Jarryd Hayne
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Jarryd Hayne, former 49ers RB, misses Fiji Olympic rugby team

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SUVA, Fiji (AP) — Former San Francisco 49ers running back Jarryd Hayne has failed in his bid to win selection in the Fiji rugby sevens team to compete at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Hayne pre-empted the scheduled announcement of the Fiji team with a Facebook post Monday saying his time with the Fiji squad “has ended.”

The former National Rugby League star who won a place on the 49ers roster as a rookie last year said he met with Fiji coach Ben Ryan last Friday and agreed he hasn’t done enough to win Olympic selection.

He is the second athlete with NFL experience to fail in a bid to make the Rio Olympics. Buffalo Bills wide receiver Marquise Goodwin previously missed the U.S. Olympic Track and Field team in the long jump.

“As much as I would have loved to go to Rio, I too knew I wasn’t ready yet,” Hayne said. “During my time with the team I pushed my body above and beyond. I used all my experience as a professional athlete and have tried every day and in every way possible to make this team and make it better but unfortunately, time has been against me.”

Fiji will start as favorite to win the gold medal at Rio de Janiero in the first Olympic rugby tournament since 1924. The Fijians won the World Sevens Series title in the season just ended, holding off South Africa and New Zealand, and have won the world championship of sevens in consecutive years.

Hayne was a late addition this season, after quitting the NFL, and struggled to adapt to the pace and fitness demands of sevens in which teams play several matches in tournaments which last two to three days.

“I’ve loved every minute of training with the Fiji Rugby 7s,” Hayne said. “Not only are they back-to-back world champions but they are a bunch of guys who have welcomed me into the team as one of their own family.”

Hayne, who has played rugby league for Australia, said his time with the Fiji team was “an amazing journey for me and a truly humbling experience.”

Hayne’s post suggests he won’t pursue his career in rugby sevens any further. Australian media reports suggest he is likely to return to the National Rugby League, though he is thought also to have been courted by Australian rugby union teams.

“For now, I’ll be in camp with the team until mid-week before heading back home to Sydney for some time out and will determine my next steps from there,” he said. “I’ll enjoy watching from afar and wish the team all the best of luck on their road to Rio.”

MORE: U.S. men draw Fiji in first Olympic rugby sevens tournament

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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