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Russia names new Olympic chief in wake of doping scandals

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MOSCOW (AP) — Fencing champion Stanislav Pozdnyakov was elected president of the Russian Olympic Committee on Tuesday after its previous leader stepped down following years of doping scandals.

Pozdyakov, who won three Olympic gold medals in 1996 and 2000, previously managed the “Olympic Athletes from Russia” delegation at February’s Winter Olympics in PyeongChang after Russia’s team was formally banned for doping.

Pozdnyakov has said he wants to make Russia more influential in sports politics and leave the era of doping sanctions behind.

He beat the only other candidate, former swimmer and International Olympic Committee member Alexander Popov, by 214 votes to 56.

Pozdnyakov joins a clique of ex-fencers at the top of Russian sports politics, along with Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov and billionaire businessman Alisher Usmanov, who is president of the International Fencing Federation. The IOC president, Thomas Bach, is also a former fencer.

Alexander Zhukov, a politician from the ruling United Russia party, had led the ROC since 2010 but said in May he wanted to focus on his career in parliament.

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Ibtihaj Muhammad gets her own Barbie doll

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U.S. fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first Muslim-American woman to compete at the Olympics with a hijab, now has her own Barbie doll.

The doll, available for purchase next year, was unveiled Monday at the Glamour Women of the Year Summit.

“When I was growing up, I didn’t have many options of dolls that looked like me,” Muhammad said, according to Glamour. “But today, we’re changing that.”

Muhammad’s Barbie is the first in the doll’s 58-year history with a hijab.

“This is such a big moment for little girls everywhere,” she said, according to Glamour, adding that she used to sew tiny hijabs onto her dolls growing up.

Muhammad, 31, lost her opening bout at the world championships in July, 11 months after taking bronze in the team event in Rio. Muhammad lost in the round of 16 in the individual event in Rio.

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Ibtihaj Muhammad and U.S. fencers eliminated at Worlds

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Ibtihaj Muhammad lost to Germany’s Ann-Sophie Kindler, 15-12, in her opening bout of the women’s individual sabre, Round of 64, at the 2017 World Fencing Championships in Leipzig, Germany. Muhammad finished the event ranked 36th. Her best finish at Worlds in individual sabre came in 2015 when she finished 13th.

Famously becoming the first U.S. athlete to compete at an Olympic Games while wearing a hijab, Muhammad stood on the fencing team sabre event podium at the 2016 Rio Olympics, winning bronze with fellow fencers Monica Aksamit, Dagmara Wozniak and Mariel Zagunis.

Also appearing in the women’s individual sabre Round of 64 for the U.S. at Worlds, Monica Aksamit and Dagmara Wozniak won their opening bouts. Wozniak, currently the highest ranking U.S. fencer in sabre at 18th in the world, defeated China’s Jia Xiaoye and Aksamit beat Hong Kong’s Chan Yin Fei – both contests ending with a score of 15-9.

The Americans were unable to make it two-in-a-row after advancing to the Round of 32, as both fell to their opponents. Wozniak was beaten in a close battle, 14-15, by Russia’s Sofia Pozdniakova while Aksamit was knocked out by Japan’s Norika Tamura, 11-15.

Mariel Zagunis, one of only two U.S. fencers to win Olympic gold – her first coming in 2004 – was not on the pistes in Leipzig. This year is the first time Zagunis has been absent for a world championships since 1999. Back in May of 2017, Zagunis announced she was pregnant, expecting the birth of her first child in October. Zagunis is planning her return to competition and for a run at what would be her fifth Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020.

Muhammad, Aksamit and Wozniak will be back in action at Worlds on July 25 when they are joined by Anne-Elizabeth Stone to compete in the women’s team sabre event.

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