Anthony Lobello, Ariana Fontana

Anthony Lobello’s country switch a Winter Olympic first

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SOCHI, Russia — One U.S. short track speed skater from the 2006 Olympics made it back for 2014. He’s not wearing the red, white and blue this time, though.

In Sochi, Anthony Lobello will become the first athlete to compete in a Winter Olympics for the U.S. and then a later Winter Olympics for another nation, according to OlympStats.com.

As an American, Lobello finished 23rd in the 500m at the 2006 Olympics and then failed to make the 2010 U.S. Olympic Team.

In 2012, he began dating Italian Arianna Fontana, the 2010 Olympic 500m bronze medalist. Also that year, Lobello saw an opportunity to compete for Italy as a dual citizen since his paternal grandfather is Italian.

“I never looked into engaging my birthright, but I knew it existed,” Lobello, 29, told the Olympic News Service (ONS) in Sochi. “I never took it on as something I really wanted to do. But I met a girl, saw a different course for my life and took a chance.”

Lobello’s move also came as result of the “wild ride” relationship he had with US Speedskating that included suspensions, according to a blog post on his website.

Lobello’s surely much happier now, having proposed to Fontana at his family’s Alabama home last year.

“It was a little bit crazy, because that day I was cooking for the whole family,” Fontana told ONS. “So, I was nervous because I wanted to do great for them. While I was cooking, he was talking to me and said, ‘You know, when you find the right person, you don’t want to wait to spend the rest of your life with her.’

“I turned to listen to him, and he was on his knee with a ring. I didn’t know what to say, and the whole family started to yell and clap their hands. It was very exciting.”

Lobello’s love story is similar to that of snowboarder Vic Wild, who left the U.S. for Russia. Wild, though, did not reach the Olympics as an American before switching to Russia.

The three U.S. Winter Olympians who competed for other countries in previous Winter Games were, according to OlympStats:

Rena Inoue, figure skating (1992, 94-Japan, 2006-U.S.)
Clay Ives, luge (1994, 98-Canada, 02-U.S.)
Bengt Walden
, luge (1994, 98, 02-Sweden, 2010-U.S.)

On and off the ice, Jason Brown can put on a show

Caster Semenya allowed to race 800m at Pre Classic

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Caster Semenya has been switched from the 3000m to the 800m at next week’s Pre Classic, marking her first scheduled 800m since a Swiss Supreme Court ruling allowed her to race her Olympic gold-medal distance while she appeals a new IAAF testosterone rule.

“Caster’s representation requested that she be moved from the 3,000 meters (where she was originally entered) to the 800 meters, and we are happy to comply,” Prefontaine Classic meet director Tom Jordan said in a statement, confirming a Reuters report.

NBC Sports airs live Pre Classic coverage on June 30 from 4-6 p.m. ET.

Semenya, the two-time Olympic 800m champion, was originally entered in the 3000m because the rule bars her from races between 400m and the mile unless she takes testosterone-suppressing measures, under which she would be allowed to return to those distances late this year. Semenya refuses to take those measures.

A Swiss Supreme Court ruling two weeks ago lifted the restriction for Semenya — but not other athletes — while her appeal is pending. The IAAF has until Monday to respond to the court before a ruling could be made. A resolution could still be months away, with Semenya possibly able to race until that day comes.

Semenya has won 30 straight 800m races dating to 2015, including the Rio Olympics and 2017 World Championships. All three Rio Olympic 800m medalists have said they are affected by the new rule capping testosterone in women’s races between the 400m and mile.

That meant none raced at Diamond League stops in Stockholm and Rabat, Morocco, earlier this month. Last Sunday’s Rabat meet offered Semenya a late invite, more than a week after her restriction was lifted, but Semenya said it was too late for her to travel in time to race.

American record holder Ajeé Wilson won the Stockholm 800m without any of the Olympic medalists in the field.

MORE: Caster Semenya to IAAF: Focus on dopers, not us

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Geraint Thomas crashes out of Tour de France prep race

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BASEL, Switzerland (AP) — Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas crashed in a cycling race, days after teammate Chris Froome was involved in a season-ending accident in France.

Team INEOS said Thomas should be fine to start the Tour de France on July 6 despite having to drop out of the fourth stage of the nine-day Tour de Suisse race in Switzerland.

“Clearly it’s frustrating and a small setback for my Tour de France preparations, but there’s still plenty of time before we start in Brussels in a few weeks’ time,” Thomas said, according to the team.

The team says on Twitter that Thomas “was alert and speaking to the team after the crash and will be taken to hospital for checks.”

Thomas had a ripped jersey and cuts on his back and shoulder after hitting the road with about 18 miles left in the stage. He was in eighth place, 28 seconds behind race leader Peter Sagan.

Thomas won the 2018 Tour after Froome won four times between 2013 and 2017.

Watch world-class cycling events throughout the year with the NBC Sports Gold Cycling Pass, including all 21 stages of the Tour de France live & commercial-free, plus access to renowned races like La Vuelta, Paris-Roubaix, the UCI World Championships and many more.

MORE: NBC Sports launches Cycling Pass for 2019-20 season

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