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Potter survives cancer, broken neck to inspire USA rugby’s thrilling run

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The United States women’s rugby sevens team inspired with its tenacity and defense this weekend, serving notice to the world powers that the Americans could play with anyone.

That Team USA’s mentality would be so strong is little surprise given the inspiration of Jillion Potter.

The 30-year-old Colorado native has dealt with a pair of things that have waylaid many a dream: Stage III cancer and a broken neck.

The U.S. advanced to the quarterfinals of the Olympics and could’ve gone even farther, nearly knocking off powerful New Zealand (hours after tying Australia). The team showed a offense-limiting structure when the opposition had the ball and electric counterattacking and intercepting runs that thrilled fans.

A Denver Post article by John Meyer speaks directly with Potter about her harrowing journey to the world stage, but perhaps the most telling quote comes from her wife, who spoke of the first days of Potter’s cancer treatment.

From the Denver Post:

“He’s usually very sympathetic, but he said, ‘Carol, when things are at their worst, you have to be at your best,’ ” Fabrizio said, sharing the story to make a point about Potter’s strength. “It kind of jarred me, and I actually was mad at him a little bit. I thought, ‘Thanks for the support.’ But then Jill showed me what that meant. The whole time she was sick, you could call that her worst, but it wasn’t. She was at her best every step of the way.”

The U.S. can still finish as high as fifth if it can get revenge on Fiji at 1:30 p.m. ET and then beat the winner of Spain vs. France.

Gregorio Paltrinieri swims second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history

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Olympic champion Gregorio Paltrinieri swam the second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history, clocking 14:33.10 in his native Italy on Thursday.

Paltrinieri, 25, missed Chinese Sun Yang‘s world record from the 2012 Olympics by 2.08 seconds.

The Italian now owns the second- and third-fastest times in history, including his 14:34.10 from the 2016 European Championships, also held at the 2012 Olympic pool in London.

Paltrinieri is a versatile distance swimmer. At last year’s world championships, he finished sixth in the open-water 10km to qualify for the Olympics, then won the 800m free in the pool in a European record time and finished with 1500m bronze, just missing a third straight world title in that event.

German Florian Wellbrock won the 1500m in 14:36.54 at worlds, with Paltrinieri finishing 2.21 seconds back.

Sun, 28, was in February banned eight years stemming from destroying a drug-test sample with a hammer in September 2018. Sun, who focused more on the 200m and 400m frees in recent years, did not race the 1500m at the 2017 or 2019 Worlds.

Top-level swim meets in the U.S. are scheduled to resume in November with the Tyr Pro Series.

MORE: Michael Phelps qualifies for first Olympics at age 15

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Bianca Andreescu to miss U.S. Open

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Bianca Andreescu withdrew from the U.S. Open, citing “unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic” compromising her ability to prepare to defend her Grand Slam title.

“I have taken this step in order to focus on my match fitness and ensure that I return ready to play at my highest level,” Andreescu, a 20-year-old Canadian, posted on social media. “The US Open victory last year has been the high point of my career thus far and I will miss not being there. However, I realize that the unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic, have compromised my ability to prepare and compete to the degree necessary to play at my highest level.”

Andreescu’s absence means the U.S. Open, the first Grand Slam tournament since tennis resumed amid the coronavirus pandemic, will be without both 2019 male and female singles champions.

Rafael Nadal previously announced he would not defend his title, saying he would rather not travel given the global situation. Roger Federer is also out after knee surgery. Women’s No. 1 Ash Barty didn’t enter, either, citing travel concerns.

Last year, Andreescu made her U.S. Open title run as the 15th seed, sweeping Serena Williams in the final. Ranked 208th a year earlier, she became the first player born in the 2000s to win a Slam and the first teen Slam winner since Maria Sharapova at the 2006 U.S. Open.

Andreescu then missed the Australian Open in January due to rehab from a knee injury that forced her to retire during a match at the WTA Finals on Oct. 30. She also missed the French Open and Wimbledon in 2019 following a rotator cuff tear.

MORE: Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis competition

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