Fukushima

Fukushima, site of nuclear disaster, wants to host 2020 Olympic baseball

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Fukushima, the site of 2011 nuclear plant meltdowns caused by an earthquake and tsunami, hopes to host preliminary baseball and softball games for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, according to Agence France-Presse.

“We are still in the process of recovery from the disaster, and it would be a dream to have world-class athletes play here,” said Fukushima city official Hiroaki Kuwajima, according to AFP.

The Fukushima meltdowns were a cause of concern as Tokyo bid for the 2020 Olympics in 2013. It won an International Olympic Committee vote over Istanbul and Madrid and will host its second Games, 56 years after its first.

In the 2013 question-and-answer session with IOC members, Tokyo organizers were asked about a leak of radiation-contaminated water at the Fukushima nuclear plant. At the time, it marked the fifth and largest leak from the plant damaged by the 2011 tsunami.

There were concerns over possible radiation effects, but Kuwajima cited “harmful rumors,” and Fukushima hopes athletes will eat the local food, according to AFP.

“Fukushima has suffered a lot of financial damage caused by misinformation,” Kuwajima said, according to AFP. “We would like to be able to sweep away those harmful rumors.”

Baseball and softball were last contested at the Olympics in 2008. In 2013, they lost a vote to be re-added to the Olympics for 2020 and 2024, but they could still be added for the 2020 Olympics, if the host of Tokyo submits a proposal that is approved.

Baseball and softball were traditionally held at one or two venues when part of the Olympic program, and Fukushima is 155 miles north of Tokyo.

The then-Fukushima Governor said in June that he hoped the 2020 Olympic torch relay would go through Fukushima.

Potential rival to Boston 2024 now appears unlikely to join Olympic bid race

Asbel Kiprop, Olympic 1500m champ, banned 4 years

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Kenyan Asbel Kiprop, the 2008 Olympic 1500m champion and a three-time world champ, was banned four years after testing positive for EPO in November 2017, according to track and field’s doping watchdog organization.

The ban is backdated to Feb. 3, 2018, when the 29-year-old was provisionally suspended after the failed test.

Kiprop repeatedly denied doping since last May, when he first acknowledged the positive test. Most recently, a 3,000-word defense from his lawyer was posted on Kiprop’s Facebook page.

Kiprop’s defenses included saying he was a victim of extortion and that he was offered “a reward” of becoming an anti-doping ambassador if he admitted guilt. The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), the IAAF’s independent organization to monitor doping and corruption, denied the latter last May.

A disciplinary panel dismissed six defenses from exonerating him, including the possibility his sample was spiked, in handing out the four-year ban.

Kiprop, the pre-eminent 1500m runner of the last decade, can appeal the ban.

At 19, he finished second in the Beijing Olympic 1500m but was upgraded to gold a year later after Bahrain’s Rashid Ramzi failed a drug test. He is the youngest Olympic 1500m medalist of all time, according to the OlyMADMen.

Kiprop went on to earn three straight world titles in the 1500m in 2011, 2013 and 2015, matching the feats of retired legends Noureddine Morceli and Hicham El Guerrouj.

He struggled in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, finishing last in the London final with a hamstring injury and sixth in the Rio final won by American rival Matthew Centrowitz.

Kiprop has targeted El Guerrouj’s world record of 3:26:00, missing the mark by .69 of a second in 2015.

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Maggie Nichols is second woman in 20 years to repeat as NCAA all-around champ

Maggie Nichols
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Oklahoma junior and world champion gymnast Maggie Nichols became the first woman to repeat as NCAA all-around champion in 12 years, returning from a heel injury to compete on all four events for the first time since January on Friday.

Nichols, a Rio Olympic hopeful before being beset by a torn meniscus in 2016, joined 2004 Olympic silver medalist Courtney Kupets as the only women to win back-to-back NCAA all-arounds in the 2000s.

A junior, Nichols can next year join Jenny Hansen as the only women to three-peat in NCAA history.

Oklahoma goes for a third team title in four years on Saturday night against UCLA (featuring Olympic champions Madison Kocian and Kyla Ross), LSU and Denver.

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NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships Individual Results
All-Around
1. Maggie Nichols (Oklahoma) — 39.7125
2. Lexy Ramler (Minnesota) — 39.6625
2. Kyla Ross (UCLA) — 39.6625
4. Sarah Finnegan (LSU) — 39.65
5. Kennedi Edney (LSU) — 39.6

Vault
1. Kennedi Edney (LSU) — 9.95
1. Derrian Gobourne (Auburn)
1. Maggie Nichols (Oklahoma)
1. Kyla Ross (UCLA)

Uneven Bars
1. Sarah Finnegan (LSU) — 9.95

Balance Beam
1. Natalie Wojcik (Michigan) — 9.95

Floor Exercise
1. Alicia Boren (Florida) — 9.95
1. Lynnzee Brown (Denver)
1. Brenna Dowell (Oklahoma)
1. Kyla Ross (UCLA)