NHL owners and officials to take a break in its season to accommodate the Olympics for a sixth straight time.

Bettman followed up on April 21 by saying it’s too late for the league to change its mind, even if a new, sweetened deal is offered by the IOC, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Looking at Tuesday’s comments, Bettman isn’t budging from that stance.

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Erin Hamlin to run New York City Marathon

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Erin Hamlin, the first U.S. Olympic singles luge medalist and Team USA flag bearer at the PyeongChang Olympic Opening Ceremony, will run the New York City Marathon on Nov. 4.

Hamlin, a 2014 Olympic bronze medalist who retired after her fourth Olympics in PyeongChang at age 31, is running to fundraise for the Women’s Sports Foundation. So is Marlen Esparza, who in 2012 became the first U.S. Olympic women’s boxing medalist (flyweight bronze).

Hamlin has no marathon experience, according to the Women’s Sports Foundation.

“Being challenged in sport is something I am very familiar with,” Hamlin said in a mass email Wednesday, according to TeamUSA.org. “Long distance running is something I most certainly am not!! It will be difficult, mentally and physically daunting, but a way to test my abilities in a sport so far out of my comfort zone.”

Many Olympians in non-running sports have raced the New York City Marathon.

Bill Demong, the 2010 U.S. Olympic Closing Ceremony flag bearer and only U.S. Olympic Nordic combined champion, ran the 2014 NYC Marathon in 2:33:05, crushing eight-time Olympic medalist Apolo Ohno‘s 3:25:14 from 2011.

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Softball set to return to Olympics as first event on Tokyo 2020 schedule

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Softball, returning to the Olympics after a 12-year absence, is scheduled to kick off the 2020 Tokyo Games, two days before the Opening Ceremony.

The preliminary master schedule for the Tokyo Olympics was published Wednesday, with the first softball game scheduled for 10 a.m. local time on the Wednesday before the Opening Ceremony.

The first game is scheduled to be held in Fukushima, the site of 2011 nuclear plant meltdowns caused by an earthquake and tsunami 155 miles north of Tokyo. The International Olympic Committee and Tokyo organizers have been eager to use the Games as a symbol of recovery from the 2011 disaster

Traditionally, soccer has been the first sport to have action at a Summer Olympics, one or two days before the Opening Ceremony. While soccer is again scheduled to have matches that same Wednesday, they start later than 10 a.m.

The Tokyo 2020 schedule is subject to change and certainly not a final version — swimming, diving and synchronized swimming schedules are still to be determined, but those sports do not typically start before the Opening Ceremony.

Softball was added in 1991 to the Olympic program to debut at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The U.S. won the first three gold medals before softball and baseball were narrowly voted off the Olympic program in 2005/06 (a 52-52 IOC vote for softball, with a majority needed to stay in the Olympics), with the 2008 Beijing Games being the last edition. Japan won the last Olympic softball gold medal 10 years ago.

Then on Aug. 3, 2016, baseball and softball were among five sports added for the 2020 Tokyo Games only, at the request of Tokyo Olympic organizers. Baseball and softball are not guaranteed to remain on the Olympic program in Paris in 2024.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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