Hanyu, Ledecká rise above it all in a year when world sport needed them - and other athletes - as salvation from scandal and cowardice

Hanyu, Ledecká rise above it all in a year when world sport needed them - and other athletes - as salvation from scandal and cowardice

In international sports, 2018 was a year of courage and cowardice and common sense in seeing through a con.

And, as usual, it was a year of athletes of all colors, backgrounds, nations, shapes and sizes rising above the inanity, craven callousness and amorality of the old, white men who run global sports.

To which one can only say this:  Thanks, Yuzuru Hanyu and Simone Biles, thanks Ester Ledecká and Chloe Kim, thanks Eliud Kipchoge and Team Shuster. . .thanks to you and more for the achievements and goodwill that made us remember that sport, for all its ugly, scandalous warts, can show humankind at its most attractive.

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Russian (oops, OAR) figure skaters still a name brand at Olympics

Russian (oops, OAR) figure skaters still a name brand at Olympics

Russia is gone from the Olympics, at least in name and official image, having been censured by the International Olympic Committee for a massive doping scandal that included a nefariously creative scheme for sample tampering at the Sochi Games.

Its athletes are in PyeongChang as OAR, "Olympic Athletes from Russia," competing under the Olympic flag. Their medals will be marked by the raising of that five-ringed flag. Their triumphs will be saluted by the playing of the anodyne Olympic hymn rather than the stirring Russian national anthem. Their team's uniform jackets are a solid color, white or light gray, rather than the country's red, white and blue national colors.

And yet...

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Russian skater's coach calls IOC decision to bar her from 2018 Olympics “an injustice and an absurdity”

Russian skater's coach calls IOC decision to bar her from 2018 Olympics “an injustice and an absurdity”

The coach of Russian pairs skater Ksenia Stolbova called the International Olympic Committee's decision to exclude Stolbova from the 2018 Winter Olympics “an injustice and an absurdity.”

In a Thursday text message responding to questions from icenetwork, coach Nina Mozer said she was informed about the International Olympic Committee’s action on Stolbova, a 2014 Olympic gold and silver medalist, only two hours before the Russian Figure Skating Federation announced it Tuesday.

Mozer said she hoped the IOC would change its mind.

“Our team counts on sanity and changes in IOC decisions that concern honest athletes who. . .have the full right to compete in the Olympic Games,” Mozer wrote.

Mozer said that no member of her coaching team nor any of the pairs athletes she has coached, including Stolbova and her partner, Fedor Klimov, have ever figured in any "doping scandals" and insisted that doping would have a negative effect on a skater's performance.

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Two Russian skaters apparently barred from 2018 Olympics, with no reason yet announced

Two Russian skaters apparently barred from 2018 Olympics, with no reason yet announced

Russian pairs skater Ksenia Stolbova and ice dancer Ivan Bukin have apparently been barred from competing in the 2018 Olympic Winter Olympics by the International Olympic Committee.

"Apparently" must remain the operative word because the IOC will not release until Saturday a list of which Russian athletes have been cleared to compete next month in PyeongChang, South Korea.

The surprising news about Stolbova, a gold and silver medalist at the 2014 Winter Olympics, and Bukin came via a Tuesday statement from the Russian Figure Skating Federation, which in turn was citing information from the Russian Olympic Committee.

The figure skating federation's statement blasted the IOC.

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As Winter Games loom, skier and skater were world's best in an odd 2017

As Winter Games loom, skier and skater were world's best in an odd 2017

The Olympic cycle, like the calendar, has odd years and even years.

The even years, like 2018, include an Olympics, in this case the Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

The odd years, like the one that just ended, are not devoid of big events in international sports.  And 2017 was full of them, but the overriding feeling was of a year that was just plain odd – and, at times, depressingly sad.

For the second annus horribilis in a row, athletes have saved Olympic sport from itself and its feckless leaders.  Celebrating their excellence is the best way to express hope for a better 2018.

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