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IOC strips Olympic status from boxing body AIBA

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — The IOC stripped Olympic status from troubled boxing body AIBA on Wednesday and will now organize qualifying and final tournaments for the 2020 Tokyo Games.

AIBA had created “very serious reputational, legal and financial risks” for the IOC and its American stakeholders, Olympic inquiry panel chairman Nenad Lalovic said.

The election of AIBA president Gafur Rakhimov, who is under United States federal sanctions for suspected links to eastern European organized crime, prodded the IOC last year to investigate boxing’s governance, debts and integrity of Olympic bouts.

International Olympic Committee members voted to endorse the executive board’s recommendation last month to suspend AIBA’s Olympic status.

Lausanne-based AIBA has said it is near bankruptcy with debts of about $17 million. It is cut off from future income from Tokyo revenues, and the 2019 world championships for men and women in Russia are no longer Olympic qualifiers.

AIBA has an emergency meeting scheduled for Thursday in Geneva, which an IOC delegate is scheduled to attend.

AIBA hoped for a reprieve by Rakhimov leaving his duties to an interim replacement in March, though he could choose to return at any time this year.

“These risks don’t disappear by the mere fact of Mr. Rakhimov ‘stepping aside,’” IOC board member Lalovic said, noting the Uzbek’s “level of influence and control remains uncertain.”

In December 2017, the U.S. Treasury Department noted “Rakhimov has been described as having moved from extortion and car theft to becoming one of Uzbekistan’s leading criminals and an important person involved in the heroin trade.”

The IOC had to avoid the consequences of fixed bouts or suspect results in Tokyo, said Morinari Watanabe, who leads the Olympic panel overseeing the next Olympic boxing competitions.

“It’s not just losing trust in boxing. It’s lost trust in the Olympic Games, it’s lost trust in the IOC,” said Watanabe, the Japanese president of the International Gymnastics Federation.

IOC president Thomas Bach said, “we are all concerned with the refereeing.”

Boxers’ lack of faith in AIBA at each Olympics from 2008 to 2016 were raised by Lalovic, who led a three-member inquiry team.

Those doubts persisted despite AIBA reviews after each Olympics, Lalovic noted to an audience that included former AIBA president C.K. Wu, an IOC member for 31 years.

Wu oversaw each post-Olympic integrity review. He was ousted by AIBA officials two years ago amid a deepening financial crisis and protests about his often secretive leadership style.

Qualifying tournaments for Tokyo are intended to be held in four continents from January through March, likely in London, China, Senegal and Argentina. All are recent or future hosts of Olympic boxing competitions. A final global qualifier is expected to be held in Japan.

That would give each boxer at least two chances to qualify for the eight men’s weight classes and five women’s classes, the IOC said.

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WATCH LIVE: Nathan Chen in U.S. Figure Skating Championships free skate

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Nathan Chen tries to become the first man to win four straight U.S. figure skating titles since 1988, live on NBC Sports on Sunday.

NBC Sports Gold streams live coverage of the men’s free skate for subscribers starting at 2:30 p.m. ET in Greensboro, N.C. NBC joins with TV coverage at 3.

LIVE STREAM: Men’s Free Skate — Gold | NBC | Skate Order

Chen, a 20-year-old Yale sophomore, is undefeated since placing fifth at the PyeongChang Olympics. He can become the seventh man since World War II to win four straight national titles.

Five of the previous six went on to earn Olympic gold, including Dick ButtonScott Hamilton and, most recently, Brian Boitano in 1988.

Chen carries a substantial 13.14-point lead from Saturday’s short program, where he landed two quadruple jumps on one week of full training following a flu bout.

The anticipated drama Sunday comes in the battle for silver and bronze medals and the last two world championships team spots.

Jason BrownAndrew TorgashevVincent Zhou and Tomoki Hiwatashi are separated by 8.78 points. Brown, the 2015 U.S. champion, and Zhou, the 2019 World bronze medalist, are the only men in the field other than Chen with world team experience.

Key Skate Times
5:01 p.m. (ET) — Vincent Zhou
5:18 — Tomoki Hiwatashi
5:26 — Andrew Torgashev
5:35 — Nathan Chen
5:43 — Jason Brown

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NATIONALS: TV Schedule | Full Results

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating 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.

Mikaela Shiffrin, with 66th World Cup win, moves one shy of career dream

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Mikaela Shiffrin has said one of her career dreams is to win in every discipline in one season. She is now one victory shy of realizing it.

Shiffrin earned her 66th World Cup victory — and her second in three days — at a super-G in Bansko, Bulgaria, on Sunday.

She prevailed by .29 of a second over Italian Marta Bassino and .70 over Swiss Lara Gut-Behrami. Gut-Behrami, the last skier other than Shiffrin to win a World Cup overall title back in 2016, earned her first podium in exactly one year.

Full results are here.

“Perfect weekend for me,” said Shiffrin, who moved one shy of recently retired Austrian Marcel Hirscher for third place on the World Cup career wins list. “The whole team is excited about the whole weekend, but especially today.”

She is en route to a fourth straight World Cup overall title. And she is a combined victory away from wins in all five disciplines in one season. Only Marc GirardelliPetra KronbergerJanica Kostelic and Tina Maze have done it.

“The thing that I’m most proud of right now is that I know how to win in slalom, [giant slalom], super-G and downhill, which I never expected that would really happen,” she said.

Shiffrin struggled with confidence during a winless stretch in early January, trying not to compare herself to last season, when she won a record 17 times. She still leads the men’s and women’s tours with six victories this season, a little more than halfway through.

“Every race is such a big fight, and I haven’t been the one on top of this fight every time,” she said. “Certainly I’ve been like sometimes the expectations that I have or that other people might have, I’m not quite living up to that. Sometimes it’s hard not to feel like I’m failing sometimes, even though this is still just an incredible season.”

There are two combined races left this season for Shiffrin to achieve the dream — Feb. 23 in Switzerland and March 1 in Italy. While combined — mixing a speed run and a technical run — might seem perfect for Shiffrin, she has one victory in four starts in the discipline between the World Cup and Olympics.

And Shiffrin is careful about her race schedule. She is undecided on entering a downhill and super-G next weekend at the 2014 Olympic venue in Russia.

“After this weekend my brain is a little bit dead,” she joked.

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