Vladimir Putin: U.S. pushing for Russia’s Olympic exclusion

AP
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MOSCOW (AP) — The Kremlin accused the U.S. government on Friday of pushing for Russia’s exclusion from the Olympics.

A day after Russian President Vladimir Putin said the IOC was coming under pressure from the U.S., his spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin meant “state (structures), including through social and non-government organizations.”

Putin said the effort aimed to ensure Russia was either barred from next year’s Winter Olympics entirely or forced to compete under a neutral flag.

In televised comments on Thursday, Putin said the IOC depended on sponsorship income “and in turn clear signals are being given to these sponsors by certain American bodies. We aren’t simply guessing about this, we know about it.”

Missing the Olympics or competing as neutrals would be “degrading” for Russia, Putin added, and suggested it might be meant to interfere in the Russian presidential election in March. Putin is widely expected to run for re-election but has yet to confirm that.

“If someone thinks that in this way they can influence the election campaign in Russia in the spring of next year, then they are deeply confused,” Putin said.

Russia is already under IOC investigation over allegations it operated a state-backed doping program including swapping out dirty samples at the drug-testing laboratory for the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014.

Neither Putin nor Peskov specified which specific U.S. government bodies might be involved in the alleged pressuring of the IOC.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, a non-government body which receives part of its funding from the U.S. government, is among a group of 37 national drug-testing agencies which have called for Russia to be barred from the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games.

The IOC has said its investigators expect to have “a number” of doping cases involving Russians at the Sochi Olympics resolved by the end of November, but they have no plans to dictate the eligibility of these athletes for Pyeongchang.

Putin’s suggestion of U.S. meddling in the Russian election comes amid investigations in the U.S. into alleged interference in last year’s presidential vote.

The U.S. Senate’s special panel is conducting a probe into Russian influence in the 2016 election and whether there were any links to Donald Trump’s campaign.

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Asher Hong leads U.S. men’s gymnastics world team selection camp after first day

Asher Hong
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Asher Hong, 18, posted the highest all-around score on the first of two days of competition at the U.S. men’s gymnastics selection camp to determine the last three spots on the team for the world championships that start in three weeks.

Hong, bidding to become the youngest U.S. man to compete at worlds since Danell Leyva in 2009, totaled 84.6 points in Colorado Springs. He edged Colt Walker by one tenth. Tokyo Olympians Shane Wiskus (84.15) and Yul Moldauer (83.95) were next. Full apparatus-by-apparatus scores are here.

Brody Malone, who repeated as U.S. all-around champion at August’s national championships, and runner-up Donnell Whittenburg already clinched spots on the five-man team for worlds in Liverpool, Great Britain. They did not compete Monday, though their results from the first day of nationals are shown in the official scores.

The three remaining team spots will not necessarily go to the top three all-arounders at this week’s camp, which is supposed to be weighed equally with results from August’s nationals. Hong was third at nationals, but if excluding difficulty bonus points from that meet that will not be considered by the committee, would have finished behind Walker and Moldauer in August.

A selection committee is expected to announce the team soon after the second and final day of selection camp competition on Wednesday evening. The committee will look at overall scoring potential for the world team final, where three men go per apparatus, and medal potential in individual events.

Stephen Nedoroscik, who last year became the first American to win a world title on the pommel horse, is trying to make the team solely on that apparatus. He wasn’t at his best at nationals and struggled again on Monday, hurting his chances of displacing an all-arounder for one of the last three spots.

The U.S. has reason to emphasize the team event over individual medals at this year’s worlds. It will clinch an Olympic berth by finishing in the top three, and its medal hopes are boosted by the absence of the Russians who won the Olympic team title. All gymnasts from Belarus and Russia are banned indefinitely from international competition due to the war in Ukraine.

In recent years, the U.S. has been among the nations in the second tier behind China, Japan and Russia, including in Tokyo, where the Americans were fifth.

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Ironman Kona World Championships return for first time in three years, live on Peacock

Ironman Kona World Championship
Ironman
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The Ironman Kona World Championships return after a three-year hiatus with a new format, live on Peacock on Thursday and Saturday at 12 p.m. ET.

The Ironman, held annually in Hawaii since 1978, and in Kailua-Kona since 1981, was not held in 2020 or 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The world championships made a one-time-only stop in St. George, Utah, on May 7 to make up for the 2021 cancellation. The winners were Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt, the Tokyo Olympic triathlon champion, and Swiss Daniela Ryf, who bagged her fifth Ironman world title.

Both are entered in Kailua-Kona, where the races are now split between two days — Thursday for the women and Saturday for the men.

An Ironman includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and a marathon — totaling 140.6 miles of racing. It takes top triathletes eight hours to complete. Very arguably, it crowns the world’s fittest man and woman.

WATCH LIVE: Ironman Kona, Thursday, 12 p.m. ET — STREAM LINK

Ryf, 35 and a 2008 and 2012 Olympian, can tie retired countrywoman Natascha Badmann for second place on the women’s list at six Ironman world titles. Only Zimbabwean-turned-American Paula Newby-Fraser has more with eight.

The field also includes German Anne Haug, the 2019 Kona champ and only woman other than Ryf to win since 2015. Brit Lucy Charles-Barclay, the Kona runner-up in 2017, 2018 and 2019, returns after missing the St. George event due to a stress fracture in her hip.

Blummenfelt, 28 and in his Kona debut, will try to become the youngest male champion in Kona since German Normann Stadler in 2005. His top challengers include countryman Gustav Iden, the two-time reigning Half Ironman world champion, and German Patrick Lange, the 2017 and 2018 Ironman Kona winner.

Also racing Saturday is Dallas Clark, a retired All-Pro NFL tight end with the Indianapolis Colts, and Tony Kanaan, the 2013 Indy 500 champion who completed the 2011 Kona Ironman in 12 hours, 52 minutes, 40 seconds.

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