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Russian stars will not defend Olympic pairs title

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Russians Tatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov are the latest figure skaters to decide they will not defend their Olympic gold medals in PyeongChang.

Their PR director confirmed the decision in an email Wednesday, saying the married pairs skaters “are enjoying family life with their newly born daughter Angelica” and will not compete this season.

It follows announcements from fellow Sochi champions Adelina SotnikovaYulia LipnitskayaYevgeny Plushenko and Meryl Davis and Charlie White earlier this year.

It came as little surprise.

Volosozhar, 31, and Trankov, 34, last competed at the 2016 World Championships, where they placed sixth.

They had previously finished first or second at all 18 of their top-level international events since they paired in 2010.

They still hold the three highest pairs scores ever — all set in the 2013-14 season — while the records for every other discipline have each fallen since the Sochi Olympic season.

Russian or Soviet pairs won gold at every Olympics from 1964 through 2006. After getting no medals in Vancouver, Volosozhar and Trankov returned the nation to the top spot in Sochi.

It marked the culmination of a partnership that began a month after those 2010 Winter Games. Volosozhar and Trankov finished eighth and seventh in Vancouver, respectively. Volosozhar skated for Ukraine and Trankov with a different Russian partner.

After winning team event and pairs gold in Sochi, Volosozhar and Trankov took the 2014-15 season off due to his shoulder surgery.

They were married in August 2015. After the 2016 Worlds disaster, they took the 2016-17 season off, and Volosozhar gave birth to daughter Angelica in February.

The PyeongChang Olympic favorites are China’s Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, the reigning world champions.

Also in the mix are Germans Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot, the world silver medalists, and two-time world champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada.

Russian gold-medal hopes rest with Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, who took silver in 2014, and Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov, the 2017 World bronze medalists.

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MORE: Figure skating season TV schedule

Jennifer Valente takes silver in world cycling championship scratch race

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Jennifer Valente won the first medal for the U.S. team in the world track cycling championships Wednesday in Berlin, finishing second behind Dutch cyclist Kirsten Wild in the scratch race.

Wild won the mass-start event for the third time, having taken gold in 2015 and 2018, and her seventh world championship in all track cycling disciplines. She also took silver in the 2016 world championship road race.

Valente also joined Chloé Dygert, Emma White and Lily Williams in women’s team pursuit qualifying, posting the fastest time of the day and easily qualifying for the semifinals on Thursday. The U.S. team has been in transition with the retirement of Sarah Hammer and the death of Kelly Catlin, who committed suicide in March. Hammer, Catlin, Dygert and Valente took silver in the 2016 Olympics.

READ: Dygert aims for road and track double in Tokyo

The Netherlands took two of the three gold medals on Wednesday’s program, beating Britain to win the men’s team sprint. Germany beat Australia to win the women’s team sprint.

READ: Track cycling broadcast and streaming schedule

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Tokyo organizers, IOC going ahead as planned with Olympics

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TOKYO (AP) — A spokesman for the Japanese government on Wednesday said the International Olympic Committee and local organizers are going as planned with the Tokyo Olympics.

The comments from spokesman Yoshihide Suga follow the assertion by IOC veteran Dick Pound that organizers face a three-month window to decide the fate of the Games.

READ: Pound cites time needed to ramp up operations

The Olympics are set to open on July 24 with 11,000 athletes. The Paralympics open Aug. 25 with 4,400.

Also Wednesday, Tokyo organizing committee CEO Toshiro Muto abruptly called a news conference to address Pound’s comments.

“Our basic thoughts are that we will go ahead with the Olympic and Paralympic Games as scheduled,” Muto said, speaking in Japanese. “For the time being, the situation of the coronavirus infection is, admittedly, difficult to predict, but we will take measures such that we’ll have a safe Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

Muto added: ““That the end of May is the time limit, we have never thought of this or heard of such a comment. So when we asked about this, we received a response saying that is not the position of the IOC.”

Muto also allowed for the possibility of downsizing the Olympic torch relay but insisted it will not be canceled.

Pound told the Associated Press that the fast-spreading virus could cancel the Olympics. Suga says Pound’s opinion does not reflect the official view of the IOC, which has repeatedly said there are no plans to cancel or postpone the Tokyo Games.

“With regard to this member’s comment, the IOC has responded that this is not their official position, and that IOC is proceeding with preparations toward the games as scheduled,” Suga said, speaking in Japanese at his daily news conference.

Pound is a former IOC vice-president and a member since 1978, and was the founding president of the World Anti-Doping Agency.

He also represented Canada as a swimmer at the Olympics.

In a telephone interview from Montreal, Pound said the IOC has a three-month window to decide, and suggested other options like moving events of postponing seemed less likely.

“In and around that time,” he said, “I’d say folks are going to have to ask: ‘Is this under sufficient control that we can be confident about going to Tokyo or now?”‘

If the IOC decides the games cannot go forward as scheduled in Tokyo, “you’re probably looking at a cancellation,” said Pound, who added that he was not commenting on behalf of the IOC.

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