Four European nations qualify for 2016 Olympic men’s soccer tournament

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The 2016 Olympic men’s soccer tournament, already with Brazil and Argentina, will also include Germany, Portugal, Sweden and Denmark.

The four nations reached the European Under-21 Championship semifinals this week, clinching their Olympic berths.

There are no more chances for European nations to qualify for the 2016 Olympic men’s soccer tournament, meaning soccer powers like 2006 World Cup winner Italy and 1998 World Cup winner France aren’t going to Rio.

It’s Germany’s first Olympic men’s soccer appearance since East Germany and West Germany reunited in 1990. West Germany won Olympic bronze in 1988, a team that included current U.S. men’s national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann.

German veteran defenders Philipp Lahm and Per Mertesacker, who both retired from international duty after winning the 2014 World Cup, would consider coming back to play in the Olympics, according to German media.

Olympic men’s soccer rosters can include no more than three players over the age of 23.

Portugal could call on Cristiano Ronaldo, the two-time reigning FIFA Ballon d’Or winner and a 2004 Olympian (the last time Portugal qualified for the Olympic men’s soccer tournament). Sweden may bring Paris Saint-Germain striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has never played in an Olympics.

“It’s all about how the situation looks at that point, but if I have the chance to represent my Sweden at an Olympics, why not?” Ibrahimovic said earlier this month, according to a Reuters translation of a Sportsbladet report, echoing comments he made in November. “We’ll have to see how the situation is… but if I’m available, absolutely.”

Further 2016 Olympic men’s soccer berths will be decided at continental qualifying tournaments, including the U.S.-hosted CONCACAF tournament in October. The U.S. failed to qualify for the London 2012 Games.

Mexico is the reigning Olympic men’s soccer champion. Brazil, the reigning silver medalist, has never won an Olympic soccer title.

Obstacles for Tim Howard to return to Brazil for Olympics

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)