Russian athlete ban in luge overturned

Russia Luge
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A Russian ban in luge was reversed in what may be a significant ruling for Russian athletes across Olympic sports who were barred after the invasion of Ukraine.

No reasoning for the decision was given, but the Russian Olympic Committee hopes it will set a precedent for appeals in other sports. There are several pending cases with the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Last week’s luge decision came from the International Luge Federation (FIL) arbitration court, which works independently of the FIL.

“The FIL leadership is still of the opinion that officials and athletes from states with behavior contrary to international law must be excluded,” a federation spokesperson said in an email Sunday. “The FIL may appeal against this decision of the [FIL} Court of Arbitration. However, the legal chances are probably not very promising at the moment.”

The president of the Russian luge federation, which had appealed the ban, said that it violated the FIL charter.

The FIL spokesperson noted passages from the Olympic Charter and FIL statutes that work in the Russians’ favor.

First, from the Olympic Charter: “Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.”

Second, from the FIL statutes, which prohibit “political, racist, religious, or any other discrimination towards its members.”

“The collective actions against all Russian athletes, coaches, officials … is based only on the nationality of the individuals concerned, and to be regarded as prohibited political discrimination,” the spokesperson said.

Russians remain banned from major international competition in every other Winter Olympic sport and many Summer Olympic sports.

The top-level international luge season ended with the Winter Olympics, before Russia invaded Ukraine. The next season is expected to begin in November, so it’s not guaranteed that Russians will be eligible for the next World Cup races that are seven months away.

The FIL on Sunday shared on its social media an open letter from Ukrainian lugers to their fellow athletes, calling for a boycott of international luge competition so long as Russians are allowed to compete.

“We are alarmed and extremely concerned about the possibility of allowing Russian luge team to compete in FIL International competitions,” the letter said. “In this potential scenario we are extremely worried about the physical and mental safety of all Ukrainian athletes during international competition.”

Tatyana Ivanova was the lone Russian to win an Olympic luge medal in Beijing, a singles bronze. Russian Roman Repilov is the reigning men’s singles world champion from 2021.

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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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