Catalina Ponor
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Catalina Ponor named Romania flag bearer, expected to compete in Rio

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Five-time Olympic medalist Catalina Ponor was named Romania’s flag bearer for the Rio Opening Ceremony on Wednesday and is expected to compete in her third Games.

Romania has one Olympic berth in women’s gymnastics, with Ponor and two-time world all-around medalist Larisa Iordache competing for the spot in recent months.

Ponor, who retired after taking three gold medals at the 2004 Athens Games and again after earning two medals at London 2012, is more ready to compete in Rio than rival Larisa Iordache, according to the Romania Gymnastics Federation.

Though Ponor wasn’t announced as a Rio Olympian on Wednesday, and Iordache is expected to travel to Rio, Iordache will compete “only if an unfortunate accident happens to Catalina and can not compete,” a Romanian Gymnastics Federation official said Wednesday. The official said it would be incorrect to call Iordache an alternate.

Romania shockingly failed to qualify a full, five-woman team for the Rio Olympics because it finished 13th at October’s world championships (top eight qualified for Rio) and seventh at April’s Olympic test event (top four qualified for Rio).

Romania, which earned a women’s team medal at every Olympics from 1976 through 2012, was left with one individual berth in the Rio Games.

Romania is still hoping to be given a second Olympic women’s gymnastics spot, according to Romania newspaper ProSport on Wednesday.

Iordache and Simone Biles were the only women to make the all-around podium at both of the last two world championships.

MORE: U.S. Olympic Women’s Gymnastics Trials broadcast schedule

World champion wins doping case citing bodily fluids from boyfriend

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — A world champion canoeist won a doping case Monday after persuading a tribunal that her positive test was caused by bodily fluid contamination from her boyfriend.

The International Canoe Federation (ICF) ended its investigation into 11-time world champion Laurence Vincent Lapointe, who tested positive for a steroid-like substance in July. She faced a four-year ban and could have missed her event’s Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games.

The Canadian canoe sprint racer and her lawyer detailed in a news program that laboratory analysis of hair from her then-boyfriend showed he was likely responsible for a tiny presence of ligandrol in her doping sample.

“The ICF has accepted Ms. Vincent Lapointe’s evidence which supports that she was the victim of third-party contamination,” the governing body said in a statement, clearing her to return to competition.

The legal debate is similar to tennis player Richard Gasquet’s 2009 acquittal in the “cocaine kiss” case. The Court of Arbitration for Sport accepted Gasquet’s defense that kissing a woman who had taken cocaine in a Miami nightclub, after he had withdrawn injured from a tournament, caused his positive test.

The 27-year-old Vincent Lapointe was provisionally suspended for almost six months and missed the 2019 World Championships, which was a key qualifying event for the Tokyo Olympics. American 17-year-old Nevin Harrison won the 200m world title in her absence.

She can still qualify for the Olympic debut of women’s canoe sprint events with victory at a World Cup event in May in Germany.

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U.S. women’s soccer team begins Olympic qualifying, which should rest on one match

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The U.S. women’s soccer team has never been in danger in Olympic qualifying, but that doesn’t change this fact: It must win on Feb. 7 to reach the Tokyo Games.

The CONCACAF tournament begins Tuesday in Houston, where the world champion Americans face world No. 72 Haiti. The last two group games are against No. 68 Panama on Friday and No. 37 Costa Rica on Feb. 3. The top two nations from the group advance to Feb. 7 semifinals.

The U.S. roster, with 18 of its 20 players coming from the 2019 World Cup team, is here.

Since CONCACAF qualifies two nations to the Olympics, the semifinals are the deciding games.

Should the U.S. win its group, it would face the runner-up from the other group in a winner-goes-to-Tokyo match. The other group (world ranking):

Canada (8)
Mexico (37)
Jamaica (53)
St. Kitts and Nevis (127)

Chaos could result in the unlikely event that either the U.S. or Canada finishes second in its group, and the two North American powers play a semifinal.

The U.S. is undefeated in Olympic qualifying history, since the tournament format began in 2004 — 15-0 with a goal differential of 88-1 (not counting matches played once they’ve already clinched qualification). The lone goal allowed came in a group-stage match in 2008, when the U.S. was already assured a spot in the semifinals.

Still, the U.S. knows the feeling of one poor outing in an important match. In 2010, it lost to Mexico in a winner-to-the-World Cup match. The U.S. was forced to win a last-chance, home-and-home playoff against a UEFA team — Italy — for the last spot in the World Cup.

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