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IOC board nominates three bids for 2026 Winter Olympics; Turkey dropped

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Calgary, Stockholm and a Milan/Cortina d’Ampezzo bid from Italy are the three proposed finalists for the 2026 Winter Olympic host, which will be chosen by IOC members next year.

The IOC executive board nominated those three bids to be confirmed by IOC members next week while a fourth bid — Erzurum, Turkey — was not recommended.

Bids from Austria, Japan and Switzerland were dropped earlier this year. The remaining three bids each face challenges on the road to the 2019 IOC members vote.

Calgary, which hosted the 1988 Winter Olympics, faces a public vote on the bid on Nov. 13. If Calgary does get the 2026 Winter Games, it could hurt a possible 2030 U.S. bid from Denver, Salt Lake City or Reno-Tahoe as North America has never hosted back-to-back Summer or Winter Games.

Stockholm had its 2022 Winter Games bid dropped due to lack of political and financial support. The bid was revived for 2026, declared dead by Swedish politicians in April 2017, but kept alive by the Swedish Olympic Committee. As with the 2022 bid, Alpine events are slated for Åre, about 350 miles north. Sliding events could be in Latvia, 300 miles across the Baltic Sea.

The Italian bid has been in recent flux. Torino, which held the 2006 Winter Games, dropped from the multi-city bid in September. Rome bids for the 2020 and 2024 Olympics were dropped due to lack of financial support and political concerns.

IOC vice president Juan Antonio Samaranch said Turkey, which had never bid for a Winter Olympics nor hosted a Summer or Winter Games, lacked winter sports experience.

“The level of investment needed for general infrastructure including accommodation, transport, energy, telecom, is very, very high. It’s very, very high to the point that we believe it can be done. It certainly can be done, but probably it’s going to be easier if they have more time to do it,” he said. “Start organizing events from the international winter [sports] federations, start continuing in that line, continue to invest, maybe even Youth [Olympic] Games at one point in time.”

The IOC’s 2026 evaluation group report analysis of each bid:

Calgary
The city breathes the legacy of the 1988 Games and can make optimal use of existing venues for 2026. Calgary boasts valuable experience and expertise in hosting winter sports competitions and other major events. The city, the province and its people have a deep love and affinity for winter sports. In dialogue and partnership with the IOC, Calgary has developed a Games concept and vision that fit the new era of Olympic Agenda 2020/New Norm and meet the city’s long-term goals.

Milan/Cortina d’Ampezzo
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.

Stockholm
A modern global capital with a historic city centre, Stockholm proposes venues in the heart of the city that would elevate and energize the Games experience. Sweden has the hosting experience, love for winter sports and established World Cup venues necessary for delivering the Games. In line with Olympic Agenda 2020/New Norm, Stockholm has developed a Games concept that addresses the city’s future needs and aims to improve the lives of all its citizens.

Erzurum
The timing for 2026 is challenging. The concentration of investment in general infrastructure such as accommodation, transport, energy and telecoms would be extremely high. Significant investment would also be needed in sports venues. The region has limited experience in hosting major international winter sports events and would benefit from organising further World Cups, World Championships and the Youth Olympic Games.

Erzurum nevertheless presents great promise for the long-term future, having an ambitious vision of developing a young and vibrant university city into a winter sports centre. Erzurum can take advantage of national government plans and funding to develop the city into a major hub.

MORE: 2022 Youth Olympic host chosen, history for Africa

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Sam Mikulak to retire from gymnastics after Tokyo Olympics

Sam Mikulak
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Sam Mikulak, the U.S.’ top male gymnast, said he will retire after the Tokyo Olympics, citing a wrist injury and emotional health revelations during a forced break from the sport due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It does sound like some pretty crazy news, but there’s a lot of factors that go into it,” Mikulak said in a YouTube video published Sunday night. “I’ve had a lot of time to think about it during quarantine.”

The 27-year-old is a two-time Olympian, six-time U.S. all-around champion and the only active U.S. male gymnast with Olympic experience.

Mikulak said he noticed significant wrist inflammation last year that was temporarily healed by a November cortisone shot. But during quarantine, the wrist worsened even though he wasn’t doing gymnastics. He took a month off from working out, but the wrist didn’t heal.

He thought for a time that he might not return to gymnastics at all. A doctor told him he would need cortisone shots for the rest of his career.

“At that point, it was really made for me that this has to be my final year of gymnastics because I don’t want to ruin myself beyond this sport,” Mikulak said.

Mikulak also noted realizations from the forced time out of the gym. He learned that he’s much less stressed while not doing gymnastics, a sport he began at age 2. Mikulak’s parents were gymnasts at Cal.

“For so long, I’ve been sacrificing, and I’m sick of it,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to being able to be free from gymnastics and being able to do all these things that I’ve been putting off in my life for so long.”

Mikulak realized a career goal in 2018 when he earned his first individual world championships medal, a bronze on high bar. He wants to cap his career with a first Olympic medal in Tokyo, then, perhaps, become a coach or open his own gym.

Mikulak recently got engaged to Mia Atkins, and they got another puppy, Barney.

“Everything I’ve done in gymnastics is enough for me right now,” said Mikulak, who plans to document the next year on YouTube. “I was actually somewhat happy that I was able to come to that type of decision because for so long I felt like gymnastics really wasn’t going to be fulfilling until I’ve gotten my Olympic medal. And during quarantine, I had this whole revelation where, you know what, I am happier than I’ve ever been in my entire life, and I’m not doing gymnastics, so even if I don’t accomplish these goals, I am still going to be so damn happy.”

MORE: Simone Biles’ closest rival chases comeback

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April Ross, Alix Klineman complete perfect, abbreviated AVP season

April Ross, Alix Klineman
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April Ross and Alix Klineman consolidated their position as the U.S.’ top beach volleyball team, completing a sweep of the three-tournament AVP Champions Cup on Sunday.

Ross, a two-time Olympic medalist, and Klineman won the finale, the Porsche Cup. They won all 12 matches over the last three weekends, including the last 14 sets in a row, capped with a 21-18, 21-17 win over Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil in Sunday’s final.

“It feels like we’re midseason in a normal year,” Ross said on Amazon Prime. “I can’t believe it’s over.”

The AVP Champions Cup marked the first three top-level beach volleyball tournaments since March, and a replacement for a typical AVP season due to the coronavirus pandemic. The setting: on the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center parking lot without fans and with many health and safety measures.

AVP is not part of Olympic qualifying. It’s unknown when those top-level international tournaments will resume, but Ross and Klineman, ranked No. 2 in the world, are just about assured of one of the two U.S. Olympic spots.

According to BVBinfo.com, they’re 10-0 combined against the other top U.S. teams — Claes and Sponcil and triple Olympic champion Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat, who are likely battling for the last U.S. Olympic spot.

Walsh Jennings and Sweat, who do not play on the AVP tour, have a lead for the last spot more than halfway through qualifying, which runs into June.

Earlier in the men’s final, Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb kept 2008 Olympic champion Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena from sweeping the Champions Cup. Bourne and Crabb prevailed 21-17, 15-21, 15-12 for their first AVP title since teaming in 2018.

Bourne, who went nearly two years between tournaments from 2016-18 due to an autoimmune disease, and Crabb redeemed after straight-set losses to Dalhausser and Lucena the previous two weekends. Crabb guaranteed a title on Instagram days before the tournament.

“Those guys are the best in the world, and they make you look bad at times, but we’re relentless,” Bourne said on Amazon Prime. “You’re going to have to play the best volleyball in the world to beat us every time.”

Bourne and Crabb, Dalhausser and Lucena and Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb (Trevor’s younger brother) are battling for two available U.S. Olympic spots in Tokyo.

MORE: Team Slaes looks to end Kerri Walsh Jennings’ Olympic career

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