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Wrestling: Historic Olympic victory for Maroulis came with stunning dietary discipline

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We learn a lot about sacrifices made by athletes in pursuit of Olympic glory, and new gold medalist Helen Maroulis may take the cake.

Mostly because she hasn’t taken the cake.

Maroulis, 24, beat dominant Japanese legend Saori Yoshida on Thursday to win the first U.S. women’s wrestling Olympic gold in history.

WATCH: Maroulis defeats Yoshida

NBC’s Nick Zaccardi wrote an fascinating post on what she needed to do to get there following a change in Olympic weight divisions.

Her “walking-around weight” is 130 pounds, and she wrestled at 121. But new Olympic rules forced her to keep an extra five pounds off for competition. Her strict diet, given the caliber of athlete and nutritional demands, was insane.

From NBCOlympics:

Chicken. Spinach. Some avocado. Measuring everything out. No dressings. Peanut butter was her treat.

“And I don’t even like peanut butter,” she said.

Maroulis skipped the traditional Christmas dinner.

“With wrestling, it’s two hours a day, four hours a day. … Hard practices, and then I’d be like, OK, I have to make sure I don’t eat anything I’m not supposed to for the next six hours, before I go to sleep,” she said. “And then I have to wake up and do it all over again.”

Read the rest of the article for an increased appreciation of her dedication, which included traveling to Japan to train with the best wrestlers in the world. Great writing by Zaccardi.

World champion wins doping case citing bodily fluids from boyfriend

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — A world champion canoeist won a doping case Monday after persuading a tribunal that her positive test was caused by bodily fluid contamination from her boyfriend.

The International Canoe Federation (ICF) ended its investigation into 11-time world champion Laurence Vincent Lapointe, who tested positive for a steroid-like substance in July. She faced a four-year ban and could have missed her event’s Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games.

The Canadian canoe sprint racer and her lawyer detailed in a news program that laboratory analysis of hair from her then-boyfriend showed he was likely responsible for a tiny presence of ligandrol in her doping sample.

“The ICF has accepted Ms. Vincent Lapointe’s evidence which supports that she was the victim of third-party contamination,” the governing body said in a statement, clearing her to return to competition.

The legal debate is similar to tennis player Richard Gasquet’s 2009 acquittal in the “cocaine kiss” case. The Court of Arbitration for Sport accepted Gasquet’s defense that kissing a woman who had taken cocaine in a Miami nightclub, after he had withdrawn injured from a tournament, caused his positive test.

The 27-year-old Vincent Lapointe was provisionally suspended for almost six months and missed the 2019 World Championships, which was a key qualifying event for the Tokyo Olympics. American 17-year-old Nevin Harrison won the 200m world title in her absence.

She can still qualify for the Olympic debut of women’s canoe sprint events with victory at a World Cup event in May in Germany.

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U.S. women’s soccer team begins Olympic qualifying, which should rest on one match

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The U.S. women’s soccer team has never been in danger in Olympic qualifying, but that doesn’t change this fact: It must win on Feb. 7 to reach the Tokyo Games.

The CONCACAF tournament begins Tuesday in Houston, where the world champion Americans face world No. 72 Haiti. The last two group games are against No. 68 Panama on Friday and No. 37 Costa Rica on Feb. 3. The top two nations from the group advance to Feb. 7 semifinals.

The U.S. roster, with 18 of its 20 players coming from the 2019 World Cup team, is here.

Since CONCACAF qualifies two nations to the Olympics, the semifinals are the deciding games.

Should the U.S. win its group, it would face the runner-up from the other group in a winner-goes-to-Tokyo match. The other group (world ranking):

Canada (8)
Mexico (37)
Jamaica (53)
St. Kitts and Nevis (127)

Chaos could result in the unlikely event that either the U.S. or Canada finishes second in its group, and the two North American powers play a semifinal.

The U.S. is undefeated in Olympic qualifying history, since the tournament format began in 2004 — 15-0 with a goal differential of 88-1 (not counting matches played once they’ve already clinched qualification). The lone goal allowed came in a group-stage match in 2008, when the U.S. was already assured a spot in the semifinals.

Still, the U.S. knows the feeling of one poor outing in an important match. In 2010, it lost to Mexico in a winner-to-the-World Cup match. The U.S. was forced to win a last-chance, home-and-home playoff against a UEFA team — Italy — for the last spot in the World Cup.

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