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Russian Olympic medalist cyclist switches countries, fearing Tokyo 2020 ban

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Olga Zabelinskaya, a triple Olympic road cycling medalist, said she switched her nationality from Russia to Uzbekistan in fear of being excluded from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics as a Russian who served a doping ban, according to Russian media.

“You see what has been happening in Russian sport over the last two Olympic cycles,” the 38-year-old Zabelinskaya said, according to an RT translation of a Match TV interview. “It all started in Rio, then the situation only deteriorated in PyeongChang. I have a feeling that in Tokyo everything will be even worse. I’m 99 percent confident that my participation in the 2020 Olympics will be impossible under the Russian flag.”

Though Uzbekistan listed Zabelinskaya on its roster for the Asian Games that start next week, Russia’s cycling federation bosses will not cooperate with the switch, which could keep Zabelinskaya out of the 2020 Olympics, according to Olympic Charter Rule 41.

Some Russian athletes were excluded from the 2016 and 2018 Olympics due to the country’s poor anti-doping record. In PyeongChang, Russian athletes were allowed in on an IOC-invitation basis only with stars who previously served doping bans not making the cut to compete as neutrals.

Zabelinskaya served an 18-month doping ban between earning road race and time trial bronze medals at London 2012 and time trial silver at Rio 2016.

That suspension was due to keep her out of the Rio Games, per the IOC’s policy on Russia, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport cleared her as the Olympics began. Zabelinskaya maintained her innocence from cheating despite the charge.

“In the morning they told us we could participate. In the evening, they said we won’t. It was two weeks like this,” she said after the Rio Olympic time trial. “I had my ticket to go back to Russia. … I’m not the only cyclist that has a doping problem in the past.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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2026 Winter Olympic host: Milan-Cortina

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Italy will host the 2026 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, with Milan-Cortina d’Ampezzo winning an IOC vote over a Swedish-Latvian bid centered on Stockholm.

Milan-Cortina won with 47 votes to Stockholm–Åre’s 34 to become the first Winter Games with multiple official host cities.

The Games return to a traditional European site for the first time since Italy hosted in Torino in 2006 after Vancouver (2010), Sochi (2014), PyeongChang (2018) and Beijing (2022).

The two bids were left after five others dropped out for various reasons, all in 2018: Calgary, Canada; Erzurum, Turkey; Sapporo, Japan; Graz, Austria and Sion, Switzerland.

With the 2024 and 2028 Summer Games hosts both decided two years ago (Paris for 2024, Los Angeles for 2028), next up is the 2030 Winter Games. The U.S. has already said that if it bids, it will be with Salt Lake City, which held the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Italy will host the Winter Games for a third time after Cortina d’Ampezzo in 1956 and Torino in 2006.

Its bid presentation Monday included all three Italian 2018 Olympic champions speaking — Arianna Fontana (short track), Michela Moioli (snowboard cross) and Sofia Goggia (downhill). The presentation ended with 15-year-old short track speed skater Elisa Confortola addressing more than 80 IOC members.

Italy’s initial bid declaration in March 2018 was for a joint Milan-Torino candidate. Cortina was added within a week to make it a three-pronged bid. By September, Torino dropped out after political infighting. The bid has since remained Milan-Cortina, sites separated by more than 200 miles.

Sweden has finished second or third in all seven of its Winter Olympic bid votes, including six straight from 1984 through 2002, according to the OlyMADMen. Stockholm–Åre was trying to become the first Winter Games held in multiple countries, with Latvia holding bobsled, luge and skeleton.

More on the Milan-Cortina bid:

Proposed Dates: Feb. 6-22 (Olympics), March 6-15 (Paralympics)

Venues
Milan
 — Figure skating, hockey, short track
Cortina d’Ampezzo (220 miles northeast of Milan) — Alpine skiing (women), bobsled, luge, skeleton, curling, biathlon (Antholz)
Val di Fiemme (160 miles northeast of Milan) — Cross-country skiing, ski jumping, Nordic combined, speed skating (outdoors)
Valtellina (85 miles northeast of Milan) — Alpine skiing (men, Bormio), freestyle skiing, snowboarding

Ceremonies
Opening Ceremony — San Siro (home of AC Milan and Inter Milan)
Closing Ceremony — Verona Arena (Roman amphitheatre 90 miles east of Milan)

Slogan
“Dreaming Together”

IOC Evaluation Group Report
“Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo combine the advantages of a big European city and those of a popular mountain resort region in the Italian Alps. The candidature benefits from the region’s strong winter sports history, tradition and experience, as well as the Italians’ love and passion for sport. The project can also leverage the economic strength and prosperity of the northern Italian region. While planning is still at an early stage, the project has the potential to achieve the long-term goals of the cities and the region in line with Olympic Agenda 2020/New Norm.”

MORE: Tokyo 2020 Olympic master schedule

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Japan’s gymnastics worlds team: no Kohei Uchimura, Kenzo Shirai

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Not only is Kohei Uchimura going to miss the world championships, but so is 11-time world medalist Kenzo Shirai.

Japan finalized its five-man team for October’s worlds in Stuttgart, Germany, following a national-level meet this past weekend. Uchimura, arguably the greatest gymnast in history, was already out of the running, sidelined with his latest round of injuries.

Shirai, reportedly slowed by a left ankle injury this season, did compete this weekend. But he finished fifth on floor exercise and third on vault, his two best events, and did not earn one of the last two spots on the world team.

Uchimura, a two-time Olympic all-around champion with six world all-around titles, misses worlds for the first time since 2007. Shirai, a 22-year-old with four world titles between floor and vault, had competed in every worlds since debuting in 2013, just after his 17th birthday.

Without their two stars, Japan sends a relatively inexperienced team. Kazuma Kaya and Wataru Tanigawa, both 22, are the only men who have been to a worlds (and were part of the 2018 silver-medal team). The youngest member is 17-year-old Daiki Hashimoto.

Japan has earned a team medal at every Olympics and world championships since 2003, a streak bettered only by the U.S. women.

MORE: Olympic gymnastics team sizes return to five for Paris 2024

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