Women’s ice hockey world championship called off, may be rescheduled

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The International Ice Hockey Federation is scrambling to reschedule the women’s world hockey championships after health officials in Nova Scotia, Canada, on Wednesday scrapped plans to hold the tournament next month because of COVID-19 concerns.

IIHF chief Rene Fasel told The Associated Press by phone he was blindsided by the decision, which was made at essentially the last minute. Teams were preparing to travel to Canada over the next two days to satisfy the nation’s quarantine regulations for foreign travelers.

“At 5 o’clock this morning, this was a go. At 7:30 it was not,” Hockey Canada CEO Tom Renney said on a video call with reporters. “Some of this is much, much further beyond our control than we would like.”

The 10-team tournament was scheduled to be held from May 6-16 in Halifax and Truro, the same communities that were supposed to host the event a year ago before it was called off. The IIHF had already pushed back the event’s opening by a month due to recommendations from health officials.

Fasel said the focus is now on rescheduling the tournament to potentially this summer and holding it in either Nova Scotia, elsewhere in Canada or finding another host nation. He said the initial plan is to have Nova Scotia host the event in August.

“We have every intention of making sure we follow through with a women’s world championship here in Canada at a point in the near future,” Renney said. “And beyond that, who’s to say?”

The women’s championship was canceled last year because of the pandemic, and Fasel called it imperative to hold this year’s tournament because it is the final one before the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

“This is very bad news, very sad. And I feel so bad for the girls,” Fasel said. “They’re looking forward to going and spending two weeks quarantining in Nova Scotia, doing everything possible, and then suddenly, bang. ‘Nope, you cannot come. We closed the border.’”

Fasel said he was was informed of Nova Scotia’s decision shortly before the IIHF was scheduled to hold a meeting earlier in the day.

“I will say the disappointment is really big, but it is like it is. There’s nothing we can do and we have to accept that,” Fasel said. “It has to do with safety. … We have to take it and pull the plug.”

Canada is currently experiencing an outbreak of COVID-19, with numerous provinces closing their borders even to inter-provincial travel. The U.S.-Canada border has been closed for 13 months, and all foreign travelers are required to self-quarantine for up to two weeks upon arrival.

“In the end, we must accept the decision of the government,” the IIHF and Hockey Canada said in a joint statement. “We owe it to every single player that was looking forward to getting back on the ice after such a difficult year that we do everything possible to ensure this tournament can be moved to new dates and played this year.”

The U.S. women’s national team completed a recent training camp in Maine. The team had a shakeup at coach with assistant Joel Johnson taking over after head coach Bob Corkum abruptly stepped down citing COVID-19 protocol concerns on Friday.

Hockey Canada president Scott Smith said there was no room for negotiations with Nova Scotia health officials, who expressed comfort in hosting the event as recently as Tuesday. That changed, Hockey Canada officials said, because of a spike in virus cases in the province.

Asked about the optics of the men’s world championships still being scheduled to take place this spring in Latvia, Renney said: “We’re very sensitive to what this might look like. But we’re also more sensitive to public health, this opponent that we can’t see, the ebb and flow of what this looks like worldwide from a health perspective is at the forefront of all of our minds.”

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Peter Sagan to retire from road cycling, eyes mountain bike at 2024 Paris Olympics

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Peter Sagan said 2023 will be his final year as a professional road cyclist and that he will target the 2024 Olympics in mountain bike.

The Slovakian made the announcement on his 33rd birthday in a social media video. He said he made the decision “quite some time ago.”

“I always said I would like to finish my career on the mountain bike, because I started my career on the mountain bike,” Sagan said in a press conference, according to Cyclingnews.com. “It gives me some pleasure at the end of my career because I’m doing something I really enjoy.

“It’s important for me to spend time with my son Marlon and to see life from different angles, and not just as a cyclist. It was never my dream to race or to be a professional rider until 40 or 50. I think it’s time now. And if I am going to be able to finish my career in Paris at the Olympics Games, that’s going to be something nice for me.”

Sagan is a record seven-time Tour de France green jersey champion as best sprinter. He has 12 individual stage wins (the last in 2019), second-most among active riders behind Mark Cavendish‘s record-tying 34.

At the Olympics, Sagan was 34th in the road race in 2012 and 35th in the mountain bike in 2016. He missed the Tokyo Games after surgery to treat an infection in his right knee stemming from a 2021 Tour de France crash.

Sagan won the world junior title in mountain biking at age 18 in 2008 before his road racing career, which included three consecutive world road race titles from 2015-17.

Of qualifying for Paris in the mountain bike, he said, “We’ll see whether it is even possible, but I think it can be another nice adventure.”

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2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships TV, live stream schedule

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The U.S. Figure Skating Championships, in some ways marking a new era in the sport, air live from San Jose, California, on NBC Sports, USA Network and Peacock.

After last February’s Olympics, U.S. figure skating saw its greatest turnover from one season to the next in more than 20 years.

Nathan Chen and Vincent Zhou, the top two men last season, are not competing this season and may be done altogether. Alysa Liu and Mariah Bell, the top two women, retired. As did the top ice dance couple of Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue. Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc, last year’s national pairs’ champions, also left the sport.

So, for the first time since 1993, the U.S. Championships feature a reigning national champion in just one of the four disciplines.

Amid all that, U.S. skaters performed well in the fall Grand Prix Series and made the podium in all four disciplines at December’s Grand Prix Final for the first time. Note the absence of Russian skaters, banned from international events due to the war in Ukraine.

At nationals, skaters are vying for spots on the team — three per discipline — for March’s world championships in Japan.

Ilia Malinin, an 18-year-old from Virginia, is the headliner after becoming the first skater to land a quadruple Axel, doing so at all four of his events this season. He ranks second in the world by best total score, a whopping 38.28 points ahead of the next American (Camden Pulkinen).

Jason Brown is the lone Olympian in the men’s field, competing for the first time since placing sixth at the Games.

Isabeau Levito, 15 and a reigning world junior champion like Malinin, took silver at the Grand Prix Final against the world’s other top skaters. She enters nationals with a best score this season 18.13 points better than the next American, Amber Glenn. Bradie Tennell, a 2018 Olympian coming back from foot and ankle injuries, is also a threat to gain one of the three women’s spots at worlds.

Ice dancers Madison Chock and Evan Bates are the lone defending national champions and will likely make the podium for an 11th consecutive year, which would be one shy of the record.

Bates, who last year at 32 became the oldest U.S. champion in any discipline in decades, has made 12 career senior nationals podiums with Chock and former partner Emily Samuelson. It is believed that a 13th finish in the top three would break the U.S. record for a single discipline he currently shares with Michelle Kwan, Nathaniel Niles and Theresa Weld Blanchard.

In pairs, Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier return after missing nationals last year due to Frazier contracting COVID-19 the week of the event. Since, they posted the best U.S. pairs’ finish at an Olympics in 20 years, the first world title for a U.S. pair in 43 years and the first Grand Prix Final medal ever for a U.S. pair.

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2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships Live Broadcast Schedule

Day Event Time (ET) Platform
Thursday Pairs’ Short Program 3:30-5:45 p.m. Peacock | Skate Order
Rhythm Dance 6:30-9 p.m. Peacock | Skate Order
Rhythm Dance 7-9 p.m. USA Network | STREAM LINK
Women’s Short Program 9:10 p.m.-12 a.m. Peacock | Skate Order
Women’s Short Program 10 p.m.-12 a.m. USA Network | STREAM LINK
Friday Men’s Short Program 4:10-7 p.m. Peacock | Skate Order
Men’s Short Program 5-7 p.m. USA Network
Women’s Free Skate 7:45-11 p.m. Peacock
Women’s Free Skate 8-11 p.m. NBC
Saturday Free Dance 1:45-4:30 p.m. Peacock
Free Dance 2:30-4:30 p.m. NBC
Pairs’ Free Skate 7:30-10 p.m. Peacock | Skate Order
Pairs’ Free Skate 8-10 p.m. USA Network
Sunday Men’s Free Skate 2:30-6 p.m. Peacock
Men’s Free Skate 3-6 p.m. NBC

*All NBC and USA Network broadcasts also stream on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app for subscribers.