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

Ehsan Hadadi, Iran’s first Olympic track and field medalist, has coronavirus

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Ehsan Hadadi, Iran’s lone Olympic track and field medalist, tested positive for the coronavirus, according to World Athletics and an Iranian news agency.

“We’ve received word from several Asian journalists that Iranian discus thrower Ehsan Hadadi has tested positive for coronavirus,” according to World Athletics. “[Hadadi] trains part of the year in the US, but was home in Tehran when he contracted the virus.”

Hadadi, 35, became the first Iranian to earn an Olympic track and field medal when he took silver in the discus at the 2012 London Games. Hadadi led through four of six rounds before being overtaken by German Robert Harting, who edged the Iranian by three and a half inches.

He was eliminated in qualifying at the Rio Olympics and placed seventh at last fall’s world championships in Doha.

Jordan Larson preps for her last Olympics, one year later than expected

Jordan Larson
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Whether the Tokyo Olympics would have been this summer or in 2021, Jordan Larson knew this: It will mark her final tournament with the U.S. volleyball team, should she make the roster.

“I’m just not getting any younger,” said Larson, a 33-year-old outside hitter. “I’ve been playing consistently overseas for 12 years straight with no real offseason.

“I also have other endeavors in my life that I want to see. Getting married, having children, those kinds of things. The older I get, the more challenging those become.”

Larson, who debuted on the national team in 2009, has been a leader the last two Olympic cycles. She succeeded Christa Harmotto Dietzen as captain after the Rio Games. Larson started every match at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.

As long as Larson was in the building, the U.S. never had to worry about the outside hitter position, said two-time Olympian and NBC Olympics volleyball analyst Kevin Barnett.

“She played as if she belonged from the start,” he said. “They will miss her all-around capability. They’ll miss her ability to make everyone around her better. She’s almost like having a libero who can hit.”

Karch Kiraly, the Olympic indoor and beach champion who took over as head coach after the 2012 Olympics, gushed about her court vision.

“It’s a little dated now, but somebody like Wayne Gretzky just saw things that other people didn’t see on the hockey rink,” Kiraly said in 2018. “And I remember reading about him one time, and the quote from an opposing goalie was, oh my god, here he comes, what does he see that I don’t see right now? She sees things sooner than most people.”

Larson grew up in Hooper, Neb., (population 830) and starred at the University of Nebraska. She was a three-time All-American who helped the team win a national title as a sophomore. She had the opportunity to leave Nebraska and try out for the Olympics in 2008 but chose to remain at school for her final season.

She earned the nickname “Governor” as a Cornhusker State sports icon.

Larson helped the U.S. win its first major international title at the 2014 World Championship. She was also part of the program’s two stingers — defeats in the 2012 Olympic final and 2016 Olympic semifinals, both matches where the U.S. won the first set (and convincingly in 2012).

“It just gives me chills thinking about it now,” Larson said of the Rio Olympic semifinals, where Serbia beat the U.S. 15-13 in the fifth. “That team, we put in so much. Not just on the court but off the court working on culture and working on how are we best for each other. How can we be the best team? How can we out-team people? Certain teams have a better one player that’s a standout that we maybe didn’t have or don’t have. So how can we out-team the other teams? We had just put in so much work that was just heartbreaking.”

Larson and the Americans rebounded to win the bronze-medal match two days later.

“I don’t know anybody that didn’t have their heart ripped out. It was just a soul-crusher of a match,” Kiraly said of the semifinal. “More meaningful was what a great response everybody, including Jordan, mounted to the disappointment of that loss.”

The U.S. took fifth at worlds in 2018 and is now ranked second in the world behind China.

Larson spent the past club season in Shanghai. The campaign ended in mid-January. She hadn’t heard anything about the coronavirus when she took her scheduled flight back to California, learning days later that LAX started screening for it. Now, she’s working out from her garage.

Larson is in line to become the fifth-oldest U.S. Olympic women’s volleyball player in history, according Olympedia and the OlyMADMen.

Her decade of experience could go a long way to help the next generation of outside hitters, led by three-time NCAA champion and Sullivan Award winner Kathryn Plummer.

“If you’re coming into the USA program as an outside hitter, in the next year or the quad or the quad after that,” Barnett said, “the measuring stick is going to be Jordan Larson.”

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