Olympics Live: US diplomat says human rights should be focus

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations says China’s selection of a Uyghur athlete to help deliver the Olympic flame in Beijing was an attempt by Chinese officials to “distract” from global attention on its human rights violations

BEIJING -- The Latest on the Beijing Winter Olympics:

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The United States is staging a diplomatic boycott of the Olympics, sending athletes but not the traditional delegation of dignitaries, citing China’s alleged systemic and widespread abuse of ethnic and religious minorities in its western region, especially Xinjiang’s predominantly Muslim Uyghurs.

China’s selection of cross-country skier Dinigeer Yilamujiang for the honor of being a final Olympic torchbearer at the ceremony that opened the Winter Games was a big surprise.

To U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, that choice was “an effort by the Chinese to distract us from the real issue here at hand, that Uyghurs are being tortured, and Uyghurs are the victims of human rights violations by the Chinese.”

And she told CNN’s “State of the Union” that “we have to keep that front and center.”

The U.S. says China is committing genocide in its treatment of the Uyghurs. China denies any abuses and says the steps it has taken are necessary to combat terrorism and a separatist movement.

The American diplomat says “we have made clear that crimes against humanity are being committed in China.”

She added: “It is important that the audience who participated and witnessed this understand that this does not take away from what we know is happening on the ground there.”

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President Joe Biden’s national security adviser says the United States “did not go around the world knocking on every country door” trying to organize a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in China.

The U.S. did not send a delegation of dignitaries to Beijing but is allowing American athletes to complete. Major U.S. allies like Britain, Australia and Canada followed suit, also citing human rights abuses by the Chinese government. But an array of world leaders did attend the opening ceremonies.

Sullivan told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that the Biden administration made “a statement of principle about what we, the United States, were going to do.” He says some nations joined the U.S. and others “made a different decision.”

But he cited “the broad level of alignment” among “like-minded democracies coming together on a range of challenges that China poses, whether it’s in the realm of military aggression or in the realm of economic coercion or in the realm of human rights.”

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Johannes Ludwig of Germany is the Olympic champion in men’s luge, adding that to the World Cup overall title he won this season.

It’s the 11th time in 16 Olympics that a German man — counting the days of East Germany and West Germany in there — has won the luge title. Wolfgang Kindl of Austria was second and Dominik Fischnaller of Italy was third.

Ludwig led after all four heats. He set the tone for Sunday’s final two runs of the competition by setting a track record leading off the third heat, putting more pressure on everyone else in the field to catch him.

Nobody did. Only Kindl came close. Chris Mazdzer was the top American, finishing eighth.

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Jakara Anthony of Australia has captured the women’s moguls title at the Beijing Olympics.

Anthony’s back flip with a grab at the bottom of the course sewed up the gold medal Sunday on the Secret Garden Olympic course. Her score of 83.09 edged American Jaelin Kauf, who had been poised to pick up the first gold medal for Team USA in China.

Russian athlete Anastasiia Smirnova earned the bronze while defending champion Perrine Laffont of France finished fourth.

The 23-year-old Anthony joins Dale Begg-Smith as the only Aussies to win the Olympic event. Begg-Smith earned his title at the 2006 Turin Games.

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Japan’s Ryoyu Kobayashi has won Olympic ski jumping gold on the normal hill.

Kobayashi jumped last and best, clearing 99.5 meters (326 feet) and had 129.6 points thanks to his graceful style from start to finish that won over the judges.

Austria’s Manuel Fettner won silver and Dawid Kubacki of Poland earned bronze.

Two-time ski jumping gold medalist Andreas Wellinger is missing the Beijing Games because he tested positive for the coronavirus last week, clearing the way for a new champion in China

Earlier in the night, Turkish ski jumper Fatih Arda İpcioğlu refused to say if the crescent and star on his blue skis was a statement in support of China’s Uyghur community. The design on the skis used Saturday seemingly represented East Turkestan, the region home to Uyghurs. İpcioğlu finished deep in the field of 50.

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Turkish ski jumper Fatih Arda İpcioğlu refused to say if the crescent and star on his blue skis was a statement in support of China’s Uyghur community.

The design on the skis used Saturday seemingly represented East Turkestan, the region home to Uyghurs.

“I don’t want to answer about those questions,” İpcioğlu said Sunday night after jumping in the first round of the Normal Hill competition.

İpcioğlu switched skis on Sunday, saying the pair he had were for the competition.

“I’m a sportsman,” he bristled. “I do just my job. The other things, I don’t care about. It’s not my job.”

Human rights groups say the Beijing government has oppressed members of the Uyghur Muslim minority on a massive scale.

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Finland men’s hockey player Marko Anttila remains at an isolation hotel at the Beijing Games after testing positive for the coronavirus.

Coach Jukka Jalonen says nothing has changed with Anttila, who recovered from COVID-19 last month and has been unable to produce two negative tests that would allow him to return to the team. Jalonen and Finland players say Anttila is fully healthy and has no symptoms.

Jalonen confirmed Anttila is Finland’s only player in isolation.

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Defending champion Mikaela Shiffrin will set off seventh on the first run of the women’s giant slalom at the Beijing Games on Monday.

Shiffrin’s main rival, Slovakian Petra Vlhova, will ski first.

The 26-year-old Shiffrin is bidding for a third Olympic gold medal. It would be a first for Vlhova, and a first in Alpine skiing for Slovakia.

Sara Hector, who leads the World Cup giant slalom standings, starts just before Shiffrin. The Swedish skier is also looking for a first Olympic medal.

The two-leg giant slalom will be raced at 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Beijing time on The Ice River course at Yanqing Alpine Skiing Center.

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Two-time Olympic figure skating champion Yuzuru Hanyu has arrived in Beijing two days before he's due at Capital Indoor Stadium for the start of the men’s program.

The Japanese star is trying to become the first figure skater since Sweden’s Gillis Grafstrom in 1928 to win three straight titles.

Hanyu took a similar approach four years ago in Pyeongchang, when he remained at his Canadian training base until two days before the start of his program. But that was pre-pandemic, and Hanyu took a risk that upon arrival in Beijing he would return the negative COVID-19 test required of anyone entering the Olympic bubble.

Hanyu is coming off his sixth Japanese championship in December. The Winnie-the-Pooh-loving wunderkind is expected to try the quad axel during his free skate, a 4 1/2-revolution jump that has never been landed in competition.

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Nils van der Poel gave Sweden its first Olympic speedskating medal since 1988, pulling off a stunning comeback to win gold in the 5,000 meters at the Beijing Olympics.

Van der Poel was a big favorite coming into the event as the reigning world champion with an undefeated record in the distance events on this season’s World Cup circuit.

He lived up to the hype in the 12 1/2-lap race at the Ice Ribbon oval, turning on the speed at the end to overcome Patrick Roest of the Netherlands with an Olympic record of 6 minutes, 8.84 seconds.

Roest had skated about an hour earlier in the sixth of 10 pairs, initially breaking the Olympic mark in 6.09.31.

It looked as though van der Poel would come up short, too. Then the Swede kicked it into another gear.

He thrilled the sparse crowd by slicing into Roest’s time with each stride. Turns out, van der Poel had just enough time to win gold.

The bronze went to Norway’s Hallgeir Engebraaten in 6:09.88.

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Sven Kramer’s quest for a fourth straight speedskating gold medal in the 5,000 meters ended quickly.

The 35-year-old Dutchman skated in the first pair of the day at Beijing’s Ice Ribbon and finished the grueling race in 6 minutes, 17.04 seconds. Two pairs later, both skaters posted faster times.

Kramer was the first male skater to win the same event at three straight Olympics, but he’s no longer the world’s dominant long-distance performer at the oval. Four years ago, he won gold at Pyeongchang in 6:09.76.

Kramer plans to retire after the Beijing Games, but he still has a couple of events to go. He’ll also compete in the mass start and team pursuit.

No matter what, Kramer is already assured of leaving the sport as the most decorated speedskater in Olympic history with nine medals over the last four Olympics, including four golds.

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The Australian mixed doubles curling team of Dean Hewitt and Tahli Gill pulled off a dramatic first win in their first Olympics when they beat Switzerland hours after it appeared they would be headed home because Gill returned a series of positive COVID-19 tests.

Greeted by an occasional chant of “Aussie Aussie Aussie!” by a spectator in the mostly empty Ice Cube, Hewitt and Gill beat Switzerland’s Martin Rios and Jenny Perret 9-6. Gill had the big knockout shot to secure a 3-end, or three points, in the sixth end to tie the game at 6-6.

The first-ever Olympic curling team from Australia improved to 1-7. Their final game is against their coach, defending gold medalist John Morris of Canada and his new partner, Rachel Homan.

The Australian Olympic Committee announced earlier in the day that Gill and Hewitt would be heading home after Gill, who had COVID-19 before the games, returned a series of positive tests. But the committee said the Medical Expert Panel determined Gill's levels fell within an acceptable range. Gill said she was not infectious.

The Aussies got a call about an hour before the game that they could play and jumped into a cab to get to the venue. Gill said she had to grab her uniform out of her suitcases, which were already packed.

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Russian skier Alexander Bolshunov pulled away from the pack early to win gold in the 30-kilometer skiathlon.

Bolshunov, the World Cup points leader in distance races, grabbed a Russian Olympic Committee flag in the final stretch and waved it in the air as he crossed the finish line in 1 hour, 16 seconds.

Bolshunov and Iivo Niskanen of Finland led the race through the first four classic ski laps but Russia’s Denis Spitsov passed Niskanen once they were on the freestyle legs.

Spitsov stayed out front and secured the silver, 1 minute, 11 seconds behind Bolshunov. Niskanen held on for the bronze 2 minutes back.

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Chinese teenager Su Yiming had the surprise top score in the men’s Olympic slopestyle qualifying round.

Throwing a triple cork, the sort of trick most riders save for finals, Su finished with a score of 86.80. It topped his idol, Mark McMorris of Canada, and defending Olympic champion Red Gerard, who also both advanced to Monday’s final.

The 17-year-old Su clapped his hands in excitement after finishing his first-round run as a sparse audience in the stands cheered. Su won a big air competition in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, in December. His best slopestyle finish on the World Cup circuit was sixth on New Year’s Day.

Gerard wound up fifth in qualifying and McMorris second. The top 12 riders moved on.

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Alpine skiing’s power couple will have a busy day on the Olympic slopes — as long as the wind calms down, that is.

Mikaela Shiffrin and Aleksander Aamodt Kilde are now both supposed to race Monday after the men’s downhill was pushed back a day because of too-strong gusts at the scheduled start Sunday. Shiffrin and Kilde are dating.

Kilde is considered the man to beat in the downhill. The Norwegian leads the World Cup standings in that event and was fastest during training in China on Friday.

Shiffrin is the defending Olympic champion in the women’s giant slalom, which already was on the Alpine program for Monday.

The two-leg GS will be raced at 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on the technical slope at Yanqing Alpine Skiing Center. In between those runs, the downhill will be held at noon on the speed slope about a half-mile away.

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The Australian mixed doubles curling team received a late reprieve and returned to competition at the Beijing Olympics after an earlier announcement that it would head home after Tahli Gill returned a series of positive COVID-19 tests.

The Australian Olympic Committee said Gill and Dean Hewitt could continue under the close contact provisions.

“We are thrilled for Tahli and Dean and I am delighted that our headquarters team continued pressing her case, after earlier advice that the pair could no longer compete,” said Geoff Lipshut, head of the Australian delegation.

Gill and Hewitt, representing Australia’s first-ever Olympic curling team, were back at the Ice Cube in time to play Switzerland in the round robin competition. They are winless in seven games.

Gill contracted COVID-19 prior to the games. Ongoing testing alternated between negative and positive. She had been allowed to compete under the close contact arrangements after discussions with the IOC and games organizers. The AOC said earlier Sunday that initial attempts to return Gill to competition were rebuffed by the IOC and health authorities.

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The International Olympic Committee says Olympic officials will meet with Netherlands state broadcaster NOS, which has been frustrated by fallout from its journalist being manhandled by a games security official during a live report.

NOS, which pays rights fees for the Beijing Olympics, disputed comments made Saturday by an IOC spokesman that it was contacted about the incident.

In a rare public criticism of the IOC by an official rights holder, NOS said none of its management nor reporter Sjoerd Den Daas had spoken to anyone from the Olympic body.

China-based Den Daas was pushed away from the camera by the guard while broadcasting live on Friday evening before the opening ceremony.

IOC spokesman Mark Adams clarified that contact with NOS on Friday and Saturday was through the Olympic broadcasting subsidiary, and that a meeting scheduled Sunday “should be the end of the matter.”

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Olympic organizers say they’re addressing complaints about isolation conditions for athletes who test positive for the coronavirus and working to ensure they have clean rooms, better food and access to training equipment.

“These are exactly the kind of things we have to address. It’s a duty. It’s a responsibility. We have to make sure that the expectations are met,” said Christophe Dubi, the International Olympic Committee’s executive director for the games.

The comments came after multiple complaints about the isolation conditions. The German team called the situation for its athletes “unreasonable” and said rooms should be bigger and cleaner.

Russian biathlon competitor Valeria Vasnetsova said she couldn’t stomach most of the food she was given, and mostly survived on a few pieces of pasta. Soon after the post, a team spokesperson posted a picture showing what he said was improved food, including salmon, cucumbers, sausages and yogurt.

A total of 363 people inside the Olympic bubble have tested positive for COVID.

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The first event of the Alpine skiing schedule at the Beijing Olympics, the men’s downhill, has been postponed because of strong wind that made it too dangerous to race.

No new date was announced immediately.

The first women’s race -- the giant slalom -- is scheduled for Monday, with Mikaela Shiffrin of the U.S. defending her Olympic gold from 2018.

At the top of the speed course, known as The Rock, the wind was whipping at 30 mph, with gusts up to 40 mph, when Sunday’s men’s race originally was scheduled to begin at 11 a.m.

The start was delayed three times for a total of three hours in the hope that the wind would relent. But eventually the decision was made at 1 p.m. to put it off to another day.

Wind was also an issue for Alpine skiing at the 2018 Pyongchang Games, where multiple races were postponed and the schedule was shuffled repeatedly.

Saturday’s third and final training session for the men was stopped after just three skiers because of wind. None of the world’s top racers had ever seen the course until the first training run on Thursday. The usual pre-Olympics test events were scrapped because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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The powerful Russian figure skating team is in first place in the team competition at the Beijing Games after a winning performance from world champion Kamila Valieva and another strong skate from Mark Kondratiuk.

The team representing the Russian Olympic Committee has 45 points, two ahead of the U.S., which had a couple of shaky performances from Karen Chen and Vincent Zhou to slip out of first place.

The biggest surprise on the second of three days of team competition was Japan. Wakaba Higuchi was second in the women’s short program before 18-year-old Yuma Kagiyama delivered a personal-best score of 208.94 points to easily win the men’s free skate, sending the Japanese team into medal contention with 39 points.

The team competition concludes Monday with the women and pairs free skate and the free dance.

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Australia’s first-ever Olympic mixed doubles curling team has pulled out of the Beijing Games after Tahli Gill returned a series of positive COVID-19 tests.

The Australian Olympic Committee said it was trying to make arrangements to have Gill and Dean Hewitt fly home rather than having Gill remain in an isolation hotel. They will miss their final two games and finish 0-7 in round robin play.

Gill contracted COVID-19 prior to the games. Ongoing testing alternated between negative and positive. She had been allowed to compete under the close contact arrangements after discussions with the IOC and games organizers.

Attempts to return Gill to competition were rebuffed by the IOC and health authorities, Australian Olympic team head Geoff Lipshut said.

“We made the case that Tahli was at the end of the infection cycle but further positive results early this morning ended our hopes. Rather than remain in isolation, we now have the option of returning Tahli and Dean home,” Lipshut said.

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Zoi Sadowski Synnott won New Zealand’s first gold medal in Winter Olympics history, stomping down a pressure-packed run on her last trip down the mountain Sunday to win the title in women’s slopestyle.

The 20-year-old was one of the very few to put down clean run on a supersized course, where hardpacked snow and bone-cold wind chills made things difficult for all 12 finalists, including two-time defending champion Jamie Anderson, who finished ninth.

Sadowski Synnott went into her last of three runs trailing American Julia Marino but came up big.

She landed a double-cork 1080 on the second jump, and while not repeating that jump the way she did when she won the Winter X Games last month, her backside 1080 off the final kicker was more than enough.

She raised her hands in the air after landing, knowing what she’d done. Marino and third-place finisher Tess Coady of Australia knew it, too. They gang-tackled her at the finish line to celebrate.

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Olympic favorite Kamila Valieva nearly eclipsed her own world record in the short program of the team figure skating event at the Beijing . That sends her Russian team into the lead heading into the men’s free skate later Sunday.

The 15-year-old Valieva’s score of 90.18 points to “In Memoriam” by the Russian pianist and composer Kirill Richter at the Beijing Games was just off the record of 90.45 points set just weeks ago at the European championships.

The Russians moved into first place with 36 points, two ahead of Day 1 leader Team USA and seven ahead of Japan.

Karen Chen took the ice for the Americans but made a couple of mistakes, including a fall on her triple loop near the end of the program. That left her in fifth place in the short program and cost her team valuable points.

Wakaba Higuchi was second, pushing her Japanese team into podium contention. Reigning gold medalist Canada survived the cutoff thanks to a strong performance from Madeline Schizas, while China claimed the last spot in the free skates by winning a tiebreaker with Georgia.

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