Why is the International Olympic Committee relying on what it calls “quiet diplomacy” in dealing with the Chinese government’s treatment of tennis player Peng Shuai, a three-time Olympian, among other longstanding human rights concerns? Because, with the Winter Games 10 weeks away, the Lords of the Rings can’t possibly move them out of Beijing.
All they can do is cancel them and that won’t happen, not after the trauma that a year’s postponement of the Tokyo Games caused the world’s summer athletes. The IOC knew six years ago that Beijing was a problematic choice as host, but its only other option was Almaty, the former capital of Kazakhstan, which itself is hardly a beacon of freedom and lacked the necessary infrastructure.
So IOC president Thomas Bach had a 30-minute video chat with Peng last weekend and has a dinner date scheduled with her in Beijing in January.
Pushed to the limit
John Shuster qualified for a record fifth Olympics by winning last weekend’s US curling trials in Omaha, but Southborough native Korey Dropkin pushed him to the limit, making the reigning Games champion go to the final end of the best-of-three final after beating him in the opener.
“You guys made me work the hardest I’ve ever worked to beat anybody in my life,” the 39-year-old Shuster told the 26-year-old Dropkin, who also beat Shuster in round-robin play. Shuster, who also won a bronze medal in 2006, is joined by 2018 teammates Matt Hamilton and John Landsteiner, plus Chris Plys.
As expected Tabitha Peterson, the world bronze medalist, beat Cory Christensen to earn a return trip to the Games, along with 2018 teammates Nina Roth (the PyeongChang skip), Becca Hamilton (Matt’s sister), and Peterson’s sister Tara.
The United States likely will qualify three men — Vincent Zhou, Nathan Chen, and Jason Brown — for next month’s Grand Prix figure skating final in Osaka. That hasn’t happened since Evan Lysacek, Jeremy Abbott, and Johnny Weir did it in 2010. Brown, who finished third in last weekend’s Internationaux de France, is sitting in fifth place in the chase for six berths with Russia’s Mikhail Kolyada and Evgeni Semenenko both competing this weekend at the Rostelecom Cup in Sochi, the concluding event. US ice dancers Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue already have qualified and Madison Chock and Evan Bates likely will as well.
Alysa Liu’s recent coaching switch from Massimo Scali and Abbott in Oakland to Christy Krall, Drew Meekins, and Viktor Pfeifer in Colorado Springs likely had less to do with her bettering her odds of making the US Olympic figure skating team in January than with improving her chances of winning a medal in Beijing. While the former two-time national champion has had by far the best Grand Prix season among the Americans, she didn’t make a podium. Liu has the technical goods to compete with the Russians and Japanese but needs to execute her programs more consistently.
A bit of payback
After dropping the first two meetings with Canada on the My Why exhibition tour on home ice last month, the US women’s ice hockey team exacted payback north of the border this past week, beating their archrivals, 3-2, in overtime in Kingston, Ontario, and 2-0 in Ottawa. Hilary Knight scored the tying and winning goals in the first game and the winner in the second, while goalie Maddie Rooney made 26 saves in the shutout. The next two encounters will be in St. Louis in mid-December.
The German men laid down a marker at last weekend’s World Cup luge opener on the Olympic track in Yanqing with Johannes Ludwig leading a sweep of the singles and Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken winning the doubles. But the Austrian women fired a warning shot at the German women with Madeleine Egle and Lisa Schulte going 1-3 around world titlist Julia Taubitz.
The Americans earned silver in the relay while Ashley Farquharson, who placed eighth, was their top individual finisher. The Cup tour now moves to Sochi for the next two weekends.
German bobsledder Francesco Friedrich, the reigning world champion in both two-man and four-man, picked up where he left off by winning both events at last weekend’s World Cup opener in Innsbruck. Countrywomen Laura Nolte and Kim Kalicki went 1-2 in the women’s event ahead of US global titlist Kaillie Humphries.
Elana Meyers Taylor and Humphries went 1-2, though, in the monobob, which will be a new medal event in Beijing. Russia’s Alexander Tretiakov and Elena Nikitina swept the skeleton races where Kelly Curtis, ninth in the women’s event, was the top American performer.
The Cup tour remains in Innsbruck this weekend before heading to Germany for the following three events before the holiday break.
Back on track
Erin “Speedy” Jackson continued her mad dash through the World Cup long-track speedskating circuit in Norway last weekend, winning her third 500-meter title and finishing second to Olympic champion Nao Kodaira in the second race. US teammate Brittany Bowe won her second 1,000 race with a track record, while Joey Mantia was second in the men’s 1,500. Should Jackson win a medal in Beijing she’ll be the first American woman to manage it in the 500 since Bonnie Blair won her third straight gold in 1994. Bowe would be the first US female on the 1,000 podium since Chris Witty and Jennifer Rodriguez went 1-3 in 2002.
Dutch short-track speedskater Suzanne Schulting ran the table at last weekend’s World Cup event in Hungary, winning the 500, 1,000, and 1,500 and skating a leg on the winning relay. That sets her up to win the season title in both the 1,000 and 1,500 at this weekend’s finale on her home ice in Dordrecht. Kristen Santos, the best US bet for an Olympic medal, ranks second in the 1,000 and third in the 1,500.
John Powers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Material from Olympic committees, sports federations, interviews, websites and wire services was used in this report.
John Powers can be reached at email@example.com.