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Allyson Felix-Caster Semenya clash unlikely for world championships

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Don’t expect to see Allyson Felix and Caster Semenya go head-to-head at the world championships this summer.

The Olympic 800m champion Semenya is “pretty much focusing” on the 800m this season “at this stage,” her coach, Jean Verster, said Monday.

“We’ll see later on in the season because we are planning to hopefully run a few other distances if possible [before worlds in August],” Verster said by phone. “Maybe just a few 400s and a couple of 1500s. We’ll see how it goes, but at this stage the focus is purely on the 800m [for worlds].”

Semenya talked last July of entering both the 400m and 800m in Rio, but she ended up racing solely the 800m at her first Olympics. Semenya easily won gold in 1:55.28, a national record.

Three weeks after the Olympics, Semenya lowered her 400m personal best to 50.40 seconds in the Diamond League season finale in September. She came from behind to beat the Olympic third- and fourth-place finishers.

Neither Olympic gold medalist Shaunae Miller (49.44 in Rio) nor silver medalist Felix (49.51) was in that race.

Semenya has already raced the 400m at two meets this season, clocking 51.60 and 51.84, comparable to her times at the same April meets last year. She ranks No. 9 in the world for 2017.

Then last Friday, Semenya dominated the Diamond League season-opening 800m in 1:56.61. Semenya has never run faster before the month of July. She is entered in the Prefontaine Classic 800m on May 27, her first race in the U.S. since 2011.

Verster said Semenya was behind schedule compared to last year due to off-track commitments.

“Seeing this year as a fun year and not as much pressure as last year with the Olympics,” he said. “At this stage we kind of catch up a little bit in terms of the training. In that sense, we were extremely happy with the way we started in Doha.”

Neither Miller nor Felix has raced a 400m since Rio.

Miller has said she plans to race the 200m and 400m at worlds in London in August.

Felix has a bye into the worlds 400m as defending world champion and plans to race the shorter sprints at the U.S. Championships next month. It hasn’t been decided if Felix hopes to double at worlds.

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Matt, Becca Hamilton are first U.S. Olympic mixed doubles curling team

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A brother and sister from Wisconsin will be the busiest athletes at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

A month ago the Hamilton siblings, Matt and Becca, qualified to compete at the Olympics with the U.S. men’s and women’s curling teams, and today they also qualified to play as a mixed doubles team.

With a win over two of their teammates, John Shuster (skip of Matt’s four-man team) and Cory Christensen (alternate on Becca’s four-woman team), at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for mixed doubles curling, the Hamiltons earned the opportunity to curl on potentially every day of the Olympics.

The Hamiltons will start their Olympic competitions with the mixed doubles tournament on Thursday, Feb. 8, the day before the the Opening Ceremony marks the official beginning of the Olympics. When mixed doubles wraps up on Tuesday the 13th, they’ll start playing separately in the men’s and women’s tournaments on Wednesday the 14th. The traditional curling tournaments go until Sunday, Feb. 25, the day of the Closing Ceremony.

Of course, if one of their teams doesn’t advance past the round-robin rounds to the semifinals and medal games, they’ll have some time off. But if they do go all the way to the gold medal matches, it’ll mean 18 straight days of competition for the Hamiltons.

Matt and Becca showed their readiness during the Olympic Trials. They had the second-best record of the round-robin stage, 5-2, then beat Shuster and Christensen twice in two days to win the Olympic berth. The score of the final was 6-5.

After the match, the siblings–who say their partnership works because they can be brutally honest on the ice–had nothing but kind words for each other.

Becca, the younger Hamilton by a year and a half, said her older brother “taught me everything I know.”

Matt then said of Becca, “it’s been impressive to watch her grow up and become the superstar she is now.”

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Jessica Kooreman, Thomas Hong, Ryan Pivirotto earn last three spots on U.S. Olympic short track team

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Jessica Kooreman, Thomas Hong and Ryan Pivirotto grabbed the last three spots on the U.S. Olympic short track team on Sunday as competition wrapped up at the Olympic Trials.

Kooreman survived a fall in the last women’s race of the Trials, the 1000m #2 A Final, to finish second overall in the 1000m and earn a spot on the team that will race on Olympic ice in PyeongChang.

Kooreman, a 2014 Olympian, joined Lana Gehring, a 2010 Olympian and Maame Biney, a 17-year-old who will make her Olympic debut in 2018, on the U.S. Olympic women’s short track team.

At 34 years old, Kooreman will be the veteran of the team. Four years ago, she swept all three events at the 2014 U.S. Olympic Trials and then finished fourth in the 1000m at the Sochi Winter Games.

She struggled to breakthrough to the top spots at this Trials; she finished third overall in both the 1500m on Friday and 500m on Saturday.

Left off the team is Katherine-Reutter Adamek, a two-time Olympic medalist from Vancouver who retired in 2013 due to injuries before coming back in 2016 in hopes of making another Olympic team. Reutter is the American record holder and Olympic silver medalist in the 1000m, but her Olympic aspirations ended when she didn’t qualify for the 1000m #2 A Final today.

Hong, a native of South Korea who moved to the U.S. at 4 years old, finished fourth in the men’s 1000m #2 A Final, and fourth overall. Pivirotto didn’t qualify for that A Final, and had to watch from the sidelines as his Olympic fate was decided. Pivirotto clinched the fifth and final spot by finishing fifth overall across all distances.

The overall winner on the men’s side was John-Henry Krueger, who was nearly undefeated over the three days of racing and won four of six A Finals: both 1000m finals today, the 500m #2 final yesterday and the 1500m #2 final on Friday. 22-year-old Krueger was expected to make the Olympic team four years ago, but had to withdraw from some races at the 2014 U.S. Olympic Trials when he was diagnosed with swine flu.

J.R. Celski, the only member of the team with prior Olympic experience, had an uncharacteristically rough Trials with four falls in three days. However his results when he did stay on his skates were good enough to put him into second-place overall. The third overall men’s skater was Aaron Tran, who also make the Olympic team.

The U.S. Olympic short track team:

Lana Gehring
Maame Biney
Jessica Kooreman
John-Henry Krueger
J.R. Celski
Aaron Tran
Thomas Hong
Ryan Pivirotto

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