At figure skating worlds, women’s medals up for grabs after Russia ban

Alysa Liu
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Russians swept the women’s medals at last year’s world figure skating championships, then placed first, second and fourth at the Olympics. But none of them will be at this week’s world championships in France due to Russia sport sanctions after the nation invaded Ukraine.

The women’s medals (silver and bronze at least) appear up for grabs for skaters from several nations.

“That’s definitely something that obviously everybody is talking about,” said American Karen Chen, the top non-Russian at last year’s worlds in fourth place. “This is going to be a very interesting world experience. Nothing will be ever like this.”

For the first time since the 2018 Worlds, a woman from outside Russia will take gold. The favorite is Japan’s Kaori Sakamoto, the Olympic bronze medalist who had the best score in Beijing among non-Russians by a significant 18.69 points.

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After Sakamoto are six skaters from five nations who finished within 15 points of each other at the Olympics. That list includes Alysa Liu, who was seventh at the Olympics and ranks second in the world championships field by best total score this season.

Liu, who in 2019 became the youngest U.S. champion at age 13, took a week off after the Games.

She said her preparation for worlds has been better than expected. She also hasn’t put much thought into the Russians’ absence, which makes her a threat to win the first U.S. women’s medal since Ashley Wagner‘s silver in 2016.

“I didn’t really have that much of a reaction,” to the ban, Liu said. “I don’t really have like a strong opinion on it, and I also don’t really care too much.”

U.S. champion Mariah Bell is also in that bunched group behind Sakamoto. She was 10th in her Olympic debut at age 25, the oldest U.S. Olympic women’s singles skater since 1928. Like the rest of the U.S. women’s team — Liu and Karen Chen — Bell does not know if she will compete next season.

But Bell has performed since the Games. She took part in a show called Art on Ice, skating to live music in Switzerland in early March.

“If I was home [after the Olympics], I don’t know how much training I would have been doing,” she said. “I probably would have been sleeping in a little bit more, still recovering. So it forced me to kind of skate a little bit more.”

Chen developed reputation for strong skating at worlds, taking fourth in 2017 and again in 2021. She was 16th at the Olympics last month, felled by her triple loop.

She is headed back to a pre-med track at Cornell this fall, yet to decide whether she will balance classes with competition, which she did in 2019.

“If I skated my absolute best, and I have landed spot on the podium, I would be super, super grateful and thankful and just happy that I skated well,” she said of worlds. “I also would totally understand the fact that the reason I am getting that medal is because the Russians weren’t able to compete. And I totally respect that.”

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Joel Embiid gains U.S. citizenship, mum on Olympic nationality

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Philadelphia 76ers All-Star center Joel Embiid said he is now a U.S. citizen and it’s way too early to think about what nation he would represent at the Olympics.

“I just want to be healthy and win a championship and go from there,” he said, according to The Associated Press.

Embiid, 28, was born in Cameroon and has never competed in a major international tournament. In July, he gained French nationality, a step toward being able to represent that nation at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

In the spring, French media reported that Embiid started the process to become eligible to represent France in international basketball, quoting national team general manager Boris Diaw.

Embiid was second in NBA MVP voting this season behind Serbian Nikola Jokic. He was the All-NBA second team center.

What nation Embiid represents could have a major impact on the Paris Games.

In Tokyo, a French team led by another center, Rudy Gobert, handed the U.S. its first Olympic defeat since 2004. That was in group play. The Americans then beat the French in the gold-medal game 87-82.

That France team had five NBA players to the U.S.’ 12: Nicolas BatumEvan FournierTimothe Luwawu-CabarrotFrank Ntilikina and Gobert.

Anthony Davis, who skipped the Tokyo Olympics, is the lone U.S. center to make an All-NBA team in the last five seasons. In that time, Embiid made four All-NBA second teams and Gobert made three All-NBA third teams.

No Olympic team other than the U.S. has ever had two reigning All-NBA players on its roster.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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LA 2028, Delta unveil first-of-its-kind emblems for Olympics, Paralympics

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Emblems for the 2028 Los Angeles Games that include logos of Delta Air Lines is the first integration of its kind in Olympic and Paralympic history.

Organizers released the latest set of emblems for the LA 2028 Olympics and Paralympics on Thursday, each with a Delta symbol occupying the “A” spot in LA 28.

Two years ago, the LA 2028 logo concept was unveiled with an ever-changing “A” that allowed for infinite possibilities. Many athletes already created their own logos, as has NBC.

“You can make your own,” LA28 chairperson Casey Wasserman said in 2020. “There’s not one way to represent Los Angeles, and there is strength in our diverse cultures. We have to represent the creativity and imagination of Los Angeles, the diversity of our community and the big dreams the Olympic and Paralympic Games provide.”

Also in 2020, Delta was announced as LA 2028’s inaugural founding partner. Becoming the first partner to have an integrated LA 2028 emblem was “extremely important for us,” said Emmakate Young, Delta’s managing director, brand marketing and sponsorships.

“It is a symbol of our partnership with LA, our commitment to the people there, as well as those who come through LA, and a commitment to the Olympics,” she said.

The ever-changing emblem succeeds an angelic bid logo unveiled in February 2016 when the city was going for the 2024 Games, along with the slogan, “Follow the Sun.” In July 2017, the IOC made a historic double awarding of the Olympics and Paralympics — to Paris for 2024 and Los Angeles for 2028.

The U.S. will host its first Olympics and Paralympics since 2002 (and first Summer Games since 1996), ending its longest drought between hosting the Games since the 28-year gap between 1932 and 1960.

Delta began an eight-year Olympic partnership in 2021, becoming the official airline of Team USA and the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

Athletes flew to this year’s Winter Games in Beijing on chartered Delta flights and will do so for every Games through at least 2028.

Previously, Delta sponsored the last two Olympics held in the U.S. — the 1996 Atlanta Games and the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games.

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