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Olympic notes

Spectator capacities still not set for Beijing Winter Olympics

The Beijing Winter Olympics are only 11 weeks away.Mark Schiefelbein/Associated Press

With the Winter Games only 11 weeks off, the Beijing organizers still haven’t decided on spectator capacities for the venues or a ticketing plan.

“We should have by now — weeks ago — resolved the situation of ticketing,” said IOC member Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr., who chairs the coordination commission. “But we have all learned together the hard way jointly how difficult it is to make plans in a COVID world.”

If the limitations for the curling events are any guide there will be an enormous number of empty seats everywhere. Attendance at the former Water Cube, which was used for swimming in 2008, will be limited to 20 percent, roughly 1,000 people.

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Field is set

The Czechs and Danes made history this past week by qualifying for the Olympic women’s hockey tournament for the first time, along with Sweden. Denmark, whose men’s team also will be making its Games debut, earned its spot despite losing a shootout to the Germans, who’d dropped their opener to Austria.

The qualifiers will join Japan and host China in Group B, while the heavyweights — US, Canada, Finland, Russia, and Switzerland — make up Group A, all of whose members automatically make the quarterfinals.

The Americans and Canadians continue their seven-game My Why tuneup tour on Sunday in Kingston, Ontario, and Tuesday in Ottawa. Canada, which beat the US twice while winning the August world championships in Calgary, took the first two games of the tour last month in Allentown, Pa., and Hartford.

Making the cut?

Many of the KHL's Kunlun Red Star players would represent China at the Games, if the Chinese are kept in the field.Alexander Zemlianichenko/Associated Press

The international federation will decide on Thursday whether to keep the Chinese men’s team in the Olympic hockey field. Kunlun Red Star, the Kontinental Hockey League club whose roster includes probable team players, this past week dropped both matches that were to serve as an evaluation of the squad’s likely competitiveness at the Games.

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If the hosts are ruled out their place will be taken by Norway, the highest-ranked team that didn’t qualify. The Norwegians, beaten by the Russians in the 2018 quarterfinals, lost, 2-1, to the US at this year’s world championships.

Dance partner

Daisuke Takahashi, the first Japanese man to win an Olympic figure skating medal and a world title in 2010, is close to making history again.

Takahashi, now 35, has reemerged as an ice dancer who with partner Kana Muramoto finished ahead of three-time defending national champions Misato Komatsubara and Tim Koleto at last weekend’s NHK Trophy in Tokyo. If he and Muramoto qualify for the Games, Takahashi will be the first skater to have competed in both singles and dance.

Ins and outs

By finishing second at the NHK event, US figure skater Vincent Zhou joined countryman Nathan Chen in the field for next month’s Grand Prix final in Osaka. Alysa Liu’s fourth-place effort almost certainly won’t be enough to qualify her for the six-woman event.

She’s currently fourth overall and multiple Russians still have to skate in their second event.

Speed demons

Terrific opening weekend for the US long-track speedskaters, who won five medals, three of them gold, at the first World Cup event in Poland.

The big news was Erin Jackson beating Olympic champion Nao Kodaira twice in the women’s 500 meters, setting track records each time. Jackson, a 29-year-old former inline skater from Florida, became the first American Black woman to win a Cup race.

Brittany Bowe claimed the 1,000 with a track mark and finished second in the 1,500, while Joey Mantia picked up a bronze in the men’s 1,500. After this weekend’s races in Norway, the tour heads to North America (Salt Lake City and Calgary) for the final two events before the Olympics.

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Challenging course

The Olympic sliding track at Yanqing, which is hosting this weekend’s World Cup luge opener, is uniquely challenging, say the athletes who’ve been training on it for the last fortnight. Shallow curve angles, uphill sections producing negative g-forces, and speeds surpassing 80 miles per hour.

“It definitely keeps you on your toes,” said US doubles competitor Sean Hollander. “You have to be on the ball from top to bottom.”

From China, the lugers will proceed to Russia for the next two weekends, where they’ll race on the 2014 Games track in Sochi, which is hosting the Cup races relocated from Lake Placid and Whistler, British Columbia.

Long road back

Vermont's Ryan Cochran-Siegle is set to return to the World Cup circuit.Francis Bompard/Agence Zoom/Getty

Vermont native Ryan Cochran-Siegle, whose Alpine season was cut short by a neck fracture in a downhill crash before last winter’s world championships, will be back on the World Cup circuit next weekend for two downhills and a Super G in Lake Louise, Alberta.

Cochran-Siegle, who had two vertebrae fused in surgery, said that the injury created nerve issues in his right arm but no pain. “I feel like my level of skiing that I had prior I can still attain right now,” he reckoned.

Meanwhile, the women, led by Mikaela Shiffrin, will be at Killington, Vt., for a slalom and giant slalom.

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Five of the six PyeongChang medalists are on the US snowboarding team for the upcoming World Cup season — Shaun White (halfpipe gold), Chloe Kim (halfpipe gold), Jamie Anderson (slopestyle gold, big air silver), Red Gerard (slopestyle gold), and Kyle Mack (big air silver). “I can’t believe I’m even here doing this right now,” said the 35-year-old White, who’ll be after his fourth gold in his fifth Games. “Back at it again.” Also on the roster is 36-year-old Lindsey Jacobellis, who’d be chasing her first snowboardcross gold at her fifth Olympics … As expected, the two favored rinks are the top seeds for this weekend’s playoffs at the Olympic curling trials in Omaha. John Shuster’s group, which won the Olympic gold medal in 2018, dominated round-robin play, while Tabitha Peterson’s quartet, which claimed bronze at this year’s world championships, topped the women’s standings. Shuster’s rink will meet Korey Dropkin’s in the best-of-three finals, while Peterson’s will face Cory Christensen’s.

Material from Olympic committees, sports federations, interviews, and wire services was used in this report.