South Africa rugby star Bryan Habana eyes Olympics

Bryan Habana
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CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — South African rugby great Bryan Habana is in contention to play at the Olympics after being included Wednesday in the national sevens squad for the 2015-16 season.

Rugby sevens is making its debut at next year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Habana, who has made 117 test appearances for South Africa’s 15-a-side team and is its leading try-scorer, last played international sevens more than a decade ago.

He was picked in the sevens training squad alongside other 15-man Springboks Damian de Allende and Lwazi Mvovo. All three were at the recent Rugby World Cup.

The sevens in Rio is likely to include plenty of big names from rugby’s main game, attracted by the rare opportunity to win an Olympic medal. The 15-a-side game was previously on the Olympic program but was last played at the 1924 Games.

Australia international Quade Cooper recently included a clause in his contract with French club Toulon that allows him to play at the Olympics in August.

Habana, who also plays for Toulon, tried to make South Africa’s sevens team for the 2014 Commonwealth Games but wasn’t released in time from club duties.

At 32, Habana probably won’t play in another World Cup. He is tied with New Zealand great Jonah Lomu for the most tries at the World Cup with 15.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

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Sifan Hassan sets marathon debut

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Sifan Hassan, who won 5000m and 10,000m gold and 1500m bronze at the Tokyo Olympics in an unprecedented triple, will make her 26.2-mile debut at the London Marathon on April 23.

Hassan, a 30-year-old Dutchwoman, said she will return to the track after the race, but how the London Marathon goes will play into whether she bids for the Olympic marathon in 2024.

“I want to see what I can do on the marathon distance, to make future decisions,” she posted on social media. “We’ll see if I will finish the distance or if the distance will finish me.”

Exhausted by her Olympic feat, Hassan reportedly went at least seven months after the Tokyo Games between training in track spikes. She finished fourth in the 10,000m and sixth in the 5000m at last July’s world championships in Eugene, Oregon.

“I really needed a break after the Tokyo Olympics,” Hassan said at worlds. “I was mentally crashed. I didn’t even care about running.”

London, billed as the best women’s marathon field in history, also boasts Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya, world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya, 2016 Olympic 10,000m champion Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia, 1500m world record holder Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia and the two fastest Americans in history, Emily Sisson and Keira D’Amato.

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