Jessica Ennis

Jessica Ennis-Hill out of world track and field championships

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The world track and field championships lost another superstar when Olympic heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis-Hill pulled out of the August meet due to an Achilles injury.

It’s no shock. Ennis-Hill has been hampered since the spring, only competing twice since the Brit’s Olympic triumph a year ago.

“To say I am gutted is an understatement — no athlete likes to miss the opportunity to compete at a major championships — they don’t come round that often,” Ennis-Hill said in a statement.

She had voiced concern after taking part in the London Anniversary Games on Saturday, taking fourth in the 100-meter hurdles and eighth (last place) in the long jump. Ennis-Hill said she was disappointed with her performance at the Olympic Stadium and would confer with her coach two or three days later about her status for worlds.

“Up until now we have been focusing on managing the pain so I can train and get myself in shape to go out there to win in Moscow — which has meant not focusing on finding a cure for the injury,” Ennis-Hill said. “The time has now come to stop chasing fitness and look to cure the problem.”

Ennis-Hill will now focus on getting healthy for the 2014 indoor season. The heptathlon at worlds is now wide open with Ennis-Hill and 2011 world champion Tatyana Chernova of Russia out with a knee injury.

American Sharon Day has the highest point total this year of those entered in Moscow — 6,550. That would have placed seventh at the Olympics and fourth at the 2011 world championships. No American has won a world title in the seven-event competition since Jackie Joyner-Kersee in 1993.

Canadian Brianne Theisen — who just married Olympic decathlon champion Ashton Eaton — is also in the medal picture after placing 11th at the Olympics.

Here’s a list of track and field stars who will not compete in Moscow:

Aslı Çakır Alptekin (drug test) — 2012 Olympic champion, 1,500 meters
Nijel Amos 
(injury) — 2012 Olympic silver medalist, 800 meters
Ryan Bailey (injury) — 2012 Olympics fifth place, 100 meters
Yohan Blake (injury) — 2011 world champion, 100 meters
Tatyana Chernova (injury) — 2011 world champion, heptathlon
Vivian Cheruiyot (extended break) — 2011 world champion, 5,000 meters, 10,000 meters
Veronica Campbell-Brown (drug test) — nine-time world championship sprint medalist
Walter Dix (injury) — 2011 world silver medalist, 100 meters, 200 meters
Jessica Ennis-Hill (injury) — 2012 Olympic champion, heptathlon
Tyson Gay (drug test) — 2007 world champion, 100 meters, 200 meters
Phillips Idowu (extended break) — 2009 world champion, triple jump
Lolo Jones (did not qualify) — 2012 Olympics fourth place, 100-meter hurdles
Abel Kirui (injury) — 2009, 2011 world champion, marathon
Liu Xiang (injury) — 2007 world champion, 110-meter hurdles
Taoufik Makhloufi (illness) — 2012 Olympic champion, 1,500 meters
Oscar Pistorius (trial) — 2011 world silver medalist, 4×400-meter relay
Asafa Powell (did not qualify) — 2007, 2009 world bronze medalist, 100 meters
Sanya Richards-Ross (injury) — 2009 world champion, 400 meters
Dayron Robles (banned by Cuba) — 2008 Olympic champion, 110-meter hurdles
David Rudisha (injury) — 2011 world champion, 800 meters
Caster Semenya (did not qualify) — 2009 world champion, 800 meters
Sherone Simpson (drug test) — 2008 Olympic silver medalist, 100 meters
Barbora Spotakova (childbirth) — 2008, 2012 Olympic champion, javelin
Andy Turner (injury) — 2011 world bronze medalist, 110-meter hurdles
Blanka Vlasic (injury) — 2007/2009 world champion, high jump

h/t @Statman_Jon, @UltimateCrans

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Curling siblings secure mixed doubles Olympic quota spot for U.S.

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The United States will be represented when mixed doubles curling makes its Olympic debut in PyeongChang, thanks, in part, to the performance of siblings Becca and Matt Hamilton at the 2017 World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship.

Although the Hamiltons finished well off the podium in 10th, their work, coupled with a third place finish at the 2016 World Championships by Joe Polo and Tabitha Peterson, is all the U.S. needed to lock in an Olympic spot for 2018. The bronze won by Polo and Peterson in 2016 was the first time the United States had won a world championship medal in mixed doubles curling, according to TeamUSA.org.

The Hamiltons opened the 2017 World Championships with a perfect 7-0 record through pool play, but a 6-5 loss to Finland in a match that needed extra ends took them out of contention for a medal. Wins against Hungary and Italy moved them into position to get the necessary points to land the Olympic quota spot. In their final match at the 2017 Worlds the Hamiltons fell to Russia, 5-7.

At the top of the 2017 World Championship final standings, Switzerland won the gold, Canada took silver and China left with bronze.

The eight mixed doubles team field set to compete in PyeongChang includes China, Canada, Russia, Switzerland, United States, Norway, Finland and hosts Korea. Curling begins in PyeongChang on February 8, 2018, one day ahead of the Opening Ceremony, with competition lasting throughout the entire span of the Olympic Games.

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President of National Olympic Committees association leaves FIFA post amid bribery claims

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GENEVA (AP) — FIFA Council member Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah of Kuwait is resigning from his soccer roles under pressure from allegations in an American federal court that he bribed Asian officials.

Sheikh Ahmad said Sunday in a statement he will withdraw from a May 8 election in Bahrain for the FIFA seat representing Asia, which he currently holds.

“I do not want these allegations to create divisions or distract attention from the upcoming AFC (Asian Football Confederation) and FIFA Congresses,” said the Kuwaiti royal, who denies any wrongdoing.

“Therefore, after careful consideration, I have decided it is in the best interests of FIFA and the AFC, for me to withdraw my candidacy for the FIFA Council and resign from my current football positions,” he said.

The long-time Olympic Council of Asia president contacted the ethics panels of FIFA and the IOC after the allegations were made in Brooklyn federal courthouse on Thursday.

FIFA audit committee member Richard Lai, an American citizen from Guam, pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy charges related to taking around $1 million in bribes, including from Kuwaiti officials. The cash was to buy influence and help recruit other Asian soccer officials prepared to take bribes, Lai said in court.

Sheikh Ahmad resigned his candidacy ahead of a FIFA panel deciding whether to remove him on ethical grounds.

The FIFA Review Committee, which rules on the integrity of people seeking senior FIFA positions, has been studying the sheikh’s candidacy since the allegations emerged, The Associated Press reported on Saturday.

The FIFA ethics committee is making a separate assessment of whether to provisionally suspend the sheikh, a long-time leader of Kuwait’s soccer federation who was elected to FIFA’s ruling committee in 2015.

Resigning from his soccer positions does not necessarily put Sheikh Ahmad out of reach of FIFA ethics prosecutors and judges if any action was taken.

In 2012, former FIFA presidential candidate Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar was banned for life by the ethics committee days after he resigned.

Bin Hammam was also clearly identified in Lai’s court hearing for having paid Lai a total of $100,000 in bribes to support the Qatari’s failed challenge to FIFA’s then-president Sepp Blatter in 2011. Bin Hammam was removed from that election contest in a Caribbean bribery case.

Sheikh Ahmad has also contacted the IOC’s ethics commission about the allegations against him, the IOC said on Saturday.

As president since 2012 of the global group of national Olympic bodies, known as ANOC, Sheikh Ahmad’s support has often been cited as key to winning Olympic election and hosting awards. The sheikh was widely credited for helping Thomas Bach win the IOC presidency in 2013.

Although Sheikh Ahmad was not named in Department of Justice and court documents last week, he has become one of the most significant casualties of the sprawling U.S. federal investigation of bribery and corruption in international soccer revealed two years ago.

The sheikh could be identified in a transcript of Lai’s court hearing which said “co-conspirator #2 was also the president of Olympic Council of Asia.” Sheikh Ahmad has been OCA president since 1991.

Co-conspirator #3 was described as having a “high-ranking” role at OCA, and also linked to the Kuwait soccer federation.

According to the published transcript, Lai claimed he “received at least $770,000 in wire transfers from accounts associated with Co-Conspirator #3 and the OCA between November of 2009 and about the fall of 2014.”

“I understood that the source of this money was ultimately Co-Conspirator #2 and on some occasion Co-Conspirator #3 told me to send him an email saying that I need funds so he could show the email to Co-Conspirator #2,” Lai said in court.

Lai admitted that he agreed to help recruit other Asian officials that voted in FIFA elections who would help Kuwait’s interests.

The Guam soccer federation leader since 2001, Lai pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy charges and failing to disclose foreign bank accounts. He agreed to pay more than $1.1 million in forfeiture and penalties, and will be sentenced at a later date.

The American federal investigation of corruption linked to FIFA has indicted or taken guilty pleas from more than 40 people and marketing agencies linked to soccer in the Americas since 2015.

Lai’s case marked the first major step into Asia, and suggests other soccer officials potentially recruited by the Kuwait faction could be targeted.

The Asian election for FIFA seats on May 8 in Manama, Bahrain, is the same day as a FIFA Council meeting which the sheik will not attend. The FIFA congress is held in the city three days later.

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