How coronavirus is affecting Olympic sports events

North American alpine skiing stops cancelled
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Olympic sports events have been canceled, postponed and limited due to the coronavirus. NBC News has full coronavirus coverage here. A look at what major events have been affected in the Olympic sports world …

Alpine Skiing

The final two weekends of the World Cup season — this week and next — were canceled by the International Ski Federation (FIS) in the last week. Races had been scheduled in Sweden, Slovenia and Italy. “The health and welfare of the athletes and all other participants, as well as the general public are in the forefront and the priority of FIS and all stakeholders,” FIS said in its latest statement Thursday morning in announcing the final round of cancellations. “FIS is fully compliant with the instructions and decisions of the National and Regional Governments and their Health Authorities in any recommendation regarding public gathers that impact FIS competitions.”

Italian Federica Brignone and Norwegian Aleksander Aamodt Kilde led the standings for the World Cup overall titles, the biggest annual prizes in the sport. Mikaela Shiffrin, who took a break from the World Cup following her father’s Feb. 2 death, had traveled to Sweden to make her return for this week’s final races before they were canceled on Wednesday.

Baseball

The last two Olympic qualifying tournaments, set to be held in Arizona in two weeks and in Chinese Taipei in early April, have been postponed. The Arizona tournament, for North and South American teams including the U.S., does not have new dates yet. The final, global Olympic qualifying tournament in Chinese Taipei is now scheduled for June.

Basketball

The primary Olympic 3×3 basketball qualifying tournament, originally scheduled for Bengaluru, India, in two weeks, was postponed on March 5 with no make-up date announced. At the time, the international basketball federation (FIBA) said it must be rescheduled to dates before the April 24-26 universality Olympic 3×3 qualifier. The universality qualifier is strictly for nations without recent Olympic five-on-five history. The primary qualifying tournament is the U.S.’ lone pathway to qualifying men’s and women’s 3×3 teams for the event’s Olympic debut in Tokyo.

Curling

The world women’s curling championship, originally scheduled to start Saturday in British Columbia, was canceled Thursday. Men’s worlds, originally scheduled for March 28-April 5 in Glasgow, and mixed doubles words, originally scheduled April 18-25 in Canada, were canceled on Saturday.

Equestrian

The Kentucky Three-Day Event, originally scheduled for April 23-26 at the Kentucky Horse Park, was canceled for the first time in its 42-year history. It’s the highest-level eventing competition in the North America and one of the three events in the Grand Slam of Eventing. The World Cup Finals for jumping and dressage were also canceled.

Figure Skating

The world championships, originally scheduled for Montreal next week, were called off on Wednesday by the Quebec government. “The ISU [International Skating Union] and Skate Canada have closely monitored the provincial and federal health authorities’ position on the spread of the virus and fully respect the difficult decision made today,” the ISU said in a statement. “Like the authorities, the ISU and Skate Canada are committed to the health and safety of the athletes, coaches, officials, volunteers and spectators.”

The competition could be rescheduled, but not before October. American Nathan Chen, the 2018 and 2019 World champion, said he was concerned before the decision was made. “I’m glad they are able to stay at home, to stay where they are,” he said. More on skaters’ reactions is here.

Gymnastics

An artistic gymnastics all-around World Cup in Stuttgart, Germany, set for next week, was called off. An apparatus World Cup in Doha, set for next week, was postponed until early June. World Cups are part of Olympic qualifying.

Hockey

The women’s world championship, a two-week event set to begin March 31 in Nova Scotia, was canceled last week. “Ultimately the IIHF Council feels that there has not been enough of an improvement to the coronavirus situation to allow us to safely host a 10-team international tournament within this timeframe,” IIHF president Rene Fasel said in a press release, which noted that 2021 Worlds are proposed to be in Canada. The men’s hockey world championship, set for Switzerland in May, remains on schedule.

Modern Pentathlon

The world championships, originally set to be held in Xiamen, China, in late May, were moved to Cancun, Mexico.

Olympic Torch Relay

The Olympic Flame lighting ceremony was held with limited attendance in Olympia, Greece, on Thursday to start the Olympic torch relay leading up to the Opening Ceremony on July 24.

“We are especially grateful that you made today’s ceremony possible, even under difficult circumstances,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in a speech, thanking the Greek Olympic Committee president at the site of the Ancient Olympics. “This demonstrates once more our commitment to the success of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. Nineteen weeks before the Opening Ceremony, we are strengthened in this commitment by the many authorities and sports organizations around the world who are taking so many significant measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus.”

The IOC said in a statement that, given the unprecedented circumstances the world is facing, “the health and safety of the thousands of torchbearers, spectators and staff will be the first priority along the route of the Olympic Torch Relay both in Greece and Japan.”

Short Track Speed Skating

The world championships, originally scheduled for this week in Seoul, were postponed on Feb. 26 after the host ice rink was closed. The following week, the ISU ruled out rescheduling or relocating the event this season but said it was possible that it could be held later in 2020, but not before mid-October.

Soccer

The CONCACAF Olympic men’s qualifying tournament has been postponed with no makeup date yet announced. The event, which was originally scheduled for March 20-April 1 in Mexico, is the U.S.’ chance to qualify for an Olympic men’s soccer tournament for the first time since 2008 and the last continental Olympic men’s soccer qualifier.

Track and Field

The world indoor track and field championships, which were scheduled for this week in Nanjing, China, were announced as postponed on Jan. 29, rescheduling for March 2021. The Boston Marathon, the world’s oldest annual 26.2-mile race held every year starting in 1897, was postponed from April 20 to Sept. 14. The London Marathon, the world’s other major spring marathon, was rescheduled from April 26 to Oct. 4. The Tokyo Marathon went on the date scheduled on March 1, but restricted to elite racers. Significant early season outdoor meets in April and May — the Penn Relays, plus Diamond League meets in China and Doha, have been postponed.

Water Polo

The final, global Olympic men’s and women’s qualifying tournaments were postponed. The men’s event, originally scheduled for late March in the Netherlands, will now be May 31-June 7. The women’s tournament, originally slated for this week in Italy, is now scheduled for May 17-24. A FINA task force will re-examine the situation for both events in late April.

Wrestling

The U.S. Olympic Trials, originally scheduled for April 4-5 at Penn State, were postponed. Organizers were in discussions about rescheduling the event at the same venue. U.S. Olympic hopefuls continued competing at the Pan American Olympic qualifying tournament in Ottawa, looking to secure Olympic quota spots for the country.

Other World Cup-level events and continental Olympic qualifiers in beach volleyball, biathlon, boxing, canoe-kayak, cycling, diving, fencing, rowing, rugby, shooting, skiing and snowboarding, sport climbing, triathlon and weightlifting have been canceled or postponed.

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Snowboarders sue coach, USOPC in assault, harassment case

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Olympic bronze medalist Rosey Fletcher has filed a lawsuit accusing former snowboard coach Peter Foley of sexually assaulting, harassing and intimidating members of his team for years, while the organizations overseeing the team did nothing to stop it.

Fletcher is a plaintiff in one of two lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Thursday. One names Foley, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, the U.S. Ski & Snowboard team and its former CEO, Tiger Shaw, as defendants. Another, filed by a former employee of USSS, names Foley, Shaw and the ski federation as defendants.

One of the lawsuits, which also accuse the defendants of sex trafficking, harassment, and covering up repeated acts of sexual assault and misconduct, allege Foley snuck into bed and sexually assaulted Fletcher, then shortly after she won her bronze medal at the 2006 Olympics, approached her “and said he still remembered ‘how she was breathing,’ referring to the first time he assaulted her.”

The lawsuits describe Foley as fostering a depraved travel squad of snowboarders, in which male coaches shared beds with female athletes, crude jokes about sexual conquests were frequently shared and coaches frequently commented to the female athletes about their weight and body types.

“Male coaches, including Foley, would slap female athletes’ butts when they finished their races, even though the coaches would not similarly slap the butts of male athletes,” the lawsuit said. “Physical assault did not stop with slapping butts. Notably, a female athlete once spilled barbeque sauce on her chest while eating and a male coach approached her and licked it off her chest without warning or her consent.”

The USOPC and USSS knew of Foley’s behavior but did nothing to stop it, the lawsuit said. It depicted Foley as an all-powerful coach who could make and break athletes’ careers on the basis of how they got along off the mountain.

Foley’s attorney, Howard Jacobs, did not immediately return requests for comment from The Associated Press. Jacobs has previously said allegations of sexual misconduct against Foley are false.

In a statement, the USOPC said it had not seen the complaint and couldn’t comment on specific details but that “we take every allegation of abuse very seriously.”

“The USOPC is committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Team USA athletes, and we are taking every step to identify, report, and eliminate abuse in our community,” the statement said.

It wasn’t until the Olympics in Beijing last year that allegations about Foley’s behavior and the culture on the snowboarding team started to emerge.

Allegations posted on Instagram by former team member Callan Chythlook-Sifsof — who, along with former team member Erin O’Malley, is a plaintiff along with Fletcher — led to Foley’s removal from the team, which he was still coaching when the games began.

That posting triggered more allegations in reporting by ESPN and spawned an AP report about how the case was handled between USSS and the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which is ultimately responsible for investigating cases involving sex abuse in Olympic sports. The center has had Foley on temporary suspension since March 18, 2022.

The AP typically does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault unless they have granted permission or spoken publicly, as Fletcher, Chythlook-Sifsof and O’Malley have done through a lawyer.

USSS said it was made aware of the allegations against Foley on Feb 6, 2022, and reported them to the SafeSport center.

“We are aware of the lawsuits that were filed,” USSS said in a statement. “U.S. Ski & Snowboard has not yet been served with the complaint nor has had an opportunity to fully review it. U.S. Ski & Snowboard is and will remain an organization that prioritizes the safety, health and well-being of its athletes and staff.”

The lawsuits seek unspecified damages to be determined in a jury trial.

Oleksandr Abramenko, Ukraine’s top Winter Olympian, tears knee, career in question

Oleksandr Abramenko
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Aerials skier Oleksandr Abramenko, who won both of Ukraine’s medals over the last two Winter Olympics, is out for the season after a knee ligament tear and said he might not return to competition at all, according to Ukrainian media.

Abramenko, 34, won gold at the 2018 Olympics — Ukraine’s second-ever individual Winter Olympic title after figure skater Oksana Baiul in 1994 — and silver last year.

He competed once this season, placing 10th at a World Cup in Finland on Dec. 4, and then flew with the Ukrainian national team to stay in Utah ahead of World Cups in Canada in January and at the 2002 Olympic venue in Park City this weekend. The area also hosted many Ukraine winter sports athletes this past summer.

Abramenko missed the competition in Canada two weeks ago due to injury and then wasn’t on the start list for today’s aerials event in Park City. He is set to miss the world championships later this month in Georgia (the country, not the state).

Abramenko said he needs surgery, followed by a nine-month rehabilitation process, similar to an operation on his other knee six years ago, according to Ukraine’s public broadcaster. He said he will see how the recovery goes and determine whether to return to the sport at age 35, according to the report.

Abramenko is already the oldest Olympic men’s aerials medalist and come the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games will be older than all but one male aerialist in Olympic history, according to Olympedia.org.

At last year’s Olympics, Abramenko, Ukraine’s flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony, was hugged after the aerials final by Russian Ilya Burov, who finished one spot behind Abramenko for a bronze medal. A week later, Russia invaded Ukraine.

A week after that, Abramenko posed for a photo sitting on a mattress in a Kyiv parking garage with his wife and 2-year-old son published by The New York Times.

“We spend the night in the underground parking in the car, because the air attack siren is constantly on,” Abramenko texted, according to the newspaper. “It’s scary to sleep in the apartment, I myself saw from the window how the air defense systems worked on enemy missiles, and strong explosions were heard.”

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