Youth Olympics

Some athletes from Ebola-hit nations barred from competing at Youth Olympics

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Three athletes from Ebola-hit African nations will not be allowed to compete at the Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China, the International Olympic Committee and Nanjing Games organizers said Friday.

Two athletes in combat sports and one athlete in aquatics have been barred due to “a policy which balances the health needs of all, with respect for the rights of the young athletes from the region,” according to a joint press release from the IOC and the Nanjing Organizing Committee.

The combat sports athletes will be held out due to “health authority guidelines.” The aquatics athlete won’t participate “based on the inability to completely exclude the risk of potential infection.”

The remaining athletes who are competing from the region affected by Ebola will be subject to regular temperature and physical assessment.

Organizers said all delegations are welcome at the Youth Olympics.

“We regret that due to this issue some young athletes may have suffered twice, both from the anguish caused by the outbreak in their home countries and by not being able to compete in the Youth Olympic Games,” the press release said.

The Ebola virus outbreak has killed more than 1,000 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria, according to The Associated Press.

Liberia and Sierra Leone reportedly decided not to travel to Nanjing for the Youth Olympics, a competition for athletes between ages 14 and 18. The Opening Ceremony is Saturday.

The IOC and Youth Olympic organizers have been working with Chinese health authorities and the World Health Organization.

“We have been reassured by the health authorities that there have been no suspected cases and that the risk of infection is extremely unlikely,” the press release said.

The three athletes not allowed to compete will be invited to take part in a later competition in Nanjing.

U.S. names Youth Olympics Opening Ceremony flag bearer

What to watch at Drake Relays, Penn Relays

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Olympic gold medalists ramp up their track and field seasons at the Penn Relays and Drake Relays, live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold this weekend.

Athletes are working toward the U.S. Championships in June and the world championships in August.

First, the historic Penn Relays will air on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold on Friday (5:30-6:30 p.m. ET) and Saturday (12:30-3 p.m. ET).

USA vs. The World in men’s and women’s 4x100m, 4x400m and sprint medley relays will air live on Saturday from Franklin Field in Philadelphia. A full schedule is here.

The U.S. teams are led by Olympic relay champions English Gardner and Natasha Hastings. The full roster is here.

Rio Olympic rematches highlight the individual-event fields at the Drake Relays in Des Moines on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold from 3-5 p.m ET on Saturday. A full schedule is here.

Perhaps no field is deeper than the 100m hurdles. World-record holder Keni Harrison takes on Rio silver and bronze medalists Kristi Castlin and Nia Ali, plus 2008 Olympic champion Dawn Harper-Nelson.

The 110m hurdles contingent is strong as well. It features the last two Olympic champions, Jamaican Omar McLeod and American Aries Merritt, plus 2013 World champion David Oliver.

Grenada’s Kirani James and American LaShawn Merritt, who earned silver and bronze in Rio, go head-to-head again in the 400m at Drake.

The men’s 1500m is headlined by Rio Olympic 800m bronze medalist Clayton Murphy and London Olympic 1500m silver medalist Leo Manzano.

Rio bronze medalist Jenny Simpson races individually for the first time this year in the women’s 1500m.

That field also includes New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin, who gained fame of her own in Rio. Hamblin and American Abbey D’Agostino fell in an Olympic 5000m heat and helped each other make it to the finish line. Both were praised for their sportsmanship.

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IOC president unsure whether esports should be considered sport

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Esports are gaining momentum in the international sports movement, but they are not close to becoming an Olympic sport.

“We are not yet 100 percent clear whether esports is really sport, with regard to physical activity and what it needs to be considered sport,” IOC president Thomas Bach said Tuesday, according to insidethegames. “We do not see an organization or a structure that will give us confidence, or guarantee, that in this area the Olympic rules and values of sport are respected and in place, and that the implementation of these rules are monitored and secured.”

The first clear step (of many) to become an Olympic sport is for the IOC to recognize the sport’s international governing body.

Esports will be added as a medal sport to the Asian Games in 2022, and has been praised by LA 2024 Olympic bid chairman Casey Wasserman, but it is not yet IOC recognized.

“We are watching it, we see the differences, we see the lack of organisation,” Bach said, according to the report. “But we also see the high engagement of youth in esports. Therefore, we have to carefully consider how this could be consolidated.”

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