No Rio double for Allyson Felix after fourth-place finish in 200m final

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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Allyson Felix had the star power to change the Olympic schedule.

Now, it’s her schedule that needs adjusting.

Felix’s run at the 200-400 Olympic double, made possible after Olympics officials honored her request for a chance to run both races, came to an earlier-than-expected end Sunday. She finished fourth in the 200-meter final, one spot out of the Rio mix, in a .01-second loss to a sprawling Jenna Prandini at U.S. Track and Field Trials.

“Honestly, disappointed,” said Felix, who will not get a chance to defend her Olympic title in her signature event. “The whole year, that has been what I was working for. When I look back and see everything that happened, I still think it’s quite amazing I was able to make the team.”

She did make the 400-meter lineup, and that is, indeed, quite an accomplishment considering the injury she suffered this spring. After landing awkwardly on an exercise ball while doing core work, she rolled her right ankle.

The injury was so severe she avoided running around the track in the correct, counterclockwise direction until just before trials, for fear she’d put too much outside pressure on her injured ankle.

In track lingo, a sprinter doesn’t necessarily have to be “fast” to succeed in the 400 — a full lap around the track in which technique is more important than pure speed. But in the 200, it takes a more aggressive lean into the curve at the opening of the race — just the sort of practice Felix didn’t get enough of during her slow comeback.

“I could only do what I could with the ankle,” she said.

And so, she started slow, never made up ground against winner Tori Bowie or second-place Deajah Stevens and could not hold off Prandini, the former University of Oregon star who had to wait about 30 seconds to see the result for third place go up on the board. Afterward, she was scraped-up but smiling.

“I don’t know what happened,” Prandini said. “But it got the job done.”

One of Felix’s biggest fans made news earlier in the day: 16-year-old Sydney McLaughlin became the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic track team since 1980 when she finished third in the 400-meter hurdles.

Not bad for the junior out of Union Catholic High School in New Jersey, who turned on the Beijing Olympics eight years ago, saw Felix winning the 4×400 relay and thought, “I’d like to be like her, someday.”

Asked what she loved most about Felix, McLaughlin said: “She wasn’t afraid to lose.”

“Sometimes, I get so caught up in the fact that I hadn’t lost a hurdles race, and I come here, and these girls are faster than me,” said McLaughlin, who admitted to being so nervous earlier in the week she considered pulling out of the meet. “It’s realizing that sometimes you have to lose to get better.”

It happened to Felix plenty over the years, none more heartbreakingly than in Athens and Beijing, where she settled for back-to-back silvers in an event she had dominated.

But she won gold in 2012.

And with track and field desperate for some star power in a sport now headlined by Usain Bolt and a worldwide doping crisis, a scheduling change that would double the track time for one of America’s most popular runners was a no-brainer.

But U.S. trials don’t guarantee anything, and on Sunday, a few more potential medal contenders — including 400-meter hurdlers Johnny Dutch and Bershawn Jackson — also saw some dreams end early.

Felix is still going to Rio de Janeiro. But with more free time on her hands than originally planned.

“I’m pretty sure everyone expected to see her on the (200) team,” Bowie said. “I’m pretty sure it won’t be the same without her.”

Iran banned from judo for instructing athlete to withdraw rather than face Israel opponent

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Iran has been banned from international judo for instructing one of its athletes to withdraw from August’s world championships rather than face an Israeli judoka.

The International Judo Federation said Iran authorities instructing Saeid Mollaei to withdraw rather than face Israeli judoka Sagi Muki was “a serious breach and gross violation” of its code of ethics and the Olympic Charter.

IJF spokesman Vlad Marinescu said any ban won’t apply to the Tokyo Olympics. That’s because it’s the Iranian Olympic Committee, not the Iranian Judo Federation, which formally enters the Olympic team.

“We have been informed by IJF that they will launch a proper procedure giving all concerned parties the right to be heard,” an International Olympic Committee spokesperson said. “Should the issue become an Olympic issue we will take the result of this procedure into consideration.”

An IJF disciplinary commission said it “has a strong reason to believe that the Iran Judo Federation will continue or repeatedly engage in misconduct” given its history of similar actions with its athletes potentially facing Israelis.

Mollaei, a 2018 World champion, said he was afraid to return to Iran after disobeying those orders at worlds. He competed anyway but lost one round before a potential final with Muki.

“I want to compete wherever I can,” Mollaei said in a statement from the IJF. “I live in a country whose law does not permit me to. We have no choice, all athletes must comply with it. All I did today was for my life, for a new life.

“I need help. Even if the authorities of my country told me that I can go back without any problems, I am afraid.”

The IJF said it would help Mollaei prepare for next year’s Olympics, also in Tokyo. If Iran refuses to enter him, one option could be the International Olympic Committee-backed team of refugee athletes.

Iranian sports teams have for several decades had a policy of not competing against Israelis, which the country does not recognize. The IJF has said Iranians have thrown matches and used “questionable injuries” to avoid competing against Israelis.

Mollaei’s case came four months after judo officials hailed a breakthrough in relations with Iran, publishing a letter signed by Salehi Amiri pledging to “fully respect the Olympic charter and its non-discrimination principle.”

Back in August, Iranian Sports Minister Masoud Soltanifar accused the IJF of trying to “create problems” with Mollaei, the IRNA news agency reported. He said Iran will send a protest letter to the IOC.

Iranian team manager Majid Zareian also criticized the IJF, saying “everything was set in advance to put Mollaei against a participant from (Israel).”

“They did not allow me to be present next to my athlete in exercise salon,” Zareian said. “After the competitions they changed hotel of Mollaei without my permission, against the regulations.”

He denied reports Iranian authorities had put pressure on Mollaei.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Jacarra Winchester, after foe bites her, wins first wrestling world title

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Jacarra Winchester missed the Rio Olympic wrestling trials after tearing her knee playing soccer. She missed a medal at the 2018 World Championships after a semifinal-winning takedown was reversed.

There was no denying her on Wednesday.

Winchester, who picked up wrestling a decade ago as a high school junior, became the first American to earn a medal at the worlds in Kazakhstan this week. And it was gold.

She came back to beat Japanese Nanami Irie 5-3 in the final of the 55kg division, a weight class that is not on the Olympic program. Winchester must move to 53kg or 57kg next year.

But for now she can celebrate quite a journey. At 26, she’s one of the older wrestlers to become a first-time world champion. She believed she had what it took last year, when a reversed call kept her from the final and she subsequently lost a bronze-medal match.

Winchester, who has problems sleeping, said she replayed the end of that semifinal in her head ever since.

“There’s no reason why I should have gotten beat,” she said Wednesday. “Clearly I have what I need on the mat. I just need to change my mindset. … Just knowing you’re the best, pushing yourself and not letting anything get to me.”

That helped in Tuesday’s semifinals, where Winchester said her Turkish opponent bit her, pulled her hair and twisted her fingers. Winchester, who grew up in the Oakland, Calif., area, said that when she started wrestling she had no Olympic goals.

“I had a mindset of I’m not a quitter,” she said.

Earlier Wednesday, Adeline Gray reached Thursday’s 76kg final, where she will try to become the first American to earn five world titles.

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