Getty Images

Russian gold medalist from Sochi Olympics retires after 2017 ban

Leave a comment

Alexander Legkov, the lone Russian cross-country skier to take gold at the Sochi Olympics who was later banned for most of 2017, had that gold stripped for three months and was excluded from the PyeongChang Winter Games, has reportedly retired from international competition.

“I say stop here to my professional career on international tournaments,” Legkov said Friday, according to Russian news agency TASS.

Legkov, 34, led a Russian sweep of the 50km in podium in Sochi. He also took silver as part of the 4x10km relay.

The three-time Olympian saw his career turn in May 2016, when CBS and The New York Times first reported about a Sochi doping list kept by Grigory Rodchenkov, former director of a Moscow drug-testing lab.

Legkov was one of many Russian medalists from Sochi who were on a state-run doping program leading into the Sochi Games, according to those reports.

Legkov said in 2016 that he had never failed a doping test, claiming he was tested so often that he couldn’t have doped without being caught, according to The Associated Press.

“You’d have to be a complete kamikaze to do that in Russia if you’re an athlete representing our nation,” Legkov said then, according to the AP.

In December 2016, Legkov and Sochi 50km silver medalist Maxim Vylegzhanin were among six Russian skiers named in the McLaren report on Russian doping in Sochi and suspended from international competition by the International Ski Federation (FIS).

Then on Nov. 1, Legkov became the first Russian retroactively banned from the Sochi Olympics and excluded from all future Games by the IOC. His medals were stripped, though he was allowed to compete until FIS suspended him again Nov. 30.

However, the Court of Arbitration for Sport lifted the Olympic ban and reinstated the medals on Feb. 1 due to insufficient evidence. Legkov and other Russians appealed to be allowed into the PyeongChang Olympics, but the IOC’s decision not to invite them was upheld.

Legkov competed in small events in Russia in February and March.

Vylegzhanin, whose three silver medals in Sochi were also stripped in November and reinstated Feb. 1, reportedly said earlier this week that he will retire after the 2018-19 season.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

VIDEO: Photo finish decides famed World Cup 50km cross-country race

World Cup Alpine season opener gets green light

Getty Images
Leave a comment

After checking the snow on the Rettenbach glacier in Soelden, Austria, FIS officials announced Thursday that the traditional World Cup season opener is set to go ahead as planned Oct. 26-27 with men’s and women’s giant slalom races.

Current conditions at Soelden show a solid 30 inches of snow at the summit. The race finishes at an altitude of 2,670 meters (8,760 feet), far above the currently snowless village.

The first races of the season are never guaranteed to have enough snow, though last year’s men’s race at Soelden had the opposite problem, being canceled when a storm blew through with heavy snowfall and high winds. 

France’s Tessa Worley won the women’s race last year ahead of Italy’s Frederica Brignone and U.S. skier Mikaela Shiffrin, who would go on to dominate the rest of the World Cup season.

The Soelden weekend is followed by three dormant weeks until the season resumes Nov. 23-24 in Levi, Finland. The World Cup circuits then switch to North America. The men will run speed events Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Lake Louise, Alberta, then head to Beaver Creek, Colo., for more speed events and a giant slalom Dec. 6-8. The women run slalom and giant slalom Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Killington, Vt., and head to Lake Louise the next weekend.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Olympic marathon and race walk move from Tokyo to Sapporo draws some pushback

Getty Images
1 Comment

In the wake of a dropout-plagued set of world championship endurance races in Qatar, moving the 2020 Olympic marathons and race walks from Tokyo to the cooler venue of Sapporo is a quick fix for one problem, pending the potential for untimely heat waves.

But the move has drawn some opposition for a variety of reasons.

First, many organizers and politicians appear to have been caught by surprise. Tokyo’s governor, Yuriko Koike, was “taken aback” and Sapporo’s mayor, Katsuhiro Akimoto, learned about the move from the media, Kyodo News reported. Koike even sarcastically suggested that the races could move all the way northward to islands disputed by Russia and Japan.

South African sports scientist Ross Tucker suggested that running in heat and humidity poses an interesting challenge for athletes, some of whom may be able to catch up with faster runners by preparing for the conditions.

British marathoner Mara Yamauchi made a similar point, saying the move was unfair to those who already were preparing for the heat, humidity and other conditions.

Belgian marathoner Koen Naert said he will make the best of the change but complained that some of his preparation and every runner’s logistical planning would no longer apply.

The angriest athlete may be Canadian walker Evan Dunfee, who placed fourth in the 2016 Olympic 50km race and nearly claimed bronze as a Canadian appeal was upheld but then rejected. He says runners and walkers can beat the conditions if they prepare, which many athletes did not do for the world championships in Qatar.

“So why do we cater to the ill prepared?” Dunfee asked on Twitter.

The move also takes athletes out of the main Olympic city and takes away the traditional, tough less frequent in modern years, finish in the Olympic stadium.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!