IPC bans Russia, Belarus Paralympic committees

Russia Paralympic Flag
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Russia and Belarus’ Paralympic committees were banned by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), likely into next fall.

Russia and Belarus cannot enter athletes into World Para Sport events during the suspension. The IPC has not said whether Russia and Belarus athletes could compete separate from their national committees, such as neutral competitors, if and when any other suspension for the war in Ukraine is lifted.

The IPC said that the eligibility of Russia and Belarus for the 2024 Paris Paralympics is a decision for the next general assembly, likely in the fourth quarter of 2023.

At an extraordinary general assembly Wednesday, IPC members voted to suspend Russia and Belarus’ Paralympic committees for the same reason: “due to its inability to comply with membership obligations under the IPC Constitution.”

The vote for Russia was 64 to 39 with 16 abstentions. The vote for Belarus was 54 to 45 with 18 abstentions.

“I want us to live in a world where sport unites the world in peaceful competition, enabling athletes to compete against their rivals to the best of their abilities in a safe and secure environment,” IPC President Andrew Parsons said. “The situation that the world of sport faces right now is highly charged and complex. I hope and pray that the conflict in Ukraine ends as soon as possible, that peace is secured, and that no more innocent lives are lost or impacted.”

They can appeal. Barring a successful appeal, the suspensions can only be lifted at an IPC general assembly, the next slated for late 2023.

Athletes from Russia and Belarus were barred from last March’s Paralympic Winter Games the day before the Opening Ceremony in a reversal from a decision 20 hours earlier that would have allowed Russians and Belarusians to compete as neutrals without their national flags, symbols and anthems.

The reasoning was that ensuring safety at the athletes’ village was becoming untenable, and athletes from many other nations vowed to not compete if Russia and Belarus athletes remained in the Games.

Russia invaded Ukraine the week before those Paralympics began.

Russian athletes competed at the Tokyo Paralympics under the Russian Paralympic Committee flag and without the national anthem as part of sanctions for the nation’s doping violations. They finished third in total medals, behind China and Great Britain and ahead of the U.S.

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Olympic flame to travel by sea for Paris 2024, welcomed by armada

Paris 2024 Olympic Torch Relay Marseille
Paris 2024
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The Olympic flame will travel from Athens to Marseille by ship in spring 2024 to begin the France portion of the torch relay that ends in Paris on July 26, 2024.

The torch relay always begins in the ancient Olympic site of Olympia, Greece, where the sun’s rays light the flame. It will be passed by torch until it reaches Athens.

It will then cross the Mediterranean Sea aboard the Belem, a three-masted ship, “reminiscent of a true Homeric epic,” according to Paris 2024. It will arrive at the Old Port of Marseille, welcomed by an armada of boats.

Marseille is a former Greek colony and the oldest city in France. It will host sailing and some soccer matches during the Paris Olympics.

The full 2024 Olympic torch relay route will be unveiled in May.

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Paris 2024 Olympic Torch Relay Marseille
Paris 2024

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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