Sam Willoughby
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Sam Willoughby: No movement from chest down since training accident

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BMX rider Sam Willoughby has been hospitalized with a severely compressed spinal cord since a training accident on Sept. 10.

He has had no movement from his chest down, according to a statement released by his family on Thursday, but he has regained the use of his arms and is slowly regaining sensation in his legs.

The 25-year-old Australian was injured while training in Chula Vista, Calif. He was airlifted to a hospital, where he underwent an operation after doctors discovered that he sustained fractures in his C6 and C7 vertebrae.

Willoughby, a 2012 Olympic silver medalist, is engaged to U.S. BMX rider Alise Post, a 2016 Olympic silver medalist. They are scheduled to get married next year.

“We are in the midst of planning our wedding for next year and one of Sam’s goals is to do everything in his power to walk me down that aisle side-by-side as husband and wife, surrounded by his beautiful loved ones, and ready to celebrate a beautiful future with each and every one of you on this journey with him,” Post said yesterday to Australian media outlet The Advertiser.

Post and Willoughby’s parents have set up a website, Road2Recovery.com, for financial assistance and medical updates.

MORE: Alise Post, Sam Willoughby take tear-filled road to Rio together

Beach volleyball player’s dog becomes social media sensation

Mathias Berntsen
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Norwegian beach volleyball player Mathias Berntsen‘s dog, Kiara, captivated social media this weekend.

A video of Kiara peppering with Berntsen and a pair across the net on a grass field spread from Berntsen’s Instagram across platforms. Kiara now has 12,000 Instagram followers, more than twice the total of Berntsen.

Berntsen, 24, is one half of Norway’s second-best beach volleyball team.

He and partner Hendrik Mol are ranked 45th in the world and well outside the Tokyo Olympic picture (24 teams go to the Games), but could get in the mix depending on how qualification is amended once sports resume.

Berntsen and his cousin Mol are part of a group called the Beach Volley Vikings. Mol’s younger brother, Anders, and family friend Christian Sorum are the world’s top-ranked team (profiled here).

MORE: Beach volleyball players fly to Australia, learn event is canceled

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FIFA rules on Olympic men’s soccer tournament age eligibility

Gabriel Jesus
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For the first time since 1988, some 24-year-olds will be eligible for the Olympic men’s soccer tournament without using an over-age exception.

FIFA announced Friday that it will use the same age eligibility criteria for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 that it intended to use in 2020 — that players born on or after Jan. 1, 1997 are eligible, plus three over-age exceptions. FIFA chose not to move the birthdate deadline back a year after the Olympics were postponed by one year.

Olympic men’s soccer tournaments have been U-23 events — save those exceptions — since the 1992 Barcelona Games. In 1984 and 1988, restrictions kept European and South American players with World Cup experience ineligible. Before that, professionals weren’t allowed at all.

Fourteen of the 16 men’s soccer teams already qualified for the Games using players from under-23 national teams. The last two spots are to be filled by CONCACAF nations, potentially the U.S. qualifying a men’s team for the first time since 2008.

The U.S.’ biggest star, Christian Pulisic, and French superstar Kylian Mbappe were both born in 1998 and thus would have been under the age limit even if FIFA moved the deadline to Jan. 1, 1998.

Perhaps the most high-profile player affected by FIFA’s decision is Brazilian forward Gabriel Jesus. The Manchester City star was born April 3, 1997, and thus would have become an over-age exception if FIFA pushed the birthdate rule back a year.

Instead, Brazil could name him to the Olympic team and still keep all of its over-age exceptions.

However, players need permission from their professional club teams to play in the Olympics, often limiting the availability of stars.

MORE: Noah Lyles details training near woods, dog walkers

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