Brian Baker
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John Isner, Sam Querrey skipping Rio opens door for first-time Olympians

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Thanks to the absences of John Isner and Sam Querrey, an 18-year-old and a man ranked No. 596 in the world have a shot at the U.S. Olympic men’s tennis team.

Isner and Querrey are two of the top three U.S. men in ATP rankings. The U.S. can send a maximum of four men’s singles players to Rio, based on last week’s ATP rankings.

Both Isner and Querrey are committed to ATP events in August that will cause them to miss the Rio Olympics after competing in 2012 and 2008, respectively.

Without them, the top four remaining U.S. men for Olympic consideration are would-be first-time Olympians Jack Sock (No. 27 in the world last week), Steve Johnson (No. 39), Denis Kudla (No. 56) and 18-year-old Taylor Fritz (No. 65).

Nobody in that quartet has enough Davis Cup experience to be eligible for Rio, but the International Tennis Federation allows appeals to be made to wave that requirement. The U.S. Tennis Association said it would have a better idea of the Olympic team in the coming weeks.

Fritz would be the second-youngest U.S. Olympic tennis player since the sport returned to the Games at Seoul 1988. The youngest, Jennifer Capriati, won singles gold at Barcelona 1992.

But Fritz is not assured to have a shot at Rio.

That’s because of Brian Baker, who is ranked No. 596 in the world. However, Baker can use a protected ranking for Olympic consideration, as he missed all of 2014 and 2015 due to injury.

Baker first used the protected ranking this year to get into the Australian Open at No. 56, which is nine spots better than Fritz’s ranking at the Olympic qualifying cutoff.

Baker’s agent said Baker definitely wants to play in Rio if he can become eligible due to his protected ranking, along with a successful appeal of not meeting the Davis Cup experience requirement.

Baker, 31, memorably went seven years between Grand Slam appearances from 2005 and 2012 due to injuries.

MORE: Like golf, tennis’ return to Olympics in 1988 faced skeptics

Correction: An earlier version of this post referred to Brian Baker’s ranking as No. 262. That was his doubles ranking, not his singles ranking.

Justin Schoenefeld gets U.S.’ first men’s aerials World Cup win in 4 years

Justin Schoenefeld
U.S. Ski & Snowboard
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Justin Schoenefeld ended a four-year U.S. men’s aerials drought with his first World Cup win Saturday in Belarus.

Schoenfeld, 21, hit a double full-full-full in the super final to beat a field that included world champion Maxim Burov of Russia. Burov was fourth, one spot behind another American, Chris Lillis. Full results are here.

“I’m pretty speechless right now,” Schoenefeld said, according to U.S. Ski & Snowboard. “I’m just shocked. It just all came so quick, all of a sudden the two finals were over, and I was on top of the podium. I probably landed two of my training jumps yesterday, but I managed to land all of my comp jumps down to my feet.”

Schoenefeld’s best previous World Cup finish was fourth, in Belarus last season.

Lillis earned the U.S.’ last World Cup men’s aerials victory on Feb. 20, 2016, also in Belarus. The four-year gap between wins marked the longest for the U.S. men since aerials was added as an Olympic medal sport in 1994.

Schoenefeld also became the first American of either gender to win a World Cup aerials event in two years, since Kiley McKinnon on Jan. 6, 2018. That gap was the longest for the U.S. since 2005.

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MORE: Olympic aerials champion retires to coach

Kaillie Humphries wins bobsled world title in first season for U.S.

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Two-time Olympic champion Kaillie Humphries won a bobsled world title in her first season since switching allegiance from Canada to the U.S., ending recent German dominance.

Humphries, with brakewoman Lauren Gibbs, edged German junior world champ Kim Kalicki by .37 of a second combining times from four runs between Friday and Saturday in Altenberg, Germany.

“I love this track. It’s very challenging, one of the hardest in the world,” Humphries said, according to U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton. “It demands a lot of focus, a lot of respect every minute you’re on that track. So to be able to win here, I know the Germans and the spectators, everybody, have worked so hard and this week, no exceptions. I’m proud of all of the girls.”

Canadian Christine de Bruin took bronze for a second straight year. Full results are here.

Humphries, who married a former U.S. bobsledder, was released by Canada in September after filing verbal abuse and harassment claims against a coach, saying she no longer felt safe with the program. As a Canadian, Humphries won 2010 and 2014 Olympic titles, plus 2012 and 2013 World titles.

Humphries joined German Sandra Kiriasis as the only female drivers to win three world titles. She is already the only female driver with multiple Olympic titles.

German Mariama Jamanka, the reigning Olympic champion and defending world champion, finished fourth in Altenberg.

Triple U.S. Olympic medalist Elana Meyers Taylor didn’t compete as she sits out the season due to pregnancy. Meyers Taylor and Gibbs teamed for silver in PyeongChang.

The world championships continue Sunday with the conclusion of the two-man competition. German Francesco Friedrich, eyeing his sixth straight world title, leads after the first two of four runs.

A full TV and live stream schedule is here.

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