Abeba Aregawi’s meldonium ban lifted, Olympic status unclear

Abeba Aregawi
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Ethiopian-born Swedish runner Abeba Aregawi‘s meldonium ban has been lifted, but the 2013 World 1500m champion’s status for the Olympics has not been determined, the Swedish track and field federation said Thursday.

Aregawi, 26, was suspended indefinitely in February after failing a drug test for meldonium, the substance that later gained widespread media attention after it was learned that many Russians, including Maria Sharapova, also failed tests.

Meldonium was switched from legal to illegal starting Jan. 1. However, it’s unknown exactly how long meldonium stays in the body, so the World Anti-Doping Agency has relaxed punishments. It was not proven Aregawi took meldonium after Jan. 1, according to the Swedish Sports Confederation.

Aregawi has not competed this year, but she had qualified for the Swedish Olympic team by finishing in the top eight at the 2015 World Championships. She was removed from the team with her suspension in February, and now there will be discussions about her status for Rio, according to the Swedish track and federation.

Aregawi ran the fastest women’s 1500m at the London Olympics, when she represented Ethiopia, but it came in the semifinals.

She finished fifth in the slower final won by Turkey’s Asli Cakir Alptekin, who was stripped of the gold medal last year for doping.

In 2013, Aregawi switched to Sweden and won six of the nine Diamond League 1500m races plus the world title in a dominating season. U.S. Olympian Jenny Simpson took silver behind Aregawi at worlds.

In 2014, Aregawi was overtaken as the world’s best 1500m runner by the Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan and Simpson.

In 2015, Aregawi won zero Diamond League races and finished sixth at the world championships, won by Ethiopian Genzebe Dibaba, who also broke the world record last year.

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Olympic flame to travel by sea for Paris 2024, welcomed by armada

Paris 2024 Olympic Torch Relay Marseille
Paris 2024
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The Olympic flame will travel from Athens to Marseille by ship in spring 2024 to begin the France portion of the torch relay that ends in Paris on July 26, 2024.

The torch relay always begins in the ancient Olympic site of Olympia, Greece, where the sun’s rays light the flame. It will be passed by torch until it reaches Athens.

It will then cross the Mediterranean Sea aboard the Belem, a three-masted ship, “reminiscent of a true Homeric epic,” according to Paris 2024. It will arrive at the Old Port of Marseille, welcomed by an armada of boats.

Marseille is a former Greek colony and the oldest city in France. It will host sailing and some soccer matches during the Paris Olympics.

The full 2024 Olympic torch relay route will be unveiled in May.

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Paris 2024 Olympic Torch Relay Marseille
Paris 2024

Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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