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Solo, Team USA edge France, qualify for Olympic knockout rounds

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Maybe those Zika chants are giving Hope Solo strength.

Solo was magnificent again between the posts, and Carli Lloyd scored a second half goal to lead Team USA past France 1-0 on Saturday at the Mineirão in Belo Horizonte.

The crowd continued to amplify her goal kicks with “Zi-ka” chants, but Solo was again unbeatable in her 200th international start. She’s the first goalkeeper to reach that landmark.

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Both France and the U.S. took a step up in competition following opening wins over Colombia and New Zealand, respectively.

The win guarantees that the Yanks will finish no worse than second in their group regardless of how they fare against Colombia. New Zealand and Colombia square off later Saturday.

The Yanks pulled ahead in the 64th minute, as Tobin Heath’s near post shot was saved onto the post by France ‘keeper Sarah Bouhaddi, and Lloyd tapped home the rebound.

Whitney Engen entered the fold for an injured Julie Johnston, tasked with helping to hold down France’s dangerous attack.

Solo started her afternoon by tipping a Wendie Renard header off the bar and out for a corner in the 16th minute. With three decent chances to tap the ball in off the ensuing corner, France came away with a trio of flubs.

France worked well as the game neared the half-hour mark, winning a series of corners that eventually concluded with Solo collecting a floated cross and the USWNT building out of the back.

BELO HORIZONTE, BRAZIL - AUGUST 06: Alex Morgan of United States battles for the ball against Wendie Renard of FraFrance during the Women's Group F first round match between United States and France during Day 1 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Mineirao Stadium on August 6, 2016 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. (Photo by Pedro Vilela/Getty Images)
(Photo by Pedro Vilela/Getty Images)

Carli Lloyd won a dead-center free kick in the 29th minute, barely over 20 yards away from goal. Tobin Heath had a nice offering tipped over the bar, but it was ruled a goal kick.

Heath had another free kick in the 35th, but her arrow of a pass sailed wide of the far post as the attackers were closer to the center of goal.

Solo made a strong low save on a French counter, as the game moved toward halftime.

The ‘keeper was the star of the second half as well, especially when French desperation reared its head after Lloyd’s goal.

Richard Callaghan, figure skating coach, banned for life

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Richard Callaghan, a figure skating coach best known for helping Tara Lipinski earn 1998 Olympic gold, was ruled permanently ineligible for violations including sexual misconduct involving a minor.

Callaghan can still appeal the sexual misconduct violation, according to the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a watchdog for U.S. Olympic sports organizations that updated Callaghan’s status Wednesday.

He was first suspended in March 2018 pending an investigation into allegations first made against him more than 20 years ago.

Earlier this month, another former skater, Adam Schmidt, said in a lawsuit that he was sexually molested as a teenager by Callaghan starting in 1999.

Callaghan was previously accused of sexual misconduct in April 1999 by Craig Maurizi, one of his former students and later an assistant to him in San Diego and Detroit.

Maurizi told The New York Times that Callaghan had engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with him beginning when he was 15 years old. The alleged misconduct had begun nearly 20 years earlier. Callaghan denied the allegations.

In March 2018, Callaghan told ABC News: “That’s 19 or 20 years ago. I have nothing to say.”

Maurizi’s previous grievance against Callaghan with the U.S. Figure Skating Association, the precursor to U.S. Figure Skating, was dismissed on procedural grounds.

He was Callaghan’s assistant at the Detroit Skating Club until they split after Lipinski turned pro, left Callaghan and decided to train with Maurizi.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Pita Taufatofua, Tonga flag bearer, finishes last in kayak debut

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Pita Taufatofua, the Tonga Olympic flag bearer who went viral in Rio and PyeongChang, began his quest to make a third straight Olympics in a third different sport with a last-place finish in his opening-round heat at the world sprint kayak championships in Hungary on Wednesday.

The start of the heat appeared delayed as Taufatofua struggled to get his kayak into position in the water. He was left at the start as the other six kayakers raced out and finished between 33 and 40 seconds. Taufatofua took 58.19 seconds, the slowest of 53 finishers among seven total heats.

“Well that was slightly better than the first time I competed in Taekwondo or skiing,” was tweeted from Taufatofua’s account. “Would have liked to start facing the right way but that’s life.”

Taufatofua, 35, was the oldest athlete in the heat by nearly a decade. He is also entered in doubles races with Tonga canoe federation president Malakai Ahokava with heats Thursday and Friday.

Taufatofua hopes to compete at the Tokyo Olympics in taekwondo, where he competed in Rio, and in sprint kayak.

But he hasn’t competed in taekwondo in three years and just started training kayak this spring. At worlds, Taufatofua told the BBC he is still having trouble staying afloat in the water.

Taufatofua said in announcing the new sport in April that it would be “largely impossible” to qualify for Tokyo. He could be the first athlete to compete in a different sport in three straight Olympics (Summer and Winter) since the Winter Games began in 1924, according to the OlyMADMen.

“It’s certainly going to be the greatest challenge that I’ve ever had to embark on,” he said then.

Taufatofua’s results at worlds this week has little bearing on his Olympic qualifying prospects. Rather, he just needed to compete in Hungary to stay eligible for the Olympics.

The key will be an Oceania qualifying event early next year, where one Olympic bid is available. He will likely have to beat the best kayakers from Australia and New Zealand to grab it. Australian Stephen Bird placed eighth at the Rio Olympics and 11th at the 2018 World Championships.

If Taufatofua fails, he could receive a special tripartite invitation sometimes offered to smaller nations like Tonga.

Taufatofua became a social-media celebrity by marching into the Rio Olympic Opening Ceremony shirtless and oiled up. He then lost in the first round via mercy rule in his taekwondo tournament.

He made a quixotic bid for the PyeongChang Winter Games in cross-country skiing — and accomplished the feat, barely, in a sport that has lenient qualifying requirements for nations with a lack of Winter Games depth.

Taufatofua finished 114th out of 116 in his 15km Olympic cross-country skiing race, nearly 23 minutes behind the winner.

If Taufatofua is able to carry the Tongan flag at a third Opening Ceremony, he will definitely be shirtless again, in a similar outfit to what he wore in Rio and PyeongChang, he said last year.

MORE: Five-time Olympic kayak medalist banned four years

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