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Tokyo 2020 proposes adding baseball, softball, 4 more sports to Olympics

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Tokyo 2020 proposed adding baseball, softball, karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing to its Olympic program on Monday.

The International Olympic Committee will make a final decision in August as to which sports will be added for the 2020 Games, if any. The decision is for the sports’ inclusion in the 2020 Olympics only and not for Olympics beyond that.

“This package of events represents both traditional and emerging, youth-focused events, all of which are popular both in Japan and internationally,” Tokyo 2020 said in a press release. “They will serve as a driving force to further promote the Olympic Movement and its values, with a focus on youth appeal, and will add value to the Games by engaging the Japanese population and new audiences worldwide, reflecting the Tokyo 2020 Games vision.”

The five proposed sports (baseball-softball counts as one) make up a total of 18 events (when separating for genders and, for karate, weight classes) and 474 additional athletes.

Tokyo 2020 proposed having six teams each in baseball and softball, which would be two fewer than when the sports were previously in the Olympics in the 1990s and 2000s.

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Those five sports were previously named finalists to be considered to be added for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics on June 21. Other finalists not ultimately chosen by organizers were bowling, squash and wushu.

Olympic host cities can propose adding sports for their Games under Agenda 2020 reforms passed by the International Olympic Committee in December.

Agenda 2020 set to limit the Summer Olympics to approximately 10,500 athletes and 310 events (unless otherwise agreed upon with that year’s Olympic Organizing Committee, see Olympic Charter Rule 45, provision 3.2). London 2012 had 10,568 athletes in 302 events; Rio 2016 will have 306 events.

Baseball and softball, part of the Olympics from 1992 (baseball)/1996 (softball) through 2008, have long been thought to be the favorite to be added for Tokyo 2020, if any sports are added.

The World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) said it’s “the biggest sport not currently featured at the Olympic Games.”

“We’ve reached second base,” World Baseball Softball Confederation president Riccardo Fraccari said, according to The Associated Press. “Now we’ve got to wait until Rio [2016 Olympics in August] to get home.”

“The vast majority of baseball/softball’s estimated 65 million athletes in over 140 countries are between the ages of 5 to 21,” WBSC said in a press release after the announcement.

“Today’s announcement by Tokyo 2020 to include baseball/softball into its proposal for additional events at the 2020 Olympic Games is an exciting step forward to hopefully seeing our game return to this great platform,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in the press release. “We look forward to the IOC’s decision in August 2016.”

Manfred has continued the stance of predecessor Bud Selig that MLB will not interrupt its schedule to allow big-league players to compete in the Olympics, if the sport is re-added.

“We’re in discussions and we have a great relationship with MLB,” Fraccari said, according to the AP. “We have plenty of time to discuss before 2020. The important thing now is this choice and that the IOC confirms it. The rest can wait.”

Karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing have never been part of the Olympic program.

In 2014, skateboarding legend Tony Hawk said he’d been involved in discussions and was confident that his sport would be added to the Olympics.

“If you look at the success of snowboarding in the Winter Games and how that’s brought a more youthful edge to the Olympics in general, they don’t have that with the Summer Games,” Hawk told Larry King last year. “They don’t have anything that’s drawing in a younger viewership.”

Squash, along with baseball-softball, lost out on being added for the 2016 and 2020 Olympics when the IOC voted to keep wrestling in the Olympic program on Sept. 8, 2013.

“I don’t believe we could have done more to get our message across to both the Tokyo 2020 Games hosts and the IOC,” World Squash Federation president Narayana Ramachandran said in a statement. “I know I speak on behalf of the millions of squash players around the world for whom the opportunity of seeing their sport participate in the Olympics has been an absolute priority — and, like me, they will be heartbroken.

“However, this is not the end for squash. … We will go from strength to strength while we continue to target participation at a future date in the Games.”

The following sports applied for inclusion in Tokyo 2020 but failed to make the finalist list:

Air sports, bowls, bridge, chess, dance sport, floorball, flying disc, football, korfball, netball, orienteering, polo, racquetball, sumo, tug of war, underwater sports and waterski and wakeboard.

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At U.S. Open swim meet, teens make a splash with Olympic trials on horizon

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While Olympic and world champions Katie LedeckySimone Manuel and Chase Kalisz notched expected victories at the U.S. Open on Thursday, a trio of teenagers lowered personal bests to further establish their Tokyo Olympic hopes.

At the top domestic meet of the winter, Alex WalshCarson Foster and Kieran Smith each earned runner-up finishes, but their performances stood out in the big picture: looking at June’s Olympic trials, where the top two per individual event make the team.

Walsh, a rising Nashville high school senior, took 2.23 seconds off her 200m individual medley best. She clocked 2:09.01, overtaken by .17 by Melanie Margalis, the Rio Olympic and 2019 World Championships fourth-place finisher.

Full meet results are here.

Walsh moved from fifth-fastest in the U.S. this year to No. 2 behind Margalis, passing Olympic and world championships veterans Ella EastinKathleen Baker and Madisyn Cox. Of those swimmers, only Eastin was also in Thursday’s final.

Walsh joined her younger sister, Gretchen, in Olympic qualifying position based on 2019 times. Gretchen, 16, ranks fourth in the U.S. in the 100m free this year. The top six in that event at trials are in line to make the Olympic 4x100m free relay pool.

The Walshes could become the third set of sisters to make the same U.S. Olympic swim team, and the second to do it in pool swimming after Dana and Tara Kirk in 2004.

Foster, 18, continued his ascent Thursday in taking second to Kalisz in the men’s 200m IM. The world junior champion lowered his personal best in the prelims and the final, getting down to 1:57.59. Foster passed Ryan Lochte, who is nearly twice his age, in Thursday’s final and in the 2019 U.S. rankings. Only Kalisz and Michael Andrew have been faster among Americans this year.

Foster is trying to become the youngest U.S. Olympic male swimmer since 2000, when a 15-year-old Michael Phelps made his Olympic debut. Foster, who has been breaking Phelps national age-group records since he was 10, committed to the University of Texas in March 2018, two years before he graduates high school in Ohio.

Then there’s Kieran Smith, now a prime candidate to fill a huge void in the 400m freestyle. Zane Grothe is the only American ranked in the top 20 in the world this year.

Smith, a 19-year-old from the University of Florida, took 2.29 seconds off his lifetime best on Thursday to jump from outside the top 10 to No. 2 in the U.S. on the year. Smith was already ranked No. 2 in the country in the 200m free.

Two more runners-up in the 50m freestyles — Erika Brown to Manuel and Zach Apple to Brazilian Bruno Fratus — lowered personal bests to move to No. 3 in each U.S. ranking list this year.

The U.S. Open continues Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. ET with live coverage on NBCSN and streaming on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

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Nathan Chen distances Yuzuru Hanyu in Grand Prix Final short program

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A brilliant Nathan Chen outscored a flawed Yuzuru Hanyu for a fourth straight head-to-head program, taking a 12.95-point lead at the Grand Prix Final in Turin, Italy, on Thursday.

Chen, the two-time reigning world champion, tallied 110.38 points going into Saturday’s free skate. He landed a quadruple Lutz, triple Axel and quad toe loop-triple toe loop combination.

It’s the highest short program score in the world this season, leading the American to say “wow” in the kiss-and-cry area. His coach, the often-gruff Rafael Arutyunyan, banged his knee against his pupil’s.

Hanyu, the two-time reigning Olympic champion, hit a quadruple Salchow and triple Axel but then stepped out of a quad toe landing. He therefore failed to include a required jumping combination and ended up in second place.

“I wanted to do a great performance and do a good competition against [Chen], but that didn’t happen this time,” Hanyu, who was without longtime coach Brian Orser, or any other coach, said through a translator. Hanyu said Orser was busy last week, so he chose to use his lone accreditation on another coach who had travel delays.

Hanyu is not out of title contention. His world-leading free skate score this season is 16.61 points better than Chen’s best free skate from the fall Grand Prix Series.

Chen is undefeated since placing fifth at the PyeongChang Olympics, but this is just his second head-to-head with Hanyu in that span. Chen defeated Hanyu at March’s world championships, where the Japanese megastar was likely affected by an ankle injury.

After Thursday’s program, Chen repeated what he said before the competition: he still feels like he’s chasing Hanyu.

“Yuzu is like the goat, he’s the greatest of all time, really,” Chen said. “So, to have this opportunity to be able to share the ice with a guy like that, someone that I’ve looked up to for a long time, someone that I’ve watched grow up through the junior ranks when I was like a baby, it’s really cool to be able see him now. It’s really cool to even just be able to see him person.”

The Grand Prix Final, the biggest annual event outside the world championships, continues Friday with the rhythm dance, women’s short and pairs’ free skate. A full TV and live stream schedule is here.

Earlier in pairs, Chinese Sui Wenjing and Han Cong took their first step toward a first Grand Prix Final title. The Olympic silver medalists tallied 77.50, leading Russians Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitriy Kozlovskiy by .85 going into Friday’s free skate.

Sui and Han were imperfect, with Sui putting her hand down on a throw triple flip landing. They are undefeated in this Beijing Olympic cycle and own the world’s top total score this season.

The U.S. failed to qualify a pair for the six-team Final for the 11th time in the last 12 years.

Grand Prix Final
Men’s Short Program
1. Nathan Chen (USA) — 110.38
2. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 97.43
3. Kevin Aymoz (FRA) — 96.71
4. Dmitriy Aliyev (RUS) — 88.78
5. Alexander Samarin (RUS) — 81.32
6. Jin Boyang (CHN) — 80.67

Pairs’ Short Program
1. Sui Wenjing/Han Cong (CHN) — 77.50
2. Aleksandra Boikova / Dmitriy Kozlovskiy (RUS) — 76.65
3. Daria Pavliuchenko/Denis Khodykin (RUS) — 75.16
4. Anastasia Mishina/Aleksandr Galliamov (RUS) — 71.48
5. Peng Cheng/Jin Yang (CHN) — 69.67
6. Kirsten Moore-Towers/Michael Marinaro (CAN) — 67.08

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