Kosuke Kitajima

Kosuke Kitajima, Alicia Coutts fail to make World Championships teams

Leave a comment

Japan’s most decorated swimmer of all time and Australia’s most decorated athlete across all sports at the 2012 Olympics both failed to make their World Swimming Championships teams.

Kosuke Kitajima, who swept the breaststrokes at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, finished third in the 100m breast at the Japanese Championships on Wednesday. A nation can send no more than two swimmers per individual event to the World Championships in Kazan, Russia, in August.

Kitajima did not enter the 200m breast at the Japanese Championships. That means the four-time Olympian Kitajima, 32, will likely miss his second World Championships since 1998. The other absence was 2009, when Kitajima took a break from swimming.

“I fell just like cherry blossom petals,” Kitajima said, according to the Yomiuri Shimbun. “I was sure that I could finish within the qualifying time, and I still believe I can compete [at the top level].”

Alicia Coutts, who won an Australian-leading five medals at the 2012 Olympics, may retire after failing to make the World Championships team, according to Australian media.

Coutts, 27, finished third in the 100m butterfly at the Australian Championships. She is the reigning Olympic bronze medalist and Worlds silver medalist in the event. She did not enter the 200m individual medley, an event in which she won silver at the 2011 and 2013 Worlds and 2012 Olympics.

She also finished sixth in the 100m freestyle but did not earn a spot on the 4x100m free relay team for Worlds (full Australian team here).

Coutts competed after suffering a serious shoulder injury.

“I was going to retire 12 weeks ago, so I am lucky to be here,” Coutts said Sunday, according to The Australian Associated Press. “I went kind of AWOL, so I really only started training at the first of January.”

Australia Olympic Committee backs 2028 Olympic bid

Justin Morneau nixes Olympic baseball qualifying return

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Justin Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP with the Minnesota Twins, was taken off Canada’s Olympic baseball qualifying roster before he would have played his first competitive game in more than two years.

Morneau, 38, experienced an unspecified setback in training and was replaced on Canada’s roster for next month’s Premier12. The global tournament marks the first opportunity for many world baseball powers to qualify for the sport’s return to the Olympics.

Morneau never played in the Olympics before baseball was cut from the Games after 2008; active MLB players have never competed in the Games. But he was on Canada’s roster at all four World Baseball Classics from 2006 through 2017.

At November’s Premier12, the top nation from North and South America will qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. Japan and Israel are already qualified. Those that do not qualify will get another chance next year.

Morneau could become the second Major League Baseball MVP to play Olympic baseball as a medal sport. The other was Jason Giambi, who made the U.S. team in 1992, the same summer he was drafted in the second round by the Oakland Athletics.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Joe Girardi replaced as U.S. baseball manager by World Series champion

Kolohe Andino is first U.S. Olympic surfing qualifier; Kelly Slater faces last chance

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Kolohe Andino is the first American to qualify for surfing’s Olympic debut, which leaves one spot left for 47-year-old Kelly Slater to chase at the final contest of the season.

Andino, a 25-year-old Californian whose first name means “rascal” in Hawaiian, clinched his place in Tokyo on Friday at the penultimate stop on the World Surf League Championship Tour in Portugal. He is ranked fifth in the world, trailing a trio of Brazilians.

One more American man will join Andino on the Olympic team. It will be one of Slater, the 11-time world champion, John John Florence, the 2016 and 2017 World champion, and rising 22-year-old Hawaiian Seth Moniz.

Slater was handed a golden opportunity to qualify when Florence announced in early July that he tore an ACL for the second time in 13 months. Florence had won two of the first five events this season.

Slater has been chasing the sidelined Florence in the standings ever since. But it has not been easy.

Slater hasn’t made the quarterfinals in any of his last seven contests going into December’s finale — the prestigious Billabong Pipeline Masters on the North Shore of Oahu.

“Ninth place, to me, used to be a pretty awful result. I’m used to at least a quarterfinal on for most of my career,” he said in July, noting a back injury. “I’m not horrified by my results, but I’m also not surprised. Maybe other people are because everyone focuses on my age and that kind of thing. It’s not like I’m going to all of a sudden forget how to do this thing, you know?”

Slater, who won the Pipe Masters seven times between 1992 and 2013, must reach the quarterfinals at this year’s event to have any chance of passing Florence to qualify for the Olympics.

Complicating matters: Florence said in August it was his “goal to get better for Pipeline in case I have to come back and compete and gain points,” according to ESPN.com. If Florence does return for the December contest, and makes the quarterfinals, Slater could only pass him with a victory.

Moniz goes into the finale ranked one spot behind Slater, meaning he, too, can grab that second and final Olympic spot with a win or a runner-up.

Slater, who turns 48 on Feb. 11, would be the oldest U.S. Summer Olympic rookie competitor in a sport other than equestrian, sailing or shooting (or art competitions!) in the last 100 years, supplanting Martina Navratilova, according to the OlyMADMen.

MORE: Top U.S. surfer has links to Egg McMuffin, Guinness World Record holder

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!