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. beats Japan in Olympic baseball qualifier, may still need help

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The U.S. handed Japan its first loss in the Premier12 global Olympic baseball qualifier, at the Tokyo Dome no less, but now the Americans must root for the host nation.

The Americans, with a roster mostly of Double-A and Triple-A players, won 4-3 over a Japanese team that includes some of its domestic league’s biggest stars like two-time Central League MVP Yoshihiro Maru and veteran shortstop Hayato Sakamoto.

Outfielder Jo Adell, MLB Pipeline’s top-ranked prospect on the U.S. team, starred by reaching base four times with a home run.

Japan is already qualified for baseball’s Olympic return as the host nation.

The U.S., meanwhile, has a sense of urgency at Premier12, the first of a possible three tournaments in which it could clinch an Olympic spot.

At Premier12, the top-ranked nation from North and South America qualifies for the Olympics. The tournament is at the super-round stage of the final six teams, and two are from the Americas: the U.S. and Mexico.

The top four nations after each has played five games advance to gold- and bronze-medal games.

Mexico already beat the U.S. and ran its super-round record to 3-0 on Tuesday, clinching a spot in the medal round.

The U.S. moved to 1-2 in the super round on Tuesday and must at least get into the same medal-round game as Mexico to keep its hope of finishing as the top team from the Americas.

Japan could help, since it plays Mexico on Wednesday. If Mexico beats Japan, the Mexicans clinch a spot in the gold-medal game, which would put more pressure on the U.S. to win its last two games (vs. Australia on Wednesday and Chinese Taipei on Friday). Even then, South Korea would get into the gold-medal game if it wins out.

If the U.S. is not the top team from the Americas at Premier12, it can still earn an Olympic berth in March. But then it faces trying to come up with a roster at the end of MLB’s spring training rather than during the offseason. MLB teams may be less inclined to release minor leaguers.

“That’ll be a delicate dance,” U.S. general manager Eric Campbell said before Premier12.

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College gymnast dies after practice accident

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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — An accomplished gymnast at Southern Connecticut State University has died following a serious spinal cord injury suffered in a training accident.

Melanie Coleman, 20, of Milford, Connecticut, was training Friday at New Era Gymnastics in Hamden when she was injured, said her mother, Susan Coleman.

She was taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital and died Sunday.

Coleman was a former All State gymnast at Jonathan Law High School in Milford and was captain of the school’s gymnastics team. She was named a Women’s Collegiate Gymnastics Association Scholastic All-American this year.

Her former club coach, Tom Alberti, said she attained a level 10, the highest level in the USA Junior Olympics Program.

She was a junior studying nursing, following in the footsteps of her two older sisters, her mother said.

“She’s from a very large, loving family; there’s seven of us, we were the Coleman seven,” Susan Coleman said. “We spent every day together for the past 20 years.”

She volunteered at the gym where her accident occurred.

Her coaches and professors described her as a special young woman who excelled in both the classroom and gym, college President Joe Berolino said in a written statement.

“Our deepest sympathies are extended to her family and friends on this tragic loss,” he said.

People the family has met by traveling to gymnastics events around the country are giving support that is “holding us up,” Coleman’s mother said.

She described her children, which also include two sons older than Melanie, as “inseparable.”

“We’re going to leave an empty space in our photos for her” from now on, Susan Coleman said.