Michelle Obama, Ibtihaj Muhammad
AP

First Lady Michelle Obama ‘fences’ with Ibtihaj Muhammad

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NEW YORK (AP) — First lady Michelle Obama wrapped up her speech to dozens of U.S. athletes to mark 100 days before the Rio Games and immediately headed over to a temporary court set up in the middle of Times Square.

There she was greeted by Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad, the two women sharing a long embrace. Muhammad then gave Mrs. Obama a quick fencing lesson before the first lady and a young girl practiced their technique with foam foils.

In the meticulously staged photo op Wednesday was plenty of symbolism, and Muhammad, who is set to become the first American to compete in the Olympics while wearing a hijab, feels comfortable as the face of that message.

This Olympic year is also an election year, one in which Republican front-runner Donald Trump has suggested that Muslims be banned from entering the United States. Amid that backdrop, Muhammad, a 30-year-old New Jersey native, finds herself with many opportunities to speak out.

“It’s unfortunate that we’re in this moment, especially during the presidential election, where people feel so comfortable voicing their dislike or the discontent for people of a particular background, a particular race or a particular religion,” she told reporters later. “We as Americans have to fight that, because that goes against the very values that we stand for.

“I feel like I’m in this position and I have to use it, and I want to use it well. I don’t want to waste my time as an athlete; I want to reach as many people as I can – just not with my skills within my sport but also with my voice.”

Muhammad, who qualified for Rio in saber, said she found out only a few hours earlier that she’d be fencing with Mrs. Obama. She had met the president before but not the first lady.

Mrs. Obama later took part in passing drills with kids and members of the U.S. women’s basketball team.

Earlier, with dozens of American athletes from various sports standing behind her, the first lady described herself as a “real, lifelong, die-hard Olympics fan.” She reminisced about growing up on Chicago’s South Side, where the kids would crowd around one neighbor’s TV and “watch for hours.”

“Once the games were over, we would all run outside and set up some makeshift hurdle or some balance beam, and we’d try to imitate our heroes,” Mrs. Obama said in announcing a partnership by the U.S. Olympic Committee, NBC and summer sport national governing bodies called “Gold Map” that will encourage youngsters to take up Olympic sports.

MORE: Team USA Olympic Closing Ceremony uniforms unveiled

Chinese swimmer Sun Yang gets rare open hearing in doping case

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The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) said Monday it will hear the World Anti-Doping Agency’s case against three-time Olympic gold medalist Sun Yang on Nov. 15 in front of reporters — possibly even live-streamed — at the Fairmont Le Montreux Palace in Montreux, Switzerland.

The hearing won’t be completely open. Registration will be required, and photographers and videographers “will be invited to leave the hearing room after the opening,” CAS said in a statement. But those outside the room may still get a glimpse of the proceedings.

“With the agreement of all parties, it is intended to live stream all or parts of the hearing on the CAS website,” CAS said.

CAS noted that it has only held one prior hearing that wasn’t in a private setting — the 1999 case involving Irish swimmer Michelle Smith de Bruin, who won three gold medals in the 1996 Olympics but was banned for four years for tampering with a urine sample, a case that still prompts soul-searching in the Irish media. De Bruin lost the appeal.

Sun is accused of smashing a vial of blood at a drug test last fall. FINA allowed him to continue to compete, but the WADA has appealed, seeking a substantial suspension.

The Chinese swimmer won two gold medals at the world championships this summer and snubbed by some rivals at each medal ceremony, leading to a confrontation with British swimmer Duncan Scott.

RECAP AND VIDEO: Sun taunts Scott after medal ceremony

Sun has won 11 world individual titles in several freestyle distances but also has a long history of controversies ranging from a prior positive drug test and confrontations with other swimmers.

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U.S. women’s volleyball team ends year with surprise loss to Dominican Republic

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The Dominican Republic surprised the U.S. women’s volleyball team in the final of the NORCECA (North, Central America and Caribbean) women’s continental championship Sunday in San Juan, Puerto Rico, winning the first two sets and regrouping after a U.S. rally to win the fifth set.

The final score of the back-and-forth match: 25-19, 25-23, 15-25, 20-25, 15-9. The U.S. women had defeated the Dominican Republic in three previous finals: 2011, 2013 and 2015. The Dominican Republic won a semifinal matchup on its way to the 2009 title.

In group play, the U.S. team had beaten the Dominican Republic in straight sets. The U.S. also breezed past Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico in group play and swept past Canada in the semifinals.

The loss doesn’t affect Olympic qualification. The U.S. women had already qualified for the 2020 Olympics by winning a qualification tournament in August in Bossier City, La.

MORE: U.S. women rally to qualify

Semifinalists Canada and Puerto Rico qualified for a last-chance Olympic qualifier that the Dominican Republic will host in January. Mexico defeated Cuba in the NORCECA fifth-place game to be the last of the four teams vying for one spot.

The Dominican Republic has had some success in women’s volleyball, finishing fifth in the 2014 world championships and reaching the 2012 Olympic quarterfinals before falling to the U.S. The team also won this year’s Pan Am Games, to which the U.S. did not send its top players. Currently, the team is ranked 10th in the world.

Earlier this year, the U.S. women had defeated the Dominican Republic in two tournament finals — the Pan American Cup and the NORCECA Champions Cup. The U.S. also won a matchup in the World Cup last month, but the Dominican Republic won another five-set match in the Nations League preliminary round in Italy.

The U.S. finishes the year with a 44-7 record in tournament play, including a first-place finish in the Nations League and second place in the World Cup.

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