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U.S. women name Olympic soccer roster, eye 4th straight gold

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The U.S. women’s soccer squad wants to become the first nation to win the Olympic gold medal a year after capturing the Women’s World Cup. Head coach Jill Ellis announced Tuesday the 18 women who will be tasked with accomplishing that unprecedented feat.

The Americans have won the past three Olympic gold medals, to go with silver in 2000 and another gold in 1996.

The squad in Rio will be led by midfielder Carli Lloyd, the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year and the team’s all-time leading scorer with 87 career goals. She netted the lone goal in the Americans’ 1-0 overtime victory against Brazil in the 2008 Olympic gold-medal game, and she scored both goals four years ago in London in the team’s 2-1 win over Japan.

She’ll make her third Olympic appearance, as will goalie Hope Solo and midfielder Tobin Heath. Solo is set to earn her 200th cap during the Rio Games, making her the first goalie in international soccer history to do so.

Midfielder Megan Rapinoe, forward Alex Morgan and defenders Kelley O’Hara and Becky Sauerbrunn are set for their second Olympic appearances. Rapinoe’s inclusion was in doubt after she underwent ACL surgery in December, but she proved her fitness at training camp last week.

The youngest on the squad will be forward Mallory Pugh, an 18-year-old who will be the second-youngest American to play Olympic soccer since 1904, according to sports-reference.com. She’ll be 18 years, 3 months and 5 days old when the Games start; Cindy Parlow was 18 years, 2 months and 13 days old to start the 1996 Olympics. Parlow, however, didn’t score, meaning Pugh could be come the youngest U.S. player with a goal in the Olympics.

Here’s a look at the full Rio roster by position:

Goalies: Alyssa Naeher, Hope Solo

Defenders: Whitney Engen, Julie Johnston, Meghan Klingenberg, Ali Krieger, Kelley O’Hara, Becky Sauerbrunn

Midfielders: Morgan Brian, Tobin Heath, Lindsey Horan, Carli Lloyd, Allie Long, Megan Rapinoe

Forwards: Crystal Dunn, Alex Morgan, Christen Press, Mallory Pugh

Of the 18 going to Rio, 14 were members of the 2015 World Cup championship squad.

“We’ve got excellent balance in the squad, and with some injuries lately to some major players, it has allowed us to get experience for a few newer players which helped them in their cases to make the team,” Ellis said in a release. “Now the task is getting our team 100 percent healthy and finalizing our preparations during the next camp.”

Christie Rampone, 41, was bidding for a fifth Olympics and to become the oldest Olympic soccer player ever, according to sports-reference.com, but December knee surgery dashed her hopes.

Heather O’Reilly was looking to compete on her fourth Olympic team, but she was named only as an alternate, along with goalie Ashlyn Harris, defender Emily Sonnett and midfielder Samantha Mewis.

The U.S. women will be among the teams to open the Rio Games on Aug. 3, two days before the Opening Ceremony, when they take on New Zealand in Belo Horizonte.

MORE: U.S. women learn Olympic soccer group opponents

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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MORE: Israel, judo federation hail letter from Iran; Tehran silent

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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