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U.S., Canada set for gold-medal Paralympic hockey showdown

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To get to the gold-medal game, the U.S. and Canada outscored opponents by a combined 80-1. The final on Saturday (11 p.m. ET, NBCSN and streaming) figures to be a little closer.

The U.S. dropped Italy 10-1 in the semifinals Thursday, hours after Canada dumped host South Korea 7-0, to set up the Paralympic gold-medal game that everybody anticipated.

Nikko Landeros, in his third Paralympics, led the U.S. with a hat trick against Italy. Brody Roybal, the youngest member of the 2014 team at age 15, scored twice and has a tournament-leading 10 goals in five games.

Roybal is one goal shy of the record for a single Paralympic tournament set by American Sylvester Flis in 2002 (via the International Paralympic Committee).

The U.S. was scored on for the first time in the tournament in the third period with the victory already in hand. It outshot Italy 33-4.

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The Americans, already the only nation with multiple Paralympic hockey titles, now bid for a three-peat against their rivals to the north.

“It’s going to be a chess match,” NBC analyst and three-time Paralympian Taylor Lipsett said. “Both teams are fairly equally matched up.”

The Canadians are the reigning world champions, beating the Americans 4-1 in the final (also in PyeongChang) on April 20. Then the U.S. returned the favor with a 3-2 win in Prince Edward Island on Dec. 9. The teams then split a home-and-home series in February.

In 2014, the U.S. blanked Canada 3-0 in the Paralympic semifinals en route to gold. Its final opponent in Sochi, Russia, doesn’t have a hockey team in PyeongChang as it was unable to qualify while banned from competition due to the country’s poor anti-doping record.

The U.S. is dedicating its tournament to its 2014 Paralympic coach, Jeff Sauer, who died of pancreatic cancer in February 2017.

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IOC group proposes Olympic ‘host’ can be multiple countries

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International Olympic Committee members will decide next month whether to tweak the definition of an Olympic host to make it clear that it does not necessarily refer to a single city but can also mean multiple cities, regions and even countries, IOC President Thomas Bach said Wednesday.

“It’s not an encouragement to spread the Games out as much as possible,” Bach said in announcing the IOC’s executive board approved the measure. “It may be preferable to have a region as a signatory or an additional signatory of the host city contract rather than just a city, and therefore, we wanted to enjoy this flexibility. This, on the other hand, does not change our vision, our request and our focus on having not only an Olympic Village, but to have an Olympic center.”

It’s one of six proposed changes by a working group chaired by Australian IOC member John Coates to examine the bid process. Another is to make the timing of Olympic host city elections more flexible. Typically, hosts are elected seven years before the Games, though two years ago an exception was made in the double awarding of the 2024 and 2028 Games to Paris and Los Angeles.

Bach repeated that the proposals are “to avoid producing too many losers as we had it in the past candidature procedures.”

The IOC previously said in 2014, in announcing Agenda 2020, that it “will allow events held outside the host city or, in exceptional cases, outside the host country, notably for reasons of geography and sustainability.”

This shift manifests in Stockholm’s 2026 Winter Olympic bid plan to have sliding sports in Sigulda, Latvia, home of the nearest existing track for bobsled, luge and skeleton, rather than building a costly new track in Sweden.

IOC members will vote to choose the 2026 Winter Games host next month. The finalists are Stockholm and a joint Italian bid of Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo, after five other potential candidates were dropped for various reasons.

There is precedent for events held far from the Olympic host city. In 1956, Melbourne held the Summer Games and had equestrian events in Stockholm due to quarantine laws in Australia. Similarly, equestrian at the 2008 Beijing Games was held in Hong Kong.

Soccer matches are often held in cities across the host country. Recent Winter Olympics have had mountain events in a different city or area than arena events.

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IOC board recommends AIBA suspension, boxing stays in Olympics

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The International Olympic Committee executive board recommended that AIBA has its recognition as boxing’s international federation suspended but that the sport remains on the Olympic program at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

An IOC decision on the recommendation will be made next month. The IOC created a group to organize 2020 Olympic boxing qualifying and competition if AIBA will not be allowed to run it.

“We want to ensure that the athletes can live their dream and participate in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 while drawing the necessary consequences for AIBA,” IOC president Thomas Bach said in a press release. “At the same time, we offer a pathway back to lifting the suspension, but there needs to be further fundamental change.”

The IOC said in October that boxing’s place in the Olympics was “under threat” after being introduced at the 1904 St. Louis Games and held at every Games since except Stockholm 1912.

In November, the IOC ordered an inquiry into AIBA, which has been in financial turmoil, faced claims of fixed bouts at the Rio Games and elected a president linked to organized crime.

That president, Uzbek Gafur Rakhimov, stepped aside in March to let an interim leader take charge but said he was not resigning. Rakhimov is on a U.S. Treasury Department sanctions list for suspected links to an organized crime group in former Soviet Union republics involved in heroin trafficking. He denies any wrongdoing.

“Serious governance issues remain, including breaches of the Olympic Charter and the IOC Code of Ethics regarding good governance and ethics, leading to serious reputational, legal and financial risks for the IOC, the Olympic Movement and its stakeholders,” the inquiry committee concluded. “AIBA has been unable to demonstrate a sustainable and fair management of refereeing and judging processes and decisions, increasing the lack of confidence that athletes can have in fair competitions.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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