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Controversial Olympian Peter Norman honored, 50 years later

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SYDNEY (AP) — Peter Norman, the Australian sprinter who stood on the podium alongside Tommie Smith and John Carlos when the two Americans gave their Black Power salutes at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, has been awarded Australia’s highest Olympic award, 50 years after the event.

The Australian Olympic Committee said Saturday that it had awarded a posthumous Order of Merit to Norman, who died in 2006, in belated recognition of his role in one sport’s most powerful human rights protests.

“This is an overdue award there is no doubt,” AOC President John Coates said. “The respect for Peter and his actions is still enormous to this day.

“He believed in human rights throughout his life. We lost Peter in 2006 but we should never lose sight of his brave stand that day and further as a five-time national champion.”

Norman won the silver medal in the 200 meters at the Mexico City Games, and his time of 20.06 seconds remains an Australian national record. Smith set a then-world record of 19.83 seconds to win the gold medal while Carlos took the bronze, but it was their civil rights protest at the medal presentation that all three men will forever be linked together.

Smith and Carlos mounted the podium shoeless, representing black poverty in the United States, with each wearing a single black glove. When the “The Star-Spangled Banner” was played, they bowed their heads and raised their fists in the air.

Norman, a white Australian physical education teacher, wore a human rights badge on his shirt in support of the two Americans. He also suggested the idea that Smith and Carlos each wear one glove because they only had one pair between them.

Smith and Carlos were expelled from the Olympics because of their political protests and were subjected to death threats when they returned home.

Norman was never selected to represent Australia again, and his role in the protest was sometimes overlooked.

In 2005, a statue commemorating the protest was erected at San Jose State University, where Smith and Carlos were students. Norman’s place in the statue was left vacant, although the Australian said he fully supported the decision to be left out of the monument.

When Norman died in 2006, Smith and Carlos both travelled to Australia and were pallbearers at his funeral.

“He was a lone soldier in Australia,” Carlos said at the time. “Many people in Australia didn’t particularly understand. Why would that young white fella go over and stand with those black individuals?”

“Peter never flinched, he never turned his eye or his head,” Carlos said. “When I looked into his eyes, I saw nothing but love.”

The AOC has always denied punishing Norman, although the Australian federal government formally apologized to him in 2012 for failing to send him to the 1972 Munich Olympics even though he had qualified.

“I’m absolutely certain from all the history I’ve read that we didn’t do the wrong thing by him,” Coates said. “But I absolutely think we’ve been negligent in not recognizing the role he played back then.”

The AOC, during its annual general meeting, also awarded Orders of Merit to four Olympians on Saturday — runners Cathy Freeman and Raelene Boyle and swimmers Shane Gould and Ian Thorpe.

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Alina Zagitova wins Rostelecom Cup; Gracie Gold withdraws

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Olympic champion Alina Zagitova dominated the Rostelecom Cup, while Gracie Gold withdrew before Saturday’s free skate at her first competition in 22 months, citing emotional stress.

Zagitova skated a flawed free, but still totaled 222.95 points and prevailed by 24.94 over countrywoman Sofia Samodurova. Zagitova qualified for December’s Grand Prix Final, the second-biggest annual international competition, which takes the top six skaters from the fall Grand Prix Series.

Gold, coming back from treatment for anxiety, depression and an eating disorder, was in last place of 10 skaters after struggling with jumps in Friday’s short program.

Gold, a Sochi Olympian and two-time U.S. champion, later tweeted that she withdrew because competing in the free skate would be damaging to her mental health and confidence.

“It was a difficult decision to make, but ultimately I need to put my mental health first and focus on the big picture,” was tweeted from Gold’s account. “Looking forward, I need to keep improving both my physical and mental condition. I thought checking into treatment last fall was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, but skating my short program last night might have topped it. I do not want to undo the tremendous progress I’ve made in these last few months.”

The Grand Prix season continues next week with Nathan Chen headlining Internationaux de France, the last event before the Grand Prix Final.

ROSTELECOM CUP: Results | TV/Stream Schedule

Zagitova, 16, is undefeated in three events this season and owns the world’s top overall score (238.43) by a whopping 14.12 points. However, Japanese 16-year-old Rika Kihira has the highest total on the Grand Prix of 224.31.

Zagitova struggled Saturday with the difficult triple Lutz-triple loop combination and doubled a flip at the end of her free skate.

Her primary rival last season, countrywoman Yevgenia Medvedeva, has finished second or third in her four competitions in the last year and likely must reach the podium next week in France for a chance at the Grand Prix Final and her first matchup with Zagitova since PyeongChang.

It’s likely that no U.S. woman makes the Grand Prix Final for a third straight year, after never previously going back-to-back years without a qualifier. U.S. champion Bradie Tennell likely must win in France to reach the Final.

Earlier Saturday, double Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu won the men’s event, hours after twisting his right ankle in a hard practice fall. Hanyu hopped on a crutch backstage and said he is uncertain for the Grand Prix Final and Japanese Nationals later in December. More here on Hanyu’s day.

Russian favorites Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov and Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin won the pairs’ and ice dance titles, respectively, qualifying for the Grand Prix Final.

Tarasova and Morozov, two-time world medalists, posted 220.25 points, moving up to No. 2 in the world behind French Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres, who were not in the Rostelecom field. None of the Olympic pairs’ medalists are competing this fall. Earlier Saturday, Tarasova received five stitches after cutting her chin in a practice crash into the boards.

In dance, Stepanova and Bukin tallied 199.43, keeping them close to U.S. champions Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue in the world rankings. Those two couples face off for the first time this season at the Grand Prix Final.

The top returning couple this season, French Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, competes next week at the top international level for the first time since winning a third world title in March. They are not eligible for the Grand Prix Final after withdrawing from last week’s NHK Trophy due to Cizeron’s back injury.

As a reminder, you can watch the ISU Grand Prix Series live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. GO HERE to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season…NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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MORE: Ashley Wagner on her competitive future, coaching

Yuzuru Hanyu wins Rostelecom Cup, hops on crutch to press conference

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Yuzuru Hanyu won Rostelecom Cup by nearly 30 points, then hopped on a crutch backstage.

The double Olympic champion twisted his right ankle in a hard practice fall Saturday morning, then several hours later had the highest-scoring free skate with three quadruple jumps.

Hanyu said he is uncertain for the Grand Prix Final in three weeks — and a showdown with Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno and, likely, world champion Nathan Chen according to The Associated Press.

“It really hurts,” Hanyu said, according to Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA. “This injury made me change my program, and sadly I couldn’t perform the way I wanted. I could have done better.”

ROSTELECOM CUP: Results | TV/Stream Schedule

Hanyu apologized to a TV camera following his free skate, after falling and popping an Axel on his last two jumps.

Last November, Hanyu damaged right ankle ligaments in a practice fall, forcing him off the ice for more than a month. He said this injury is not as bad. Still, coach Brian Orser said “it was a big question” whether Hanyu would withdraw before the free skate, according to Olympic Channel.

Hanyu endured, taking out the quadruple loop that he fell on in practice but still adding 10 points to his lead from Friday’s short program. For the first time in nine seasons, Hanyu won his two Grand Prix Series qualifying events, cruising into December’s exclusive, six-skater Grand Prix Final.

Georgian Morisi Kvitelashvili took second, followed by Japanese Kazuki Tomono.

Two other men who came to Moscow with Grand Prix Final hopes — Russian Mikhail Kolyada and Canadian Keegan Messing — struggled in Friday’s short program and could not get onto the podium, placing fourth and fifth. They won’t be at the Final, assuming Chen finishes in the top six at next week’s event in France.

Rostelecom Cup continues later Saturday with the free programs for ice dance, pairs and women, streaming live on NBC Sports Gold.

As a reminder, you can watch the ISU Grand Prix Series live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. GO HERE to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season…NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Ashley Wagner on her future, role as coach