Russia, Belarus athletes barred from Paralympics after boycott threats, safety concerns

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Russian and Belarusian athletes were barred from the Paralympics after the International Paralympic Committee said athletes from many other nations vowed to not compete if they remained in the Games.

The IPC also said ensuring safety at the athletes’ village was becoming untenable after an earlier decision to allow Russians and Belarusians to compete as neutral athletes. The Games open Friday.

“We are also firm believers that sport and politics should not mix,” IPC President Andrew Parsons said. “However, it is clear that maybe now, due to the current situation, that is no longer possible. The war has now come to these Games, and behind the scenes, many governments are having an influence on our cherished event.

“A rapidly escalating situation has now put us in a unique and impossible situation so close to the start of the Games.”

The IPC reversed a decision from 20 hours earlier that allowed Russians and Belarusians to compete as neutrals without their national flags, symbols and anthems. Russians were previously set to compete as members of the Russian Paralympic Committee, without their flag and anthem due to the nation’s previous sanctions for doping.

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In explaining their initial decision, the IPC anticipated that if the athletes were barred, a legal appeal to get them back in would be successful based on the IPC’s rulebook.

After the initial decision, Parsons said that “a really high number” of National Paralympic Committees (NPCs) said at least some of their athletes would not compete in the Games if Russians and Belarusians were allowed to compete, even as neutrals.

“What we’ve seen in the 14 hours since is a move from letters [from NPCs] of ‘We think you should ban,’ to now, ‘We’re thinking of going home. We’re not playing,'” IPC spokesperson Craig Spence said. “That’s a huge change. If we don’t act on that, then we’re crazy.

“If we didn’t pivot on today’s decision, we’d probably be talking to you in two days’ time about the fact that there’s not enough athletes here to do the Games.”

Parsons said he spoke with National Paralympic Committees’ chefs de mission on Thursday morning. Wheelchair curling teams and sled hockey teams were refusing to play. The first games in those sports are Saturday, the day after the Opening Ceremony.

Parsons also said that the athletes’ village “was becoming a very volatile environment” after the initial decision to allow Russians and Belarusians to compete as neutrals, though there were no reports of aggression.

“There was a level of animosity that, of course, was absolutely counter-productive to what, first of all, we want to have here, which is a fair competition between athletes from different nations,” Parsons said. “The athletes’ reactions showed us that if we did not take action, the situation could get worse.”

The IPC is working to get the Russian and Belarusian athletes travel arrangements to return home.

“To the Para athletes from the impacted countries, we are very sorry that you are affected by the decision that your government took last week in breaching the Olympic Truce,” Parsons said, noting the tradition of nations agreeing to peace through the Olympics and Paralympics. “You are victims of your government’s actions.”

Russian sports minister Oleg Matytsin said Russia is drafting an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport before the Opening Ceremony, according to Russian news agency TASS.

The Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC) called the ban “completely unfounded.”

“It clearly contradicts one of the basic principles of the Paralympic family — the apolitical nature of sport for the disabled,” it said in a statement. “In accordance with this decision the RPC and Russian Para athletes appear as the perpetrators of the current political conflicts. … They have not done anything that in any way can be interpreted as participation in the current political complications.”

In a statement, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee said it strongly supported the IPC’s decision to bar Russian and Belarusian athletes.

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Aksel Lund Svindal, Olympic Alpine champ, has testicular cancer, ‘prognosis good’

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Aksel Lund Svindal, a retired Olympic Alpine skiing champion from Norway, said he underwent surgery for testicular cancer and the prognosis “looked very good.”

“Tests, scans and surgery all happened very quickly,” Svindal, 39, wrote on social media. “And already after the first week I knew the prognoses looked very good. All thanks to that first decision to go see a doctor as soon as I suspected something was off.”

Svindal retired in 2019 after winning the Olympic super-G in 2010 and downhill in 2018. He also won five world titles among the downhill, combined and giant slalom and two World Cup overall titles.

Svindal said he felt a change in his body that prompted him to see a doctor.

“The last few weeks have been different,” he wrote. “But I’m able to say weeks and not months because of great medical help, a little luck and a good decision.

“I wasn’t sure what it was, or if it was anything at all. … [I] was quickly transferred to the hospital where they confirmed what the doctor suspected. Testicle cancer.”

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

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The U.S. goes for its fourth consecutive title at the FIBA World Cup in Sydney — and eighth global gold in a row overall when including the Olympics.

A’ja Wilson, a two-time WNBA MVP, and Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP, headline a U.S. roster that, for the first time since 2000, includes neither Sue Bird (retired) nor Diana Taurasi (injured).

The new-look team includes nobody over the age of 30 for the first time since 1994, before the U.S. began its dynasty at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The Americans have won 52 consecutive games between worlds and the Olympics dating to the 2006 Worlds bronze-medal game.

The field also includes host Australia, the U.S.’ former primary rival, and Olympic silver medalist Japan.

Nigeria, which played the U.S. the closest of any foe in Tokyo (losing by nine points), isn’t present after its federation withdrew the team over governance issues. Spain, ranked second in the world, failed to qualify.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup Schedule

Date Time (ET) Game Round
Wed., Sept. 21 8:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 82, Bosnia and Herzegovina 58 Group A
9:30 p.m. USA 87, Belgium 72 Group A
11 p.m. Canada 67, Serbia 60 Group B
Thurs., Sept. 22 12 a.m. Japan 89, Mali 56 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 107, South Korea 44 Group A
6:30 a.m. France 70, Australia 57 Group B
8:30 p.m. USA 106, Puerto Rico 42 Group A
10 p.m. Serbia 69, Japan 64 Group B
11 p.m. Belgium 84, South Korea 61 Group A
Fri., Sept. 23 12:30 a.m. China 98, Bosnia and Herzegovina 51 Group A
4 a.m. Canada 59, France 45 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 118, Mali 58 Group B
Sat., Sept. 24 12:30 a.m. USA 77, China 63 Group A
4 a.m. South Korea 99, Bosnia and Herzegovina 66 Group A
6:30 a.m. Belgium 68, Puerto Rico 65 Group A
Sun., Sept. 25 12:30 a.m. France vs. Mali Group B
4 a.m. Australia vs. Serbia Group B
6:30 a.m. Canada vs. Japan Group B
9:30 p.m. Belgium vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina Group A
11:30 p.m. Mali vs. Serbia Group B
Mon., Sept. 26 12 a.m. USA vs. South Korea Group A
2 a.m. France vs. Japan Group B
3:30 a.m. China vs. Puerto Rico Group A
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Canada Group B
9:30 p.m. Puerto Rico vs. South Korea Group A
11:30 p.m. Belgium vs. China Group A
Tues., Sept. 27 12 a.m. USA vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina Group A
2 a.m. Canada vs. Mali Group B
3:30 a.m. France vs. Serbia Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Japan Group B
Wed., Sept. 28 10 p.m. Quarterfinal
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Quarterfinal
4 a.m. Quarterfinal
6:30 a.m. Quarterfinal
Fri., Sept. 30 3 .m. Semifinal
5:30 a.m. Semifinal
11 p.m. Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. Final