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Hope Solo downplays problems in Brazil, complains of U.S. media

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BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil (AP) — Hope Solo is blaming the American media for spreading fear about the Zika virus and other problems ahead of the Rio Games.

Hoping to lead the U.S. to its fourth straight gold medal, Solo had expressed her own concerns before the Olympics.

“We haven’t made it to Rio yet and I have no idea what to expect in Rio, but it’s been beautiful here,” Solo said ahead of Wednesday’s opener against New Zealand, to be played in the same city where the U.S. men upset England in the 1950 World Cup.

“It’s a little bit unfortunate because I think the American media has been really tough on people of Brazil,” Solo said. “I feel a little bit bad because when you come here you learn for yourself. I think that we’ve been very hard on the local people.”

The Americans are trying to win a title for the second straight year following last year’s triumph in the Women’s World Cup. Solo, in her third Olympics, said it seemed problems in Brazil were being blown out of proportion by media in the U.S.

“You look back in 2004 in Greece, and the same thing there, bad publicity surrounding the games, and China as well,” said the 35-year-old from Richland, Washington. “I don’t know why, but we like to sensationalize everything and scare people and then … when the games go on, everything goes on as planned, ends up being a beautiful tournament. And I expect no less here.”

Solo said she expects “everything to be fine” by the time the team gets to Rio despite the widespread concerns related to the games, including Zika, water pollution, security and shoddy construction.

Solo said she came to Brazil well prepared, especially against Zika.

“I actually spoke to three different infectious disease doctors and specialists,” she explained. “I spoke to them on the phone with my husband as well, and we got to a point where we asked enough questions. We prepared ourselves as best as possible and we got to a level of being as comfortable as we possibly can be.

“I’m wearing mosquito repellent just in case, I know the odds are very small but you can never be too safe,” she added. “I’m at a point in my life that I just want to be safe.”

Before traveling to Brazil, Solo posted on Twitter a few photos showing her concerns about Zika, including one of her wearing a hat with mosquito netting that covered her entire head and neck. The image prompted criticism against her in Brazil and caused her to apologize when she arrived in the country.

“I heard that there were some negative responses here in Brazil,” she said. “I never would want to offend the host country. In fact, I’m cheering for Team USA, but besides Team USA, I’m going to be cheering for the host country. I’m very grateful for them for hosting the tournament. Honestly, everybody around here has been so just nice and genuine and it feels very warming to be here.”

Solo has been trying to avoid a trial on misdemeanor domestic violence charges after a 2014 incident at her sister’s home, when the goalkeeper was accused of being intoxicated and assaulting her sister and 17-year-old nephew. Solo said she was a victim in the altercation. Two months ago, an appeals court in Washington state rejected Solo’s request to avoid trial.

MORE: Olympic soccer schedule

Jennifer Valente takes silver in world cycling championship scratch race

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Jennifer Valente won the first medal for the U.S. team in the world track cycling championships Wednesday in Berlin, finishing second behind Dutch cyclist Kirsten Wild in the scratch race.

Wild won the mass-start event for the third time, having taken gold in 2015 and 2018, and her seventh world championship in all track cycling disciplines. She also took silver in the 2016 world championship road race.

Valente also joined Chloé Dygert, Emma White and Lily Williams in women’s team pursuit qualifying, posting the fastest time of the day and easily qualifying for the semifinals on Thursday. The U.S. team has been in transition with the retirement of Sarah Hammer and the death of Kelly Catlin, who committed suicide in March. Hammer, Catlin, Dygert and Valente took silver in the 2016 Olympics.

READ: Dygert aims for road and track double in Tokyo

The Netherlands took two of the three gold medals on Wednesday’s program, beating Britain to win the men’s team sprint. Germany beat Australia to win the women’s team sprint.

READ: Track cycling broadcast and streaming schedule

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Tokyo organizers, IOC going ahead as planned with Olympics

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TOKYO (AP) — A spokesman for the Japanese government on Wednesday said the International Olympic Committee and local organizers are going as planned with the Tokyo Olympics.

The comments from spokesman Yoshihide Suga follow the assertion by IOC veteran Dick Pound that organizers face a three-month window to decide the fate of the Games.

READ: Pound cites time needed to ramp up operations

The Olympics are set to open on July 24 with 11,000 athletes. The Paralympics open Aug. 25 with 4,400.

Also Wednesday, Tokyo organizing committee CEO Toshiro Muto abruptly called a news conference to address Pound’s comments.

“Our basic thoughts are that we will go ahead with the Olympic and Paralympic Games as scheduled,” Muto said, speaking in Japanese. “For the time being, the situation of the coronavirus infection is, admittedly, difficult to predict, but we will take measures such that we’ll have a safe Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

Muto added: ““That the end of May is the time limit, we have never thought of this or heard of such a comment. So when we asked about this, we received a response saying that is not the position of the IOC.”

Muto also allowed for the possibility of downsizing the Olympic torch relay but insisted it will not be canceled.

Pound told the Associated Press that the fast-spreading virus could cancel the Olympics. Suga says Pound’s opinion does not reflect the official view of the IOC, which has repeatedly said there are no plans to cancel or postpone the Tokyo Games.

“With regard to this member’s comment, the IOC has responded that this is not their official position, and that IOC is proceeding with preparations toward the games as scheduled,” Suga said, speaking in Japanese at his daily news conference.

Pound is a former IOC vice-president and a member since 1978, and was the founding president of the World Anti-Doping Agency.

He also represented Canada as a swimmer at the Olympics.

In a telephone interview from Montreal, Pound said the IOC has a three-month window to decide, and suggested other options like moving events of postponing seemed less likely.

“In and around that time,” he said, “I’d say folks are going to have to ask: ‘Is this under sufficient control that we can be confident about going to Tokyo or now?”‘

If the IOC decides the games cannot go forward as scheduled in Tokyo, “you’re probably looking at a cancellation,” said Pound, who added that he was not commenting on behalf of the IOC.

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