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Luge officials ‘well-prepared’ for full World Cup season

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The International Luge Federation is still planning for a full 10-race international season this fall and winter, though it has yet to say what protocols will be added to deal with the coronavirus.

The FIL released a slightly updated plan for the season Thursday, with no changes to the previously announced schedule and locations. Races will be held in seven different countries, including a World Cup stop in Lake Placid, New York, on Jan. 23 and 24 hosted by USA Luge and the Olympic Regional Development Authority.

“ORDA feels they’ll be well-prepared for our World Cup here in January,” USA Luge CEO Jim Leahy said Thursday. “They’ll have enough information to protect the athletes.”

Thursday’s schedule announcement was largely about detailing which cities will host sprint races and team relays as part of the World Cup stop.

The season will begin as usual at Innsbruck, Austria on Nov. 28 and 29, followed by races the next three weekends in German cities – Altenberg, Oberhof and Winterberg. After a Christmas and New Year’s break, the tour resumes Jan. 9 and 10 in Sigulda, Latvia, then the following weekend in Konigssee, Germany and then the race in Lake Placid.

From there, Whistler, British Columbia will play host to the world championships. The weekend of Feb. 20 and 21 sees athletes visit the newly built Chinese track near Beijing – the site of the 2022 Olympics – followed by the season finale on the 2018 Olympic track in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

“I really think it’s going to come down to just creating a safe environment, having people be comfortable and taking the right safety precautions,” said Olympic silver medalist Chris Mazdzer, the longtime USA Luge slider and the athletes’ representative on the FIL Executive Board. “It’s not going to be an easy task … but it’s kind of the reality that we’re facing right now.”

Travel restrictions are likely going to be in place, and the FIL is weighing many options to protect athletes – including, Leahy said, the possibility of having races without fans. It’s all with the primary goal, he said, of getting through all 10 race weeks safely.

“Next season is important because it’s the start of Olympic qualification for a number of teams,” Leahy said.

The International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation is also working through several different scenarios for next season, one that has Lake Placid set to host the world championships over the first two weeks of February. For now, the IBSF schedule remains unchanged with nine events still set to take place in six different countries – including China, where the coronavirus pandemic originated.

In January, plans to have athletes from all three sliding sports visit the new track at Yanging, China in March for the facility’s homologation – a certification process that must take place before a new track can play host to races – were canceled, and that was when the virus was being blamed for only about 170 deaths. The virus has now been the cause of more than 484,000 deaths globally, according to data collected by researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

The homologation has since been rescheduled for this fall, though it remains uncertain which athletes will take part. Typically, such a process involves athletes from virtually every country that has sliding federations taking test runs to confirm a track’s safety.

World Alpine Skiing Championships on for 2021 after request to delay rejected

Alpine Skiing World Championships
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GENEVA (AP) — A request by the organizers of next year’s skiing world championships in Italy to postpone the event by one year was rejected Thursday by the International Ski Federation.

FIS ruled that the event will go ahead from Feb. 9-21, 2021, in Cortina d’Ampezzo — the highlight of an Alpine season that faces challenges to find safe protocols for international travel and attending races in Europe, North America and China.

The Veneto region of northern Italy was hit hard by the coronavirus and the season-ending World Cup races in Cortina in mid-March were canceled. That week-long event was to be a test for the 2021 worlds.

“The last month of efforts to come to this solution demonstrates the strong collaborative spirit of the ski family and stakeholders.” FIS president Gian-Franco Kasper said.

Organizers in Italy have said they expect losses of about 30 million euros ($34 million) if the worlds are also canceled. They asked for a postponement to March 2022, which would be only weeks after the Beijing Olympics.

“But we will be ready in any case and we will show that these world championships can change the history of a region despite the current difficulties,” Alessandro Benetton, president of the Cortina organizing committee, said in a statement.

Italian racer Sofia Goggia, the 2018 Olympic downhill champion, said she was “happy for Cortina because it will host the first major international event after the coronavirus epidemic.”

Cortina, which hosted the 1956 Olympics, will co-host the 2026 Winter Games with Milan and use the worlds as a showcase for the resort.

The women’s World Cup downhill on the Olympia delle Tofane course each January is one of the most scenic in the sport with a signature jump between tall outcrops of jagged rock.

The Dolomites venue was awarded the 2021 worlds by FIS after missing out as a candidate four straight times from 2013-19.

MORE: Anna Veith retires, leaves Austrian Alpine skiing in unfamiliar territory

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Russia track and field athlete clearance frozen due to unpaid fine

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MONACO (AP) — The program allowing Russian track athletes to compete internationally will be frozen because the country’s federation failed to pay a fine on time, World Athletics said Thursday.

The Russian track federation, known as RusAF, owes a $5 million fine and another $1.31 million in costs for various doping-related work and legal wrangles. World Athletics said RusAF missed Wednesday’s deadline to pay.

World Athletics said it would freeze the work of the Doping Review Board, which vets Russian athletes who want the “authorized neutral athlete” status that allows them to compete internationally, and its taskforce monitoring RusAF’s anti-doping reforms.

World Athletics said both bodies will be “put on hold” until its council meets to discuss the situation at the end of July.

“RusAF is letting its athletes down badly,” World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said in a statement. “We have done as much as we can to expedite our ANA process and support RusAF with its reinstatement plan, but seemingly to no avail.”

RusAF president Yevgeny Yurchenko earlier told the Tass state news agency that his federation’s finances were damaged by the coronavirus pandemic and that it had asked for more time to pay.

World Athletics’ statement didn’t directly address that issue, but said Russia hadn’t indicated when it would pay.

Russia was fined $10 million by World Athletics in March, with $5 million suspended for two years, after the federation admitted to breaking anti-doping rules and obstructing an investigation.

The Athletics Integrity Unit said fake documents were used under the previous management to give an athlete an alibi for missing a doping test.

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