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Russian hockey star stays in KHL, cites Olympics as key

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Ilya Kovalchuk, a four-time Russian Olympian, chose to stay in the KHL rather than explore an NHL return in 2017-18 due largely to the NHL not participating in the PyeongChang Olympics.

“One of the main factors was the upcoming Olympic Games,” Kovalchuk said, according to his KHL team’s website. “In 2018, only players who play in European championships and the KHL can compete there.”

Kovalchuk, 34, shares the Russian men’s record of four Olympic hockey appearances with Sergei Gonchar and Pavel Datsyuk. He has been playing in the KHL with SKA St. Petersburg since 2012, winning two of the last three Gagarin Cups and ranking second in the league in points last season.

Gonchar is retired. Datsyuk, who is four years older than Kovalchuk, also plays for SKA St. Petersburg and is eligible for the Olympics.

Kovalchuk is the youngest Russian or Soviet Olympic men’s hockey player ever, when he suited up at age 18 in 2002.

In 2018, Datsyuk will be older than all but two previous Russian Olympic men’s hockey players, Igor Larionov in 2002 and Sergei Fedorov in 2010.

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MORE: Russia hopes for boost from Olympic hockey turmoil

Suspect confesses to Denis Ten killing

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MOSCOW (AP) — One of two men detained in Kazakhstan on suspicion of killing Olympic figure skating medalist Denis Ten has confessed, authorities said Friday.

Prosecutor Berik Zhuyrektayev said in a televised statement that Nuraly Kiyasov “confessed his guilt in the presence of an attorney” while being questioned over the 25-year-old skater’s death Thursday in the Kazakh city of Almaty.

The prosecutor didn’t give further details of what exactly Kiyasov had said.

Police have also detained 23-year-old Arman Kudaibergenov in connection with Ten’s death, which has prompted national mourning. Authorities released a picture of the disheveled-looking man being held by masked men wearing body armor and camouflage uniforms.

Ten was stabbed after a dispute with people who allegedly tried to steal a mirror from his car in his home city of Almaty. He died in hospital of massive blood loss from multiple wounds, the Kazinform news agency said.

Prosecutors are treating his death as murder.

Kazinform reported that Kiyasov was taken to the scene of the crime under heavy security Friday as part of the investigation.

Ten’s bronze in Sochi in 2014 made him Kazakhstan’s first Olympic medalist in figure skating. He also won the Four Continents Championships in 2015 and was a world silver medalist in 2013.

He struggled with injuries in recent years and could only finish 27th at the PyeongChang Olympics.

Ten had been working on a script in recent months which the Kazakh-Russian director Timur Bekmambetov said Friday would now be turned into a movie.

“We’re definitely going to try to realize his idea and shoot a film dedicated to this multi-talented person,” Bekmambetov said in comments released by Kazakhstan’s embassy to Russia. “In his 25 years, Ten managed to do very much and had grand plans which he would surely have put into practice because he was a real hard worker.”

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MORE: Daisuke Takahashi ends four-year figure skating retirement

Peter Sagan wins another Tour de France stage in sprinters’ absence

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VALENCE, France (AP) — Peter Sagan won his third stage of this Tour de France, while Geraint Thomas kept the overall lead over teammate Chris Froome on Friday.

World champion Sagan won a sprint finish by a wheel length to claim Stage 13, a 105-mile leg from Bourg d’Oisans to Valence in less than four hours.

After overzealous fans marred Thomas’ win on Thursday atop the Alpe d’Huez, the otherwise complete calm of Friday’s leg was briefly disturbed by a man on the roadside who tossed a smoke bomb into the center of the peloton as it passed by with 16 kilometers left.

Besides spitting out yellow smoke, the bomb appeared to do no harm.

Thomas took charge of the race with impressive wins atop summit finishes on the previous two days.

The Welsh rider for Sky had no trouble maintaining his advantage of 1 minute, 39 second over defending champion Froome on the flat ride that came after three grueling days in the Alps.

Both Team Sky riders finished safely in the pack with their top rivals.

Tom Dumoulin stayed third overall at 1:50 behind. Primoz Roglic was fourth at 2:46, and Romain Bardet was fifth at 3:07 back.

Sagan timed his move perfectly, charging forward to overtake runner-up Alexander Kristoff and Arnaud Demare, who finished third, at the finish line.

The Slovakian’s 11th career Tour victory came after he dominated sprints at the end of Stages 2 and 5.

This time, Sagan was racing against a field of top sprinters who had been greatly depleted by the mountains.

Fernando Gaviria and Dylan Groenewegen, who both won two stages on this Tour, along with Andre Greipel all abandoned the race on Thursday, while 30-stage winner Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel failed to make the time cut on Wednesday.

On Thursday’s action-packed ascent up Alpe d’Huez, contender Vincenzo Nibali was forced to abandon the race after he broke a vertebra when knocked to the ground by a police motorbike tasked with keeping back the pressing fans (video here).

Froome also was pushed hard in the back by a spectator, and Thomas was booed on the podium by fans who are skeptical of Froome’s clearance from doping allegation just before the Tour’s start.

Michael Schaer of BMC was the last rider of a four-man breakaway to be reeled in with 6K left.

The Tour continues Saturday with a hilly stage 14, live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold (full broadcast schedule here).

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