Arthur Zanetti

Ten sports where Brazil can win medals at Rio 2016

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The Brazil Olympic Committee set a goal of 27 to 30 medals at the Rio 2016 Olympics, a significant jump from its total of 17 at London 2012, its highest-ever tally.

Rio 2016 organizers outlined 10 sports where Brazil could reach the podium next year. Here’s a look at the list:

Gymnastics (Artistic)

The big four of China, Romania, Russia and the U.S. have long dominated artistic gymnastics, with the Japanese men recently joining the medal mix as well.

Brazil captured its first Olympic gymnastics medal at London 2012 in the form of Arthur Zanetti‘s gold on rings. Zanetti followed with gold and silver at the 2013 and 2014 World Championships.

The veteran Diego Hypolito, 28, has won five World Championships medals on floor exercise since 2005. He was the top qualifier into the Beijing 2008 floor final but wound up a tearful sixth.

Then there’s Sergio Sasaki, who in 2012 became the first Brazilian man to reach an Olympic all-around final. He was 10th and then fifth at the 2013 World Championships and seventh at the 2014 World Championships. However, Sasaki’s participation in the 2015 Worlds is in question due to knee surgery.

Handball

European nations have dominated in Olympic competition, but the Brazilian women captured their first World Championship medal in 2013, gold in Serbia. Duda Amorim is the reigning World Player of the Year.

Judo

Infostrada’s virtual medal table has Brazil winning five judo medals in 2016, based on recent international results. That would be Brazil’s best medal haul in any sport, if one separates open-water swimming from pool swimming.

Brazil also performed its best in judo in 2012, taking four medals split evenly between men and women. In 2016, Kayla Harrison, the first U.S. Olympic judo gold medalist, could be headed for a showdown with Brazilian Mayra Aguiar, the 2014 World champion.

Sailing

Brazil owns more sailing gold medals (six) than any other sport. Its most decorated Olympians are also sailors — Robert Scheidt and Torben Grael with five medals each. Scheidt is still active, while Grael is now a coach.

Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze are reigning World champions in the 49er FX and the female Sailors of the Year.

Soccer

Brazil may be a World Cup power, but of its seven combined Olympic men’s and women’s soccer medals (all since Los Angeles 1984), none are gold.

The most recognizable Brazil Olympians next year may be Barcelona striker Neymar and five-time FIFA World Player of the Year Marta.

Neymar played on the London 2012 silver medal-winning team, and in 2016 would have to be one of a maximum three players on the roster over the age of 23.

There is no such age restriction for the women’s teams. This summer’s World Cup should provide a clear picture of where Marta’s side stands among the world’s elite, such as the U.S.

Swimming (Open Water)

Brazil has never earned an Olympic open-water swimming medal, but only 12 have been awarded. The 10km events were introduced at Beijing 2008.

Brazil’s women took four of the nine medals at the 2013 World Championships. Poliana Okimoto and Ana Marcela Cunha earned two each.

Swimming (Pool)

Brazil topped the gold medal standings at the 2014 World Short Course Championships, but that’s deceiving because four of its seven titles came in non-Olympic stroke/relay distances and short course events are held in 25-meter pools. The Olympics are held in 50-meter pools.

Still, Brazil is looking more and more formidable in men’s sprint events. Cesar Cielo took 50m freestyle gold at the 2008 Olympics and 2009, 2011 and 2013 Worlds. He’s among a deep group that could form a 4x100m free relay that could beat world powers Australia, France and the U.S.

Track and Field

Track and field offers the most medals — 141 — of any sport at the Olympics. Brazil better increase its output over London 2012, where it failed to earn a track and field medal for the first time since 1992.

Brazil has medal threats in the women’s pole vault (Fabiana Murer had the three highest clearances in the world in 2014) and men’s long jump (Mauro Vinícius da Silva is the two-time reigning World Indoor champion but hasn’t translated it to outdoor success).

Volleyball (Beach)

Brazil owns more beach volleyball medals than any other nation, making the podium at every Olympics since the sport was introduced at Atlanta 1996.

Larissa and Talita appear the most formidable opposition to Americans Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross, recently prevailing in their first head-to-head in February in Rio de Janeiro.

On the men’s side, Emanuel and Ricardo reunited last summer and could go for a third Olympic medal together in Rio. Emanuel, 42, owns more international victories than any man or woman.

Volleyball (Indoor)

Infostrada has Brazil sweeping the golds at Rio 2016, which would be a major success for the nation. Indoor volleyball tickets have been reported to be the most sought-after of any sport, and the finals tickets are tied for the highest-priced (up to about $400) with basketball, track and field and beach volleyball.

The Brazilian men’s team took gold in 2004 and lost in the gold-medal games in 2008 (to the U.S.) and 2012 (to Russia). It also was stunned by Poland in the 2014 World Championship final.

The women are two-time reigning Olympic champions, but they were upset by the U.S. in a 2014 World Championships semifinal sweep.

Infostrada also has Brazil taking medals in boxing, tennis and wrestling at the Rio Olympics.

Rio 2016 Olympics day-by-day events to watch

U.S. Olympic, USA Gymnastics leaders set for another Senate hearing

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Recently replaced U.S. Olympic Committee acting CEO Susanne Lyons, USA Gymnastics President and CEO Kerry Perry and Michigan State interim president John Engler are scheduled witnesses for a Senate subcommittee hearing next Tuesday on reforms following the Larry Nassar sexual-abuse crimes.

The hearing is titled, “Strengthening and Empowering U.S. Amateur Athletes: Moving Forward with Solutions” and will stream live at https://www.commerce.senate.gov/ on Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. ET.

“The hearing will focus on changes made by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), USA Gymnastics (USAG), and Michigan State University (MSU) to protect Olympic and amateur athletes from abuse,” according to the subcommittee’s website. “It will examine recent reforms to provide safe environments for athletes and how these reforms are being implemented.”

The subcommittee held hearings April 18 and June 5 with testimonies from gymnasts and other athletes who were abused, former Michigan State president Lou Anna Simon and former senior vice president of USA Gymnastics Rhonda Faehn. Former USA Gymnastics CEO Steve Penny also attended the June 5 hearing but refused to answer questions.

Lyons and Perry were questioned at a House subcommittee hearing May 23.

The USOC last Thursday named Sarah Hirshland its new CEO, replacing Lyons, who had been in the role on an interim basis since Scott Blackmun resigned in February. Blackmun, who had been CEO since January 2010, left citing prostate cancer and the USOC’s need to immediately address the USA Gymnastics sexual-abuse scandal.

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Annemiek van Vleuten wins La Course with epic comeback (video)

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Annemiek van Vleuten, the cyclist who returned from a horrific Rio Olympic road race crash to become world champion, repeated as La Course winner with an epic last-kilometer comeback on Tuesday.

Van Vleuten sprinted from several seconds behind countrywoman Anna van der Breggen to win the one-day race, including four categorized climbs, contested on part of the Tour de France stage 10 course later that day.

“With 300 meters to go, I still thought I got second, and then I saw her dying,” Van Vleuten said, adding later, according to Cyclingnews.com, “With 500 meters to go my team director in the car gave up and stopped cheering for me.”

In Rio, van Vleuten suffered three small spine fractures and a concussion when her brakes appeared to lock, and she flipped over into a ditch during the road race. Van Vleuten was alone in the lead at the time with about seven miles to go of the 87-mile course.

She was eventually hospitalized in intensive care.

Van der Breggen went on to win the Olympic title, while van Vleuten returned quick enough to race at the October 2016 World Championships.

Van Vleuten, 35, won her first world title 13 months after the Rio Games, taking the time trial crown ahead of van der Breggen by 12 seconds. She also won the 10-stage Giro Rosa that concluded on Sunday.

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