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Olympic notes

China’s men’s hockey team is looking at double-digit losses at the Olympics

China's Olympic men's hockey team is ranked 32nd in the world and hasn’t competed in a tournament since the 2019 world championships.VCG/Source: Visual China Group/Getty

While China’s men’s team has been spared being dropped from the Olympic hockey tournament for its “insufficient sporting standard,” it’s still likely to take several unsightly beatings on home ice, starting with its opener against the United States.

The Chinese, who’ve never qualified for the Games on merit, are in the 12-team field automatically as hosts, just as South Korea was last time. They’re ranked 32nd in the world and haven’t competed in a tournament since the 2019 world championships, where they finished fifth in their fourth-tier group. Drawn with the Americans, Canadians, and Germans in group play, the Chinese are looking at double-digit defeats.


“Watching a team being beaten, 15-0, is not good for anyone, not for China or for ice hockey,” said Luc Tardif, the International Ice Hockey Federation’s new president. Countries such as South Korea, Italy, and France, which are not normally in the sport’s top tier, customarily stock their Olympic rosters with North American dual citizens to make themselves more competitive. Since China forbids dual nationality, its hockey team is restricted to homegrown talent that’s not on the same planet as rivals stocked with NHL stars.

The Chinese women, ranked 20th, should fare better since their tournament is designed so that three of the five teams in the weaker group join the five from the stronger one in the quarterfinals. But they’ll likely still be up against four of the world’s top nine squads in Japan and most probably the Czech Republic, Germany, and Sweden, who are favored to win the upcoming last-chance qualifiers in Europe.

World-class rivalry

While Canada’s women’s hockey team beat the Americans in the first two encounters of their seven-game My Why Tour, there’s still not much more than a bounce-of-the-puck difference between the archrivals.

Canada, the reigning world titlist, won the Allentown, Pa., meeting, 3-1 (with a shorthanded empty-netter), and 3-2 in Hartford. Their last two Olympic finals were decided in overtime, as were the last four world championships. They’ll meet again during Thanksgiving week in Kingston, Ontario, and Ottawa.


Podium sweep for Russia?

Alexandra Trusova could lead a Russian female figure skating sweep in Beijing.Jamie Squire/Getty

Russia’s female figure skaters, who go more than half a dozen deep at the global level, are setting up for an unprecedented sweep of the Olympic podium in Beijing.

They went 1-2 at Skate America with Alexandra Trusova and Daria Usacheva, then grabbed all three medals at last weekend’s Skate Canada with Kamila Valieva, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, and Alena Kostornaia. And Anna Shcherbakova, the current world champion, is heavily favored in this weekend’s Gran Premio d’Italia in Turin, the relocated Cup of China.

Rocky start, yet not unexpected, for the Americans, who haven’t come close to the award stand. Alysa Liu, the former junior star who’s still adjusting to the fast lane, was fifth at Skate Canada. Karen Chen, fourth at last season’s world championships, was 10th. Bradie Tennell, the reigning US champion, is coming off torn foot muscles and hasn’t yet competed.

Shiffrin’s schedule

Mikaela Shiffrin, who won medals in four events (all but the downhill) at last season’s Alpine world championships, wants to compete in all five at the Games. So she’ll likely do more speed racing on the World Cup circuit, starting with the two downhills and Super G next month in Lake Louise, Alberta, after she does the slaloms at Killington, Vt., on Thanksgiving weekend.

“My focus will always be tech, but I love speed,” said Shiffrin, whose victory in the giant slalom at last month’s Cup opener on the Soelden glacier in Austria was the 70th of her career, trailing only Ingemar Stenmark (86) and Lindsey Vonn (82).


Waiting on citizenship

Kaillie Humphries, the world’s best women’s bobsled pilot, still is awaiting the American citizenship required for her to compete in the Games. Humphries, who married former US sledder Travis Armbruster in 2019, is shy of the three-year requirement for spousal citizenship.

“I have to have faith in the process and the system, in the people that are there that are actively helping me through the situation,” said Humphries, who won two golds and a bronze for Canada at the last three Games and is the world champion in both monobob and two-man (with American teammate Lolo Jones). “And it’s scary. Definitely as the Games get closer the pressure goes up.”

Santos is peaking

Kristen Santos (left) could be a medal threat for the United States.Lintao Zhang/Getty

Midway through the World Cup short-track season, US speedskater Kristen Santos looks like a potential Olympic medalist. The Fairfield, Conn., native picked up a couple of bronzes at last month’s Beijing opener then won her first career gold in the 1,000 meters in Nagoya. Santos just missed the 2018 team after her hand and wrist were sliced open by a Chinese rival in a Cup race and the subsequent surgery cost her two weeks of training before the trials … Half of the US luge team from the 2018 Games makes up the World Cup squad that will form the core of the Beijing group. Chris Mazdzer, the surprise silver medalist in PyeongChang, is joined by Tucker West, Summer Britcher, Emily Sweeney, and Jayson Terdiman. Mazdzer, who broke his foot and ankle in September when he hit a wall during training in Sochi, won’t be available until at least next month. Two Massachusetts doubles sliders are among the new faces — Chesterfield’s Dana Kellogg and Medway’s Zack DiGregorio. The Cup season begins in Beijing two weekends from now … Now that Vicky Persinger and Chris Plys have won the Olympic mixed doubles trials in curling comes the more difficult challenge — qualifying for the Games. The United States, which finished seventh in 2018 with siblings Becca and Matt Hamilton, placed eighth at this year’s world tournament, just missing earning a Beijing berth. Persinger and Plys will need to finish in the top two at next month’s last-chance qualifier in the Netherlands to collect their ticket.


John Powers can be reached at john.powers@globe.com. Material from Olympic committees, sports federations, interviews, and wire services was used in this report.