World Relays

U.S. women sweep on final day of World Relays (videos)

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The U.S. won all three women’s races at the first World Relays on Sunday, giving it victories in five of 10 overall events to close the meet in Nassau, Bahamas.

The American women captured the 4x200m, 4x400m and 4x800m one day after taking the 4x100m. Also Sunday, the American men won their first and only relay in the 4x400m. Jamaica took the men’s 4x100m (after the U.S. was disqualified in a preliminary heat). Kenya won the men’s 4x1500m in world-record time.

Overall, the U.S. (five), Kenya (three) and Jamaica (two) were the only nations to win races at the two-day meet.

The U.S. women topped Great Britain and Jamaica in the 4x200m with a quartet of Shalonda SolomonTawanna MeadowsBianca Knight and Kimberlyn Duncan. London Olympic 200m medalists Allyson Felix and Carmelita Jeter were not on the U.S. roster in Nassau.

The U.S. prevailed in 1 minute, 29.45 seconds, .16 better than Great Britain. Jamaica, with world 200m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce on anchor, settled for third after a poor final baton exchange.

The U.S. women’s 4x400m, with 2012 Olympic 400m champion Sanya Richards-Ross, won in 3:21.73, holding off Jamaica (3:23.26). The U.S. and Jamaica were even after Richards-Ross’ second leg, but veteran Natasha Hastings opened a lead that proved more than enough for anchor Joanna Atkins. World 4x400m champion Russia, long a U.S. rival in this event, did not enter a quartet despite being on the initial start list Saturday.

Yohan Blake anchored a Usain Bolt-less Jamaica to a sprint relay win for a second straight night, this time in the 4x100m in 37.77. The U.S. men missed the final after being disqualified for passing a baton out of the zone in their preliminary heat. On Saturday, the U.S. men’s 4x200m relay team was also disqualified on an illegal handoff.

Beijing Olympic 400m champion LaShawn Merritt broke some 17,000 hearts at Thomas Robinson Stadium, passing the Bahamian 4x400m anchor on the final straight for victory. Merritt and the U.S. men, including Olympic and world triple jump champion Christian Taylor, clocked 2:57.25. The Bahamas, which won the 2012 Olympic 4x400m gold, was second in 2:57.59.

Kenya completed a world-record sweep of the men’s and women’s 4x1500m. World 1500m champion Asbel Kiprop crossed the finish in 14:22.22, 14 seconds faster than Kenya’s previous world record from 2009. The U.S., with Olympic silver medalist Leo Manzano anchoring, held off Ethiopia for second place in 14:40.8.

But the U.S. women prevented Kenya from a middle-distance sweep, taking the 4x800m in 8:01.58, bettering Kenya by 2.7 seconds. World junior 800m champion Ajee’ Wilson handed a significant lead to anchor Brenda Martinez, the reigning world bronze medalist. Martinez, who also anchored the second-place U.S. 4x1500m team Saturday, was never challenged by Kenyan anchor Eunice Sum, the reigning world champion.

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U.S. Olympic Committee to hire infectious disease specialists for Zika

Christ the Redeemer
AP
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The U.S. Olympic Committee will hire two infectious disease specialists to advise potential Olympians who are worried about the Zika outbreak in Brazil.

USOC CEO Scott Blackmun sent a letter Wednesday to all possible Olympians, acknowledging the growing worries over the virus.

“I know that the Zika virus outbreak in Brazil is of concern to many of you,” Blackmun wrote. “I want to emphasize that it is to us, as well, and that your well-being in Rio this summer is our highest priority.”

The letter goes on to spell out much of the information that’s already been relayed by the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The virus is spread by mosquitoes. About 20 percent of those infected display mild symptoms, including body aches and rash. But pregnant women and those considering getting pregnant have greater reason for concern because the virus can cause microcephaly, a birth defect marked by an abnormally small head.

In an interview with Sports Illustrated earlier this week, U.S. soccer goalkeeper Hope Solo said if the Olympics were being held now, she wouldn’t go.

Blackmun told The Associated Press that Solo’s comments “made us realize we need to provide concise and accurate info for our athletes.”

At least one of the two infectious disease specialists will be a woman, Blackmun said.

In addition to those two hires, the USOC will post updates to its website at USOC.org/RioTravelUpdates.

The USOC’s decision to hire the specialists was first reported by USA Today.

The letter, addressed to prospective members of the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic delegation, says “no matter how much we prepare … there will always be risk associated with international competition. Each country, each venue and each discipline will present different risks and require different mitigation strategies.”

Blackmun said the USOC is monitoring the frequent updates regarding Zika. The letter makes note that “rapid testing to determine if an individual is infected is expected in the near future.”

“First and foremost, we want to make sure our athletes have accurate information because they’re concerned,” Blackmun said. “Based on what we know now, the primary threat is to unborn children.”

MORE: Zika won’t stop Olympics; only war has done that, historian says

Alex Morgan scores 12 seconds into U.S. Olympic qualifying romp (video)

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Alex Morgan wasted no time igniting the U.S. women’s soccer team’s Olympic qualifying campaign.

The striker scored the first of her two goals 12 seconds into the Americans’ CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament-opening 5-0 rout of Costa Rica on Wednesday in Frisco, Texas.

It’s believed to be the fastest goal in U.S. Soccer history, according to U.S. Soccer.

“I think we shocked Costa Rica’s confidence a little bit,” Morgan said on NBC Sports Live Extra. “We’ve been working on that play, so I’m glad that we executed it perfectly.”

Crystal DunnCarli Lloyd and Christen Press also scored for the Americans, who are ranked No. 1 in the world. Costa Rica is ranked No. 34.

“Overall, we brought the fight,” Lloyd said on Live Extra. “We’ve got to put this one to bed and move on.”

The first three goals came in the first 15 minutes.

GOAL VIDEOS: Dunn | LloydMorgan’s second | Press

The U.S. is in one of two CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament groups with Costa Rica, Mexico (ranked No. 26) and Puerto Rico (No. 108).

It plays Mexico next on Saturday at 4 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Live Extra. Mexico crushed Puerto Rico 6-0 earlier Wednesday.

The top two nations per group will advance to the tournament semifinals, and the Feb. 19 semifinal winners advance to the Rio Games in August.

The U.S. is heavily favored to qualify for Rio, where it would go for its fourth straight Olympic title. The next-best North American team is ranked No. 11 (Canada, which is in the opposite CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament group).

If the U.S. and Canada win their respective groups, they would not have to play each other to qualify for the Olympics.

The U.S. roster for Olympic qualifying includes 13 of the 23 players from the World Cup, led by Olympic champions Morgan, Lloyd and Hope Solo, who blanked Costa Rica on Wednesday.

All 15 matches of the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament will be streamed live on NBC Sports Live Extra.

MORE: No Olympics for Messi, but another Argentine star striker possible

2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship Schedule

Frisco, Texas – Toyota Stadium
Houston, Texas – BBVA Compass Stadium
Times U.S. Central (U.S. Eastern in parentheses)

FIRST ROUND
Group A: USA, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Costa Rica
Group B: Canada, Guatemala, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana

Wednesday, Feb. 10 (Frisco)
Mexico 6, Puerto Rico 0                                 5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
USA 5, Costa Rica 0                                    7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.)

Thursday, Feb. 11 (Houston)
Guatemala vs. Trinidad & Tobago                  5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
Canada vs. Guyana                                           7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.)

Saturday, Feb. 13 (Frisco)
Costa Rica vs. Puerto Rico                              12:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m.)
USA vs. Mexico                                                 3 p.m. (4 p.m.) NBCSN at 9:30 p.m. ET

Sunday, Feb. 14 (Houston)
Guyana vs. Guatemala                                     12:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m.)
Trinidad vs. Canada                                          3 p.m. (4 p.m.)

Monday, Feb. 15 (Frisco)
Mexico vs. Costa Rica                                       5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
USA vs. Puerto Rico                                          7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.) LIVE on NBCSN

Tuesday, Feb. 16 (Houston)
Trinidad & Tobago vs. Guyana                         5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
Canada vs. Guatemala                                      7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.)

SEMIFINALS

Friday, Feb. 19 (Houston)
Group B winner vs. Group A runner-up          4:30 p.m. (5:30 p.m.) ***
Group A winner vs. Group B runner-up          7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.) ***

FINAL

Sunday, Feb. 21 (Houston)
Semifinal winners                                            4 p.m. (5 p.m.) NBCSN at 11 p.m.

***USA’s semifinal, should the USA advance, will air LIVE on NBCSN