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Tyson Gay added as U.S. fills out Olympic track and field roster

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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Consider this a second chance for Tyson Gay. Maybe his last one, too.

The 33-year-old sprinter was handed a spot on the U.S. Olympic track team as a relay runner Monday, more than two years after his doping positive cost the Americans their silver medal from the 2012 Games.

Gay dominated the sprints for a time before Usain Bolt burst onto the scene in 2008. The American is still ranked second all-time behind Bolt with a time of 9.69 seconds in the 100.

But the last several years have been a struggle, filled with injuries and setbacks – none bigger than a positive doping test in 2013 that cost him one year out of the sport and forced the relay team to surrender its medal.

Gay finished fifth in the 100 and sixth in the 200 at the recently completed Olympic trials, but coaches stuck to the order of finish for the 100 meters, taking Gay and sixth-place finisher Christian Coleman, along with Mike Rodgers, whose spot was locked in thanks to his fourth-place finish.

In Gay, the U.S. gets a two-time Olympian and 2007 world champion at both 100 and 200 meters – choosing him over high-schoolers Noah Lyles and Michael Norman, who finished 4-5 in the 200 at trials.

Asked before the trials what it would mean to make the team, Gay said: “A hell of a lot. I’m considered the old one of the bunch now. It definitely means a lot to me to still keep up with these young guys here, use some of my veteran skills to my advantage.”

Also added for relays on the 127-person team, which includes 84 first-time Olympians, were Arman Hall, Tony McQuay and Kyle Clemons (men’s 4×400), Ariana Washington (women’s 4×100) and Francena McCorory and Courtney Okolo (women’s 4×400).

Some other things to know about the U.S. track and field team:

LIKE A FINE WINE: At 41, Bernard Lagat is still going strong – making his fifth Olympic team. The ageless 5,000-meter runner showed just about everyone that age is merely a number. “I don’t believe I’m old,” Lagat said. “If you believe you’re old – I’m going to run like an old man.”

JUST A KID: For a few days, 18-year-old high jumper Vashti Cunningham was set to be the youngest to compete for the U.S. Olympic track team in four decades. That lasted until 16-year-old Sydney McLaughlin came along and made the team in the 400-meter hurdles and took that distinction. To think, she had a little case of stage fright to begin the trials. It hardly showed as she set the world junior record to finish third and earn her place in Rio. “This has to be the icing on the cake,” the prep star from New Jersey said. “Regardless of what happens in Rio, I made it here and I’m just so thankful for all of that.”

FEEL-GOOD STORY ENDS WELL: 800-meter runner Boris Berian made the team despite an uphill climb – working at McDonald’s after dropping out of college to earn extra money to train and recently winning a lawsuit over Nike over what gear he could wear that nearly kept him off the starting line.

FEEL-GOOD STORY ENDS NOT AS WELL: 110-meter hurdler and defending Olympic champion Aries Merritt finished fourth – missing the team by one spot less than a year after returning from a kidney transplant. He had a positive outlook, though. “For me to be where I am is a miracle,” said Merritt, who operated at 10 percent kidney function when he captured a bronze medal at the 2015 world championships last summer.

DOUBLE DIP: Why stop at one event when you can double? There are plenty of athletes doubling up in Rio, including Galen Rupp (marathon, 10,000 meters), LaShawn Merritt (200, 400), Tianna Bartoletta (100, long jump), Tori Bowie (100, 200) and Justin Gatlin (100, 200). But Molly Huddle, who qualified for the 5,000 and 10,000 meters, was entered only in the 10K. And Allyson Felix, who had designs on a 200-400 double, didn’t make the 200 lineup.

For the entire U.S. Olympic track and field roster, click here.

MORE: Justin Gatlin speeds up, but another gear needed vs. Usain Bolt

Kyle Dake repeats as world wrestling champ; next challenge: Jordan Burroughs

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Kyle Dake recovered from an unspecified freak accident that required surgery, and not wrestling in a meet for eight months, to repeat as world champion at 79kg, a non-Olympic weight class, on Sunday.

The next six months will bring another challenge — beating Jordan Burroughs for an Olympic spot.

“Every year I have a goal of being the best guy in the world. Last year, I proved it. This year, I proved it,” Dake told Trackwrestling.com. “I’ve got my work cut out for me, coming up.”

Dake, a four-time NCAA champion at Cornell who considered quitting after finishing second at U.S. trials year after year, is now in his freestyle prime. He backed up going unscored on at worlds last year by beating his four opponents in Kazakhstan this week by a combined 27-4, capped by topping Azerbaijan’s Jabrayil Hasanov 4-2 in a final rematch.

Kid Dynamite is unquestionably one of the world’s best pound-for-pound wrestlers.

That was not the case four years ago. Then, an internationally inexperienced Dake moved out of the 74kg division, and up to 86kg for the Olympic year, to avoid facing Burroughs because Burroughs had a bye into the Olympic trials final as the reigning world champion. Dake ended up losing the 86kg trials final to J’den Cox, who on Saturday repeated as world champion himself.

The four-year difference would seem to favor Dake over Burroughs at April’s trials, where Dake has a bye into the semifinals and Burroughs into the final.

Burroughs, at 31 years old, is on the back end of his career. He just missed the finals of back-to-back world championships for the first time, though he came back for bronze medals. Burroughs has made every U.S. world or Olympic team at 74kg dating to 2011 and earned a medal every time, save his tearful Rio Olympic exit.

Dake, reluctant four years ago to detail his decision to move out of 74kg, determined before this week’s worlds that he would choose 74kg over 86kg (where Cox likely waits again).

“74 seems like a good spot for me,” Dake told Trackwrestling last month.

The number of weight classes drops from 10 at worlds to six at the Olympics, ensuring that at least two of these Americans will not make the Tokyo team:

Burroughs — 5x Olympic/world champion
Dake — 2x world champion
David Taylor — 2018 World champion (missed 2019 while injured)
Cox — 2x world champion
Kyle Snyder — 2x Olympic/world champion

Later Sunday, Snyder rallied from being upset in the 97kg semifinals on Saturday to snag a bronze medal with a 5-0 win over Georgian Elizbar Odikadze. A potential third straight world final between Snyder and Russian Abdulrashid Sadulayev was the most anticipated match of the championships, but Snyder was beaten one match early by Azerbaijan’s Sharif Sharifov.

Sadulayev, meanwhile, blanked Sharifov 4-0 to complete a 30-3 romp through his four matches to repeat as world champ.

“The hardest part about it I would say is just the fact that I didn’t get to wrestle Sadulayev again,” said Snyder, a Rio Olympic champion and a 2015 and 2017 World champion who shared bus and elevator rides with Sadulayev on Saturday and Sunday. “I felt prepared for him.”

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MORE: Jordan Burroughs: Time is running out

Israel is first nation to qualify for 2020 Olympic baseball tournament

Margo Sugarman
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Israel’s baseball team, which captivated at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, is headed to its first Olympics next summer.

Israel won a joint European-African tournament to become the first nation to qualify for baseball’s return to the Games after the sport was voted off the program after Beijing 2008.

It joins host nation Japan. Four more countries will qualify — two at the global Premier12 in November, another from the Americas and one more from a last-chance qualifier next year.

Israel, ranked 19th in the world, advanced via its best opportunity in Italy this week. It upset the highest-ranked European nations — the Netherlands (No. 8) and host Italy (No. 16) — and wrapped it up with an 11-1 win over South Africa on Sunday.

Its run came two years after Israel, then ranked 41st, beat South Korea, Chinese Taipei, the Netherlands and Cuba before bowing out of the World Baseball Classic. And one week after Israel finished fourth at the European Championship.

Israel’s roster at this week’s Olympic qualifier lacked many of the MLB veterans that it had at the World Baseball Classic. Israeli citizenship was not required at the WBC.

Its most recognizable player is Danny Valencia, an infielder who played parts of nine MLB seasons from 2010-18. Joey Wagman, its starting pitcher for its first and last games this week, plies his trade for the independent-league Milwaukee Milkmen.

MLB players are unlikely to feature at the Tokyo Games, but minor leaguers are expected to be eligible as in the past.

The rest of the Olympic field is likely to be nations from North America (such as the U.S., Cuba, Mexico or Canada) or Asia (South Korea, Chinese Taipei) or Australia.

Baseball will not be on the 2024 Olympic program but could be added for the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

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MORE: USA Baseball taps longtime catcher to be Olympic qualifying manager