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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Mary Cain ‘back to basics’ after ‘disappointing year’

Mary Cain
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Mary Cain, who in 2013 became the youngest U.S. track and field athlete to make a World Championships team and turned pro at age 17 later that fall, is spending her run-up to next year and the 2016 Olympics home in New York rather than returning to Oregon where she went to college and trained last year.

In June, Cain finished eighth in the 1500m at the U.S. Championships, missing the top-four placement necessary to make the World Championships team.

“After a disappointing year, I knew that I needed a change,” Cain said in a blog post Tuesday. “For me, that meant returning home to New York (and its bagels) or where it all started. With 2016 being such an important year, it’s a blessing to be able to, as my mom says, ‘Go back to basics.'”

Cain, who was a freshman at the University of Portland last year, is still coached by three-time New York City Marathon champion Alberto Salazar with the aid of New Zealand 2004 Olympic 10,000m runner John Henwood, according to the blog.

“We’re trying to get [running] back to fun with her,” Henwood said, according to Runner’s World.

Cain moved from Bronxville, N.Y., to Portland after graduating high school last year, completing a decorated prep career filled with records and state and national titles. She trained with Salazar’s group, which includes Olympic 10,000m gold and silver medalists Mo Farah and Galen Rupp.

Cain won the World Junior Championships 3000m in 2014 and became the youngest woman to make a senior World Championships 1500m final in 2013, when she finished 10th.

“I always said the key to running well was keeping the sport fun,” Cain said in the blog post. “With the help of this great NY running community, I am happy to say that I have found that love again! I’m looking forward to a rewarding Indoor and Outdoor season.

“Thanks to everyone who has supported me through the ups and downs! I hope to make 2016 a year to remember!”

MORE TRACK AND FIELD: Usain Bolt returns to Oktoberfest, with Olympic Alpine skier

Brazil’s best tennis player: ‘tough to dream’ of Rio Olympic medal

Thomaz Bellucci
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Thomaz Bellucci admits playing at a home Olympics brings at least some pressure.

“To well represent Brazil,” the Sao Paulo native clarified at the U.S. Open in New York last month. “It’s tough to dream about having a medal.”

The 27-year-old Bellucci is the only Brazilian tennis player, man or woman, ranked in the world top 50. He sits at No. 31, having this season reached his first ATP final since 2012 and winning it at the Geneva Open in Switzerland in May.

Brazil’s Olympic Committee set a target of 27 to 30 medals in Rio, after earning 17 at London 2012. The added glory likely won’t come from tennis, a sport in which a Brazilian has never stood on an Olympic podium.

“For the Olympics, I don’t feel too many pressure,” Bellucci said, “because even if I play in Brazil, I know there are many players more favored than me because [Roger] Federer‘s going to play, [Novak] Djokovic, all these guys have so much more pressure than me because they have more chance to have a medal.”

Olympic tennis gained greater significance on the busy tour calendars among top players with recent Games.

On the men’s side, every medalist from 2008 and 2012 had already reached at least one Grand Slam final in his career. That group of six included Federer (2012 silver), Djokovic (2008 bronze), Rafael Nadal (2008 gold) and Andy Murray (2012 gold).

But if Bellucci and the Brazilians look back, they can find unexpected, inspiring runs. In 1996, Brazil’s Fernando Meligeni came to the Atlanta Games ranked No. 95 in the world, having never made it past the fourth round of a Grand Slam.

The charismatic Meligeni, a lefty who sometimes played wearing his cap backwards, reached the final four in Stone Mountain, twice playing for a medal, and hitting a tweener on the penultimate point of his semifinal against Spain’s Sergi Bruguera.

He lost both medal-round matches, including the bronze match to Indian Leander Paes, who won the U.S. Open mixed doubles last month with another 1996 Olympic singles tennis player, Swiss Martina Hingis. Hingis is attempting to return to the Olympics next year for the first time since 1996.

In 2004, Chile’s Nicolas Massu won singles and doubles gold in Athens having never reached the fourth round of a Grand Slam in singles.

Bellucci debuted at the Olympics in 2008 and hasn’t won a single Games match. He rose from a No. 85 overall ranking in Beijing to No. 42 going into the London 2012 Olympics, where he forced then-Wimbledon semifinalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to three sets. Bellucci and partner Andre Sa were the only doubles pair to take a set off Americans Bob and Mike Bryan at London 2012.

“Beijing I was very surprised, because I was very young and had no idea,” Bellucci said. “In London, I had a very tough draw against Tsonga. Let’s see if I can have more luck in Brazil to have a better draw.”

Not even the great Gustavo Kuerten could sniff an Olympic medal. The three-time French Open champion — the only Brazilian man to win a Grand Slam — couldn’t do better than the quarterfinals in 2000 and 2004.

The analysis of Bellucci in the scope of Kuerten, who is of a similar tall, thin build, has silenced in recent years.

“They used to say that when I was young, when I was starting to play well,” said Bellucci, whose four ATP titles came on Kuerten’s favorite surface, clay, while the Rio Olympic tournament will be on hard courts. “They want to compare me and Guga [Kuerten], but anyway they are not comparing anymore because Guga is so much bigger than me.”

As much as Bellucci tries to keep expectations low, he urges that his sport is one of the most popular in Brazil.

“I think soccer, for sure, is No. 1 and then volleyball is second and then tennis, I think,” he said. “I think we have more people playing tennis than volleyball because I think all the ages can play tennis.”

MORE TENNIS: Martina Hingis waits on Federer, Wawrinka to decide on Rio 2016