Russian skater's eligibility in hands of judges

<p>Associated Press</p> <p>Russian skater Kamila Valieva reacts after falling during practice Saturday. The Court of Arbitration for Sport will rule today on her eligibility.</p>

BEIJING – Figure skater Kamila Valieva testified by video at an appeal hearing that will decide whether the 15-year-old Russian star can still compete at the Beijing Olympics despite an ongoing doping case.

The hearing started Sunday evening in Beijing and lasted until after 3 a.m. today. Court of Arbitration for Sport director general Matthieu Reeb said a ruling in the case that has caused havoc with one of the Olympics marquee events will be announced after 1 p.m. today in China, which was midnight Sunday on the East Coast. 

Three CAS judges heard arguments in a closed-door session in a conference room at a Beijing hotel. Lawyers and officials for the parties connected to the case in the Winter Games host city and from Switzerland.

The International Olympic Committee, World Anti-Doping Agency and International Skating Union have challenged a decision by the Russian anti-doping agency to lift an interim ban so Valieva can compete in her main event.

Valieva's positive test for a banned heart medication was flagged Monday – after she helped the Russians win the team event – by a laboratory in Sweden six weeks after the sample was taken in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The verdict will be announced just over 24 hours ahead of Valieva's scheduled next Olympic event – the women's individual competition. She will be the strong favorite if cleared to skate, and her main challengers will be two Russian teammates.

Earlier Sunday, the teenager at the center of Russia's latest doping scandal seemed to be the only person without a word to say about it.

Valieva continued to practice amid a sea of media and camera crews as the court prepared the expedited hearing expected to go deep into the night.

Valieva has yet to miss a scheduled practice since word of her positive drug test emerged. Last Monday, the reigning European champion helped the Russian skaters win team gold with a dynamic free skate in which she became the first woman to land a quad jump in Olympic competition.

On several occasions, the stress appeared to have rattled Valieva, including during Saturday's practice when she fell and tearfully hugged her embattled coach, Eteri Tutberidze.

On Sunday, Valieva drew the 26th starting spot among the 30 competitors.

US men remain unbeaten

The team in red, white and blue now has the easiest path to gold.

The young United States men's hockey team held on to beat Germany 3-2 Sunday night to finish the preliminary round unbeaten and clinch the top seed in the knockout round at the Olympics.

The Americans move directly into the quarterfinals and next play the winner of the Germany-Slovakia game from the qualification round.

“About all we could accomplish up to this point, we've done it,” coach David Quinn said. “There's a swagger to us, and there's a believability that's gone here over the last week and it's put us in this position, but we haven't really accomplished anything that we want to accomplish.”

U.S. players and coaches set a goal of winning the group. They've done that and more as the only team in the tournament to win all three of its games in regulation.

The third was tougher than expected against the reigning silver medalists, who held on to beat China two nights after the U.S. blew out the host country 8-0. Even more than the Americans' showdown against Canada, tensions boiled over between the U.S. and Germany with shouting from bench to bench and more than the usual amount of post-whistle scrums.

Much like the Canada game, the Americans stuck it out when Germany ratcheted up the physicality and nastiness and showed they won't get bullied on the ice.

“The biggest thing for us is just proving that teams aren't going to be able to run us out of the rink physically,” captain Andy Miele said. “We're a young team, but we're fast, we're skilled and no one's going to slow us down. We're going to keep coming at you.”

Steven Kampfer scored on the power play less than three minutes after Germany took the lead, Matt Knies put the U.S. ahead and Drew Commesso made 24 saves for his second victory in as many starts. After Tom Kuhnhackl scored for Germany with 2:29 left, Nathan Smith's goal early in the third period turned out to be the game-winner.

It took surviving a final push by Germany in the waning seconds, but the U.S. took care of business against a less talented but hard-working opponent. Kampfer said he and his teammates might have been looking ahead to the quarterfinals, but he and his coach were proud that the focus back on Germany happened quickly.

“Couldn't be prouder of our group,” Quinn said. “I thought we had an edge to us. I thought we were hard on pucks. We're not a big team, so teams are probably going to try to overmatch us with physicality. I thought we answered the bell tonight in a lot of ways.”