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Peacock Docuseries Explores 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics Skating Scandal

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There’s one word that always grabs the world’s attention in sports: scandal.

Figure skating has had its share — anyone recall Tonya and Nancy in 1994? That one has been examined as often as Nathan Chen nails a quadruple jump.

Not so much the 2002 disgrace at the Salt Lake City Olympics.

Tara Lipinski, the 1998 Olympic gold medalist and now an analyst for NBC, partnered with husband Todd Kapostasy on a four-part documentary series on Peacock, NBC’s streaming outlet. “Meddling” takes a closer look at the scandal surrounding the alleged vote-rigging plot, in which the Russians were accused of fixing a gold medal victory for pairs skaters Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze, beating out Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier despite the Canadians’ flawless routine.

As part of the scheme, French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne allegedly succumbed to pressure from her federation to lowball the Canadians’ scores in favor of their Russian rivals.

Days after the improprieties in the scoring surfaced, Sale and Pelletier, were also awarded gold medals and the Russians were allowed to keep theirs. The two pairs shared the top podium at the medals ceremony as co-gold medalists.

“It brought a sadness for me as an Olympic champion knowing what that night is like,” Lipinski explains. “You skate your heart out and everything goes right, the rest is all fun and soaking in the crowd and seeing marks. And you win and have your time on the podium listening to the national anthem, and those are one-time lifetime memories.

“I think they would all agree it was the most bizarre and unfortunate night. How uncomfortable and extremely awkward it was sharing the top podium. David said it was ‘done for the people, not for us.’

“I don’t think any of those skaters will get that night back, their one shot at Olympic glory and to experience what it would be like to win a gold medal.”

Instead, they got chaos. As the AP reported:

“So on Sunday night, after the original dance ended, a blue carpet was laid down on the ice and a medals podium put on top of it. Canadian and Russian flags were hung on a scaffold, ready to be pulled to the rafters.

“It had the potential to be awkward — medals ordinarily won by one couple shared between two. But Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze accepted their co-champions gracefully, a gift Sale and Pelletier acknowledged.”

Still, as Lipinski and Kapostasy discovered during interviews with everyone involved — including Le Gougne — it left scars. On the sport, which immediately underwent sweeping reforms in judging and a revamping of the scoring system, eliminating the perfect 6.0 that wasn’t all that perfect in the end. And on the four skaters, 20 years later.

Figure skater Jason Brown has always been known for his bubbly personality and his ponytail flowing through jumps and spins on the ice, but when he makes his second Olympic appearance in Beijing this February, he’ll be rocking a whole new look.

Lipinski notes that there had not been an in-depth look at the scandal in the past two decades. Even though it was a dominant theme during the Salt Lake City Olympics, an ongoing drama for days, the perception generally was that the French judge voted for the Russians that night under pressure from others. Netflix covered the scandal in an episode titled “Gold War” as part of its docuseries “Bad Sport.”

“But detailing every facet was needed. It is a deep and responsible look at what happened,” she says of “Meddling.” “There are so many different layers of this story that I didn’t realize were happening.”

Le Gougne and the head of the French skating association were suspended for three years for their alleged roles in the scheme.

The docuseries is the first time Le Gougne has spoken to American media, Lipinski says. They did a six-hour interview.

“It affected her life so greatly,” Lipinski says. “She moved back in with her mom in France and feels like she was not able to live her life, misses her sport so much. Sadly, she even contemplated suicide.

“Twenty years later, we’re getting to look at where these people are now and how it affected their lives so deeply.”

Lipinski and Kapostasy are hoping to do more projects with their May Fifth Productions. Not necessarily focusing on figure skating, although it is ripe with potential.

“The reason I wanted to do it, I never want to back away from things that have happened in this sport, and that was a huge blemish,” she says. “It is nice to not pretend it didn’t, but why not take a look at it and relive the story and find out more? At the same time, we can appreciate that this sport has evolved and has a new judging system.”

And, in recent years, no scandals.

Watch the first episode of “Meddling” for free on Peacock here.

Gender roles are entrenched in the sport of figure skating – creating a challenge for athletes outside the binary, like U.S. pairs figure skater and Olympic hopeful Timothy LeDuc. In this episode 3 of the My New Favorite Olympian podcast, LeDuc talks about coming up in the skating world, coming out to their family twice, and how they navigate a sport whose official rulebook defines skating pairs as a man and a woman.

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Universal Orlando says Epic Universe to open by summer 2025

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Thank you for supporting our journalism. This article is available exclusively for our subscribers, who help fund our work at the Orlando Sentinel.

Universal’s newest Orlando theme park, Epic Universe, is expected to open by summer 2025, executives for parent company Comcast said Thursday, as Universal Orlando reported record-setting earnings last quarter.

Epic Universe’s construction is “full steam ahead,” NBCUniversal Chief Executive Officer Jeff Shell said during the company’s fourth quarter earnings call. NBC Universal expects to invest about $1 billion in capital expenditures for the theme park this year, Chief Financial Officer Michael Cavanaugh said.

“Construction is going really well … we expect that park to open in ‘25, and certainly in time for the summer of ‘25,” Shell said.

Universal Orlando also just reported the “best quarter in the company’s history for any quarter,” said Brian Roberts, Comcast’s chairman and chief financial officer. The fourth quarter covered October through December 2021.

The Florida park’s success helped NBCUniversal report the company’s most profitable fourth quarter on record, Roberts said.

NBCUniversal’s theme park revenue increased by $1.2 billion in the fourth quarter compared with the same period in 2020, when all of its theme parks had limited capacity or were closed, the company noted. Universal Studios Beijing’s opening on Sept. 20, 2021, added to those earnings.

NBCUniversal reported nearly $1.9 billion in theme park revenue last quarter alone.

Its yearly revenue more than doubled from 2020 figures, from $2 billion to $5 billion, according to the report.

The omicron COVID variant had no impact on Universal Orlando, Shell said, and limited effects on the company’s theme parks in Hollywood and Japan.

“Everything’s kind of going in the right direction,” he said. “And even as we start the first quarter, continuing in that direction. I think part of that, by the way, is because we continue to invest in our attractions during the pandemic.”

Still, international theme park visitation has not returned to its historic levels at Universal Orlando, Shell said. The majority of international visitors are coming from the United Kingdom and Europe but visitation from Latin American countries has not rebounded.

Shell added that Universal is “very happy” with attendance at Universal Studios Beijing so far and expects that park’s crowds to increase further as China opens up travel.

“All signs are pointed up in our theme park business,” Shell said.

In response to a question about Epic Universe’s timeline, Roberts said he wishes he could retroactively slow down the development of Epic Universe as he reflects on the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on the business.

“This is a business and if you build wonderful attractions, there is pent-up demand,” he said. “And we’re going to make a fabulous park at Epic, and we’re going as fast as we can now to make up for lost time.”

krice@orlandosentinel.com and @katievrice on Twitter

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Historic Seven Mile Bridge to Florida Keys open to cyclists, runners, walkers

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Photo credit: Julia Sanbe

The historic 7 mile bridge, better known as the “Old Seven,” has reopened following a major $44 million dollar restoration that commenced in 2016.

Located in Florida’s vacation hub of Key West, this picturesque, kodak-moment worthy structure which has greeted many tourists and achieved Hollywood stardom for its appearances in the blockbuster hit movies—1989 James Bond, “Licence to kill” and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1994 “True Lies,” finally returned to the public on Jan 12, 2022.

Here at UM, the excitement is hard to hide.

Student Zoe Manz, a junior majoring in ecosystem science and policy, has been longing for the return of Old Seven since it’s closing in 2016.

“I live in Marathon where the 7-mile bridge is,” Manz said. “Everyone kind of forgot how nice it was to be able to walk there and see the sunset and the water.”

“I went and visited the bridge a couple days after the reopening before I came back up here to UM and it was a lot of fun. I walked there with my family, it was a good time seeing everyone walking on the bridge,” Manz continued.

Built in 1912, “Old Seven” spans 2.2 miles connecting the Middle Keys in Marathon FL, to a small island beneath the bridge called Pigeon Key. It essentially bridges the lower keys to the upper keys.

Old Seven is one of two bridges in Marathon as it precedes the contemporaneous “Seven Mile” that was built in 1982. The Seven Mile is currently open to automobiles while Old Seven is not. At the time of its arrival in the early 80s, it served as a smoother, wider, and higher replacement.

The two bridges parallel each other and are considered to be amongst the longest bridges in existence.

Madeline Wagner, a senior majoring in marine affairs and ecosystem science and policy with a minor in sustainable business, was enthralled by the Old Seven’s length when she visited.

“The structure of the bridge is just fascinating in ways that are obvious; it’s 7 miles long. I know my family took a trip to the keys just to drive across the 7 mile bridge.” Wagner said.

“It’s a Florida Keys treasure,” Wagner continued.

Originally built as a Key West extension of Henry Flagler’s Florida’s East Coast Railway, Old Seven was converted to a highway (Overseas Highway) in 1938, after the labor day hurricane of 1935, devastated the Keys section of the railroad.

But, by 2008, the bridge had accumulated ample wear and tear, posing potential dangers to automobile transportation. The Florida Department of Transportation since then limited the Bridge’s use strictly to recreational activities such as biking, skating, and walking.

The prohibition of cars from the structure invited locals and tourists to make Old Seven a spot of congregation and family fun.

Popular activities include group runs, family bike rides and slow strolls accompanied by captivating sunsets, and magnificent views of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.

Manz reminisces on her childhood memories at Old Seven.

“When I was little, my mom would tell me stories of how she’d put me in a stroller and she and her friends would walk along the bridge with me. I used to go running on the bridge in high school with my sister,” Manz said.

Manz feels like she can speak for the community on the bridge shaping pivotal memories for locals.

“I feel like people that grew up living in the keys definitely have memories associated with the bridge,” Manz continued.

However, rusty railings, structural breakings, and decking failures appeared by 2016, fueling the need for a renovation of the landmark.

With state funding and a generous pitch-in of $2.7 million from Monroe County, the project began.

Locals and tourists have taken full advantage of this landmark over the years and more memories are to be made following the bridge’s reopening.

“It’s a really unique and fun place for people to gather, you see groups running on the bridge, friends riding bikes, tourists that walk over from a restaurant or like taking photos of the sunset.” Manz said.

“It’s just a really cool place that just kinda brings people together,” Manz continued.

Rather than rebuilding, the Old Seven was restored, preserving it’s rich historic appeal, just with a fresher feel and safer structure.

Wagner believes it was a virtuous decision to restore the Old Seven.

“Restoration preserves the nostalgia of a landmark,” Wagner said. “You wouldn’t rebuild the Statue of Liberty, you would restore it. There is so much history and memory associated with the bridge, it would have done it a disservice to build from the ground up.”

The restoration job includes structural steel, concrete, and bridge joint repairs, new decking, pedestrian handrails and benches, and newly paved roads with convenient mile markings.

To the cyclists, runners, walkers, sunset chasers, and ocean-view enthusiasts, be sure to pay Old Seven a visit.

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Canadian man gets 6 months for groping flight attendant

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MIAMI (AP) — A Canadian man has been sentenced to six months in U.S. federal prison for groping an American Airlines flight attendant.

Enio Socorro Zayas, 50, was sentenced Monday in Miami federal court, according to court records. He pleaded guilty to assault in October.

According to a criminal complaint, Zayas was traveling on an American Airlines flight from Cancun, Mexico, to Miami International Airport in August when a flight attendant serving refreshments left snacks on Zayas’ lap because she believed he was asleep. Zayas then reached around his side, intentionally grabbed the woman on the back of the leg and moved his hand up to her buttocks, all without the flight attendant’s consent, investigators said.

After arriving in Miami, the flight attendant reported her encounter with Zayas, and several passengers corroborated her story, officials said.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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