Jake Arrieta
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Jake Arrieta and the Olympics

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Fans of the Olympics searching for a team to root for in the MLB playoffs should look no further than the Chicago Cubs.

The Cubs, in the playoffs for the first time since 2008, seeking their first World Series title since 1908 and set to play at the Pittsburgh Pirates in a wild-card game Wednesday, have three U.S. Olympic bronze medalists on their roster.

Pitchers Jake Arrieta and Trevor Cahill and outfielder Dexter Fowler were on the 24-man 2008 U.S. team that finished third in Beijing, the Olympic curtain call for baseball.

MLB never stopped its season for an Olympic break — like the NHL does — so the Beijing team was made up of 23 minor leaguers and Stephen Strasburg, then a rising junior at San Diego State.

Note Arrieta, who ranked second in the majors in ERA this season (1.77), including a 0.75 ERA and 12-1 record in 15 starts since the All-Star Game. Arrieta, 29, is slated to start the wild-card game Wednesday.

Arrieta was actually more dominant at the Olympics, where he was the only minor leaguer on the U.S. who hadn’t yet reached a double-A league. He made one appearance and threw six shutout innings in Beijing, two years before his MLB debut with the Baltimore Orioles.

“One thing about pitchers, if they can throw a couple pitches in the strike zone, they could be at A-ball one day and the next day in the big leagues,” U.S. Olympic team manager Davey Johnson said in 2008, according to MLB.com. “He’s kind of intimidating. He can look at you like you don’t want to mess with him in a dark alley.”

Arrieta’s lone Olympic start came in a memorable 9-1 pool-play win against China that included hit batters and ejections.

In the fifth inning, top Chinese player and then-Seattle Mariners catching prospect Wang Wei was knocked out of the game in a glancing home-plate collision with U.S. outfielder Matt LaPorta.

In the sixth, Wang’s replacement took a direct hit from outfielder Nate Schierholtz trying to score on a sacrifice fly, the catcher’s helmet flying off.

China manager Jim Lefebvre (a former Cubs manager) took issue with the rough play, complained to umpires and was ejected.

In the seventh, LaPorta was hit in the head by a pitch, exited the game and was diagnosed with a mild concussion. LaPorta did play later in the tournament.

In the ninth, China’s backup catcher smacked a solo home run off a relief pitcher, circled the bases with his right index finger held high and stomped on home plate. The run reduced the U.S. lead to 9-1.

The U.S. lost to Cuba in the semifinals and beat Japan in the bronze-medal game.

Arrieta also conversed with then-U.S. president George W. Bush while in Beijing. They’re both Texans.

“I was shocked to meet him at first and a little nervous,” Arrieta said, according to USA Baseball. “My family is going to be jealous, and it is something I’ll remember for a long time.”

Baseball was voted out of the 2012 Olympics in 2005 and came up short in bids to return for future Olympics. Its next attempt, to return for Tokyo 2020, will be decided by August.

MORE BASEBALL: The Olympic All-Star baseball team

Brigid Kosgei beaten as another world record smashed in Nike shoes

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Ethiopian Ababel Yeshaneh broke the half marathon world record by 20 seconds, beating new marathon world-record holder Brigid Kosgei in the United Arab Emirates on Friday.

Nike-sponsored runners lowered the men’s and women’s marathon and half marathon records since September 2018, each appearing to race in versions of the apparel giant’s scrutinized Vaporfly shoes.

Yeshaneh, a 28-year-old who finished 14th in the 2016 Olympic 5000m, clocked 1:04:31 for 13.1 miles to better Kenyan Joyciline Jepkosgei‘s world record from 2017.

Kosgei, a 26-year-old Kenyan, also came in under the old world record but 18 seconds behind Yeshaneh.

Kosgei took 81 seconds off Paula Radcliffe‘s 16-year-old women’s marathon world record on Oct. 13, clocking 2:14:04 to win the Chicago Marathon.

Nike Vaporfly shoes, including the prototypes worn by Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge when he ran a sub-two-hour marathon, were deemed legal by World Athletics’ new shoe regulations last month, according to Nike.

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Olympic, world champion lugers pull out of World Cup event over safety

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U.S. Olympic silver medalist Chris Mazdzer and other top lugers are skipping this weekend’s World Cup stop in Winterberg, Germany, citing unsafe track conditions and a growing frustration with the international federation over athlete concerns.

“This was brought to the attention of the FIL [International Luge Federation] and yet again we were told that everything is ok,” was posted on Mazdzer’s Instagram. “I realize that a boycott is a lose-lose situation and there are no winners. But I have no other option at this point. I feel personally that this track is not safe for doubles sleds or for athletes who do not have adequate numbers of runs.”

Mazdzer said by phone Friday that he noticed significant bumps on the track in his first training run earlier this week.

“I couldn’t drive because I’m being thrown everywhere,” he said. “When you’re going 130 kilometers an hour [80 miles per hour], you don’t really want the track to be bad.”

An FIL spokesperson said Friday that Mazdzer’s choice was “his individual decision” and declined further comment ahead of races scheduled Saturday and Sunday. Mazdzer said that he was told the race starts will be moved down.

USA Luge said in a Friday statement that it will not participate in the World Cup and would communicate its concern for athlete safety to the FIL.

Two-time U.S. Olympian Summer Britcher said she was boycotting via Instagram, calling it “a farce of a World Cup.” Top lugers said athletes suffered serious injuries in training runs.

“I love this sport, but after too many decisions too many times that disregard 1-the safety of the athletes, and 2- the integrity and fairness of our sport, I have grown a great disdain for the International Luge Federation, and those who make these decisions,” was posted on Britcher’s account. “I will not race this weekend. I do not believe the track is safe, I do not believe it has been prepared to a World Cup standard, and I do not believe that the International Federation and Winterberg World Cup organisers should get away from this with no consequences.”

Britcher’s post noted that her team notified coaches and the technical director that the track was unsafe after her first training run Wednesday.

“Our concerns, and the concerns of the rest of the athletes from other nations throughout the day were not taken seriously,” Britcher posted.

Britcher said that several coaches attempted to fix the track for several hours on Thursday after athletes refused to train.

Olympic champion David Gleirscher of Austria and World Cup standings leader Roman Repilov of Russia and the top doubles teams of Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken and Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt of Germany also posted on Instagram that they’re skipping the Winterberg World Cup, the penultimate stop of the season, for safety reasons.

Mazdzer estimated a 20 percent crash rate in training, but that the track condition has improved since Wednesday. He still plans to race next week at the last World Cup in Königssee.

“There’s a lot of problems with Winterberg,” he said after detailing the situation between athletes and the FIL, “and it’s not just the track.”

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