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Jordan Spieth: Olympic decision ‘probably hardest in my life,’ eyes Tokyo 2020

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TROON, Scotland (AP) — Jordan Spieth said pulling out of the Olympics was the hardest decision he’s ever made, and that it likely will haunt him as he’s watching golfers compete for a gold medal in Rio de Janeiro for the first time in 112 years.

Spieth cited “health concerns” as his reason for withdrawing, though he said the Zika virus was only part of it. Asked what kept him out of the Olympics, the 22-year-old Texan would only say that it was personal and anyone in his shoes would have made the same choice.

“Why was it so hard? Because I’m a huge believer in Olympic golf,” Spieth said Tuesday during a news conference that touched only briefly on his bid for the third leg of the career Grand Slam at the British Open.

“This year I just had to try and weigh a risk that doesn’t present itself every year,” he said. “And just at the time that I had to make the decision, I just felt this was the right move for me. Not everybody’s going to understand. Nobody’s going to understand what it’s like in my shoes. … Mine came down to just a very personal decision that, again, I don’t expect anybody to understand, but trust that I believe I’m making the right decision for myself, for my future and for those around me.”

Spieth’s stock has risen sharply in the last year after he won the Masters and U.S. Open and made a spirited run at the Grand Slam. With 18 other players having withdrawn, he was looked upon as someone whose commitment might ease the backlash against golf for its perceived indifference about the sport returning to the Olympics.

That didn’t stop him from following his instincts.

Spieth said he didn’t make up his mind until Monday morning, and the decision was his alone.

“Everybody’s entitled to their own opinion,” Spieth said. “I’m not worrying about anybody else except myself, and again, I don’t expect people to fully understand it. They don’t know what I know about myself and my future and my goals. Therefore, there’s nothing I can do about it except go on and try to again focus on this week.”

Spieth’s decision means none of the top four in the world ranking — they have won six of the last eight majors — will be in Rio when golf is part of the Olympic program for the first time since St. Louis in 1904.

Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy previously pulled out, all citing Zika and their plans to start a family or have more children. The mosquito-borne Zika virus has been linked to severe birth defects and possible neurological disorders in adults. International Golf Federation President Peter Dawson said Monday he thought there was an overreaction to Zika and that none of the workers on the new golf course have been affected.

Spieth is staying with Rickie Fowler this week in Troon, and he said he was standing next to him when Fowler tweeted Sunday night that he would be playing. Spieth had planned to room with Fowler in Rio, and he said he texted Fowler after informing the IGF that he wasn’t going to play.

“He said, ‘No worries. I know you had to make it just for you. You’re just going to be jealous when I get that gold,'” Spieth said. “That’s what he said. So that’s how it went.”

Either way, Spieth said he would be watching.

He is the defending champion at the John Deere Classic, which was moved to the week of the Olympics when the PGA Tour adjusted its schedule for the Rio Games. Even though he’s out of the Olympics, Spieth said he won’t go to the John Deere.

“I don’t think it would be an appropriate move to play that week, so I will not be playing that week,” he said. “I don’t think it would be appropriate given our decision on the Olympics. … We’ve won two out of the last three years. So I will be going back there, I just don’t think it’s appropriate this year.”

Spieth joked after an introduction to his close call at St. Andrews last year that it would be the easiest question he received. And when it was over, as he pushed back from the table, he said quietly with a smile, “Do we have a tournament this week?”

He was ready to move on from Olympics to a claret jug. But even Spieth knows that won’t happen. He said he would carry the decision with him through the Olympics and for a while.

“It will loom over me throughout the Olympic games, for sure,” he said. “I will be, I’m sure, at times pretty upset that I’m not down there. I thought about all this ahead of time. When I watch the opening ceremonies, that’s going to be a big bummer. Then when I watch these guys competing on the golf course. I’ll be texting with Rickie, obviously, throughout as a good friend of mine. I thought about all of this ahead of time and still made the decision I did because it was the right move for me.”

MORE: Tennis stars, unlike golfers, not deterred by Zika

Lindsey Vonn and her dog to host Amazing Race-like series

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Lindsey Vonn and one of her three dogs, Lucy, will host “The Pack,” an “Amazing Race”-like series where dogs and their humans compete in challenges across continents.

The Amazon Prime show filmed earlier this year and will premiere later in 2020. Production included a team of veterinarians and dog experts to ensure “a positive experience for everyone.”

Twelve teams vie for a prize of $500,000, plus $250,000 for the animal charity of their choice.

Vonn, the 2010 Olympic downhill champion and female record holder with 82 World Cup wins, retired after the February 2019 World Championships, four shy of the overall victories record held by Swede Ingemar Stenmark.

She traveled the last few years of her career with Lucy, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel that she got in Italy in January 2016. Lucy required German, Italian and American passports to accompany Vonn on the ski circuit.

Vonn previously adopted rescue dogs Leo, a brindle boxer to help her through recovery from knee surgery that kept her out of the 2014 Olympics, and Bear.

Vonn’s previous broadcast credits included a 2010 appearance as a secretary on “Law & Order,” two judge spots on “Project Runway” and an episode of “Running Wild with Bear Grylls” in 2016.

MORE: Lindsey Vonn’s mom is tough as nails

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London Marathon mass event canceled; Kipchoge, Bekele still to race

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The London Marathon will not hold a mass participation race of 40,000-plus runners, but will have an elites-only event featuring the fastest marathoners in history on a different course.

Organizers announced that the World Marathon Major, previously rescheduled for Oct. 4 from April 26, will be restricted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Elite runners, including world-record holders Eliud Kipchoge and Brigid Kosgei and Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest man in history, will instead race but not on the usual route around London landmarks.

They will run on an enclosed looped in St. James’s Park in a “secure biosphere” without spectator access. Elite wheelchair racers, including past champions David Weir and Manuela Schar, will also compete.

Before canceling, London Marathon organizers planned to use Bluetooth and wideband ranging to monitor every participant’s distance from each other, though they did not specify if the event would have still included more than 40,000 runners.

If a participant spent more than 15 minutes within a specified distance of anyone else, and if somebody had informed organizers they contracted the virus within two weeks after the race, he or she would have been contacted.

“Despite all our efforts, the fantastic support from all of our partners and the progress that has been made on planning for the return of smaller mass participation events that are not on the roads, it has not been possible to go ahead with a mass socially distanced walk or run,” event director Hugh Brasher said in press release.

Four of the other five annual World Marathon Majors this year were canceled — Berlin, Boston, Chicago and New York City. The earliest major, Tokyo, was held March 1 with elite runners only.

Kipchoge, the Olympic marathon champion from Kenya, and Bekele, a three-time Olympic track champion from Ethiopia, were previously announced as headliners for London in the winter, before the pandemic.

Kipchoge lowered the world record to 2:01:39 at the 2018 Berlin Marathon. Bekele clocked 2:01:41 in Berlin last September. They are the only men to ever break 2:02 in a marathon. Kipchoge also clocked 1:59:40 at a non-record-eligible event in Vienna on Oct. 12 instead of racing a fall marathon.

Kipchoge has won 11 of 12 marathons since moving to road racing after failing to make Kenya’s 2012 Olympic track team.

Bekele, the more accomplished track athlete with Olympic golds and world records at 5000m and 10,000m, has been a roller-coaster road runner.

Bekele owns two of the seven fastest marathons in history, recorded three years apart in Berlin. In between, he failed to finish two marathons and, in his last London start in 2018, clocked a pedestrian 2:08:53 for sixth place.

That was more than four minutes behind Kipchoge, who is undefeated in four London starts and has beaten by Bekele by at least 100 seconds in all four of their head-to-head marathons.

The Kenyan Kosgei took 81 seconds off Paula Radcliffe‘s 16-year-old women’s marathon world record on Oct. 13, clocking 2:14:04 to win the Chicago Marathon.

The 2021 London Marathon will also be held in October to give a better chance of holding a mass race than in April.

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