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Chiefs, Led By Hobbled Mahomes, Beat Jags 27-20 In Playoffs

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KANSAS CITY, Missouri — Patrick Mahomes begged Chiefs coach Andy Reid to let him play on Saturday.

He begged trainers, assistant coaches, and anyone else within hearing distance on the Kansas City sideline to let him play despite an injured right ankle.

“Unless they take me out,” Mahomes would later say, “I’m not coming out of a playoff game.”

The Chiefs, on the other hand, forced him to have X-rays late in the first half of their divisional game against Jacksonville.

However, when the results were negative, and Mahomes demonstrated his ability to protect himself in the halftime locker room, Reid decided to put his All-Pro quarterback back on the field, leading them to victory.

Mahomes

Mahomes Promises To Be Ready For Winter

two touchdowns, the second capping a 75-yard drive late in the fourth quarter, to lead the Chiefs to a 27-20 victory over the Jaguars and a spot in the AFC championship game for the fifth time in a row.

Mahomes also promised to be ready for the winner of Sunday’s game between Cincinnati and Buffalo the following week. If the Bengals win, they’ll return to Arrowhead Stadium, while the Bills will travel to Atlanta.

While Mahomes was out, Chad Henne led a 98-yard touchdown drive. Travis Kelce set a career-high with 14 catches for 98 yards and two touchdowns. With about 7 minutes remaining in the game, Marquez Valdes-Scantling hauled in the game-winning touchdown pass.

“It’s a credit to the team I’m with, the coaches I’m with, and the organization in general,” Mahomes said. “We try to do everything we can to get to the AFC championship game and find a way to the Super Bowl.”

The Jaguars, who came back from a 27-0 deficit to defeat the Chargers in the wild-card round, blew two late chances to mount another comeback. With about 5 1/2 minutes remaining, Jamal Agnew had the ball pop loose inside the Chiefs 5, and Jaylen Watson made a leaping, one-handed interception near midfield.

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The Jaguars’ Last-Ditch Effort

The Jaguars’ last-ditch effort was thwarted when Kansas City recovered an onside kick with 24 seconds remaining.

Trevor Lawrence threw for 217 yards and a touchdown to Christian Kirk, who was injured briefly midway through the fourth quarter but returned to finish the game. Travis Etienne rushed for 62 yards and a touchdown.

“When you get this far, you don’t want to stop,” Jaguars’ Foyesade Oluokun said. “You want to continue.”

“I don’t have the words right now,” Lawrence added. “The Chiefs did more than we did today.”

Mahomes was at his creative best long before he hobbled to the sideline in pain, driving the Chiefs downfield on their first possession.

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Mahomes Game Was Shifted

A shortstop-style sidearm sling to JuJu Smith-Schuster, a critical third-down pass to Kelce as he was being dragged to the turf, and the flip pass to his tight end gave Kansas City a 7-0 lead.

The Jaguars responded quickly, capitalizing on a big kickoff return and a short field.

Lawrence, whose four touchdown passes helped to stun the Chargers last week, then hit Kirk for the corresponding touchdown.

Then the game’s complexion shifted.

Arden Key brought the full weight of his body down on Mahomes’ ankle as he moved up in the pocket. Mahomes hobbled to the huddle and completed three more plays to end the first quarter, then returned to the field for two more plays before Harrison Butker kicked a 50-yard field goal.

During the Jaguars’ next possession, Mahomes became enraged with Reid and the training staff.

However, as the second half began, that familiar red No. 15 jersey trotted back onto the field.

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Mahomes Struggled To Move

“It was a short leash,” Reid admitted. “If I thought he couldn’t handle it, he would have left.”

Mahomes struggled to move around with his right ankle heavily taped, but his presence seemed to calm the Chiefs — and their agitated fan base. Butker added a second 50-yard field goal late in the third quarter to make the score 20-10, and when the AFC South champions responded with a touchdown of their own, the Chiefs responded as well.

Mahomes drove them downfield for one final score, which proved to be the winning margin.

“We know that if it’s up to Pat, he’ll be there. “I’m sure he told everyone on the sideline that he wanted to get in there as soon as possible,” Kelce said.

“It’s just a different feeling when one-five is in there. He can accomplish anything, even if he only has one ankle.”

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STATS AND RECORDS

In the divisional round of the playoffs, Mahomes improved to 5-0. He has 28 touchdown passes and three interceptions in ten home playoff games. Henne completed 5 of 7 passes for 23 yards and a touchdown. Jacksonville tied for the most underdog wins in Super Bowl history this season with eight.

WHAT COMES NEXT

The Chiefs are awaiting word on whether they will face the Bengals at Arrowhead Stadium or the Bills in Atlanta in their third Super Bowl in four years. The Jaguars’ focus now shifts to free agency and the NFL draft.

SOURCE – (AP)

 

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SUPER BOWL: Chiefs, Eagles Land In Phoenix, Prepare For Super Bowl 57

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PHOENIX SUPER BOWL — A few minutes after the Kansas City Chiefs and quarterback Patrick Mahomes touched down in Phoenix, the pilot hung a “Chiefs Kingdom” flag out the window as players, coaches, and staff walked across the runway.

The Philadelphia Eagles arrived in Arizona about an hour later, with an “It’s a Philly Thing” flag fluttering on the runway as quarterback Jalen Hurts, coach Nick Sirianni, and others made their way to a fleet of buses.

One week until Super Bowl 57.

The Chiefs will play the Eagles in Glendale, Arizona, on February 12.

Both teams touched down at Goldwater Air National Guard Base in perfect Phoenix winter weather, with bright sunshine and temperatures in the low 70s. On the runway, team members would occasionally stop to take photos and videos.

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Players Prepare For Super Bowl Game Day

Former Kansas City Chiefs star Christian Okoye was on hand to hand out hats to the team’s players as they stepped off the plane. The former All-American running back lived in Southern California and traveled to Phoenix for a quick visit.

“They called and asked me to come over and greet the team,” Okoye explained. “So I said, ‘Of course,’ because my team is over here preparing to win the Super Bowl.”

The oddsmakers predict a good game, but they disagree with Okoye and give the Eagles a slight advantage. According to FanDuel Sportsbook, Philadelphia opened as a 1 1/2-point favorite.

The Chiefs are going to their third Super Bowl in four years. Last weekend, they beat the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20 with a 45-yard field goal with 3 seconds left in the AFC championship game.

In the NFC championship game, the Eagles defeated the San Francisco 49ers 31-7. So far in the playoffs, they’ve looked dominant, including a 38-7 victory over the New York Giants in the divisional round.

Philadelphia is back in the Super Bowl after defeating the New England Patriots 41-33 five years ago.

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The Eagles Will Go Arizona To Defend Their Title

The Eagles will go to Arizona to defend their title. Hurts and Sirianni will lead a mostly new group of players.

On Monday, both teams will participate in the “Super Bowl LVII Opening Night” in downtown Phoenix, where all the players and coaches from both teams will be available for the annual media extravaganza.

Then it’s time to get down to business. The Chiefs will practice at Arizona State’s football facilities throughout the week, while the Eagles will prepare at the Arizona Cardinals practice facility.

There are plenty of storylines: Kansas City coach Andy Reid faces his former team — which he led to Super Bowl 39 — in a game that also features the first Super Bowl matchup of Black starting quarterbacks, with Mahomes and Hurts.

There will also be a brother-versus-brother matchup between Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce and Philadelphia center Jason Kelce.

SOURCE – (AP)

 

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OLYMPICS: Ukraine Pushes To Exclude Russia From 2024 Paris Olympics

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KYIV, Ukraine — With the Olympics in Paris next year looming and Russia’s invasion appearing to be a protracted conflict, Ukraine’s sports minister renewed a threat to boycott the games if Russia and Belarus are allowed to compete, said Kyiv would lobby other countries to join.

Such a move could cause the greatest schism in the Olympic movement since the Cold War.

No country has declared a boycott of the 2024 Summer Olympics. However, Ukraine received backing from Poland, the Baltic countries, and Denmark, who opposed an International Olympic Committee plan to allow delegations from Russia and its ally Belarus to compete in Paris as “neutral athletes” without flags or anthems.

“We cannot compromise on the admission of Russian and Belarusian athletes,” said Ukrainian Sports Minister Vadym Huttsait, who also chairs the country’s national Olympic committee, citing attacks on his country, athlete deaths, and the destruction of sports facilities.

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Ukraine Will Boycott The Olympics

His committee meeting didn’t decide to boycott, but they agreed to try to convince sports officials worldwide over the next two months, including talking about a possible boycott.

“As a last resort, but please keep in mind that this is my personal opinion,” Huttsait added, “if we do not succeed, we will have to boycott the Olympic Games.”

Paris will be the final Olympics under outgoing IOC President Thomas Bach, who is looking to leave a legacy after a tenure marked by disagreements over Russia’s status — first over widespread doping scandals and now over the Ukraine war.

Bach’s views were formed while he was an Olympic gold medallist in fencing, and his country, West Germany, boycotted the 1980 Olympics in Moscow in protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. He has since condemned that decision.

Russia has cautiously welcomed the IOC’s decision to grant it a path to the Olympics but has demanded that it drop a condition that would exclude athletes deemed to be “actively supporting the war in Ukraine.”

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Russia Says Teams Will Compete

The head of the Russian Olympic Committee, Stanislav Pozdnyakov, who was on Huttsait’s team at the 1992 Olympics, thought that was unfair. The IOC once said that Russia and Belarus shouldn’t be allowed to compete in world sports for safety reasons. It now says that it can’t treat them differently just because of where they live.

The leaders of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania urged the IOC to ban Russia and warned of a boycott.

“I believe our efforts should be focused on persuading our other friends and allies that the participation of Russian and Belarussian athletes is simply wrong,” Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said. “The next step is to boycott. “I believe people will understand why this is required.”

“This threat of a boycott only leads to further escalation of the situation, not only in sport but also in the broader context,” the IOC said in a statement. Regrettably, politicians use athletes and sports as tools to achieve their political goals.”

“Why punish athletes from your country for the Russian government starting the war?” it asked bluntly.

In a statement next week, Poland’s sports minister, Kamil Bortniczuk, said that up to 40 countries could condemn Russian and Belarussian participation in Paris but that a boycott threat could be avoided. He told the state news agency PAP that the IOC was “naive” and should reconsider its stance.

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Denmark Also Wants Athletes To Stay Home

Denmark wants Russian athletes barred from participating in “all international sports as long as their attacks on Ukraine continue,” according to Danish Culture Minister Jakob Engel-Schmidt.

“We must not waver in our approach to Russia. The government’s position is unequivocal. “Russia must be prohibited,” he stated. “This also applies to Russian athletes competing under neutral flags. It is incomprehensible that the IOC appears to have reservations about the line.”

When asked about the boycott threats and the IOC plan, Paris 2024 organizing committee head Tony Estanguet said he couldn’t comment “on political decisions.”

“My job is to ensure that all athletes who want to participate are provided with the best security conditions and that they have the opportunity to live their dream,” he said in Marseille.

Last year, Ukraine boycotted some sporting events rather than compete against Russians.

Huttsait said a boycott would be very tough, saying it was “very important for us that our flag is at the Olympic Games; it is very important for us that our athletes are on the podium. So that we can demonstrate that our Ukraine was, is, and will be.”

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Athletes Prepared For A Boycott

Marta Fedina, a 21-year-old Olympic bronze medallist in artistic swimming, declared in Kyiv that she was “prepared for a boycott.”

“How will I explain to our defenders that I am even on the same sports field as these people?” she asked, referring to Russian athletes. She noted that the war had destroyed her swimming pool in Kharkiv, where she lived when Moscow invaded.

Speakers at the Ukrainian Olympic Committee’s assembly meeting expressed concern about Moscow’s use of Paris for propaganda, and some athletes have close ties to the Russian military.

If athletes from the two countries compete, “it should be absolutely clear that they are not representing the Russian or Belarusian states,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday. The Olympics will be held in Los Angeles in 2028.

If the IOC’s proposal is implemented, it will be the fourth consecutive Olympics in which Russian athletes compete without the national flag or anthem. After a series of doping scandals, the Russian teams at the Winter Olympics in 2018 and 2022 and the Summer Olympics in 2021 were all in trouble.

The last time many countries boycotted an Olympics was in 1988, when North Korea and others refused to attend the Summer Games in South Korea. Fears about the coronavirus pandemic kept the North Korean team from going to the Tokyo Games in 2021. As a result, the IOC barred it from the following Winter Games in Beijing, claiming that teams had a duty to attend every Olympics.

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Belurussian Athletes Under The Same Scrutiny

Although the IOC set the tone of the debate by publishing advice on how to help Russia and Belarus compete, decisions for the governing bodies of individual sports that organize events on the 32-sport Paris program must be made.

These organizations, many of which are based in Lausanne, Switzerland, where the IOC is based, run their qualifying and Olympic competitions and decide who can compete and who can’t.

Before the IOC’s Olympic qualifying events, the International Cycling Union agreed to allow Russian and Belarussian athletes to compete as “neutrals.”

Most sports, including track and field World Athletics and soccer FIFA, excluded Russian athletes and teams within days of the war’s start. Tennis and cycling have allowed many Russians and Belarusians to compete as neutrals. Other governing bodies are more closely aligned with the IOC or have historically had close commercial and political ties with Russia.

The umbrella group of Summer Games sports, ASOIF, may hold a key meeting on March 3 in Lausanne. It is chaired by Francesco Ricci Bitti, a member of the IOC when he led the International Tennis Federation, and includes World Athletics president Sebastian Coe.

The ASOIF declined to comment on Friday but stated this week that “it is critical to respect the specificity of each federation and their particular qualification process” for Paris.

SOURCE – (AP)

 

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Tennis Pro Varvara Lepchenko’s Doping Ban Cut To 21 months

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As part of a deal with the International Tennis Federation, Varvara Lepchenko, a former top-20 tennis player and US Olympian, had her doping ban cut from four years to 21 months.

After Lepchenko appealed her suspension to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the two sides came to a deal.

The agreement was signed in October, approved by CAS on Tuesday, and made public on Friday by the ITF. The World Anti-Doping Agency also approved it.

The stimulant was found in Lepchenko’s urine sample following a first-round loss at the Hungarian Grand Prix in July 2021. Then she competed in three more events and won a title in Charleston, South Carolina. She was then temporarily banned from competing for four years, starting in August 2021.

Her appeal to CAS was based on her later discovery, in a travel bag, of a bottle of capsules containing the substance for which she tested positive — an ingredient not listed on the bottle label.

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Tennis Pro Gets Changed With 12 Months

According to a news release from the ITF on Friday, Lepchenko and the ITF agreed that she broke the rules and will not be able to compete for 21 months. Her ban will start in August 2021, which is when her last match was, and end this May.

“Varvara is relieved that, after a lengthy investigation, she was able to establish that her positive test was caused by a contaminated supplement that did not disclose the presence of the banned substance on its label,” Lepchenko’s lawyer, Howard Jacobs, wrote in an email to The Associated Press. Tennis “She is excited to return to the WTA Tour in May.”

This was Lepchenko’s second doping case, but the ITF treated it as if it were her first because she was found not to be at fault in her previous case, in which she tested positive for meldonium, the heart medication that led to Maria Sharapova’s doping ban.

She Won Over 5 Million In Prize Money

Lepchenko, 36, has competed for the US in the Olympics and the Billie Jean King Cup.

She has won over $5 million in prize money and peaked at No. 19 in the WTA in 2012. That year, at the French Open, she reached the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time, defeating 2010 champion Francesca Schiavone. In 2015, Lepchenko advanced to the fourth round of the US Open.

Lepchenko was born in the former Soviet republic of Uzbekistan. She and her father and sister later moved to Florida. She was granted political asylum, moved to Pennsylvania in 2003, and became a citizen of the United States in 2011.

SOURCE – (AP)

 

 

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