Courtesy of USA Bobsled

Converted sprinter Ryan Bailey wins bobsled national title

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Sprinter Ryan Bailey proved that he is not just fast on the track, winning the men’s push athlete title at the USA Bobsled National Push Championships in Calgary on Wednesday.

Bailey, who finished fifth in the London Olympic 100m and anchored the 2012 U.S. 4x100m relay team, is just weeks into his bobsled career.

“I didn’t know what to think coming into this competition,” Bailey said to USA Bobsled. “To actually win the first year, it’s a pretty good feeling.”

Nick Cunningham, who represented the U.S. in bobsled at the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics, was impressed by watching Bailey in Calgary.

“Ryan has progressed extremely quickly,” Cunningham said to NBC OlympicTalk. “He has a medal-filled future if he sticks with the sport.”

Bailey’s performance puts him in a good position to make the U.S. team for the 2016-17 World Cup season, which begins the last weekend of November.

His goal is to make the 2018 Olympic team. He would be following in the footsteps of Lolo Jones and Lauryn Williams, who both competed at the 2014 Winter Olympics after competing at a Summer Olympics as a sprinter. The last male Summer Olympian to make a U.S. Olympic bobsled team was Willie Davenport in 1980.

“To get a chance to compete in the Winter Olympics would be amazing,” Bailey said. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would be possible, so getting this chance is mind blowing.”

Bailey was expected to compete against Tyson Gay, the American 100m record holder. Gay arrived in Calgary on Monday, but after meeting with the coaching staff, decided not to compete today. Gay, who has pushed a sled no more than 10 times, watched the competition and is expected to continue training with the team. He could still enter the combination pushes on Friday or Saturday.

Another former sprinter, 56-year-old Willie Gault, nearly competed in Calgary (his name has been erased in the scoreboard below between Brent Fogt and Nathan Gilsleider). Gault, who played wide receiver for the Chicago Bears and the Los Angeles Raiders, has been assisting the USA Bobsled coaching staff with recruiting. He flew to Calgary on Tuesday and considered competing, but decided against it Wednesday morning.

Two-time Olympic medalist Elana Meyers Taylor won the women’s driver title. 2010 Olympic gold medalist Justin Olson won the men’s pilot title, and Aja Evans won the women’s push title after a two-year hiatus from the sport.

MORE: Johnny Quinn leaves door open for bobsled return

Justin Morneau nixes Olympic baseball qualifying return

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Justin Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP with the Minnesota Twins, was taken off Canada’s Olympic baseball qualifying roster before he would have played his first competitive game in more than two years.

Morneau, 38, experienced an unspecified setback in training and was replaced on Canada’s roster for next month’s Premier12. The global tournament marks the first opportunity for many world baseball powers to qualify for the sport’s return to the Olympics.

Morneau never played in the Olympics before baseball was cut from the Games after 2008; active MLB players have never competed in the Games. But he was on Canada’s roster at all four World Baseball Classics from 2006 through 2017.

At November’s Premier12, the top nation from North and South America will qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. Japan and Israel are already qualified. Those that do not qualify will get another chance next year.

Morneau could become the second Major League Baseball MVP to play Olympic baseball as a medal sport. The other was Jason Giambi, who made the U.S. team in 1992, the same summer he was drafted in the second round by the Oakland Athletics.

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MORE: Joe Girardi replaced as U.S. baseball manager by World Series champion

Kolohe Andino is first U.S. Olympic surfing qualifier; Kelly Slater faces last chance

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Kolohe Andino is the first American to qualify for surfing’s Olympic debut, which leaves one spot left for 47-year-old Kelly Slater to chase at the final contest of the season.

Andino, a 25-year-old Californian whose first name means “rascal” in Hawaiian, clinched his place in Tokyo on Friday at the penultimate stop on the World Surf League Championship Tour in Portugal. He is ranked fifth in the world, trailing a trio of Brazilians.

One more American man will join Andino on the Olympic team. It will be one of Slater, the 11-time world champion, John John Florence, the 2016 and 2017 World champion, and rising 22-year-old Hawaiian Seth Moniz.

Slater was handed a golden opportunity to qualify when Florence announced in early July that he tore an ACL for the second time in 13 months. Florence had won two of the first five events this season.

Slater has been chasing the sidelined Florence in the standings ever since. But it has not been easy.

Slater hasn’t made the quarterfinals in any of his last seven contests going into December’s finale — the prestigious Billabong Pipeline Masters on the North Shore of Oahu.

“Ninth place, to me, used to be a pretty awful result. I’m used to at least a quarterfinal on for most of my career,” he said in July, noting a back injury. “I’m not horrified by my results, but I’m also not surprised. Maybe other people are because everyone focuses on my age and that kind of thing. It’s not like I’m going to all of a sudden forget how to do this thing, you know?”

Slater, who won the Pipe Masters seven times between 1992 and 2013, must reach the quarterfinals at this year’s event to have any chance of passing Florence to qualify for the Olympics.

Complicating matters: Florence said in August it was his “goal to get better for Pipeline in case I have to come back and compete and gain points,” according to ESPN.com. If Florence does return for the December contest, and makes the quarterfinals, Slater could only pass him with a victory.

Moniz goes into the finale ranked one spot behind Slater, meaning he, too, can grab that second and final Olympic spot with a win or a runner-up.

Slater, who turns 48 on Feb. 11, would be the oldest U.S. Summer Olympic rookie competitor in a sport other than equestrian, sailing or shooting (or art competitions!) in the last 100 years, supplanting Martina Navratilova, according to the OlyMADMen.

MORE: Top U.S. surfer has links to Egg McMuffin, Guinness World Record holder

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