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Bob, Mike Bryan had mixed doubles partners lined up before withdrawing from Rio

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NEW YORK — Mike Bryan said he would have played with Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Bob Bryan with either Venus Williams or CoCo Vandeweghe in mixed doubles if the Bryan brothers had not withdrawn from the Rio Olympics.

The Bryans, who teamed to win doubles gold at London 2012, pulled out six days before the Rio Opening Ceremony, saying they would have loved to compete but making their family’s health “our top priority” in a social media statement.

Before coming to the decision, they reached out to other players for advice, including Brazilian doubles specialists Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares.

Bob Bryan said last week that Zika virus concerns were “a very small part of” their decision not to play in Rio. There have been no known Zika cases stemming from the Olympics, according to the World Health Organization.

“I didn’t expect there to be people just getting eaten alive by mosquitoes,” Bob Bryan said at the U.S. Open, where the brothers were scheduled to play in the quarterfinals Tuesday. “I’ve had great reports from players that went there. I’ve had so-so reports. Sometimes it’s based on how you perform that leaves that lasting impression. If you have a good performance, you’re like, oh this is awesome. If you lose in the first round, you’re like, all right, it sucked down there.”

Before the Bryans pulled out, it wasn’t publicly known what the U.S. Olympic mixed doubles teams would be. National federations don’t have to submit proposed teams until during the Games.

Mixed doubles returned to the Olympic program in 2012 for the first time since 1924. In 2012, both Bryans played mixed. Bob Bryan earned bronze with Lisa Raymond, while Mike Bryan lost in the first round with Liezel Huber.

Raymond retired between London and Rio, while Huber did not qualify for this year’s U.S. Olympic team. That swung the door open wider for the Williams sisters to make their Olympic mixed doubles debuts in Rio.

The Bryan brothers and the Williams sisters are two of three duos to complete the career doubles Golden Slam together, along with Australians Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde.

Had the Bryan brothers and Williams sisters played together in Rio, and faced each other like the eventual U.S. mixed teams did (for gold), it would have been the greatest collection of U.S. tennis success playing in one match in history.

The Bryans’ pre-Rio mixed doubles picks were familiar. Mike Bryan and Mattek-Sands won the 2015 French Open. Bob Bryan and Venus Williams reached the 2006 Wimbledon final. Bob Bryan also lost in the 2012 French Open first round with Serena Williams.

U.S. doubles teams were strong in Rio even through the Bryans withdrew and the Williams sisters lost in the first round.

Steve Johnson and Jack Sock took bronze, while Mattek-Sands and Sock beat Venus Williams and Rajeev Ram in the mixed gold-medal match. The U.S. earned zero singles medals.

The Bryans have not ruled out or committed to a run for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which would be their fourth Games. They would each be 42 years old.

“We’re not that sprightly anymore,” Mike Bryan said on SI Now last week. “But doubles, you can keep going. It’s not that physical on the body.”

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World Alpine Skiing Championships on for 2021 after request to delay rejected

Alpine Skiing World Championships
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GENEVA (AP) — A request by the organizers of next year’s skiing world championships in Italy to postpone the event by one year was rejected Thursday by the International Ski Federation.

FIS ruled that the event will go ahead from Feb. 9-21, 2021, in Cortina d’Ampezzo — the highlight of an Alpine season that faces challenges to find safe protocols for international travel and attending races in Europe, North America and China.

The Veneto region of northern Italy was hit hard by the coronavirus and the season-ending World Cup races in Cortina in mid-March were canceled. That week-long event was to be a test for the 2021 worlds.

“The last month of efforts to come to this solution demonstrates the strong collaborative spirit of the ski family and stakeholders.” FIS president Gian-Franco Kasper said.

Organizers in Italy have said they expect losses of about 30 million euros ($34 million) if the worlds are also canceled. They asked for a postponement to March 2022, which would be only weeks after the Beijing Olympics.

“But we will be ready in any case and we will show that these world championships can change the history of a region despite the current difficulties,” Alessandro Benetton, president of the Cortina organizing committee, said in a statement.

Italian racer Sofia Goggia, the 2018 Olympic downhill champion, said she was “happy for Cortina because it will host the first major international event after the coronavirus epidemic.”

Cortina, which hosted the 1956 Olympics, will co-host the 2026 Winter Games with Milan and use the worlds as a showcase for the resort.

The women’s World Cup downhill on the Olympia delle Tofane course each January is one of the most scenic in the sport with a signature jump between tall outcrops of jagged rock.

The Dolomites venue was awarded the 2021 worlds by FIS after missing out as a candidate four straight times from 2013-19.

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Russia track and field athlete clearance frozen due to unpaid fine

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MONACO (AP) — The program allowing Russian track athletes to compete internationally will be frozen because the country’s federation failed to pay a fine on time, World Athletics said Thursday.

The Russian track federation, known as RusAF, owes a $5 million fine and another $1.31 million in costs for various doping-related work and legal wrangles. World Athletics said RusAF missed Wednesday’s deadline to pay.

World Athletics said it would freeze the work of the Doping Review Board, which vets Russian athletes who want the “authorized neutral athlete” status that allows them to compete internationally, and its taskforce monitoring RusAF’s anti-doping reforms.

World Athletics said both bodies will be “put on hold” until its council meets to discuss the situation at the end of July.

“RusAF is letting its athletes down badly,” World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said in a statement. “We have done as much as we can to expedite our ANA process and support RusAF with its reinstatement plan, but seemingly to no avail.”

RusAF president Yevgeny Yurchenko earlier told the Tass state news agency that his federation’s finances were damaged by the coronavirus pandemic and that it had asked for more time to pay.

World Athletics’ statement didn’t directly address that issue, but said Russia hadn’t indicated when it would pay.

Russia was fined $10 million by World Athletics in March, with $5 million suspended for two years, after the federation admitted to breaking anti-doping rules and obstructing an investigation.

The Athletics Integrity Unit said fake documents were used under the previous management to give an athlete an alibi for missing a doping test.

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