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Ibtihaj Muhammad discusses election, her future


LOS ANGELES—After failing to make the 2012 U.S. Olympic team, Ibtihaj Muhammad was singularly focused on qualifying for the 2016 Olympics. Now she has a new date circled on her calendar: November 8.

“I am really looking forward to the [presidential] election,” Muhammad said. “We need a reprieve from all of this trauma.”

This summer Muhammad became the first American to compete in the Olympics wearing a hijab, the traditional headscarf worn by Muslim women. The distinction earned significant media attention for Muhammad, who won a fencing team sabre bronze medal in Rio. She appeared on “The Ellen Show,” and was named one of the 100 most influential people for 2016 by TIME Magazine.

She is often asked about Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee who has proposed barring all Muslims from entering the United States. Muhammad famously responded “Who?” when reporters peppered her with questions about Trump during the Olympics.

Now that the Rio Games are over, Muhammad is more willing to express her political opinions.

“This is a moment in time where we can reject hate and take a stand as Americans to say this candidate doesn’t represent us,” Muhammad said.

Muhammad was vague when asked if she planned on endorsing a specific presidential candidate, instead encouraging everyone to remember to vote. When pressed, Muhammad revealed that she plans on voting for Hillary Clinton.

“To me, it is very clear which presidential candidate feels more in line with supporting minority communities in this country,” Muhammad said.

Clinton’s campaign sent a congratulatory tweet to Muhammad during the Olympics.

“Having Hillary Clinton, hopefully our next president, acknowledge Muslim women on the United States Olympic team is a wonderful moment not just for me, but for all of us,” Muhammad said. “It shows that we are a country of inclusion, acceptance and diversity.”

Muhammad has maintained a whirlwind travel schedule since the Rio Games, making speaking appearances and promoting her clothing line, Louella, which she describes as “modest, fashion-forward clothing.”

She recently returned to training in preparation for the Grand Prix season, which begins this December in Cancun, and eventually the 2017 World Championships. But she has not committed to attempting to compete at the 2020 Olympics, or even future world championships.

“I’m a firm believer in taking things day by day,” Muhammad said. “I don’t even know my plans for tomorrow.”

Muhammad, who studied international relations at Duke University, has considered eventually running for elected office. She served on the U.S. Department of State’s Empowering Women and Girls Through Sport Initiative, received a shout-out in a February speech from President Barack Obama, and even taught First Lady Michelle Obama how to fence.

“If I can use politics as an avenue to encourage and inspire our youth, why not?” Muhammad said.

Muhammad spoke on a panel at the LA84 Foundation Summit last week. Emcee Julie Foudy, a three-time U.S. Olympic soccer medalist, made Muhammad promise that she would consider running for president one day.

“I can’t wait for Donald Trump to be around to see that,” Foudy said.

MORE: First Lady ‘fences’ with Ibtihaj Muhammad

Alina Zagitova eyes more gold at worlds; women’s preview

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Alina Zagitova hasn’t lost internationally in 18 months, and that doesn’t figure to change this week at the world championships in Milan.

The 15-year-old Russian is favored to become the youngest world gold medalist since Tara Lipinski (duplicating her feat from the Olympics) and make it five straight Olympic or world titles for Russian women, the longest streak for one country since American Carol Heiss won six straight Olympic/world titles from 1956 through 1960.

Zagitova would also become the first Olympic women’s champion to win worlds the following month since Kristi Yamaguchi in 1992. That’s largely because Olympic champions usually skip worlds in Olympic years. Since Yamaguchi, the only one to compete was Yuna Kim, who grabbed silver in 2010.

Zagitova may be young, but she may not have the longevity of Kim to make it to a second Olympics. Russia turns over a new class of elite women’s skaters every year.

Two weeks ago, 13-year-old Alexandra Trusova won the world junior title as the first woman to land two different quadruple jumps in one program. Trusova isn’t old enough to compete at the senior worlds until 2020.

Zagitova’s current rival and training partner, Olympic silver medalist and 2016 and 2017 World champion Yevgenia Medvedeva, withdrew from worlds due to injury.

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Which leaves the last two Olympic bronze medalists, Kaetlyn Osmond of Canada and Carolina Kostner of Italy, plus PyeongChang fourth-place finisher Satoko Miyahara of Japan as the top challengers this week.

None finished within seven points of Zagitova at any competition this season, the Russian’s first on the senior international level.

Zagitova set herself apart at the Olympics by putting all of her jumps in the second half of her programs for 10 percent bonuses and landing them all with positive grades of execution.

The U.S. contingent includes national champion Bradie Tennell, two-time Olympian Mirai Nagasu and Mariah Bell (replacement for 2017 U.S. champion Karen Chen).

It is the end of a challenging season for U.S. women. In the autumn, none qualified for the Grand Prix Final for a second straight year (after at least one had done so each of the previous seven seasons).

In PyeongChang, no U.S. woman finished in the top six for the first time in Winter Games history. Tennell, who emerged this season after placing ninth at 2017 Nationals, was the top U.S. Olympic finisher in ninth.

Tennell goes into worlds as the top seeded American — seventh — by best international scores this season.

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Olympic golf qualifying, format largely unchanged for 2020

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The Tokyo 2020 Olympic golf tournaments qualifying and format will remain largely the same as they were for the sport’s return to the Games in 2016, according to Golf Channel, citing a memo sent to PGA Tour players.

The format will again be four rounds of stroke play with 60 men and 60 women taken from the world rankings, according to the report.

The qualifying window to determine the rankings will be July 1, 2018 to June 22, 2020 for men and July 8, 2018 to June 29, 2020 for women. That’s a slight change, as for 2016 the dates were the same for men and women.

The 2016 process saw a maximum of two men and two women per country, or up to four if they were ranked in the top 15.

Then-PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said one month after the Rio Games that he hoped the Olympic golf format would be changed to have more medals awarded.

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