Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy will represent Ireland at 2016 Olympics

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Rory McIlroy decided he will represent Ireland rather than Great Britain should he play at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, the first Olympic golf tournament in 112 years.

“I’ve been thinking about it a lot,” McIlroy reportedly said ahead of this week’s Irish Open on Wednesday. “I don’t know whether it’s been because the World Cup has been in Brazil and I’ve been thinking a couple of years down the line.

“Thinking about all the times that I played as an amateur for Ireland and as a boy and everything, I think for me it’s the right decision to play for Ireland in 2016.”

McIlroy is from Northern Ireland, which does not field a separate Olympic Team. Northern Ireland athletes have been known to compete for Great Britain, such as Beijing track cycling silver medalist Wendy Houvenaghel, or for Ireland, as 2010 U.S. Open winning golfer Graeme McDowell is expected to do.

McIlroy’s long-awaited decision was a difficult one, as he has shied away from talking about the subject over the last couple years. International Golf Federation officials said in May they wanted the nationality policy in place by July, two years before the Olympic golf fields are determined.

McIlroy, 25, is a two-time major champion and ranked No. 6 in the world. His path to qualifying for the Olympics is easier as an Irish golfer than a British one.

The Olympic golf field will invite everybody from the world top 15, with no more than four players per nation, from the world rankings in July 2016. Beyond the top 15, the field will be filled according to the rankings with a maximum of two players per country that does not already have two or more in the top 15.

McIlroy is currently the No. 1 golfer from Ireland or Great Britain.

The next highest ranked Irish (or Northern Ireland) golfers are No. 22 McDowell, No. 75 Shane Lowry, No. 199 Michael Hoey and No. 233 Padraig Harrington.

The next highest ranked British golfers are No. 10 Justin Rose, No. 20 Luke Donald, No. 25 Ian Poulter and No. 30 Lee Westwood.

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Wrong anthem at medal ceremony leads winner to leave

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Belarus triple jumper Violetta Skvartsova smirked and eventually left the podium as the wrong anthem was played during her medal ceremony at the European U20 Track and Field Championships on Friday.

Skvartsova heard the Bosnian and Herzegovina anthem instead. Video is here.

Skvartosova said it was insulting, according to the Belarus track and field federation, which reported that organizers offered to hold the medal ceremony again.

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Katie Ledecky needs help to win 2 golds to open swimming worlds

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Katie Ledecky dominated to win her first gold of the world championships. She needed help for her second one.

Ledecky, possibly en route to a record-tying six gold medals at a single worlds, won the 400m freestyle in the second-fastest time in history in Budapest on Sunday.

An hour later, Ledecky swam the third leg of the U.S.’ 4x100m free relay that took gold by .29 over rival Australia. But Ledecky had the slowest split of the U.S. quartet by .67 (and 1.04 seconds slower than her split on the Rio Olympic silver-medal-winning team).

She needed help and got it from Mallory Comerford, who broke the American 100m free record leading off, and Kelsi Worrell and Olympic 100m free co-champion Simone Manuel. The U.S. women broke the American record in the event.

Five American records fell overall Sunday, including Caeleb Dressel breaking the men’s 100m free mark leading off the 4x100m free en route to gold (video here).

One world record came down, too. Sarah Sjostrom shattered the 100m free world record by .35 leading off the Swedish 4x100m free quartet that ultimately finished fifth.

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Earlier, Ledecky clocked 3:58.34 in the 400m free to win by 3.2 seconds over countrywoman Leah Smith. China’s Li Bingjie earned the bronze. Ledecky holds the nine fastest times ever, including the world record of 3:56.46 from Rio.

“There’s no disappointment,” Ledecky said of missing her world record by 1.88 seconds. “It’s a world championship gold medal. There’s nothing to complain about there.”

Ledecky, the quadruple 2016 Olympic champion, won her third straight world title in the 400m free and is now up to 11 world titles overall. She has four more races this week and is favored for gold in all of them.

She can tie Missy Franklin‘s female record of six golds from the 2013 Worlds. Michael Phelps won seven golds at the 2007 Worlds.

In other races Sunday, China’s Sun Yang won his third straight world 400m freestyle title, whooping Australian rival and Rio gold medalist Mack Horton by 2.47 seconds (video here).

Sun, 25, bagged his eighth individual world title, trailing only Ryan Lochte (10) and Phelps (15) on the all-time list.

In semifinals, Sjostrom was the top qualifier into Monday’s 100m butterfly final. While Sjostrom is the heavy favorite, Worrell qualified third into the final as she seeks a first individual major international meet medal.

Kevin Cordes broke his month-old American record in the 100m breaststroke semifinals with a 58.64. Olympic champion Adam Peaty was the fastest qualifier into Monday’s final in 57.75, followed by Cordes and Olympic bronze medalist Cody Miller (59.08).

Dressel broke the American record in the 50m butterfly semifinals, a non-Olympic event. Dressel took .15 off the old record by clocking 22.76 as the fastest qualifier into Monday’s final.

Rio gold medalist Katinka Hosszu began her quest to a possible four individual world titles by topping the 200m individual medley semifinals. Americans Melanie Margalis and Madisyn Cox join her in Monday’s final.

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