Russia, Belarus athletes barred from world aquatics championships

Swimming - Olympics: Day 7
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Russia and Belarus swimmers, divers and water polo players have been barred from the world aquatics championships in Budapest this summer.

Russia’s swimming federation responded by withdrawing all of its athletes from international events for the rest of the year, according to FINA, the sports’ international governing body.

FINA also stripped Kazan, Russia, as host of the world short-course swimming championships this December. It is in discussions with potential new hosts.

A FINA disciplinary panel is also investigating double Olympic backstroke champion Yevgeny Rylov for what it said was a potential rules violation for “his alleged participation in a pro-war rally” in Moscow.

Rylov has also lost his endorsement deal with swimwear manufacturer Speedo because of his involvement in the pro-Putin rally.

“FINA maintains its strongest condemnation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” it said in a press release.

Before the ban was announced, Rylov said he would not compete at the world championships in support of all Russian athletes who have been barred from international competitions after the nation invaded Ukraine.

“In support of Russian Paralympians, in support of all Russian athletes who have been removed from international competitions, I refuse to go to the world championship this summer,” was posted on Rylov’s Instagram, according to a Reuters translation. “I believe that losing competition is losing the development of sport. As sad as it may sound, sport cannot move without decent competitors.”

Many other Olympic sports previously banned Russian athletes from international competition indefinitely. FINA had also banned Russia but before Wednesday had left the option open to allow certain Russia and Belarus athletes to compete as neutrals.

FINA became the first major Summer Olympic sports body to specifically ban Russia and Belarus from a 2022 World Championships.

Rylov was the lone Russian swimmer to take gold at the Tokyo Olympics, where Russians competed as neutral athletes for the Russian Olympic Committee. ROC went one-two in the men’s 100m back with Rylov and Kliment Kolesnikov. American Ryan Murphy, who swept the backstrokes in 2016, finished third in that race and second behind Rylov in the 200m back.

Also in Tokyo, Russian artistic swimmers swept the golds in the duet and team events for a sixth consecutive Olympics. Russians earned bronze in the men’s synchronized platform in diving and finished fourth in women’s water polo.

Belarus earned zero medals in aquatics in Tokyo.

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Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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