Jenn Suhr
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Jenn Suhr will defend title in Rio, waits on Yelena Isinbayeva

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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — American Jenn Suhr has been paying more attention to pole vaulting than politics lately.

Now that she’s in the Olympics, the defending champion says that, sure, she’d like to see her biggest rival there, too.

“I’d like to compete against the best,” Suhr said Sunday at U.S. Track and Field Trials, when asked about the prospect of facing Russian world-record holder Yelena Isinbayeva. “I was told that I was misinformed on some things when I made my comment before. Maybe people know a little more than I do, I don’t know. If everything is honest, then yes.”

Isinbayeva is part of the Russian team that’s been banned by track’s governing body, the IAAF, from competing in Rio de Janeiro because of a doping scandal in her home country. She is among the 68 Russians who have petitioned the Court of Arbitration for Sport to compete. A decision is due July 21.

Asked a similar question about Isinbayeva in May, Suhr shared similar thoughts: that she would like to see Isinbayeva competing in Rio.

In a subsequent interview with The Associated Press, USA Track and Field president Stephanie Hightower said Suhr was “misguided.” Hightower, a member of the IAAF council that voted to ban the Russians, said Isinbayeva’s comments protesting the IAAF’s action were a sign the Russian “is condoning the corrupt system over there.”

Since that, Suhr put the doping scandal on the back burner to focus on making the U.S. team. In prelims at trials, she went conservative, taking fewer steps in her approach to make sure she would clear a height and advance. She was cautious in the final, too, winning with a height of 15 feet, 9 inches (4.80 meters).

“A relief, honestly,” she said. “I just want to get out of here. I want to go home. I haven’t enjoyed life in a while.”

The Suhr-Isinbayeva matchup stands as one of the handful of truly compelling rivalries in track and field. Isinbayeva beat out Suhr in 2008 for her second straight Olympic gold, before taking bronze in the London Games that Suhr won.

They await word on whether there will be an Olympic rematch.

“I always said I wanted to compete against the best,” Suhr said. “If everything is on the up and up — and the people who know more than I do say, ‘Yeah, she’s in,’ she’s in. Right now, I have no control over it. I’m happy that I’m in.”

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Federica Brignone passes Mikaela Shiffrin for World Cup overall lead

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Italian Federica Brignone passed an absent Mikaela Shiffrin for the World Cup overall standings lead by winning a combined in Switzerland on Sunday.

Brignone prevailed by .92 of a second adding times from super-G and slalom runs in Crans-Montana. Full results are here.

Brignone moved 73 points ahead of Shiffrin in the overall through 29 of 40 scheduled races. A race winner receives 100 points on a descending scale through the 30th-place finisher. The season runs through March 22.

Shiffrin, the three-time reigning World Cup overall champion, has not competed since the unexpected death of her father on Feb. 2. She has not announced if or when she will return this season.

Brignone, 29, is having a career season with five wins and 10 podiums across four disciplines.

Brignone’s best previous World Cup overall standings finish was fifth. She earned giant slalom medals at the 2018 Olympics (bronze) and 2011 World Championships (silver).

She could become Italy’s first female World Cup overall champion. The last Italian male winner was Alberto Tomba in 1995.

The women’s Alpine skiing World Cup moves to La Thuile, Italy, for a super-G and a combined next Saturday and Sunday.

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Jade Carey on brink of becoming first gymnast to qualify for U.S. Olympic team

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The U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials aren’t until late June, but Jade Carey is in position to qualify for the Tokyo Games in March.

Carey, seeking an individual Olympic gymnastics spot outside of the team competition, earned the maximum points in a World Cup series that is one path to Olympic qualification.

Carey has three wins each on floor exercise and vault with two World Cups left in March. Carey will mathematically clinch an Olympic spot if no other gymnasts win three times on one of the apparatuses to force a tiebreaker.

So far, no other gymnast has two wins on floor. One gymnast has two wins on vault. A gymnast’s top three finishes across the eight-stop series count in Olympic qualifying. If Carey finishes atop the floor or vault standings, she goes to the Olympics.

Carey picked up those third wins on floor and vault at the sixth World Cup in Melbourne, Australia, this weekend.

The one downside to qualifying this route: Carey would not be able to compete in the team competition at the Olympics. Those four spots will be determined at and after June’s trials in St. Louis, with Simone Biles likely grabbing one of them.

“I knew I would be giving up being on the team,” Carey said in October of going the World Cup route, “but I think, for me, it made sense to just go for it.”

Carey is a world medalist on vault and floor, but she doesn’t have the all-around credentials of Biles and some other U.S. gymnasts.

Olympic team event roster sizes were cut from five to four for Tokyo, putting a greater onus on all-around prowess given a team must put three gymnasts on each apparatus in the Olympic final.

The U.S. is the deepest country in women’s gymnastics, so the only truly safe pick to make the four-woman Olympic team event roster is Biles.

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