AP

Russian defenseman at Olympics despite domestic abuse conviction

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GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) — Slava Voynov is at the Olympics despite his conviction for domestic abuse. In a way, he is at the Olympics because of it.

The defenseman remains indefinitely suspended from the National Hockey League over a 2014 incident that got him sentenced to 90 days in jail on a misdemeanor charge of corporal injury to a spouse.

Were he still in the league, he’d have to watch on TV as the Olympics hosts its first tournament without NHL players since 1994. Since he is no longer an NHL player, he is eligible and his experience as a two-time Stanley Cup winner with the Los Angeles Kings makes him crucial to the roster of “Olympic Athletes from Russia.”

“I know that he’s a good player and obviously he deserves to be here,” teammate Mikhail Grigorenko said after practice Tuesday. “He’s one of our leaders on defense, so I’m not surprised he’s here. The around-hockey stuff, there’s people that decide that.”

Voynov’s conviction for assaulting his wife, Marta Varlamova, after a Halloween party didn’t stop him getting an invite to the PyeongChang Games from the International Olympic Committee, which set strict criteria to bar Russians linked to a state-backed doping program. However, it didn’t rule out those with criminal convictions for other matters.

“We have been reassured by the Russian National Olympic Committee (suspended) that ‘no court or other official decision has been ever rendered which would prevent Mr. Voynov from competing in international competitions and enjoying his athlete’s rights on an equal footing with other athletes,'” the IOC said in a statement to The Associated Press. “They have stressed that, ‘The court decision taken in the United States of America with regard to Mr. Voynov has been completely executed.'”

Authorities in Los Angeles said Voynov choked and hit his wife and pushed her into a TV in their Redondo Beach bedroom after an argument that began at a party attended by other Kings players. His wife required eight stitches to close up a cut over her eye. Voynov pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor charge, avoiding trial on a felony count.

The NHL did not allow Voynov to play for Russia at the World Cup of Hockey in September 2016 because he was suspended. It was unclear whether Voynov would have been legally able to enter Canada based on the terms of his conviction in the United States.

The International Ice Hockey Federation said it doesn’t have the power to exclude Voynov from international competitions.

“The IIHF does not have rules similar to the NHL that would provide it or the president the power to render Voynov ineligible for non-hockey related violations that did not occur in IIHF competitions,” spokesman Adam Steiss told the AP. “We would have respected the NHL’s suspension if he was currently playing in the NHL.”

Since leaving the United States, Voynov has played in the Kontinental Hockey League for SKA St. Petersburg, which receives substantial funding from Russian state gas company Gazprom. He rarely speaks in public and did not speak with media in South Korea this week despite repeated requests to team officials.

The Olympic Athletes from Russia opened the tournament Wednesday against Slovakia, with Voynov expected to play a key role at his second Olympics, and his teammates have expressed support for him.

Former Vancouver Canucks forward Sergei Shirokov said at practice: “Slava Voynov is a good defenseman, really good player, and it’s good.”

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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