Ria Novosti Roundup -- Moscow Championships; Arctic Torch; Alpine Medals

(ATR) Today's RIA Novosti Roundup highlights Moscow winning the 2016 European Short Track Championships, the Sochi 2014 Torch going to space and the North Pole, and Russian alpine skiing medal projections are down...

Moscow to Host 2016 European Short Track Champs – Official

Moscow will host the 2016 European short track speedskating championships, the first time Russia has held the event since 2003, the head of the Russian Skating Federation said Wednesday.

Russia has traditionally struggled in short track but is rapidly building its program ahead of hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics, including by bringing in former South Korean star Viktor Ahn.

Moscow is already set to host the world short track championships in March 2015, and the European short track championships will be held from January 22 to 24, 2016.

"The decision's been taken and it's not of a provisional nature," Russian Skating Federation president Alexei Kravtsov told R-Sport.

The European championships will be held at the Megasport arena, which has been closed since the start of 2013 for emergency structural repairs and preparation work for hosting the world hockey championships in 2016.

Olympic Torch Sets Off for Arctic Before Space Trip

A Russian expedition carrying a Sochi 2014 Olympic torch set off Tuesday for the North Pole, while Russian cosmonauts prepare to take a modified Olympic torch into space next month.

The Olympic torch was delivered Tuesday to Russia’s NS 50 Years of Victory vessel, the largest nuclear-powered icebreaker in the world, in a ceremony in Russia’s Arctic port city of Murmansk.

The icebreaker is set to cover a distance of over 5,000 km (over 3,100 miles) during an estimated period of 15 days and then the Olympic torch will be used to light a bowl at the northernmost point on Earth.

Arthur Chilingarov, a Russian polar explorer and vice president of the Russian Geographical Society, said at the Murmansk ceremony that it would be the first time the Olympic torch had traveled to "the top of the world," where "the concept of time loses its meaning."

"I believe it is extremely symbolic to light the Olympic torch there, since Olympic values have remained unchanged for centuries," said Chilingarov, who will be among 11 torchbearers during the torch’s journey across the Arctic.

The Arctic journey is not part of the 123-day torch relay itself, just like the scheduled trip of an adjusted Olympic torch to the International Space Station next month.

Sergei Krikalev, head of the Cosmonauts' Training Center outside Moscow, said earlier Tuesday that an unlit torch with an extra tether attached would be carried into open space next month by cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazansky, during which time it will orbit the Earth several times.

He said Russian engineers had tweaked the design of the torch to prevent it from slipping out of the cosmonauts’ grip during the photo-op spacewalk.

"The Olympic torch for space is just like the one for the Earth, but there will be no gas in it," he said.

"To take it into open space the object was reworked: An extra fixing element has been added to attach a tether to, just so it doesn't fly away," Krikalev added.

After the torch returns to Earth on November 11 it will be taken to the Olympic host city of Sochi and used to light the cauldron at the opening ceremony on February 7.

The actual torch relay began on Red Square on October 7 and on Tuesday reached the city of Ryazan as part of its 65,000-kilometer (41,450 mile) journey.

Russia Shies Away From Setting Alpine Skiing Targets at Sochi

Host nation Russia may have its sights trained on the upper rungs of the Sochi Olympic medal table, but it is not setting any explicit targets in one of its least traditional winter pastimes – Alpine skiing.

Ten sets of medals are on offer to Alpine skiing competitors, with a further ten in freestyle and ten more in snowboarding – events a world away from Russia's competitive areas of biathlon, cross-country skiing, bobsledding or hockey.

This has prompted the head of Russia's Alpine skiing federation to try to dampen home expectations of success in disciplines that are likely to be dominated by the Austrians, Swiss, Germans, Americans and Canadians.

"I don't make plans of any kind," said Svetlana Gladysheva when asked how many medals she expected the Russians would win.

"I really believe in our athletes and I think we respect each other. We are aiming for the medals we have targeted. Of course, I'd love our federation to have some gold from the Games, but I don't know who this will be or in which discipline," she added.

"I have my medal plan in my heart, but I won't reveal it."

Gladysheva said she would await the first results of the season before picking a team by December.

The Sochi Olympics run February 7-23.

Published by exclusive arrangement with Around the Rings’ Sochi 2014 media partner RIA-Novosti.

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