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Emil Hegle Svendsen joins list of Norway Olympic star retirements

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In the last week, three Norwegians who won a combined 36 Winter Olympic medals announced retirements.

The latest came in a tearful news conference on Monday.

Biathlete Emil Hegle Svendsen ended his career at age 32 after four Winter Games and eight medals, plus 21 world championships medals (including 12 golds).

Svendsen said it was “actually a huge pleasure” to retire, that he “needed a little time after the Olympic Games season because I often felt that the spark could come back. But I wasn’t close to [getting it back],” according to The Associated Press.

Svendsen’s farewell came after the two most decorated Winter Olympians of all time — biathlete Ole Einar Bjørndalen and cross-country skier Marit Bjørgen — announced their retirements last week.

Svendsen would come to be billed as “The Prince” and heir to the throne of “The King” Bjørndalen, who is 12 years older. Svendsen was 20 years old when he debuted at the Olympics in 2006 with a sixth-place finish in the mass start.

He blossomed into the World Cup overall champion in 2009-10, a season where he took individual and relay Olympic gold, plus silver in the sprint in Whistler, B.C.

Svendsen dominated the 2013 World Championships with a pair of individual golds, two more relay golds and an individual bronze medal. His Sochi Olympics didn’t start well — ninth, seventh and seventh in his first three events — but he won the mass start in a photo finish over French rival Martin Fourcade.

Svendsen is also remembered for shocking struggles in the last event in Sochi — the men’s relay. He was given the lead to anchor the Norwegian quartet, and a chance for Bjørndalen to earn his record-breaking ninth career Winter Olympic title. But Svendsen missed three targets, and Norway fell from first to fourth.

Svendsen went into PyeongChang believing it would be his final Olympics. Again, he made up for poor early finishes (10th, 18th and 20th) by making the mass-start podium (bronze). He then earned silver medals in the relays.

“It’s a good idea that all such decisions are taken based on the feeling you have, and that is that I’m in the dessert in my career,” Svendsen said last fall, according to NBC Olympic Research.

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Swim meet canceled after FINA’s threat to ban athletes

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GENEVA (AP) — Amid growing conflict between swimmers and their world governing body, an international swimming meet was canceled on Thursday after threats to ban athletes who took part seeking better prize money.

The Italian swim federation called off the Dec. 20-21 competition it was organizing in Turin, saying it acted to protect athletes from FINA.

The Turin meet was linked to a proposed International Swimming League, a privately run operation which aims to operate outside FINA’s control and pay higher prize money.

“FINA declared the event ‘non-approved,’ threatening sanctions against the participating athletes,” Italian officials said in a statement.

FINA, based in Lausanne, Switzerland, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Some Olympic champions have long criticized FINA, believing swimmers should be better rewarded, have more say in decisions, and could create their own union.

Olympic champion Adam Peaty of Britain wrote on Thursday on Twitter he was “incredibly disappointed” by the cancellation.

The politics involved will “galvanize swimmers, not break them,” wrote Peaty, who holds 50m and 100m breaststroke world records.

Peaty has previously supported Hungarian star Katinka Hosszu in her public criticism of FINA, and calls to create a swimmers’ union.

Italian organizers said Peaty, Hosszu and other Olympic champions including Chad le Clos of South Africa and Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden were due to take part in their 25-meter pool event. It was scheduled days after the short-course world championships being staged in Hangzhou, China.

The clash of events seemed to provoke FINA into finding more prize money for its worlds event in the smaller pool.

On Nov. 6, FINA added to its promised prize fund for China by almost doubling the total to $2.07 million.

FINA wrote to member federations on Oct. 30 warning of bans of up to two years for taking part in Turin.

However, a European Commission decision last year suggests swimmers could successfully challenge any attempt to limit their right to race and earn money.

The European Union’s executive arm ruled the International Staking Union in breach of anti-trust laws by threatening severe bans for speed skaters who wanted to compete in a South Korean-organized event in Dubai.

The ISU’s threats “also serve to protect its own commercial interests,” the European officials said.

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Simon Ammann believes ski jumping career end is near

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Simon Ammann, the most decorated active ski jumper with four Olympic gold medals, said it is hard to imagine competing beyond this season, according to Swiss newspaper Blick.

Ammann, 37, swept the individual Olympic titles in 2002 and 2010 to join retired Finn Matti Nykänen as the only four-time Olympic ski jumping champs.

In PyeongChang, his sixth Olympics, Ammann placed 11th and 13th, one month after making his first World Cup podium in nearly three years. He decided after those Winter Games that he would continue at least one more season, but has no plan to go all the way to a seventh Olympics in 2022, according to Blick.

Ammann has teased retirement since at least 2011 and even said going into the 2014 Sochi Olympics that he was “99 percent sure” they would be his final Games.

The now-father of two first gained crossover celebrity with his surprise Salt Lake City 2002 gold medals, his first wins in top-level international competition. The bespectacled Ammann’s victory screams and resemblance to Harry Potter helped land him on “The Late Show with David Letterman” and one of Europe’s biggest shows, sitting next to Shakira.

Fellow ski jumper Noriaki Kasai of Japan holds the Winter Olympic record of eight appearances. Kasai, 46, has said he plans to go for a ninth participation at Beijing 2022.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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