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Kristin Armstrong, Taylor Phinney round out U.S. Olympic cycling team

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USA Cycling filled out its 21-member Olympic team Thursday, and making the cut was two-time Olympic gold medalist Kristin Armstrong. At 42 years old, she will become the oldest U.S. Olympic female cyclist of all time, according to sports-reference.com.

Armstrong was not a lock to make the team despite winning gold in the women’s time trial at the 2008 and 2012 Games. She will turn 43 on Aug. 11, one day after the women’s time trial in Rio. The women’s road race is Aug. 7. Armstrong placed 35th in the road race four years ago, and 25th eight years ago. Her Olympic debut came in the 2004 Athens Games, where she finished eighth in the road race.

“I feel that I’m still podium capable,” Armstrong told Cycling News last month. “I feel I’m still the most consistent time triallist in the U.S.”

Armstrong was a discretionary pick for the women’s road team along with Mara Abbott and Evelyn Stevens (2012 Olympian). Megan Guarnier had already clinched a berth with a bronze medal at the 2015 World Championships.

Highlighting the men’s road team is Taylor Phinney, who’s set to make his third Olympic appearance. It’s a well-deserved berth for the 25-year-old, who endured a long recovery from a severe crash in the 2014 USA Cycling National Road Championship. He suffered a compound fracture of his left tibia and fibula and was out of racing for more than a year. Phinney returned to competition in August 2015, and last month won this third time trial national championship.

Phinney placed fourth in both the time trial and road race at the London Games. He competed on the track in the Beijing Games, finishing seventh in individual pursuit.

In Rio, he’ll be joined on the men’s road team by 32-year-old Brent Bookwalter, who’ll make his Olympic debut. Top American cyclist Tejay van Garderen withdrew from Olympic consideration earlier this month due to Zika virus concerns.

The U.S. BMX team will be led by Nic Long and Alise Post, who both competed in the London Games and previously earned Rio berths with World Championship podium finishes. Corben Sharrah also previously had a spot after winning the U.S. Olympic Team Trials. Brooke Crain and Connor Fields, who will both make their second Olympic appearances, were the discretionary selections announced Thursday.

The U.S. mountain bike team will consist of Lea Davison (2012 Olympian), Howard Grotts and Chloe Woodruff. No U.S. mountain bikers earned automatic selections through previous competitions.

The U.S. track cycling team was announced in March and includes Matt Baranoski, Kelly Catlin, Chloe Dygert, Sarah Hammer (2008 and ’12 Olympian; two silver medals in London), Bobby Lea (2008 and ’12 Olympian), Jennifer Valente and Ruth Winder.

MORE: Nic Long, Alise Post make U.S. Olympic team after BMX Worlds medals

Israel is first nation to qualify for 2020 Olympic baseball tournament

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Israel’s baseball team, which captivated at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, is headed to its first Olympics next summer.

Israel won a joint European-African tournament to become the first nation to qualify for baseball’s return to the Games after the sport was voted off the program after Beijing 2008.

It joins host nation Japan. Four more countries will qualify — two at the global Premier12 in November, another from the Americas and one more from a last-chance qualifier next year.

Israel, ranked 19th in the world, advanced via its best opportunity in Italy this week. It upset the highest-ranked European nations — the Netherlands (No. 8) and host Italy (No. 16) — and wrapped it up with an 11-1 win over South Africa on Sunday.

Its run came two years after Israel, then ranked 41st, beat South Korea, Chinese Taipei, the Netherlands and Cuba before bowing out of the World Baseball Classic. And one week after Israel finished fourth at the European Championship.

Israel’s roster at this week’s Olympic qualifier lacked many of the MLB veterans that it had at the World Baseball Classic. Israeli citizenship was not required at the WBC.

Its most recognizable player is Danny Valencia, an infielder who played parts of nine MLB seasons from 2010-18.

MLB players are unlikely to feature at the Tokyo Games, but minor leaguers are expected to be eligible as in the past.

The rest of the Olympic field is likely to be nations from North America (such as the U.S., Cuba, Mexico or Canada) or Asia (South Korea, Chinese Taipei) or Australia.

Baseball will not be on the 2024 Olympic program but could be added for the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

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MORE: USA Baseball taps longtime catcher to be Olympic qualifying manager

J’den Cox repeats as world wrestling champion; Kyle Snyder stunned

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If he wasn’t crowned already, it’s clear U.S. wrestling has a new king.

On a day when Rio Olympic champion Kyle Snyder was upset and London Olympic champ Jordan Burroughs rallied for another bronze medal, J’den Cox repeated as world champion in Kazakhstan.

Cox, the Rio Olympic 86kg bronze medalist, completed a perfect run through the 92kg division — not giving up a point in four matches — by dominating Iranian Alireza Karimi 4-0 in the final. He became the second U.S. man to win an Olympic or world title without surrendering a point in more than 30 years (joining Kyle Dake from last year).

“I don’t know why, but it feels like a ton better [than 2018],” said Cox, whose tattoos include one that reads in Latin, “If I cannot move heaven, I will raise hell.” “I made more sacrifices … I wanted to do it better.”

Earlier Saturday, Snyder was shocked by Azerbaijan’s Sharif Sharifov 5-2 in the 97kg semifinals, denying a third straight world final between Snyder and Russian Tank Abdulrashid Sadulayev. Sharifov, the 2012 Olympic 84kg champ, clinched his first world medal in eight years.

Snyder, who in Rio became the youngest U.S. Olympic wrestling champion at age 20, failed to make an Olympic or world final for the first time in his career. He will wrestle for bronze on Sunday, while Sharifov meets Sadulayev for gold.

Burroughs earned his seventh straight world championships medal and second straight bronze. Burroughs, the 2012 Olympic 74kg champion, rebounded from losing to Russian Zaurbeck Sidakov on Friday with a 10-0 technical fall over Japanese Mao Okui.

Burroughs gave up a lead on Sidakov with 1.3 seconds left in the semifinals, a year after Sidakov overtook him as time expired in the quarterfinals.

“A lot of people in 2016 called me a quitter,” said Burroughs, who tearfully missed the medals in Rio, “and I think that after watching the amount of devastation and heartbreak that I’ve taken over the last two years and still being able to come back and take third place is a testament.”

Burroughs, 31, shares third with Adeline Gray on the U.S. list of career world wrestling championships medals, trailing only Bruce Baumgartner and Kristie Davis, who each earned nine.

Burroughs’ bronze ensured he gets a bye into the 74kg final of the Olympic trials in April. But this will be the first time he goes into an Olympic year as anything other than a reigning world champion.

“At this juncture of my career, I feel I’m running out of time,” said Burroughs, who next year will be older than any previous U.S. Olympic wrestling champion. “That can be really scary.”

Dake marched to Sunday’s final in defense of his 2018 World title at 79kg (a non-Olympic weight) by going 23-4 over three matches. Dake, who at Cornell became the only wrestler to win NCAA titles at four weight classes or without a redshirt, gets Azerbaijan’s Jabrayil Hasanov in the final, a rematch of the 2018 gold-medal match.

Next year, Dake must move up to 86kg, where Cox will likely reside, or down to 74kg, where Burroughs has won every U.S. Olympic or world trials dating to 2011. There’s also David Taylor to reckon with. Taylor won the 86kg world title last year but missed this season due to injury.

“We’ve got a guy at 79 kilos that’s going to win a world championship tomorrow,” Burroughs said, smiling, of Dake, “I’m hopefully going to be waiting for [Dake at Olympic trials], healthy and prepared.”

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