Estonia Olympic marathon triplets: ‘It would be great to finish together’

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TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — Fans at the Rio Olympics will be seeing not just double, but triple in the women’s marathon when identical triplets race together for the first time.

Calling themselves the “Trio to Rio” and sporting identical uniforms and blonde ponytails, Estonians Leila, Lily and Liina Luik are used to spectators and officials mixing them up when they’re competing.

“They don’t know who is who,” Lily said. “Commentators see one of us is coming, and the other is a little bit later, and then comes the third one. It’s like: ‘So fast, you are already here.'”

The triplets joked among themselves and finished sentences during an interview with The Associated Press at a track in Estonia’s capital. Asked how they decided to turn pro and try for the Olympics, Liina and Lily answered in unison “together.”

Twins are not uncommon in the history of the Olympics, which has many tales of sporting families. But triplets are a first, according to Olympic historian Bill Mallon, who keeps a database of athletes.

The 30-year-old sisters are from the medieval city of Tartu, and they only turned pro at the relatively late age of 24. They don’t come from an athletic family.

Keen to play outside from a young age, they took up distance running because “we feel the nature vibe,” Liina said.

Lily said jokingly that the marathon is an “easier” way to travel than hiking.

Whether training or racing, the triplets have a relentless competitive drive and family solidarity. They want to break each other’s personal best (currently held by Leila) but also race tactically, taking turns at the tiring task of leading the pack and facing greater wind resistance.

“When its hard conditions and someone is little bit behind or weaker, we all push each other — ‘Go, go on, come on, don’t stop,'” said Leila, the oldest. “Together we are like a dream team.”

“If one of us has a bad competition or something, everyone feels that,” Lily said. “Injuries (are) also very bad for us because if one of us couldn’t compete somewhere it’s … not a complete team.”

The sisters are favored to take Estonia’s three qualifying spots for the marathon, but they’re not likely to win a medal since Leila’s best time of 2 hours 37 minutes 11 seconds is almost 15 minutes slower than the Olympic record. There’s a strong tradition of Nordic distance running, especially in Estonia’s neighbor Finland, but African countries are the undisputed leaders of the modern marathon.

Still, spirits are high for the “Trio to Rio.”

“The nervousness hasn’t come to us,” Lily said. “Definitely, it would be great to finish all together. It would be difficult, but we try it.”

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Beach volleyball player’s dog becomes social media sensation

Mathias Berntsen
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Norwegian beach volleyball player Mathias Berntsen‘s dog, Kiara, captivated social media this weekend.

A video of Kiara peppering with Berntsen and a pair across the net on a grass field spread from Berntsen’s Instagram across platforms. Kiara now has 12,000 Instagram followers, more than twice the total of Berntsen.

Berntsen, 24, is one half of Norway’s second-best beach volleyball team.

He and partner Hendrik Mol are ranked 45th in the world and well outside the Tokyo Olympic picture (24 teams go to the Games), but could get in the mix depending on how qualification is amended once sports resume.

Berntsen and his cousin Mol are part of a group called the Beach Volley Vikings. Mol’s younger brother, Anders, and family friend Christian Sorum are the world’s top-ranked team (profiled here).

MORE: Beach volleyball players fly to Australia, learn event is canceled

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FIFA rules on Olympic men’s soccer tournament age eligibility

Gabriel Jesus
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For the first time since 1988, some 24-year-olds will be eligible for the Olympic men’s soccer tournament without using an over-age exception.

FIFA announced Friday that it will use the same age eligibility criteria for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 that it intended to use in 2020 — that players born on or after Jan. 1, 1997 are eligible, plus three over-age exceptions. FIFA chose not to move the birthdate deadline back a year after the Olympics were postponed by one year.

Olympic men’s soccer tournaments have been U-23 events — save those exceptions — since the 1992 Barcelona Games. In 1984 and 1988, restrictions kept European and South American players with World Cup experience ineligible. Before that, professionals weren’t allowed at all.

Fourteen of the 16 men’s soccer teams already qualified for the Games using players from under-23 national teams. The last two spots are to be filled by CONCACAF nations, potentially the U.S. qualifying a men’s team for the first time since 2008.

The U.S.’ biggest star, Christian Pulisic, and French superstar Kylian Mbappe were both born in 1998 and thus would have been under the age limit even if FIFA moved the deadline to Jan. 1, 1998.

Perhaps the most high-profile player affected by FIFA’s decision is Brazilian forward Gabriel Jesus. The Manchester City star was born April 3, 1997, and thus would have become an over-age exception if FIFA pushed the birthdate rule back a year.

Instead, Brazil could name him to the Olympic team and still keep all of its over-age exceptions.

However, players need permission from their professional club teams to play in the Olympics, often limiting the availability of stars.

MORE: Noah Lyles details training near woods, dog walkers

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