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Bryan Habana, World Cup rugby star, cut from South African Olympic squad

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JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Rugby sevens will also be missing a global star on its return to the Olympics next month, although it’s got nothing to do with Zika.

Bryan Habana, the World Cup-winning South African wing who set his sights on adding an Olympic medal to a career bursting with titles and honors in the 15-a-side game, failed Thursday to make South Africa’s final squad for the Rio de Janeiro Games.

Habana set aside his commitments with South Africa’s main Springboks team this season to return to sevens, which he hadn’t played at the top level for more than a decade, in the hope of going to Rio. He appeared in the world sevens series and was on an initial “Blitzboks” training squad named for the Olympics.

“My appreciation and gratitude for getting the opportunity to have been a part of the @blitzboks #RoadToRio far outweighs the disappointment of not making the final squad,” Habana wrote on Instagram.

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My appreciation and gratitude for getting the opportunity to have been a part of the @blitzboks #RoadToRio far outweighs the disappointment of not making the final squad. I find myself incredibly fortunate to have become a part of a very special brotherhood, to have pushed myself further than what I had imagined in making the transition over to 7s being helped each and every step of the way by all the members of the squad and getting to experience just how much love these boys have for each other! Their hard work, dedication, commitment and never say die attitude is immensely infectious and will stand them in good stead as they head over to Rio to challenge for that Gold medal. To Neil, his coaching staff and each member of the squad, thanks for allowing me the opportunity to have been so warmly welcomed back into the 7s family. To those players selected, keep on pushing each other as the final training weeks approach and go out there and express your talents to the best of your abilities! I'll be your biggest supporter and cheering you on loudly from Toulon!!!

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Rugby – this time in the seven-a-side form – will return to the Olympics next month for the first time since 1924.

Habana joins another big name in the 15-man game, Australia’s Quade Cooper, in missing out on selection for his country’s Olympic team.

Habana has won a World Cup and a southern hemisphere title with the Springboks, and also southern hemisphere and European club titles. He was the world player of the year in 2007.

One 15-a-side international, Juan de Jongh, did make South Africa’s 12-man squad while another, Francois Hougaard, is one of two traveling reserves.

South Africa is among the favorites for gold in the Olympic rugby sevens alongside other traditional sevens powers Fiji and New Zealand.

MORE: Jarryd Hayne, former 49ers RB, misses Fiji Olympic rugby team

J’den Cox repeats as world wrestling champion; Kyle Snyder stunned

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If he wasn’t crowned already, it’s clear U.S. wrestling has a new king.

On a day when Rio Olympic champion Kyle Snyder was upset and London Olympic champ Jordan Burroughs rallied for another bronze medal, J’den Cox repeated as world champion in Kazakhstan.

Cox, the Rio Olympic 86kg bronze medalist, completed a perfect run through the 92kg division — not giving up a point in four matches — by dominating Iranian Alireza Karimi 4-0 in the final. He became the second U.S. man to win an Olympic or world title without surrendering a point in more than 30 years (joining Kyle Dake from last year).

“I don’t know why, but it feels like a ton better [than 2018],” said Cox, whose tattoos include one that reads in Latin, “If I cannot move heaven, I will raise hell.” “I made more sacrifices … I wanted to do it better.”

Earlier Saturday, Snyder was shocked by Azerbaijan’s Sharif Sharifov 5-2 in the 97kg semifinals, denying a third straight world final between Snyder and Russian Tank Abdulrashid Sadulayev. Sharifov, the 2012 Olympic 84kg champ, clinched his first world medal in eight years.

Snyder, who in Rio became the youngest U.S. Olympic wrestling champion at age 20, failed to make an Olympic or world final for the first time in his career. He will wrestle for bronze on Sunday, while Sharifov meets Sadulayev for gold.

Burroughs earned his seventh straight world championships medal and second straight bronze. Burroughs, the 2012 Olympic 74kg champion, rebounded from losing to Russian Zaurbeck Sidakov on Friday with a 10-0 technical fall over Japanese Mao Okui.

Burroughs gave up a lead on Sidakov with 1.3 seconds left in the semifinals, a year after Sidakov overtook him as time expired in the quarterfinals.

“A lot of people in 2016 called me a quitter,” said Burroughs, who tearfully missed the medals in Rio, “and I think that after watching the amount of devastation and heartbreak that I’ve taken over the last two years and still being able to come back and take third place is a testament.”

Burroughs, 31, shares third with Adeline Gray on the U.S. list of career world wrestling championships medals, trailing only Bruce Baumgartner and Kristie Davis, who each earned nine.

Burroughs’ bronze ensured he gets a bye into the 74kg final of the Olympic trials in April. But this will be the first time he goes into an Olympic year as anything other than a reigning world champion.

“At this juncture of my career, I feel I’m running out of time,” said Burroughs, who next year will be older than any previous U.S. Olympic wrestling champion. “That can be really scary.”

Dake marched to Sunday’s final in defense of his 2018 World title at 79kg (a non-Olympic weight) by going 23-4 over three matches. Dake, who at Cornell became the only wrestler to win NCAA titles at four weight classes or without a redshirt, gets Azerbaijan’s Jabrayil Hasanov in the final, a rematch of the 2018 gold-medal match.

Next year, Dake must move up to 86kg, where Cox will likely reside, or down to 74kg, where Burroughs has won every U.S. Olympic or world trials dating to 2011. There’s also David Taylor to reckon with. Taylor won the 86kg world title last year but missed this season due to injury.

“We’ve got a guy at 79 kilos that’s going to win a world championship tomorrow,” Burroughs said, smiling, of Dake, “I’m hopefully going to be waiting for [Dake at Olympic trials], healthy and prepared.”

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Alexandra Trusova, 15, becomes first woman to land three quadruple jumps

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Alexandra Trusova established herself as the world’s leading female figure skater … in her first senior international competition.

Trusova, the 15-year-old, two-time world junior champion from Russia, became the first woman to land three quadruple jumps in one international competition program, posting the world’s highest free skate and total scores on the early season.

Trusova previously landed three quads in the free skate at the Russian Federation’s test skates in early September.

She opened Saturday’s free skate with a quadruple Lutz, a quadruple toe loop-triple toe combination and another quad toe to run away from Japanese Olympian Kaori Sakamoto by 44.27 points. Video is here.

She won a lower-level event in Slovakia with 238.69 points, which would have beaten Japan’s top skater, Rika Kihira, and Olympic bronze medalist Yevgenia Medvedeva by more than 14 points at an event last week in Canada. However, judging panels can be more or less forgiving from event to event.

Still, Trusova established herself as a force going into next month’s Grand Prix season. She will face Kihira and Medvedeva at Skate Canada the last week of October.

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MORE: 2019 Senior Grand Prix assignments