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Kuwait being suspended by IOC

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WASHINGTON (AP) — For the second time in five years, Kuwait is being suspended by the IOC for political interference, which leaves its athletes in limbo for next year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, the Kuwaiti who heads the global association of national Olympic committees and is a senior IOC member, told The Associated Press that the Gulf country will be sanctioned by the IOC on Tuesday.

The move comes after Kuwait failed to amend its disputed sports legislation by the Oct. 27 deadline set by the International Olympic Committee. FIFA suspended Kuwait’s soccer association over the same issue two weeks ago.

“As a Kuwaiti, I am very sad,” Sheikh Ahmad said in an interview Monday night. “All of us are upset. It’s a very sad story. It’s [because of] human mistakes.”

The IOC is concerned about government meddling in the running of Kuwait’s Olympic committee and national sports federations. The IOC said the new sports law threatens the autonomy of the sports bodies and would mean Kuwait no longer complies with the Olympic Charter.

The suspension comes with Sheikh Ahmad in Washington to chair this week’s general assembly of the Association of National Olympic Committees. He does not sit on the Kuwaiti body and was not directly involved in negotiations between the IOC and Kuwait on the issue.

The sheikh said Kuwait is one of 206 national Olympic committees due to attend the ANOC meeting Thursday and Friday. He said the Kuwaiti delegates will be allowed to stay but won’t have any voting rights.

“I hope there will be an understanding very soon,” Sheikh Ahmad said, warning that otherwise a “whole generation of athletes” will suffer.

If the suspension is not lifted before next year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Kuwaiti athletes would be barred from representing their country at the Games. The IOC would have to give them special dispensation to compete as individuals under the Olympic flag.

“I will give my full support to bring them,” the sheikh said.

Kuwait was suspended by the IOC in 2010, also in a dispute over government interference. The country was reinstated in 2012 ahead of the London Games after Kuwait’s ruler, Sheik Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, pledged autonomy for the Olympic committee and promised new legislation for institutions governing sports.

Sheikh Ahmad said he couldn’t understand why Kuwait would now establish a law that goes back on the ruler’s pledge to the IOC.

“I think it’s related to politics because the sports minister has lost an election to the president of shooting,” he said.

In recent years, the IOC suspended the national Olympic bodies of India, Ghana and Panama for political interference, but all were eventually reinstated. The IOC recently gave Sri Lanka until the end of the year to revise its sports legislation or face suspension.

FIFA suspended Kuwait after it failed to change its sports law by Oct. 15. Kuwaiti teams and clubs are banned from international competition, and the association and its members are barred from receiving any FIFA development assistance.

MORE IOC: Refugees allowed to compete in Olympics for first time

Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal rekindle record bids at French Open

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Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal will play on the same day at the French Open through the quarterfinals, assuming each advances that far and the weather doesn’t wreak havoc. Each time they walk on the crushed red clay, the legends move closer to tying all-time records.

Williams, in her 10th bid since returning from childbirth to tie Margaret Court‘s 24 Grand Slam singles titles, battled and then rolled past 102nd-ranked countrywoman Kristie Ahn 7-6 (2), 6-0.

“I just need to play with more confidence, like I’m Serena,” she said of the difference between a 74-minute first set and a 27-minute second set. “I love the clay, and I started playing like it, opening the court and moving and sliding.”

Nadal, in his second major since moving within one of Roger Federer‘s male record 20 Slam titles, swept 83rd-ranked Belarusian Egor Gerasimov 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.

“Six months without playing a single tennis match is not easy,” said Nadal, who skipped the U.S. Open and then lost his third match at his comeback tournament in Rome. “I had to stop playing tennis for more than two months, so situation is difficult.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Their pursuits are very different.

Williams is already the greatest player in history by many measures, especially considering most of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and some at the Australian Open without the world’s best players.

Williams has lost all four of her major finals since her life-threatening childbirth. But she is not the favorite in Paris, despite the absence of 2019 champion Ash Barty of Australia and recent U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka. Williams hasn’t made the quarterfinals at Roland Garros in four years and just went 16 months between competitive matches on clay.

She’s also battling an Achilles injury that affected her during a U.S. Open semifinal run three weeks ago. She’s spent most of her preparation time in France rehabbing.

“A ton of prayer,” she said, noting coming early to a post-match press conference to maximize her subsequent time handling the Achilles. “I’m doing so much for it.”

None of Williams’ potential first three opponents have ever beaten her. Next up: Bulgarian and fellow mom Tsvetana Pironkova, a rematch of their three-set U.S. Open quarterfinal three weeks ago.

Like Williams, Nadal next plays on Wednesday. He gets Mackenzie McDonald, one of six American men to so far reach round two, the most since 1998.

For more than a decade, followers have debated the greatest male player in history between Nadal and Federer (and now Novak Djokovic). But not until winning the 2019 U.S. Open did Nadal move within one Slam of Federer’s total.

Now, Nadal can tie Federer and pass the Swiss if he wins the next two French Opens (and Federer doesn’t win the next Australian Open).

Nadal is going for his 13th crown in Paris, as usual downplaying his favorite status. This time, he’s noting the cool, slow, autumnal conditions and a new brand of tennis ball that is disadvantageous.

“Conditions here probably are the most difficult conditions for me ever in Roland Garros,” Nadal said last week. “The conditions are a little bit extreme to play an outdoor tournament.”

Federer is not playing after two knee operations. Nadal, who at 34 is five years younger than Federer, has the opportunity in the coming matches and months to tip the scales in his favor. And help deny Djokovic, who is 33 with 17 Slams.

Nadal is not one to engage in that GOAT debate. Turns out, neither is Williams.

“You can’t compare two people that are equally great,” she said of Nadal and Federer. “I don’t understand why people want to pit who’s this, who’s that? They both have spectacular careers that 99 percent of people can only dream of and they both deserve.”

Earlier Monday, newly crowned U.S. Open champion Dominic Thiem rolled 2014 U.S. Open winner Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.

Thiem, the 2018 and 2019 French Open runner-up, next gets American Jack Sock, a former top-10 player now ranked No. 310.

Sock took out countryman Reilly Opelka 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 for his first main draw win at the French Open in four years.

MORE: Halep, Comaneci and the genesis of a Romanian friendship

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World silver medalist opts out of figure skating Grand Prix

Elizabet Tursynbaeva
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Elizabet Tursynbayeva, the 2019 World silver medalist, said she will not compete in figure skating’s upcoming Grand Prix Series, according to Kazakhstan’s Olympic Committee.

Tursynbayeva noted in stating her decision that world ranking points will not be awarded in the series, which starts with Skate America from Oct. 23-25.

Fields for the six Grand Prix events, held on consecutive weekends through November, have not been released.

Skaters will be restricted to one Grand Prix start — halved from the usual two — and to the event in their home nations or closest to their training locations.

Tursynbayeva trains in Russia, one of six nations to host Grand Prix events.

Previously, Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu announced he would not compete on the Grand Prix due to coronavirus pandemic-related travel risks.

Russian Olympic gold medalist Alina Zagitova, who announced an indefinite break from competition last December, is also not expected to compete. She is hosting a Russian skating-themed TV show but has not announced her future competition plans.

Tursynbayeva took silver behind Zagitova at the most recent world championships in 2019, a surprise given her 12th-place finish at the PyeongChang Olympics. Tursynbayeva withdrew before her 2019 Grand Prix events, reportedly after suffering an injury.

Last season’s top skaters were all first-year seniors — Russians Alena Kostornaya, Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova. The world championships were not held due to the pandemic.

Two-time U.S. champion Alysa Liu will not be old enough for the Grand Prix until the 2021-22 Olympic season.

MORE: Orser reacts to Medvedeva’s coaching switch

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