Nate Ebner on NFL vs. Olympic sevens, Rob Gronkowski’s rugby potential

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Patriots safety Nate Ebner pulled off one of the incredible feats of Olympic qualifying season, making the first U.S. Olympic rugby sevens team less than four months after announcing his return to the sport.

And he thinks other football players would fare well in rugby. Namely teammate Rob Gronkowski.

“How would Gronk be at anything that is physical? I think that answers that,” Ebner said on The Dan Patrick Show on Thursday. “He’s a beast. He’d have no problems.”

Ebner, a 27-year-old who was an elite player as a teenager (at least among Americans) before converting to football at Ohio State, was asked which sport is tougher.

“It just depends on what your definition of toughness is,” he said. “If it’s about how hard you hit somebody, I’d say football. … But there are aspects to rugby which are extremely tough, when it comes to cardiovascular standpoint. The amount of mileage that we have to run in such a short period of time, but you also have to tackle and get back up and compete.”

Ebner already has a Super Bowl ring with the Patriots from two seasons ago. His chances of joining former Cowboys wide receiver Bob Hayes in owning a ring and an Olympic gold medal are not strong.

The U.S. men’s rugby team is a medal contender, for sure, but to take gold would be an upset. The Americans were fifth in the World Series standings the last two seasons.

The favorites are Fiji, South Africa and New Zealand.

“We’ve beaten all the top teams ahead of us multiple times this year, just haven’t accrued enough points to be higher than fifth,” Ebner said. “We definitely have the ability to beat the top teams. I wouldn’t say we’re frontrunners at all, because we’re not winning the series, but we’re definitely contenders. Anyone that writes us off, they’re mistaken for sure.”

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World Alpine Skiing Championships on for 2021 after request to delay rejected

Alpine Skiing World Championships
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GENEVA (AP) — A request by the organizers of next year’s skiing world championships in Italy to postpone the event by one year was rejected Thursday by the International Ski Federation.

FIS ruled that the event will go ahead from Feb. 9-21, 2021, in Cortina d’Ampezzo — the highlight of an Alpine season that faces challenges to find safe protocols for international travel and attending races in Europe, North America and China.

The Veneto region of northern Italy was hit hard by the coronavirus and the season-ending World Cup races in Cortina in mid-March were canceled. That week-long event was to be a test for the 2021 worlds.

“The last month of efforts to come to this solution demonstrates the strong collaborative spirit of the ski family and stakeholders.” FIS president Gian-Franco Kasper said.

Organizers in Italy have said they expect losses of about 30 million euros ($34 million) if the worlds are also canceled. They asked for a postponement to March 2022, which would be only weeks after the Beijing Olympics.

“But we will be ready in any case and we will show that these world championships can change the history of a region despite the current difficulties,” Alessandro Benetton, president of the Cortina organizing committee, said in a statement.

Italian racer Sofia Goggia, the 2018 Olympic downhill champion, said she was “happy for Cortina because it will host the first major international event after the coronavirus epidemic.”

Cortina, which hosted the 1956 Olympics, will co-host the 2026 Winter Games with Milan and use the worlds as a showcase for the resort.

The women’s World Cup downhill on the Olympia delle Tofane course each January is one of the most scenic in the sport with a signature jump between tall outcrops of jagged rock.

The Dolomites venue was awarded the 2021 worlds by FIS after missing out as a candidate four straight times from 2013-19.

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Russia track and field athlete clearance frozen due to unpaid fine

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MONACO (AP) — The program allowing Russian track athletes to compete internationally will be frozen because the country’s federation failed to pay a fine on time, World Athletics said Thursday.

The Russian track federation, known as RusAF, owes a $5 million fine and another $1.31 million in costs for various doping-related work and legal wrangles. World Athletics said RusAF missed Wednesday’s deadline to pay.

World Athletics said it would freeze the work of the Doping Review Board, which vets Russian athletes who want the “authorized neutral athlete” status that allows them to compete internationally, and its taskforce monitoring RusAF’s anti-doping reforms.

World Athletics said both bodies will be “put on hold” until its council meets to discuss the situation at the end of July.

“RusAF is letting its athletes down badly,” World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said in a statement. “We have done as much as we can to expedite our ANA process and support RusAF with its reinstatement plan, but seemingly to no avail.”

RusAF president Yevgeny Yurchenko earlier told the Tass state news agency that his federation’s finances were damaged by the coronavirus pandemic and that it had asked for more time to pay.

World Athletics’ statement didn’t directly address that issue, but said Russia hadn’t indicated when it would pay.

Russia was fined $10 million by World Athletics in March, with $5 million suspended for two years, after the federation admitted to breaking anti-doping rules and obstructing an investigation.

The Athletics Integrity Unit said fake documents were used under the previous management to give an athlete an alibi for missing a doping test.

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