OLYMPICS news & notes


RUSSIA

Athletes to learn if they can compete in Games

PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA

The highly politicized Pyeongchang Olympics are officially opening, but not without some last-minute drama as the Court of Arbitration for Sport is set to announce whether 45 excluded Russian athletes can compete.

The Russians had not received invites to the games from the International Olympic Committee, which said it couldn’t be sure they weren’t involved in Russian doping scandals.

Another 168 Russians have been invited as “Olympic Athletes from Russia,” competing in neutral uniforms under the Olympic flag.

The opening ceremony is Friday night, and figure skating training and qualifying competition in events including women’s moguls were underway in the morning.

LOOKING AHEAD

‘Mini-Olympic event’ will take place in Africa

PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA

Other than Antarctica, only one continent on the planet has never hosted an Olympic Games: Africa. Finally, though, that could be about to change.

But there’ll be a step to take before that happens: hosting the much smaller Youth Olympic Games in 2022.

IOC President Thomas Bach says a “mini-Olympic event” will be held on the continent, though a specific country hasn’t been selected. The move could signal the possibility of an eventual Olympics in Africa.

Africa has never hosted a Games. Europe has hosted 30, North America 12. Asia has hosted seven with two more on the horizon: the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo and the next Winter Games in Beijing in 2022.

FIGURE SKATING

Rippon, Pence at odds as Olympics begin

GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA

Adam Rippon doesn’t want his monthlong dispute with Mike Pence over the vice president’s record on gay rights to overshadow his long-awaited Olympic performance. Or those of the rest of the American team.

One of two openly gay U.S. athletes at the Pyeongchang Games, Rippon criticized the White House last month for choosing Pence to lead its official delegation for Friday’s opening ceremony.

Pence has been considered an opponent of the LGBT community after the conservative vice president signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in March 2015 while serving as governor of Indiana.

Critics said the legislation encouraged discrimination against gay people. An amendment with protections for the LGBT community was passed a week later.

“I don’t want to make this too much for my competitors and for my teammates,” Rippon said after an afternoon practice session Thursday. “I’m just kind of focused on the competition. The opening ceremony is tomorrow. I don’t mind talking about it but I don’t want to distract my teammates.”

Pence, who arrived in Seoul on Thursday, also tried to bury the story. He tweeted to Rippon: “I want you to know we are FOR YOU. Don’t let fake news distract you. I am proud of you and ALL OF OUR GREAT athletes and my only hope for you and all of (hash)TeamUSA is to bring home the gold. Go get ’em!”

SKI JUMPING

Germany’s Wellinger defeats defending champion

PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA

Andreas Wellinger will take his strong form into the final of the men’s normal hill ski jumping.

The 22-year-old German, who already qualified because he was among the top 10-ranked jumpers on the normal hill going into the event, beat defending Olympic champion Kamil Stoch of Poland, who finished second in Thursday’s qualifying.

“I think a lot of competitors are really close, especially on the normal hill,” Wellinger said. “If I am able to show my jumps, I think I can fight for the podium.”

The normal hill final is on Saturday.

Wellinger is third in the overall World Cup standings this season and is among the gold medal favorites in Pyeongchang.

Dawid Kubacki of Poland, who also pre-qualified, finished third ahead of Richard Freitag of Germany.

Two-time Olympic champion Simon Ammann qualified 10th among those who had to jump for a spot Saturday.

Thursday’s qualifying was held to reduce the number of jumpers to 50 for the normal hill final.

Japanese veteran Noriaki Kasai, who is competing in his record eighth Olympics, was 20th, while Kevin Bickner of the United States qualified 25th.

Associated Press

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