Shabazz Napier
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Shabazz Napier may play for Puerto Rico in Olympic qualifying

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Orlando Magic guard Shabazz Napier could play for Puerto Rico in a last-chance Olympic basketball qualifying tournament in Serbia in July.

Napier, whose mother is Puerto Rican, was on a preliminary 24-man roster published by FIBA, citing Puerto Rican newspaper Primera Hora on Tuesday night, along with other current and former NBA players J.J. Barea, Carlos ArroyoRenaldo BalkmanMaurice Harkless and John Holland.

The roster must be cut to 12 for the Olympic qualifying tournament, where Puerto Rico will be among six teams vying for one Olympic spot. Host Serbia, the reigning World silver medalist, is the favorite.

Another Puerto Rican newspaper, El Vocero, reported Napier will practice with prospective Puerto Rican Olympic players starting next week, citing a Puerto Rican basketball federation official.

After that report, the same official said an announcement regarding Napier would be made after a Wednesday meeting. No official announcement has been made, and the official hasn’t responded to requests for comment.

Napier was the 2014 Final Four Most Outstanding Player for the University of Connecticut and the No. 24 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.

He averaged 5.1 and 3.7 points per game, respectively, for the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic the last two seasons.

Napier has never played on the senior international level.

On Friday, Arroyo confirmed to NBC Olympics that he plans to play for Puerto Rico in the Olympic qualifying tournament.

Arroyo, 36, was Puerto Rico’s star at the Athens 2004 Olympics, scoring 24 points with seven assists in an upset of the U.S. in their opening game. It marked the U.S. men’s basketball team’s first loss at the Olympics since 1988, before NBA players joined starting in 1992.

MORE: U.S. Olympic basketball game times announced

World Cup Alpine season opener gets green light

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After checking the snow on the Rettenbach glacier in Soelden, Austria, FIS officials announced Thursday that the traditional World Cup season opener is set to go ahead as planned Oct. 26-27 with men’s and women’s giant slalom races.

Current conditions at Soelden show a solid 30 inches of snow at the summit. The race finishes at an altitude of 2,670 meters (8,760 feet), far above the currently snowless village.

The first races of the season are never guaranteed to have enough snow, though last year’s men’s race at Soelden had the opposite problem, being canceled when a storm blew through with heavy snowfall and high winds. 

France’s Tessa Worley won the women’s race last year ahead of Italy’s Frederica Brignone and U.S. skier Mikaela Shiffrin, who would go on to dominate the rest of the World Cup season.

The Soelden weekend is followed by three dormant weeks until the season resumes Nov. 23-24 in Levi, Finland. The World Cup circuits then switch to North America. The men will run speed events Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Lake Louise, Alberta, then head to Beaver Creek, Colo., for more speed events and a giant slalom Dec. 6-8. The women run slalom and giant slalom Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Killington, Vt., and head to Lake Louise the next weekend.

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Olympic marathon and race walk move from Tokyo to Sapporo draws some pushback

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In the wake of a dropout-plagued set of world championship endurance races in Qatar, moving the 2020 Olympic marathons and race walks from Tokyo to the cooler venue of Sapporo is a quick fix for one problem, pending the potential for untimely heat waves.

But the move has drawn some opposition for a variety of reasons.

First, many organizers and politicians appear to have been caught by surprise. Tokyo’s governor, Yuriko Koike, was “taken aback” and Sapporo’s mayor, Katsuhiro Akimoto, learned about the move from the media, Kyodo News reported. Koike even sarcastically suggested that the races could move all the way northward to islands disputed by Russia and Japan.

South African sports scientist Ross Tucker suggested that running in heat and humidity poses an interesting challenge for athletes, some of whom may be able to catch up with faster runners by preparing for the conditions.

British marathoner Mara Yamauchi made a similar point, saying the move was unfair to those who already were preparing for the heat, humidity and other conditions.

Belgian marathoner Koen Naert said he will make the best of the change but complained that some of his preparation and every runner’s logistical planning would no longer apply.

The angriest athlete may be Canadian walker Evan Dunfee, who placed fourth in the 2016 Olympic 50km race and nearly claimed bronze as a Canadian appeal was upheld but then rejected. He says runners and walkers can beat the conditions if they prepare, which many athletes did not do for the world championships in Qatar.

“So why do we cater to the ill prepared?” Dunfee asked on Twitter.

The move also takes athletes out of the main Olympic city and takes away the traditional, tough less frequent in modern years, finish in the Olympic stadium.

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