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World leaders unsure about attending Rio Opening Ceremony

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Many top foreign leaders have been slow to commit to attending the opening ceremony of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics amid Brazil’s political turmoil and a stream of bad news engulfing South America’s first games.

Top politicians who do show up could face a diplomatic quandary when the games open in three weeks.

President Dilma Rousseff has been suspended and faces an impeachment trial, which could conclude days after the Olympics end. She has said she hopes to attend, meaning she would join interim president Michel Temer as the main faces of the host nation.

“If you are a top world leader, whose hand would you shake in the middle of such uncertainty?” Maristella Basso, a professor of international law at the University of Sao Paulo, told The Associated Press. “It is a bizarre situation. The best that foreign leaders can do is to send a letter and stay home to avoid any embarrassment. It won’t be a party occasion for Brazil anyway, look at the mess.”

An early prediction that 100 heads of state or government could be on hand at the Aug. 5 ceremony has not been repeated for weeks. The Brazilian foreign ministry declined to offer numbers, and said a list would be published just the before the games open. Organizing committee spokesman Mario Andrada said he did not know how many leaders would attend.

The Brazilian news website UOL puts the number at 45 and lists United Nation Secretary-General Ban-ki Moon as a confirmed guest.

France is an exception. France’s embassy in Brasilia told AP that President Francois Hollande will attend the opening ceremony. Paris is a candidate to host the 2024 games.

Italy’s embassy also confirmed that Prime Minister Matteo Renzi would attend. Rome is another 2024 candidate.

The United States embassy did not say if President Barack Obama would attend. Brazilian media has reported that Secretary of State John Kerry is the American official most likely to be at Maracana Stadium. First Lady Michelle Obama represented the U.S. at London’s opening ceremony in 2012.

China, one of Brazil’s main trade partners, did not reply to AP’s request for information. Brazilian media say China will send Vice Premier Liu Yandong, who is in charge of education and sports. She ranks far below President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang.

Beijing is host to the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Even Argentina, Brazil’s main partner in the region, has yet to confirm the presence of President Mauricio Macri, although its embassy in Brasilia says he is expected to come.

Japan has also not confirmed its delegation. However, Japan would seem likely to send a top-ranking representative with Tokyo the next host of the Summer Games.

Britain, which held the last Summer Olympics, has just changed its prime minister and its representative is in doubt.

Russia is another question mark. Many Russian athletes have been caught up in a giant doping scandal. A report due on Monday may confirm allegations of state-backed doping by Russia. Already, the Russian track and field team has been banned from the games, pending an appeal.

Even many left-leaning Latin American governments that supported Brazil as South America’s first Olympic host have yet to confirm.

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U.S. beats Japan in Olympic baseball qualifier, may still need help

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The U.S. handed Japan its first loss in the Premier12 global Olympic baseball qualifier, at the Tokyo Dome no less, but now the Americans must root for the host nation.

The Americans, with a roster mostly of Double-A and Triple-A players, won 4-3 over a Japanese team that includes some of its domestic league’s biggest stars like two-time Central League MVP Yoshihiro Maru and veteran shortstop Hayato Sakamoto.

Outfielder Jo Adell, MLB Pipeline’s top-ranked prospect on the U.S. team, starred by reaching base four times with a home run.

Japan is already qualified for baseball’s Olympic return as the host nation.

The U.S., meanwhile, has a sense of urgency at Premier12, the first of a possible three tournaments in which it could clinch an Olympic spot.

At Premier12, the top-ranked nation from North and South America qualifies for the Olympics. The tournament is at the super-round stage of the final six teams, and two are from the Americas: the U.S. and Mexico.

The top four nations after each has played five games advance to gold- and bronze-medal games.

Mexico already beat the U.S. and ran its super-round record to 3-0 on Tuesday, clinching a spot in the medal round.

The U.S. moved to 1-2 in the super round on Tuesday and must at least get into the same medal-round game as Mexico to keep its hope of finishing as the top team from the Americas.

Japan could help, since it plays Mexico on Wednesday. If Mexico beats Japan, the Mexicans clinch a spot in the gold-medal game, which would put more pressure on the U.S. to win its last two games (vs. Australia on Wednesday and Chinese Taipei on Friday). Even then, South Korea would get into the gold-medal game if it wins out.

If the U.S. is not the top team from the Americas at Premier12, it can still earn an Olympic berth in March. But then it faces trying to come up with a roster at the end of MLB’s spring training rather than during the offseason. MLB teams may be less inclined to release minor leaguers.

“That’ll be a delicate dance,” U.S. general manager Eric Campbell said before Premier12.

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College gymnast dies after practice accident

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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — An accomplished gymnast at Southern Connecticut State University has died following a serious spinal cord injury suffered in a training accident.

Melanie Coleman, 20, of Milford, Connecticut, was training Friday at New Era Gymnastics in Hamden when she was injured, said her mother, Susan Coleman.

She was taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital and died Sunday.

Coleman was a former All State gymnast at Jonathan Law High School in Milford and was captain of the school’s gymnastics team. She was named a Women’s Collegiate Gymnastics Association Scholastic All-American this year.

Her former club coach, Tom Alberti, said she attained a level 10, the highest level in the USA Junior Olympics Program.

She was a junior studying nursing, following in the footsteps of her two older sisters, her mother said.

“She’s from a very large, loving family; there’s seven of us, we were the Coleman seven,” Susan Coleman said. “We spent every day together for the past 20 years.”

She volunteered at the gym where her accident occurred.

Her coaches and professors described her as a special young woman who excelled in both the classroom and gym, college President Joe Berolino said in a written statement.

“Our deepest sympathies are extended to her family and friends on this tragic loss,” he said.

People the family has met by traveling to gymnastics events around the country are giving support that is “holding us up,” Coleman’s mother said.

She described her children, which also include two sons older than Melanie, as “inseparable.”

“We’re going to leave an empty space in our photos for her” from now on, Susan Coleman said.