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Baseball qualifying for 2020 Tokyo Games would be tricky

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ROME (AP) — If baseball rejoins the Olympics for the 2020 Tokyo Games, just qualifying for the tournament could be a challenge.

Under Tokyo’s recommendations, the men’s baseball competition would consist of just six teams — two less than the World Baseball Softball Confederation’s proposal.

WBSC president Riccardo Fraccari told The Associated Press on Friday that, in addition to host and automatic qualifier Japan, one team would qualify by winning the 2019 Premier 12 tournament.

The other four entrants could be determined by continental qualifying tournaments: two from the Americas, one from Europe-Africa and one from Asia-Oceania.

The toughest competition could come in an Americas tournament featuring the United States, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Canada, Panama and Venezuela.

“It’s going to be a battle to the last out,” Fraccari said.

Under the current plan, the 2017 World Baseball Classic will have no impact on the Olympic tournament. That will give more importance to the Premier 12, a tournament Fraccari devised for the top-12 ranked nations.

The first edition of the Premier 12 will be held in Japan and Taiwan next month.

Fraccari is still holding out hope that his original Olympic proposal of eight teams can be revived.

“There’s still a chance, depending on the number of athletes,” he said.

 

A combined baseball-softball bid was among five additional sports recommended last month by Tokyo organizers. Karate, surfing, skateboarding and sports climbing were the others.

The International Olympic Committee will make a final decision in August.

The IOC voted in 2005 to remove baseball and softball after the 2008 Beijing Games. As separate bids, the two sports failed to return for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Baseball and softball merged into a single confederation two years ago.

MORE BASEBALL: Mark McGwire remembers Olympic baseball boom in 1984

Yuzuru Hanyu to miss Japan Figure Skating Championships

Yuzuru Hanyu
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Yuzuru Hanyu, the reigning Olympic and world figure skating champion, will miss his national championships this week after suffering ankle and knee injuries this fall, according to Japanese media citing the Japan Skating Federation.

Hanyu can (and very likely will) be named to Japan’s three-man Olympic team despite missing nationals.

Hanyu has reportedly been off the ice for more than one month since a Nov. 9 practice fall.

“It is an important selection competition, and the Olympics are a big goal, so with that in mind we would like to think things through together,” Japan Skating Federation director Yoshiko Kobayashi said last week, according to Kyodo News.

Hanyu, who turned 23 on Dec. 7, fell on a quadruple Lutz attempted and then favored his right ankle in a Nov. 9 practice at a Grand Prix event (video here).

He skated the run-through for his free skate, although he elected not to do any more jumps.

“I have been told by the doctor that I need 10 days of complete rest,” Hanyu said in a statement on Nov. 12, according to Kyodo. “Following that, it will take three to four weeks to return and get back to where I was.”

Hanyu and world silver medalist Shoma Uno are favored to lead Japan’s Olympic men’s figure skating team. The third spot is likely to go to Takahito Mura or Keiji Tanaka.

Hanyu competed twice this season.

He posted a world-record short program score in his debut at a small September event in Canada, but struggled to fifth place in the free skate and finished second overall behind two-time world champion Javier Fernandez of Spain.

He then finished second to U.S. champion Nathan Chen at the first Grand Prix event of the season in Moscow in October.

Chen is the only undefeated male singles skater this season.

Hanyu won four straight national titles before missing last season’s event with the flu.

He was still named to Japan’s team for worlds, where he won his second title in four years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Green Bay Packers pull another Olympic sport TD celebration

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We’re halfway to a decathlon of Olympic sport touchdown celebrations over the last two seasons.

After the hurdles, the long jump, the bobsled and the relay came the race walk on Sunday.

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams, once part of a three-man bobsled team, led three other teammates in a race walk after scoring in Sunday’s loss to the Carolina Panthers. (Adams later left the game with a concussion.)

Adams won the race walk, which was much, much shorter than the standard Olympic distances of 20km and 50km, over teammates Jordy NelsonRandall Cobb and Geronimo Allison.

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