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Flame Watch: Siberian children to start Torch Relay

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Keeping with tradition, children from the farthest reaches of Siberia will have the pleasure of starting off this year’s Torch Relay once the Flame is lit in Greece and makes its journey to Moscow.

“Children from Olympia’s twin towns carry the flame after it is lit in ancient Olympia,” Yakutsk mayor Aisen Nikolaev explained while visiting Greece. “Last year, for example, after the flame was lit for the London Olympics, children from a twin town in Japan carried the flame.”

“Now here’s already an agreement that the Flame for [Sochi] will be carried by children from Yakutsk.”

The Torch Relay, which kicks off October 7, will make a 65,000 km serpentine trip through 2,900 Russian towns and cities – oh, and space – before eventually landing in Sochi just in time for the Opening Ceremony on February 7.

Here’s everything you ever wanted to know about the Sochi Torch relay.

Americans prep for U.S. Olympic Trials at Prefontaine Classic

Aries Merritt, David Oliver
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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — With an eye toward this summer’s Olympic Trials, the 100m field at the Prefontaine Classic this year includes Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay.

They’ll face Jamaican Asafa Powell, the former world-record holder, in this weekend’s meet at Hayward Field, the only U.S. stop for the international Diamond League series.

For many American athletes, the Pre is part of the preparation for this summer’s trials, which will also be held at Hayward. The top three finishers at the trials will be part of the team that goes to the Rio Olympics in August.

That it’s on home soil is a bonus for Gatlin.

“We don’t get to run a lot in the U.S.,” he said. “You have to take advantage of times you run in the U.S., especially when it’s televised, for your friends and family and fans to watch.”

However, in the past week, several high-profile U.S. athletes have withdrawn from the Pre, including Allyson Felix, a three-time World champion and 2012 Olympic gold medalist, who pulled out because of an ankle injury. She also skipped a Diamond League meet in Doha earlier this month.

Likewise, Matthew Centrowitz has withdrawn from the Pre’s Bowerman Mile while he recovers from a stress reaction in his leg. Centrowitz won the World Indoor Championships 1500m in Portland in March.

Galen Rupp, Centrowitz’s Nike Oregon Project teammate, will not run in Friday night’s 10,000m as some had anticipated, according to OregonLive.com. Rupp has already made the Olympic marathon team, and he may take aim at the 10,000m at the trials.

Ethiopian Genzebe Dibaba withdrew from the women’s 5000m because of a toe injury.

MORE: Five events to watch at Pre; broadcast schedule

Other things to watch for during the Pre:

BERIAN V. NIKE: Boris Berian went from working at a fast-food restaurant and sleeping on a friend’s couch two years ago to World Indoor 800m title in March. He’s set to run in the 800m at Pre.

But at a meet last week in Southern California, he was served with a lawsuit brought by Nike that accuses him of breach of contract. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Oregon on April 29. Nike sponsors the Pre Classic.

VASHTI’S RETURN: The Pre brings teenager Vashti Cunningham back to Oregon, where she made a splash in the high jump earlier this year.

Cunningham, who was still a senior in high school, was the surprise winner at the U.S. Indoor Championships. She won the World Indoor title a week later.

Her busy year so far has also included prom and graduation. And she also turned pro and signed with Nike. Next up on the list is an Olympic bid.

Cunningham is the daughter of former NFL quarterback Randall Cunningham, her coach.

MORE: Cunningham follows in father’s high jump footsteps

MERRITT’S COMEBACK: Aries Merritt, the world-record holder and 2012 Olympic gold medalist in the 110m hurdles, will continue his comeback from a kidney transplant at Pre, where he’ll face 22-year-old Omar McLeod of Jamaica. Merritt took the bronze at the World Championships last year in Beijing before having surgery a few days later. Merritt has now set his sights on the Rio Games.

He finished sixth in Doha earlier this month.

“Every meet I run in, I’m having a new season’s best. That shows that I’m slowly reaching there,” he said. “Just being able to compete again is a huge blessing. I’m going to take it slow and steady.”

FINAL TOUR: Sanya Richards-Ross announced last month that she is retiring after this season, hoping to cap her career with a fourth Olympics.

Richards-Ross had her third foot surgery in November and is working her way back into form for the final push to Rio. She highlights a strong 400m field.

“I put my blood, sweat and tears into the career of my dreams and experienced profound growth and immeasurable rewards along the way. I am so excited to celebrate with one last lap around the world and I hope you will follow along #SRRFinalLap! Let’s do this!” she announced on social media.

HISTORIC HAYWARD: Hayward Field has become something of the epicenter of track and field in the United States. After the Pre, Hayward hosts the NCAA Championships. The stage gets bigger with the trials this July. In 2021, the venue is set to host the World Outdoor Championships.

The Prefontaine Classic is named after Oregon native Steve Prefontaine, an Olympian killed in a 1977 car accident at 24.

MORE: Full U.S. Olympic Trials broadcast schedule

Claressa Shields sets U.S. boxing history with repeat World title

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Claressa Shields can make her case as the most decorated U.S. amateur boxer in history after repeating as World champion on Friday.

Shields beat the Netherlands’ Nouchka Fontijn via unanimous decision in the middleweight final in Astana, Kazakhstan.

Shields, who won gold at age 17 in women’s boxing’s debut at the London Olympics and took her first World title in 2014, became the first American to capture three combined global titles.

Many great U.S. Olympic champion boxers, such as Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, fought before the World Championships debuted in 1974 (and Worlds switched from every four years to every other year starting in 1991).

Shields, of Flint, Mich., moved to 73-1 overall and has won 47 straight fights since her only loss to Great Britain’s Sarah Marshall at the May 2012 World Championships.

Shields and Marshall were in line to face each other at the 2012 Olympics, 2014 Worlds and 2016 Worlds, but each time Marshall was eliminated one round before their potential rematch.

Shields will not fight again until the Rio Games in August, where she can become the first American boxer to earn gold at multiple Olympics.

MORE: Shields sick of hearing about Ronda Rousey