Vashti Cunningham, daughter of Randall Cunningham, wins World Indoor high jump title

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Teenager Vashti Cunningham‘s upcoming to-do list includes prom, a trip to Disneyland and graduation.

Turning pro and making the American team in the high jump for the Rio Olympics rank pretty high up there, too.

The daughter of longtime NFL quarterback Randall Cunningham may even be one of the favorites this summer, especially after winning gold at the World Indoor Track and Field Championships on Sunday.

“I’m excited on the inside and keeping it calm on the outside,” said Cunningham, who cleared 6 feet, 5 inches to become the youngest female ever to capture a title at World Indoors. “It means a lot to be the world champion this young. I did not think that I would not be here right now at 18 years old.”

This is the latest honor in the rapid rise of Cunningham, who set the American high school record in the event at the U.S. Indoor Championships last weekend.

Randall Cunningham, who is also his daughter’s coach, leapt to his feet when she was pronounced the winner — along with the rest of the crowd at the Portland Convention Center.

“The people have been so supportive of her,” Randall Cunningham said in a phone interview afterward. “Vashti has never had people clap when she’s about to jump. And they know exactly when to clap. They’re like the Seattle Seahawks — the 12th man.”

The United States finished the event with a record 23 medals, including 13 golds, in a meet that didn’t include Russia, which was absent because of pending doping charges. Other American gold medalists on the final day of the championship included Matthew Centrowitz in the 1500m and Marquis Dendy in the long jump.

The U.S. also won both the men’s and women’s 4x400m relay.

Just like the week before at Nationals, Cunningham stole the show. Ruth Beitia of Spain, who is 18 years older than Cunningham, claimed the silver and Kamila Licwinko of Poland finished third.

Afterward, Cunningham announced she is strongly leaning toward going pro instead of college. She’ll now try to make the U.S. team for the Olympics this summer in Brazil. She would be younger than any U.S. Olympic track and field competitor since 1976, according to sports-reference.com.

But first she has to graduate from Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas — and no, her new title doesn’t get her excused from class.

“She has to go back to school tomorrow,” her father said.

Centrowitz celebrated his victory by pointing to the USA emblazoned across his jersey. He became the first American man to win the 1500m with a final-lap surge that pulled him in front of silver medalist Jakup Holusa of the Czech Republic. New Zealand’s Nick Willis poured it on down the stretch to finish with the bronze.

“Now it’s time to go get an Olympic medal,” Centrowitz said.

Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia, who holds the indoor world record in the 3000m, fell to the back of a conservative pack at the start of Sunday’s final, but pulled out in front about halfway through and defended her title easily in 8:47.43. Countrywoman Meseret Defar, coming off an extended break for the birth of her daughter, was second, and American Shannon Rowbury was third.

Rowbury, an Olympian who trains in Portland, won the U.S. indoor championship last week, moving up from her usual 1500m.

“The end of the race was tough, but the crowd carried me through to the finish,” Rowbury said.

On the men’s side, Ethiopian teenager Yomif Kejelcha won the gold in 7:57.21, but American Ryan Hill had a thrilling surge to move up from fifth on the final lap to finish with the silver. Kenya’s Augustine Kiprono Choge took the bronze.

Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi held off American Ajee’ Wilson to finish the women’s 800m in 2:00.01 for her nation’s first gold and the world’s best time in the event this year. Kenya’s Margaret Nyairera Wambui finished third.

Dendy, who also won last week at nationals, topped silver medalist Fabrice Lapierre of Australia and bronze winner Changzhou Huang of China with a leap of 27 feet, 1 1/4 inches.

Jamaica’s Omar McLeod topped the podium in the 60m hurdles in a world-leading 7.41 seconds, followed by France’s Pascal Martinot-Lagarde and Dimitri Bascou.

The event in a cavernous hall at the Oregon Convention Center was well attended, selling out Saturday night’s session and Sunday with more than 7,000 fans. But track has traditionally done well in Oregon, the home of the late track legend Steve Prefontaine and the birthplace of Nike.

The U.S. Indoor Championships in Portland last weekend before the worlds kicked off a busy year for the sport in Oregon. Eugene’s Hayward Field will host the U.S. Olympic Trials this summer, which will determine the Americans who make the team for the Rio Games. This year’s NCAA championships will also take place at Hayward.

But the timing — at least for an American audience — wasn’t the greatest for the international championship, bumped up against the NCAA basketball tournament.

Vin Lananna, president of meet organizer TrackTownUSA, acknowledged there’s no getting around the fact that the World Championships are held in March.

“I think we would have liked the emphasis to be just on this,” he said. “[But] I think in the United States March madness is a big deal. I think we have the opportunity to do both.”

MORE: Cunningham follows dad’s footsteps in high jump

Maria Sharapova appears set to miss Tokyo Olympics

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Maria Sharapova, who would have a difficult time qualifying for the Olympics next year, committed to play an event in California the week of the Tokyo Games.

Sharapova is scheduled to play World Team Tennis matches in California during the Olympic tennis events in late July, according to a press release. Sharapova’s longtime agent hasn’t responded to a message seeking confirmation that she is ruling out the Tokyo Games.

Sharapova, 32 and the 2012 Olympic silver medalist, was barred from the Rio Games due to her 15-month meldonium suspension in 2016 and 2017. That alone could rule her ineligible for Tokyo, given the World Anti-Doping Agency’s sanctions against Russia on Monday.

Sharapova is ranked No. 131 after a season shortened by shoulder surgery. She would have to be among the top four ranked Russian women after the French Open in June for possible automatic Olympic qualification. She is currently the 14th Russian.

Olympic eligibility rules include minimum participation requirements in Fed Cup, which Sharapova hasn’t done in this Olympic cycle, though exceptions can be made.

Sharapova’s passion for the Olympics is well documented.

She carried the Russian flag into the London 2012 Opening Ceremony and carried the Olympic flame into Fisht Stadium at the Sochi 2014 Opening Ceremony, where she worked for NBC Olympics.

“It was the one thing that my parents allowed me to watch on TV late into the evening was the Olympics,” Sharapova said in 2017. “I grew up watching figure skating and hockey and a little bit of tennis. … Just capturing the Opening Ceremonies and seeing all the countries and the little hats that they wore, and I, as a little girl, I just imagined that maybe it would be me. But I never, ever thought that I would be carrying the flag.

“I received that [flag] honor in a text message, which is a very Russian way of communicating. I originally thought it was a joke, a big fat joke. Then I showed it to my mother, and she [said], no, they probably wouldn’t joke like that.”

In February 2016, Sharapova entered a Fed Cup tie, despite saying she was injured, in order to receive Olympic eligibility. One month later, her failed drug test was announced.

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Russia banned from Olympics, world champs for 4 years; athletes could compete as neutrals

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Russia is banned from the next two Olympics and other major sports events for four years, though its athletes could still compete without representing the country if cleared by anti-doping authorities.

Russia’s hosting of world championships in Olympic sports also face being stripped after the World Anti-Doping Agency executive committee approved a full slate of recommended sanctions for tampering with a Moscow laboratory database.

Russian athletes will be allowed to compete in major events — including world championships — only if they are not implicated in positive doping tests or their data was not manipulated, according to the WADA ruling. “In this circumstance, they may not represent the Russian Federation,” according to a WADA release.

“While I understand the calls for a blanket ban on all Russian athletes whether or not they are implicated by the data, it was the unanimous view of the CRC [compliance review committee], which includes an athlete, that in this case, those who could prove their innocence should not be punished, and I am pleased that the WADA ExCo [executive committee] agreed with this,” WADA CRC chairman Jonathan Taylor said.

There are 145 unnamed athletes within WADA’s “target group of most suspicious athletes” from 2012-15 who would not be allowed to compete at the Olympics, Taylor said, adding that it’s possible those names will be made public. About one-third of them are still active.

Russia’s anti-doping agency can appeal the decision within 21 days. Russia previously signaled it would appeal the ruling.

“The decision will come into effect only when it becomes final ie when either RUSADA accepts it or it is upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport,” a WADA spokesperson said in an email.

Russia avoided blanket bans for the Rio and PyeongChang Olympics after a state-run doping program was exposed by media and WADA investigations after Russia hosted the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.

Approved Russian athletes competed as neutrals — “Olympic Athletes from Russia” — including in team sports in PyeongChang. Those Russians combined to earn two gold medals (figure skater Alina Zagitova and men’s hockey) and 17 overall, compared to the leading 33 Russia earned at the Sochi Olympics before medals were stripped for doping.

“Will Russian athletes be accepted as Olympic Athletes from Russia?” during the ban, Taylor said. “No, they are neutral athletes, which means not representatives of any country. Not representatives of Russia.”

Going forward, “they cannot use the name of the country in the name of the team,” WADA president-elect Witold Bańka told The Associated Press.

Two of the 168 Russians who competed in PyeongChang failed drug tests and were punished for doping.

More recent evidence shows that Russian authorities tampered with a Moscow laboratory database to hide hundreds of potential doping cases and falsely shift the blame onto whistleblowers, WADA investigators and the International Olympic Committee said last month. “Flagrant manipulation” of the Moscow lab data was “an insult to the sporting movement worldwide,” the IOC said last month.

“Russia was afforded every opportunity to get its house in order … but it chose instead to continue in its stance of deception and denial,” WADA president Craig Reedie said.

Russia will be allowed to participate in the Youth Olympics in Lausanne, Switzerland, that open Jan. 9.

WADA’s inability to fully expel Russia from the Tokyo Olympics and 2022 Beijing Winter Games frustrated the doping watchdog’s vice president.

“I’m not happy with the decision we made today. But this is as far as we could go,” said Linda Helleland, a Norwegian lawmaker who serves on WADA executive committee and has long pushed for a tougher line against Russia. “This is the biggest sports scandal the world has ever seen. I would expect now a full admission from the Russians and for them to apologize on all the pain all the athletes and sports fans have experienced.”

Although the IOC has called for the strongest possible sanctions, it wants those sanctions directed at Russian state authorities rather than athletes or Olympic officials.

“To allow Russia to escape a complete ban is yet another devastating blow to clean athletes, the integrity of sport and the rule of law,” USADA CEO Travis Tygart said in a statement. “And, in turn, the reaction by all those who value sport should be nothing short of a revolt against this broken system to force reform.”

Russia’s Olympic champion women’s handball team is currently competing at the world championships in Japan. Its next match is Tuesday against Montenegro. Russia has been the scheduled host for the world luge championships in Sochi in mid-February.

The “major sports” events that fall under WADA’s sanctions do not include European Championships or other non-world championships events such as tennis’ upcoming Australian Open.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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TIMELINE: Russia’s recent history of sports doping