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Another rival to potential 2026 U.S. Winter Olympic bid emerges

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Sapporo is reportedly expected to bid for the 2026 Winter Games now that it has approval from the Japan Olympic Committee.

The Japan committee’s vice president said that Sapporo, which hosted the 1972 Winter Olympics, is expected to announce its bid by the end of March deadline, according to Kyodo News.

The 2026 Olympics have one confirmed bid so far from Sion, Switzerland, though its future may hinge on a public vote. IOC members are expected to vote to choose the 2026 host city in 2019.

The U.S. Olympic Committee wants to bid for the 2026 or 2030 Winter Games, preferably 2030. Salt Lake City, the last U.S. Winter Olympic host city in 2002, Denver and Reno-Tahoe are possible U.S. bid cities.

The next two Winter Olympics in 2018 and 2022 will be in East Asia in PyeongChang, South Korea, and Beijing.

Japan is also hosting the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo.

“I think [IOC president] Thomas Bach has publicly stated that he would like to see the Winter Games return to a more traditional location,” USOC chairman Larry Probst said in September. “So, to me, that’s code for Europe or North America. … We’ll have to monitor that, see what the situation looks like and then develop our strategy for whether we’re going to bid for the next Winter Games or longer than that.”

Sapporo, which has been talked about as a potential 2026 bid city for more than three years, hosted the Asian Winter Games this year, as well as in 1986 and 1990.

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Chinese figure skating judges banned for biased Olympic scoring

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Two Chinese figure skating judges were suspended by the International Skating Union for biased judging at the PyeongChang Olympics.

Chen Weiguang and Huang Feng had “preferential marking” for top Chinese skaters Jin Boyang (fourth place in PyeongChang) and the silver medalist pairs’ team of Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, respectively, according to the ISU.

Chen was banned two years and excluded from the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Huang got a one-year ban.

Chen awarded her highest grades of execution scores of the men’s competition to Jin, as well as her second-highest program components scores, trailing only gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu. Both sets of scores, in both the short and long programs, were out of line with the other eight judges.

“There is evidence of preference for the Chinese skater and prejudice against his strongest competitors,” an ISU report read. “Her marks were completely unrealistic.”

The pairs’ judge Huang “obviously favored his pair also vis-à-vis the other top candidates for the Olympic gold medal,” the ISU said in a report, referencing inflated scores for Sui and Han and lower scores for gold and bronze medalists Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany and Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada.

Huang was warned one month before the Olympics by the ISU for biased judging at the December 2017 Grand Prix Final pairs’ event.

Both suspensions are subject to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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Javier Fernandez to skip Grand Prix, still compete next season

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Javier Fernandez, who in PyeongChang became the first Spanish Olympic figure skating medalist, will skip the fall Grand Prix series but return for January’s European Championships, which could be his final competition.

Europeans will be Fernandez’s focus for the season, his agent said Tuesday.

Fernandez, 26, added an Olympic bronze medal to his 2015 and 2016 World titles. He has said that his third Olympics in PyeongChang would be his last. But Fernandez did not say he would retire after the Winter Games, though he did skip the world championships in March.

Fernandez now plans to compete in his 13th straight European Championships in Minsk in January. He won the last six titles. It’s unknown if he will continue on to the world championships in Saitama, Japan, in March.

In Fernandez’s absence, the top male singles skaters in the fall Grand Prix season should be double Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, PyeongChang silver medalist Shoma Uno and American Nathan Chen, who was fifth at the Olympics after a disastrous short program but ran away with March’s world title by the largest margin in history.

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