Fiji Rugby Sevens

First nations qualify for rugby sevens’ Olympic debut

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Fiji, New Zealand and South Africa became the first three nations to qualify for the debut of Olympic rugby sevens.

The three nations earned their spots through the Sevens World Series, which stopped in Glasgow, Scotland, over the weekend for the eighth of nine legs this season.

The top four nations in this season’s Sevens World Series earn spots in the first Olympic rugby sevens tournament in Rio de Janeiro next year. Rugby returns to the Olympics for the first time since 1924, but for the first time as a sevens version.

In Glasgow, Fiji, New Zealand and South Africa earned enough points to ensure they will finish the season in the top four following the final leg in London this weekend. Brazil received an automatic spot in the Olympic men’s and women’s rugby tournaments as host nation.

Fiji in particular could be an interesting story in Rio. The nation has never won an Olympic medal but leads this season’s World Series and finished in the top three the previous three seasons.

Another famous Fijian, golfer Vijay Singh, could make his Olympic debut at age 53 in Rio with his sport’s return to the Games, and perhaps be golf’s oldest competitor next year.

Another nation will qualify for the Olympic men’s rugby tournament this weekend. It will likely be Great Britain, which is represented by England in the World Series for Olympic qualifying purposes.

The U.S. men, who are sixth in this season’s World Series, hope to earn their spot in the 12-team Olympic rugby tournament by winning a North American and Caribbean nations qualifying tournament in Cary, N.C., in June. If they don’t, they can still get into the Olympics by winning a later last-chance Olympic qualifying tournament.

The U.S. women are tied for fifth with 48 points in their World Series with two legs to go. Like the men, the top four nations in the women’s World Series earn Rio berths. The women’s next leg is in London this weekend.

If the U.S. women fail to finish in the top four in the World Series, they can also earn their spot in the 12-team Olympic rugby tournament by winning a North American and Caribbean nations qualifying tournament in Cary, N.C., in June or a later last-chance Olympic qualifying tournament.

Jillion Potter done with cancer treatment, eyes U.S. rugby return, Olympics

Chris Froome wins Giro d’Italia, is 3rd cyclist to hold all three Grand Tours

AP
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Chris Froome joined Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault as the only cyclists to hold all three Grand Tour titles at once, wrapping up his first Giro d’Italia on the ceremonial ride into Rome on Sunday.

Froome, a 33-year-old, Kenyan-born, South African-raised Brit, also became the seventh rider to win all three Grand Tours in a career, joining Merckx, Hinault, Jacques Anquetil, Felice Gimondi, Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali.

Froome has won four Tours de France (2013, 2015-17) and claimed his first Vuelta a España in September. He also owns two Olympic bronze medals and a world championships bronze medal.

Froome all but clinched the Giro title in Friday’s 19th stage. With an audacious solo attack up the Colle delle Finestre, the three-week stage race’s highest climb, he went from three minutes down to three minutes up in the standings, taking the pink leader’s jersey for the first time in his career.

“I had some very, very tough moments, so to come back and win yesterday and defend the jersey [Saturday] is very, very special,” Froome said Saturday. “This was the biggest battle of my career.”

GIRO: Overall Standings

Froome raced the Giro for the first time since 2010, when he was a relative nobody in the sport and disqualified for holding onto a motorbike, also during stage 19.

Froome could become the first rider to notch the arduous Giro-Tour de France double in the same year since Italian Marco Pantani in 1998. That is, if he even starts the Tour in a little over a month.

In December, Froome was ordered to explain to the International Cycling Union (UCI) why a urine sample he provided at the Vuelta showed a concentration of the asthma drug salbutamol that was twice the permitted level. It remains unclear when the UCI will rule on the case.

“I know inside that I didn’t do anything wrong,” Froome said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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VIDEO: 17-year-old runs 3:52 mile at Pre Classic

Venus Williams upset on first day of French Open

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PARIS (AP) — Venus Williams is out of the French Open on the opening day.

The 2002 runner-up and ninth-seeded American lost 6-4, 7-5 to Wang Qiang of China in the first round on Court Suzanne Lenglen on Sunday.

Wang avenged her loss to Williams in the first round at Roland Garros last year. The 85th-ranked player was also beaten by Williams at Wimbledon a few weeks later and had never beaten Williams before Sunday.

It’s the fourth time Williams exits the French Open in the first round in 21 appearances.

She also lost in the first round at the Australian Open in January.

Reigning U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens needed less than an hour to move into the second round.

The 10th-seeded Stephens advanced with a 6-2, 6-0 victory over Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands. It was Stephens’ first win at a Grand Slam tournament since claiming her first major title in New York last September.

“I tried to do way more than I should have after the U.S. Open, and I should have just shut it down,” Stephens said when asked about her poor recent results. “My heart was there but my body wasn’t. So when the two things aren’t connected, it’s never a good thing.”

The American, who lost in the first round at the Australian Open in January, hit 17 winners and spent just 49 minutes on court on Day 1 in Paris. Rus was in the first round as a “lucky loser.”

On a sunny and warm day, Stephens was joined in the second round by fourth-seeded Elina Svitolina, who defeated Ajla Tomljanovic, 7-5, 6-3 after recovering from a 5-1 deficit in the opening set.

In the men’s draw, fourth-seeded Grigor Dimitrov found out about his opponent around 30 minutes before stepping onto Court Philippe Chatrier but had no problem adapting to the situation.

Dimitrov, a semifinalist at Monte Carlo this season, was slated to play Viktor Troicki but instead faced Mohamed Safwat of Egypt because Troicki withdrew with pain in his back. Dimitrov hit 31 winners and prevailed 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (1).

“I just needed, like, five, ten minutes to disconnect from what I had in mind to play and what I wanted to do and kind of look at the few videos of the way he was playing,” Dimitrov said. “After that, I just had to go out and do the best that I can. I think it was a good start.”

Safwat, the first Egyptian man to compete at a Grand Slam since Tamer El Sawy at the 1996 US Open, was cheered off the court.

Gael Monfils, one of six Frenchmen in action on Sunday, overcame a slow start and an upset stomach and headache to advance by defeating compatriot and wild card Elliot Benchetrit. Monfils won 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-1.

“I was stressed and even sick at the beginning,” Monfils said. “Then experience played in my favor.”

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FRENCH OPEN: TV/Stream Schedule | ScoresMen’s Draw (PDF) | Women’s Draw