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Caroline Wozniacki wins appeal to participate in Rio Games

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LONDON (AP) — Former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki won her appeal Thursday for a spot in the tennis tournament at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, while 14-time major champion Rafael Nadal‘s status is still up in the air.

On the provisional Olympic entry list released by the International Tennis Federation, 2008 gold medalist Nadal’s participation is contingent on either making himself available for Spain’s Davis Cup matches in July or an ITF Olympic Committee appeal.

Nadal has been dealing with an injured left wrist that forced him to withdraw from the French Open before the third round and pull out of Wimbledon altogether.

Wozniacki already has been picked as Denmark’s flag-bearer for the Summer Games, but needed to appeal for a berth in the event, saying injuries prevented her from meeting the Fed Cup requirements.

She tweeted a photo of herself wearing a red top and standing on a red clay court, racket in hand, and wrote: “It’s been a long wait BUT I am officially going to Rio!! … rocking the Danish colors on court!!”

Wozniacki was ranked No. 1 for 67 weeks in 2010 and 2011, and she was the runner-up at the 2009 and 2014 U.S. Opens. She’s had a rough season, though, including a first-round loss at Wimbledon on Tuesday.

The top three men’s players in the world – No. 1 Novak Djokovic of Serbia, 2012 gold medalist Andy Murray of Britain, and 2012 silver medalist Roger Federer of Switzerland – are all in the field for Rio, where the tennis competition begins on Aug. 6, the day after the opening ceremony. There are 64-player fields in singles, with a maximum of four per gender per country, and 32-team fields in doubles.

The tournament will be played on hard courts. The draws are Aug. 4.

Djokovic won the Australian Open in January, and the French Open in June, and so far is into the third round at Wimbledon. Should he wind up winning the title at the All England Club, he could head to Brazil with his bid intact to become the first man in history to complete a Golden Slam: collecting all four major championships plus a singles gold medal in the same year.

As expected, the U.S. tennis team is led by past gold medalists Serena and Venus Williams, who will both play singles and team up in doubles. The other women set to play singles for the United States are Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens, while CoCo Vandeweghe and Bethanie Mattek-Sands are in the doubles tournament.

The American men on the provisional list for singles include 589th-ranked Brian Baker, along with No. 27 Jack Sock, No. 29 Steve Johnson and No. 66 Denis Kudla. All four are, like Nadal, listed as having their participation contingent on either Davis Cup participation or a successful appeal.

Among the notable names on the ITF list Thursday are International Tennis Hall of Fame member Martina Hingis, who is slated to play doubles with Belinda Bencic for Switzerland and could play mixed doubles with 17-time major champion Federer.

Players already participating in singles or doubles in Rio can be nominated by their national Olympic committee for the 16-team mixed doubles event by the Aug. 9 deadline, with no more than two pairs per country.

MORE: Venus, Serena Wiliams lead U.S. Olympic tennis team

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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