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The Latest: Haiti, Saudi Arabia make Winter Olympic debuts – The Republic

BEIJING (AP) — The latest on the Beijing Olympics:
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Saudi Arabia has made its first appearance at the Winter Olympics opening ceremony after alpine skier Fayik Abdi qualified to compete.
Its small delegation hoisted the Middle East kingdom’s green and white flag while wearing what appeared to be cold-weather versions of the country’s traditional ankle-length national dress.
Also making its first appearance is the Caribbean island nation of Haiti. It is being represented by alpine skier Richardson Viano, who was adopted by Italian parents and raised in France.
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It has become an Olympic tradition: the shirtless athlete in the opening ceremony.
And Tonga’s Pita Taufatofua now has some company.
Meet Nathan Crumpton. Born in Kenya, resident of Utah, graduate of Princeton, skeleton athlete formerly with the U.S. and now competing for American Samoa — and he grabbed attention Friday night at the Beijing Games, by walking in shirtless.
Taufatofua wasn’t at these Olympics, ending his streak of three consecutive games — both summer and winter — representing Tonga. He is currently trying to lead relief efforts there after a tsunami caused catastropic damage.
Crumpton carried the (shirtless) flag. He also competed for American Samoa in track and field at the Tokyo Games last summer. His mother’s family background allowed him to switch his athletic allegiance to American Samoa in 2019.
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Russian President Vladimir Putin cheered on his nation’s athletes at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics, making the trip to Beijing as tens of thousands of Russian troops are poised for a possible invasion of Ukraine.
Putin is one of the most prominent world leaders attending Friday’s ceremony. The United States and Japan, as well as some other nations, staged a diplomatic boycott of the games.
The Russian leader stood and waved to his nation’s athletes as they entered the stadium. Chinese President Xi Jinping, who met with Putin earlier Friday in Beijing, also clapped for the Russian team.
The athletes from Russia, a winter sports powerhouse, were introduced and are competing again at the Olympics as the “Russian Olympic Committee” — part of the sanctions levied after numerous doping scandals. Any Russian athlete who wins a gold medal at the games will hear the Olympic anthem instead of that of their home nation.
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At least two of the women who would have been flagbearers at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics were not in the parade of athletes on Friday night because of virus-related issues.
U.S. bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor had to give up her spot to speedskater Brittany Bowe. Meyers Taylor remains in isolation after a positive test.
And Friday, U.S. Virgin Islands skeleton athlete Katie Tannenbaum revealed that she, too, has tested positive for COVID-19. The Virgin Islands flag was being carried into the stadium by a volunteer.
Tannenbaum is the only athlete representing the Virgin Islands in Beijing at these games. Her coach, Alex Auer, and the nation’s Chef de Mission, Ansen Siglar, were walking to represent the team.
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At the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, no detail is overlooked.
Every nation is being led into the stadium by someone carrying a glowing snowflake-shaped placard bearing that country’s name. And each of the snowflakes, when put back together, would form a larger snowflake.
The placard bearers’ costumes has an ice-and-snow pattern, and their hats have a tiger motif — because this year is the year of the tiger in China.
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The parade of athletes at the opening ceremony for the Beijing Olympics has started.
It’s expected to take about an hour. Representatives from 91 nations are taking part, including about 80% of the U.S. delegation of athletes.
As always at an Olympics, Greece is the first nation to enter the stadium. From there, it goes alphabetically — but by the language of the host country.
That’s why Greece will be followed by, in order, Turkey, Malta, Madagascar, Malaysia, Ecuador, Eritrea, Jamaica, Belgium and then Japan.
The U.S. is 56th in the order, which would be confusing to those thinking it’ll go according to the English alphabet. The U.S. group will be between Bulgaria and American Samoa.
The team of Russian athletes will be the official midpoint of the parade. They’re here competing under the Olympic emblem and not the Russian flag, part of the sanctions handed down to that nation’s Olympic committee for doping scandals such as the one that overshadowed the 2014 Sochi Games.
Tradition also dictates who the last two teams in the parade are. Italy — the host of the next Winter Games in 2026 — will enter next-to-last, and then China will close the parade with its delegation.
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In China, Friday was “Lichun” — which translates to the beginning of spring.
And in this case, the start of the Winter Olympics.
“Beginning of Spring” is the first of the 24 solar terms of the year, and that number — 24 — carried significance in the early moments of the opening ceremony of these Beijing Games. Organizers say it reflects “the Chinese people’s understanding of time,” also noting that these were the 24th Winter Olympics.
The celebration of the lunar terms was punctuated by the first of what will be multiple pyrotechnic displays at the Bird’s Nest — including using fireworks to spell out the word “Spring.”
It’s also a Chinese belief that extreme cold breeds new life. Temperatures were expected to fall into the low 20s as the ceremony goes along; perhaps not extreme cold, but certainly a chilly start to the Beijing Games.
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The opening ceremony for the Beijing Olympics is set to begin, with Chinese President Xi Jinping and International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach now having entered the Bird’s Nest.
The Chinese officially refer to the place as National Stadium — it’s the ‘Bird’s Nest’ because of its design, the web of steel resembling the way branches would be turned into a nest. It becomes the first facility to ever play host to the opening of both a summer and winter games, after it also was where the 2008 Olympics began.
Track and field was contested at the Bird’s Nest then, those games being the ones where Usain Bolt’s reign as the greatest Olympic sprinter began with his world-record times in both the 100- and 200-meter dashes.
Athletes from 91 nations are expected to march in the ceremony, including four from the island of Taiwan — which, for the Olympics and most international sporting events, is referred to as Chinese Taipei.
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Nordic combined superstar Eric Frenzel and teammate Terence Weber have tested positive for COVID-19 twice in Beijing, landing them in an isolation hotel.
Frenzel won gold on the normal hill at the 2018 Olympics — as he did at the Sochi Games — and also earned gold in the team competition as well as a silver on the large hill, giving him six Olympic medals in his career.
Frenzel is one medal away from matching the Nordic combined record of seven set by Felix Gottwald of Austria. He is tied for the all-time lead in the sport with three golds, matching Gottwald, Finland’s Samppa Lajunen and Ulrich Wehling of Germany.
Frenzel is No. 5 in World Cup standings, and Weber is seventh. “Both still have the chance to come back!” team spokesman Florian Schwarz wrote in an email Friday night.
Norway’s Jarl Magnus Riiber, ranked No. 2 in the world, also tested positive for COVID-19 and seemed to indicate he was out for the Beijing Games. Riiber posted on Instagram “the (gold) is yours guys.”
The first Nordic combined event at the Beijing Games is Wednesday.
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Finland women’s hockey coach Pasi Mustonen is leaving the Beijing Winter Games to return home and attend to a family emergency.
General manager Tuula Puputti tells The Associated Press that assistant coach Juuso Toivola will assume head-coaching duties. The switch comes a day after Finland opened the tournament with a 5-2 loss to the United States.
Finland is scheduled to play Canada on Saturday.
Mustonen took over in 2014 and coached the Finns to a bronze medal at the 2018 Winter Games. The nation then won its first silver medal at the 2019 world championships on home soil following a 2-1 shootout loss to the Americans.
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Russian President Vladimir Putin has arrived in Beijing for the opening of the Olympic Games. He’ll also hold talks with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping as the two leaders look to project themselves as a counterweight to the U.S. and its allies.
The Russian leader’s visit comes amid growing Chinese support for Moscow in its dispute with Ukraine that threatens to break out into armed conflict.
Putin’s presence makes him the highest-profile guest at the event following the decision by the U.S., Britain and others not to send officials in protest over China’s human rights abuses and its treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities.
The discussions mark the first in-person meeting between Putin and Xi since 2019.
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The U.S. leads after the opening day of the team figure skating event at the Beijing Games, with winning performances from Nathan Chen and ice dancers Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue helping them edge the heavily favored Russians.
Alexa Knierim and Brandon Fraizer did their part, too. They had a season-best score in their pairs short program, helping the Americans amass 28 points. That leaves them two clear of the Russians and seven ahead of third-place China.
The Chinese were helped by a record score in the pairs short program by Sui Wenjing and Han Cong.
The team event resumes Sunday with the women’s short program. The top five nations after that will advance to the round of free skates later Saturday and concluding Monday night.
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U.S. women’s hockey star Brianna Decker will miss the rest of the Olympics after injuring her left leg in the Americans’ tournament-opening victory against Finland.
Decker is expected to remain in Beijing rather than fly back to the U.S. immediately.
The forward was hurt when she was tripped from behind by Ronja Savolainen midway through the first period Thursday night. Decker was unable to put any weight on her left leg. She was taken off the ice on a stretcher.
Decker’s injury was the second to a key player on the first day of women’s hockey in Beijing. Canadian forward Melodie Daoust was injured after being checked hard into the boards by Switzerland’s Sarah Foster.
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The third round of training for women’s ski jumpers at the Beijing Olympics has been cancelled due to windy conditions.
Wind gusts were measured at 7 meters per second (16 mph.) To make the conditions even more brutal, it was minus 9 degrees Celsius (16 degrees Fahrenheit) on the sunny afternoon. The 40 women in the field had two jumps each, a day after having three rounds of training.
Practice for the men’s ski jumpers later in the day started on time.
Defending Olympic champion Maren Lundby of Norway and top-ranked Marita Kramer of Austria will not vie for medals on Saturday, creating a wide-open competition.
Lundby is taking the season off after gaining weight and refusing to stress her body and mind enough to jump in a sport plagued by eating disorders. Kramer tested positive for COVID-19, knocking her out of the Beijing Games.
Germany’s Katharina Althaus and Japan’s Sara Takanashi are among the contenders to win gold after finishing second and third behind Lundby at the 2018 Olympics.
High winds delayed the start of men’s downhill training earlier in the day and about 100 kilometers (60 miles) away.
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The U.S. men’s hockey team has held its first pre-Olympic practice in Beijing without two top defenseman and a veteran forward because they tested positive for the coronavirus.
Defenseman Jake Sanderson remains in Los Angeles. Defenseman Steven Kampfer and forward Andy Miele are isolating in the Olympic Village in Beijing.
USA Hockey hopes all three players will be available for the tournament, which begins Wednesday. The U.S. opens against host China on Thursday.
Players and coaches arrived just after midnight. Three goaltenders and 23 skaters were on the ice for practice with coach David Quinn and his assistants.
Canada canceled practice for a second consecutive day. No reason was given.
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Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue have delivered a season-best performance in rhythm dance at the Beijing Olympics, giving Team USA a second straight win on the opening day of figure skating.
Nathan Chen won the men’s short program with a dynamic, high-flying program that featured a pair of quads. Hubbell and Donohue followed up with a near-flawless performance to music from Janet Jackson at Capital Indoor Stadium.
In the team event, 10 points are awarded to first place in each discipline, which means the Americans have a perfect 20 so far. The Russian Olympic Committee is second with 17 after Mark Kondratiuk’s third-place finish and a shaky second-place performance by ice dance world champions Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov.
Italy is in third place with 14 points heading into the pairs discipline later Friday.
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The second men’s downhill ski training session is underway at the Beijing Olympics after a delay due to strong winds.
Overall World Cup leader Marco Odermatt of Switzerland was first to set off down the slope an hour after originally scheduled Friday.
The world’s best skiers only got the chance to see the Rock course up close for the first time on Thursday. There is a third training session scheduled Saturday before the men’s downhill opens the Alpine competition the following day.
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Three-time men’s figure skating world champion Nathan Chen has delivered a strong short program to open the team competition at the Beijing Games. That gets the Americans off to a good start in their pursuit of a third straight medal in the event.
Chen, who struggled in the team event in Pyeongchang, opened with a big quad flip and hit his difficult quad lutz-triple toe loop combination to deliver the highest score among the men Friday and give the U.S. the maximum 10 points.
Reigning Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno was second to give Japan nine points. Eighteen-year-old Mark Kondratiuk was third for the Russian Olympic Committee, which is favored to win the team event.
The short program for ice dance and pairs are later Friday, then the teams get a day off before the women’s short program on Sunday. The top five teams after that advance to free skates for the medals Sunday and Monday.
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Organizers say nine more athletes and officials tested positive for COVID-19 in cases confirmed on Thursday, raising the total to 111 since the Beijing Olympic period started on Jan. 23.
Seven cases were detected at the Beijing airport, making it 77 out of 5,255 athletes and officials who arrived through Thursday. The other two cases came from daily PCR testing that all people inside the Olympic bubbles must undergo.
Organizers say 12 more positive cases were detected among “stakeholders” — mostly workers at the Games including media. Seven of those were at the airport and five in daily tests.
The overall total of positive cases is 308 through Thursday. Almost 12,000 people have arrived in Beijing from outside China.
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Organizers have delayed the start of the second men’s downhill training session at the Beijing Olympics due to strong winds.
The session had been scheduled to start at 11 a.m. Beijing time, but organizers will only make a decision then whether it can start at the new scheduled time of noon.
The world’s best skiers only got the chance to see the Rock course up close for the first time on Thursday. There is a third training session scheduled Saturday before the men’s downhill opens the Alpine competition the following day.
Weather is yet another source of stress for competitive skiers who can do nothing to control changing conditions on the slopes.
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Chinese figure skating judge Huang Feng, who was suspended in 2018 for biased judging at the Pyeongchang Olympics, was among the three officials on the technical panel for the team event to start the Beijing Games.
Huang served a one-year suspension after he was accused of biased judging in the pairs event in Pyeongchang.
The International Skating Union, which assigns the judges and technical panel, said in a statement that Huang was cleared to work the Olympics after serving his suspension provided he continues to abide by the organization’s code of ethics. The technical panel is responsible for identifying all the elements that skaters execute during their programs.
Huang received a round of applause from the several hundred fans, all Chinese citizens, who were allowed into Capital Indoor Stadium for the start of Friday’s program. He stood and gave a brief wave before sitting back down.
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More AP Winter Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/winter-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
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