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‘Beautiful’ beach volleyball arena opens on Copacabana Beach

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The beach volleyball venue on famed Copacabana Beach in Rio is open and ready to host the thousands of fans that are sure to make the arena among the most vibrant of the 2016 Olympics.

The temporary 12,000-seat stadium began allowing teams to train on Tuesday, after FIVB President Ary S. Graca toured the facilities on Monday.

“I have no doubt that this will be the most beautiful arena of the Olympics,” said Graca, a native Brazilian. “I’m impressed. It is very important to ensure the best conditions for athletes, officials, TV, press and public. All the training courts are inside the complex.”

The venue was the first of the Rio Olympics to be sold out. All four Brazilian teams – two men’s and two women’s pairs – are expected to contend for medals with stiff competition from Americans. Since the sport joined the Olympics at the 1996 Atlanta Games, Brazil has won the most medals, with 11 compared to nine for the U.S. Yet, Americans have captured six gold medals compared to two for Brazilians.

Beach volleyball typically boasts one of the most scenic venues at each Olympics – especially Sydney and London – and Rio might contend for the best ever.

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RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JULY 25: Work continues on the Olympic Beach Volleyball Arena on Copacabana beach in preparation for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games on July 25, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Michael Heiman/Getty Images)
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RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JULY 25: Work continues on the Olympic Beach Volleyball Arena on Copacabana beach in preparation for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games on July 25, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Michael Heiman/Getty Images)
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Weekend Gymnastics Roundup: Carey and McCusker on World Cup podium

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World medalists Jade Carey and Riley McCusker headlined gymnastics action over the weekend as the World Cup circuit continued with an all-around competition in Birmingham, England, and an apparatus event in Doha, Qatar.

Carey won both the vault and floor events in Doha, pushing her to the top of the standings on both apparatus (she also won the vault and floor competitions the previous weekend at the World Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan).

Doha marked the halfway point of apparatus World Cups, putting Carey in a promising position to qualify for the Tokyo Games heading into the next four events. The apparatus World Cup series includes a total of eight competitions spread over two seasons, and one gymnast per apparatus will qualify for the Olympics based on his or her top three results across the eight events.

Carey, 18, was the 2017 world silver medalist on vault and floor. But she opted not to try for a spot on the 2018 World Championships team due to the International Gymnastics Federation’s rules that active team members who help their countries qualify team spots for Tokyo (as the U.S. women did in November) cannot earn individual spots. Carey, an apparatus specialist rather than an all-around gymnast, chose the World Cup route to keep open her options of qualifying individually.

McCusker, who was part of the U.S. team that won the world title last year, finished second at the all-around World Cup in Birmingham, posting the top scores on the uneven bars and floor. Russia’s Aliya Mustafina, a seven-time Olympic medalist, won the event. Mustafina bounced back from a shaky showing last weekend at the World Cup in Stuttgart, where she finished fifth in an event won by Simone Biles. Mustafina, 24, is trying to qualify for her third Olympics after giving birth to daughter Alisa in June 2017.

The all-around World Cup circuit continues on April 7 in Tokyo, Japan, where two-time world all-around medalist Morgan Hurd and two-time Olympian Sam Mikulak are expected to compete.

First Olympic women’s aerials champion Cheryazova dies at 50

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MOSCOW — Lina Cheryazova, the first woman to win an Olympic aerials skiing gold medal, has died. She was 50.

Officials in the Russian city of Novosibirsk, where Cheryazova was living for the last two decades, said she died “following a lengthy illness,” without giving further details.

Competing for Uzbekistan, Cheryazova won gold with a triple flip when aerials skiing debuted on the Olympic program in 1994 in Lillehammer.

Shortly after winning, she learned her mother died three weeks before.

Cheryazova’s career was derailed later that year when she suffered a serious head injury while training in the United States, and spent days in a coma. She retired after failing to qualify for the 1998 Winter Olympics.