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Ten women’s events to watch at Olympic Track and Field Trials

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More than 100 athletes will qualify for Rio by the end of the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Ore., from July 1-10 on NBC Sports.

The top three finishers per event, provided they meet the Olympic standard, are in line to go to the Games. More finishers in the men’s and women’s 100m and 400m sprints, usually the top six, make the team for the 4x100m and 4x400m relays.

The U.S. Olympic track and field team is always the largest in size across all sports.

This year’s squad could be favored for even more success than 2012, when it led the medal standings with 28 total and nine gold, with the Russian track and field out of the picture for now.

However, the U.S. will look to bounce back from the 2015 World Championships in Beijing, where it topped the medal table with 18 overall, its smallest haul since 2003. Jamaica and Kenya took more golds.

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Here are 10 women’s events to watch:

Long Jump
July 1-2
2012 Olympics: Brittney Reese (gold), Janay DeLoach (bronze), Chelsea Hayes (first round)
2015 Worlds: Tianna Bartoletta (gold), Janay DeLoach (eighth), Jasmine Todd (first round), Brittney Reese (first round)

Outlook: Bartoletta is the reigning world and national champion. But the favorite may be Reese, who won every Olympic and world title from 2009 through 2013 and has the four best U.S. marks this year. DeLoach finished behind Bartoletta and Reese at the 2015 Nationals, and in last year’s world rankings.

High Jump
July 1-3
2012 Olympics: Brigetta Barrett (silver), Chaunté Lowe (sixth), Amy Acuff (first round)
2015 Worlds: Chaunté Lowe (first round)

Outlook: Lowe is the reigning national champ, but Vashti Cunningham wasn’t present at that event because she was competing in Junior Nationals. The 18-year-old daughter of retired NFL quarterback Randall Cunningham posted the two best American marks in 2015. So far this year, Lowe owns the three top U.S. outdoor clearances, but Cunningham’s indoor best was better. Elizabeth Patterson could push them, and so, too, could 40-year-old Amy Acuff, who seeks her sixth Olympic appearance. Barrett is retired.

400 Meters
July 1-3
2012 Olympics: Sanya Richards-Ross (gold), DeeDee Trotter (bronze), Francena McCorory (seventh)
2015 Worlds: Allyson Felix (gold), Phyllis Francis (seventh), Natasha Hastings (semifinals)

Outlook: Coming off an ankle injury, Felix’s first chance to earn a spot on her fourth Olympic team comes in the 400m, which she’s never run individually at an Olympics. But she won the world title last year after posting a personal-best 49.26. Richards-Ross won the London gold medal in 49.55 but failed to make the 2015 Nationals final and suffered a hamstring strain earlier this month. Keep an eye on Courtney Okolo, who set an NCAA record in April with a time of 49.71, second fastest in the world this year. Also in April, Quanera Hayes went 49.91.

800 Meters
July 1-4
2012 Olympics: Alysia Montaño (fifth), Alice Schmidt (semifinals), Geena Gall (semifinals)
2015 Worlds: Brenda Martinez (semifinals), Molly Beckwith-Ludlow (semifinals), Alysia Montano (first round)

Outlook: The crowd favorite might be Montaño, who placed fifth in the London Olympics behind two Russians who later received lifetime doping bans. In 2014, Montano famously ran the 800m at Nationals while 34 weeks pregnant, and she won her sixth national title last year. But the actual favorite might be Ajee’ Wilson, who posted the world’s best 800m time in 2014, and the U.S.’ best in 2015 and so far in 2016. She would have been a medal contender at 2015 Worlds but pulled out due to a stress fracture in her left leg.

100 Meters
July 2-3
2012 Olympics: Carmelita Jeter (silver), Tianna Bartoletta (fourth), Allyson Felix (fifth)
2015 Worlds: Tori Bowie (bronze), English Gardner (semifinals), Jasmine Todd (semifinals)

Outlook: Jeter withdrew before Trials with a quadriceps injury that has slowed her for years. Bowie’s 10.80 in May is the second-best mark this year, and Gardner’s 10.81 is No. 3. The race is likely for the third individual Olympic berth to join Bowie and Gardner. Three other American women have also gone under 11 seconds this year.

100 Meter Hurdles
July 7-8
2012 Olympics: Dawn Harper-Nelson (silver), Kellie Wells (bronze), Lolo Jones (fourth)
2015 Worlds: Brianna Rollins (fourth), Sharika Nelvis (eighth), Dawn Harper-Nelson (semifinals), Keni Harrison (semifinals)

Outlook: Americans went 2-3-4 in this event at the 2012 Olympics, and they very well could sweep it in Rio. U.S. women posted the world’s top 15 times last year, despite missing the worlds medals, and they have the best 11 so far this year. The top four all belong to Harrison, who broke Rollins’ American record at the Pre Classic on May 28. Nelvis and Jasmin Stowers posted the world’s best 2015 times.

400 Meter Hurdles
July 7-10
2012 Olympics: Lashinda Demus (silver), Georganne Moline (fifth), T’erea Brown (sixth)
2015 Worlds: Shamier Little (silver), Cassandra Tate (bronze), Kori Carter (semifinals)

Outlook: Little has owned the 400m hurdles in the U.S. since posting three of the world’s five best times last year. Included in those marks were a world silver medal and U.S. and NCAA titles. Just behind her at Worlds and Nationals, and much of the rest of the year, was Tate. These two are near-certain locks to take the top two berths to Rio. Demus will miss the Trials due to injury.

1500 Meters
July 7-10
2012 Olympics: Shannon Rowbury (sixth), Morgan Uceny (11th), Jenny Simpson (semifinals)
2015 Worlds: Shannon Rowbury (seventh), Jenny Simpson (11th), Lauren Johnson (semifinals), Kerri Gallagher (semifinals)

Outlook: The battle here is really for the third Olympic berth, because Rowbury and Simpson should snag the first two. Rowbury and Simpson ranked third and fourth in the world, respectively, in this event last year, and Simpson already owns a top-10 time this year. Simpson edged Rowbury at the 2015 Nationals, but Rowbury broke the American record three weeks later.

Pole Vault
July 8-10
2012 Olympics: Jenn Suhr (gold), Becky Holliday (ninth), Lacy Janson (first round)
2015 Worlds: Sandi Morris (fourth), Jenn Suhr (fourth), Demi Payne (first round)

Outlook: Suhr shouldn’t have a problem getting back in the Games to defend her gold medal, but the 34-year-old will be challenged by the 23-year-old Morris. They were part of a three-way tie for fourth at last year’s Worlds. Earlier last summer, Suhr handily defeated Morris at Nationals.

200 Meters
July 8-10
2012 Olympics: Allyson Felix (gold), Carmelita Jeter (bronze), Sanya Richards-Ross (fifth)
2015 Worlds: Candyce McGrone (fourth), Jeneba Tarmoh (sixth), Jenna Prandini (semifinals)

Outlook: Felix hopes to complete the 200m-400m double in Rio, but first she has to qualify in both events. This has long been her best event: defending 200m Olympic champion, two previous Olympic silvers and three world titles. She didn’t run the 200m at the 2015 Worlds as she focused on the 400m. Bowie’s 21.99 is the second-fastest in the world in 2016, and tops among Americans, but Felix hasn’t yet raced the 200m this year due to her ankle injury. Keep an eye on Ariana Washington, the Oregon freshman who swept the NCAA 100m and 200m titles; her 22.21 in the 200 is fifth in the world this year.

MORE: Olympic Track and Field Trials broadcast schedule

Carolina Kostner tops Alina Zagitova in world champs short program

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Italian Carolina Kostner is the surprise leader after the short program at figure skating worlds, topping a woman half her age, Olympic champion Alina Zagitova, by .76 of a point in Milan on Wednesday.

Kostner, 31, tallied a personal-best 80.27 as she eyes a second world title to join her 2012 crown. Kostner earned the 2014 Olympic bronze medal and was fifth in PyeongChang as the oldest woman in the field by more than six years.

She can become the oldest women’s world champion by more than four years if she hangs on in Friday’s free skate, according to reports when Maria Butyrskaya won at age 26 in 1999.

“If I think back 15 years ago, when I started skating internationally, nobody in Italy followed figure skating,” said Kostner, who could retire after worlds. “Now, there’s a venue full of people sharing this passion with me.”

Zagitova, 15 and trying to become the youngest world champion since Tara Lipinski in 1997, struggled on the back end of her triple-triple jump combination. Her score of 79.51 was 3.41 points fewer than her world record at the Olympics.

“I felt, somehow, tight in my body,” Zagitova said through a translator. “I think it was nerves, but I don’t know why.

“I was more nervous here than at the Olympic Games.”

Zagitova, undefeated in her first senior international season, entered as the clear favorite with Olympic silver medalist and 2016 and 2017 World champion Yevgenia Medvedeva withdrawing from the event due to a right foot injury.

Japan’s Satoko Miyahara and Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond are in third and fourth, reversing their final placements from the Olympics. The U.S. women are in seventh (Bradie Tennell), ninth (Mirai Nagasu) and 17th place (Mariah Bell).

Full results are here.

The top two U.S. women’s results must add up to no more than 13 (sixth and seventh, for example), or they will be dropped to two spots at the 2019 World Championships. The last time the U.S. had fewer than the maximum three spots at an Olympics or worlds was 2013.

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Tennell, the 20-year-old U.S. champion who led the Americans at the Olympics in ninth, swung her fist after a clean short that scored 68.76 points. She was .18 off her personal best from the Olympic team event.

Nagasu, who was 10th at the Olympics, performed a double Axel rather than the triple she landed in the Olympic team event. She also had her triple-triple combination downgraded to a triple-double.

Bell, the second alternate who made the team after Olympian Karen Chen withdrew and Ashley Wagner passed, struggled on her opening combination, only able to tack on a single jump.

Key Free Skate Start Times (Friday ET)
Mariah Bell (USA) — 2:32 p.m.
Bradie Tennell (USA) — 4:05 p.m.
Mirai Nagasu (USA) — 4:12 p.m.
Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN) — 4:36 p.m.
Satoko Miyahara (JPN) — 5 p.m.
Alina Zagitova (RUS) — 5:08 p.m.
Carolina Kostner (ITA) — 5:16 p.m.

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MORE: Best figure skating moments from PyeongChang

South Korea women’s hockey team ‘misses’ playing with North Koreans

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Something is missing as the South Korean women’s hockey team prepares for its lower-level world championship tournament next month.

North Koreans.

“Right now, we have some injured players, and having the North players would definitely help our roster have more numbers,” Sarah Murray, the Minnesota native who coaches the South Korean team and coached the unified Korean Olympic team, said Wednesday, according to Yonhap News Agency. “But we just miss practicing with them. They brought a different level of intensity to practice and it was just fun to have them around.”

South Korea plays at the third-tier worlds in Italy in two weeks in a six-team group with China, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia and Poland.

It earned a spot in that tournament by topping its group in the fourth tier last year, including a 3-0 win over North Korea at a PyeongChang Olympic venue.

If South Korea tops its group this year, it moves to the second-tier worlds in 2019, one level below the ultimate tournament with the likes of the U.S. and Canada.

Murray initially had mixed feelings about North Koreans joining her team for the Olympics. The joint Korean team went winless in five games, giving up 28 goals and scoring two.

“We have really enjoyed working with the North’s players and coaches, and we really do want to help them in the future,” Murray said after their last game in Gangneung, according to The Associated Press, adding that a possible “exchange game” was discussed to maintain the connection. “They want to get better, they want to keep learning from us and we want to help them. And there are things that we can learn from them, too.”

North Korea’s team is scheduled to play in the fourth-tier worlds that start next week in Slovenia. A joint North-South team could return for the 2022 Olympics.

“I think that would be good to do it in 2022, to go to the Beijing Olympics, to keep the North and South Korean team,” IIHF president Rene Fasel said at the Olympics, according to the AP. “It is a message of peace, and we hope to continue that. We will try.”

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