Sweden

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Four Nations Cup, top annual women’s hockey tournament, is canceled

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STOCKHOLM (AP) — The Swedish Ice Hockey Federation canceled the Four Nations Cup, the top annual women’s hockey tournament, in November because it can’t guarantee its players’ participation due to an ongoing pay dispute.

The federation noted the uncertainty regarding their players’ status made it difficult for the three other competing nations to make travel plans. The tournament annually features Finland, the United States and Canada. The U.S. won the last four editions of the event, beating rival Canada in each final.

Sweden’s top players are boycotting their national team because they are unhappy over pay and working conditions.

The players skipped a tournament in Finland in August because of the strike and have yet to agree a new contract with the federation.

They also formed a union and raised complaints over their previous deal, which expired in April. Players are unhappy over their compensation, while also having to fit work and family schedules around national team requirements.

Other complaints included travel conditions and schedules, the short- and long-term vision for women’s hockey in Sweden and a perceived lack of respect.

Swedish players are following in the steps of U.S. women’s national team members who were successful in landing better compensation after threatening to boycott the 2017 World Championship being held in Michigan.

In May, more than 200 of the world’s top players pledged to boycott playing in North America this season in a push to establish a women’s professional league with what they say must be a sustainable economic model. They formed a union, the Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association.

The Swedish players have the PWHPA’s support.

“It’s tough to see, for sure, but I think it really speaks to the fact that we are all only as strong as our weakest link,” PWHPA board member Liz Knox wrote in a text to The Associated Press. “We support them striving for better because in the end, women’s hockey as a whole will be the better for it.”

Anders Larsson, chairman of the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation, last month said the boycott is damaging the brand of the country’s hockey team and is a failure for both the federation and the Swedish team.

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Sarah Sjöström joins Katie Ledecky, Aussies in worlds 200m freestyle

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The women’s 200m freestyle was arguably the most anticipated event of this next week’s world swimming championships. And that was before Sarah Sjöström joined the field.

Sjöström, who was not expected to race the 200m free at worlds, is entered in the event and plans to swim it, according to Sweden’s swimming federation.

The Swede was the closest of any swimmer in any event to Katie Ledecky at the Rio Olympics, finishing .35 behind for silver in the 200m free. Sjöström outsplit Ledecky in the last 50 meters in Rio.

But Sjöström hasn’t contested the 200m free at worlds since 2013, preferring the 50m and 100m freestyles and butterflies. Sjöström is the world-record holder in all four of those shorter events and won three of them at the 2017 Worlds.

Sjöström might not be Ledecky’s biggest threat in the 200m free this month. Italian Federica Pellegrini, the 2008 Olympic champion, is the reigning world champion. Canadian Taylor Ruck, a rising Stanford sophomore, beat Ledecky at the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships.

Australian Ariarne Titmus, 18, has the fastest time in the world this year. Another Aussie, Emma McKeon, who tied Ledecky for silver at 2017 Worlds, has also been faster than Ledecky this year.

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2026 Winter Olympic host: Milan-Cortina

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Italy will host the 2026 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, with Milan-Cortina d’Ampezzo winning an IOC vote over a Swedish-Latvian bid centered on Stockholm.

Milan-Cortina won with 47 votes to Stockholm–Åre’s 34 to become the first Olympics with multiple official host cities.

Italy boasted its public support (83 percent in a March IOC poll versus 55 percent in Sweden) and financial guarantees (Stockholm officials declined to sign the IOC’s host-city contract, leaving it to the smaller ski resort of Åre).

“I cannot look into the heads of my colleagues, but gathering a little bit the atmosphere when leaving the room, my assumption is that what was key and what finally made the difference was the gap in the public support,” said IOC President Thomas Bach, who was not among the voters. “This was, for many members, a clear signal. Public support offers goes hand in hand with political support. This was maybe also the reason then why the city of Stockholm was not ready to sign the host-city contract.”

The Games return to a traditional European site for the first time since Italy hosted in Torino in 2006 after Vancouver (2010), Sochi (2014), PyeongChang (2018) and Beijing (2022).

The two bids were left after five others dropped out for various reasons, all in 2018: Calgary, Canada; Erzurum, Turkey; Sapporo, Japan; Graz, Austria and Sion, Switzerland.

With the 2024 and 2028 Summer Games hosts both decided two years ago (Paris for 2024, Los Angeles for 2028), next up is the 2030 Winter Games. The U.S. has already said that if it bids, it will be with Salt Lake City, which held the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Italy will host the Winter Games for a third time after Cortina d’Ampezzo in 1956 and Torino in 2006.

Its bid presentation Monday included all three Italian 2018 Olympic champions speaking — Arianna Fontana (short track), Michela Moioli (snowboard cross) and Sofia Goggia (downhill). The presentation ended with 15-year-old short track speed skater Elisa Confortola addressing more than 80 IOC members.

Italy’s initial bid declaration in March 2018 was for a joint Milan-Torino candidate. Cortina was added within a week to make it a three-pronged bid. By September, Torino dropped out after political infighting, when a senior Italian official declared the bid “dead.” But the bid pressed on as Milan-Cortina, sites separated by more than 200 miles.

Sweden has finished second or third in all seven of its Winter Olympic bid votes, including six straight from 1984 through 2002, according to the OlyMADMen. Stockholm–Åre was trying to become the first Winter Games held in multiple countries, with Latvia holding bobsled, luge and skeleton. Sweden remains the nation with the most Winter Olympic gold medals yet to host a Winter Games.

“Our hope and expectation has been that the IOC would be ready to move from words to action and have confidence in Sweden’s ability to deliver the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games based on our proposal and vision,” Stockholm–Åre said in a press release. “We neither want, nor can present, a concept that involves major government grants and guarantees – or change the legislation – for a sports competition.”

The IOC praised how both bids fit with Agenda 2020 with 80 percent of the venues already existing or temporary and organizational budgets 20 percent lower than 2018 and 2022 cities.

More on the Milan-Cortina bid:

Proposed Dates: Feb. 6-22 (Olympics), March 6-15 (Paralympics)

Venues
Milan
 — Figure skating, hockey, short track
Cortina d’Ampezzo (220 miles northeast of Milan) — Alpine skiing (women), bobsled, luge, skeleton, curling, biathlon (Antholz)
Val di Fiemme (160 miles northeast of Milan) — Cross-country skiing, ski jumping, Nordic combined, speed skating (outdoors with roof plan)
Valtellina (85 miles northeast of Milan) — Alpine skiing (men, Bormio), freestyle skiing, snowboarding

Ceremonies
Opening Ceremony — San Siro (home of AC Milan and Inter Milan)
Closing Ceremony — Verona Arena (Roman amphitheatre 90 miles east of Milan)

Slogan
“Dreaming Together”

IOC Evaluation Group Report
“Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo combine the advantages of a big European city and those of a popular mountain resort region in the Italian Alps. The candidature benefits from the region’s strong winter sports history, tradition and experience, as well as the Italians’ love and passion for sport. The project can also leverage the economic strength and prosperity of the northern Italian region. While planning is still at an early stage, the project has the potential to achieve the long-term goals of the cities and the region in line with Olympic Agenda 2020/New Norm.”

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