U.S. men’s volleyball team qualifies for Rio Olympics

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The U.S. men’s volleyball team will compete in its ninth straight Olympics, qualifying for Rio by winning the FIVB World Cup in Japan on Wednesday.

The U.S. went 10-1 in the tournament where the top two nations earned Olympic spots. Italy and 2014 World champion Poland also went 10-1, with the U.S. and Italy bettering Poland via tiebreakers. It marked the U.S.’ first World Cup title since 1985.

Brazil, the U.S. and Italy are the first three nations in the 12-team Olympic tournament. The other nine will be determined via later qualifying events.

The U.S. men earned gold at the 2008 Olympics and were eliminated in the quarterfinals of the 2012 Olympics (won by Russia) and the 2014 World Championship (won by Poland). Brazil is ranked No. 1 in the world and will of course benefit from home-court advantage in volleyball-mad Rio.

The U.S., ranked No. 5, could feature a roster in Rio that’s very different than four years ago. Stalwarts Clay Stanley and Reid Priddy, both three-time Olympians, face younger competition for roster spots (and Priddy is trying to come back from major injury).

Neither Stanley nor Priddy was on the FIVB World Cup roster of 14 players. The Olympic roster size is 12.

Matt Anderson, 28 and a 2012 Olympian, is the three-time reigning U.S. men’s indoor Player of the Year. Taylor Sander, 23, leads the wave of players eyeing their first Olympics.

The last three U.S. Olympic men’s teams have included zero players younger than 25.

The U.S. women’s volleyball team, the 2014 World champion, will get its next shot at qualifying for Rio at a North American tournament in January.

MORE: Brazil leaves beach volleyball legends off Olympic team

Olympian Derrick Mein ends U.S. men’s trap drought at shotgun worlds

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Tokyo Olympian Derrick Mein became the first U.S. male shooter to win a world title in the trap event since 1966, prevailing at the world shotgun championships in Osijek, Croatia, on Wednesday.

Mein, who grew up on a small farm in Southeast Kansas, hunting deer and quail, nearly squandered a place in the final when he missed his last three shots in the semifinal round after hitting his first 22. He rallied in a sudden-death shoot-off for the last spot in the final by hitting all five of his targets.

He hit 33 of 34 targets in the final to win by two over Brit Nathan Hales with one round to spare.

The last U.S. man to win an Olympic trap title was Donald Haldeman in 1976.

Mein, 37, was 24th in his Olympic debut in Tokyo (and placed 13th with Kayle Browning in the mixed-gender team event).

The U.S. swept the Tokyo golds in the other shotgun event — skeet — with Vincent Hancock and Amber English. Browning took silver in women’s trap.

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Mo Farah withdraws before London Marathon

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British track legend Mo Farah withdrew before Sunday’s London Marathon, citing a right hip injury before what would have been his first 26.2-mile race in nearly two years.

Farah, who swept the 2012 and 2016 Olympic track titles at 5000m and 10,000m, said he hoped “to be back out there” next April, when the London Marathon returns to its traditional month after COVID moved it to the fall for three consecutive years. Farah turns 40 on March 23.

“I’ve been training really hard over the past few months and I’d got myself back into good shape and was feeling pretty optimistic about being able to put in a good performance,” in London, Farah said in a press release. “However, over the past 10 days I’ve been feeling pain and tightness in my right hip. I’ve had extensive physio and treatment and done everything I can to be on the start line, but it hasn’t improved enough to compete on Sunday.”

Farah switched from the track to the marathon after the 2017 World Championships and won the 2018 Chicago Marathon in a then-European record time of 2:05:11. Belgium’s Bashir Abdi now holds the record at 2:03:36.

Farah returned to the track in a failed bid to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, then shifted back to the roads.

Sunday’s London Marathon men’s race is headlined by Ethiopians Kenenisa Bekele and Birhanu Legese, the second- and third-fastest marathoners in history.

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