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Los Angeles 2024 bid to discuss Donald Trump election at Olympic meeting

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DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Donald Trump‘s victory in the U.S. presidential election looms over the race for the 2024 Summer Games as the three bid cities prepare to make their first presentations to a key gathering of global Olympic officials.

With 10 months before the vote, bid leaders from Los Angeles, Paris and Budapest, Hungary, have traveled to Doha to pitch their case to the general assembly of the Association of National Olympic Committees – a meeting attended by more than 1,000 delegates from around the world.

The Los Angeles bid team may have the most at stake in Tuesday’s 20-minute presentations, which will occur exactly a week after Trump’s election victory over Hillary Clinton. Trump’s comments during the campaign about Muslims and Mexicans and his foreign policy plans could hurt the U.S. city’s standing with some of the IOC’s 98 members, who represent a wide range of countries and cultural and religious backgrounds.

Los Angeles bid leader Casey Wasserman, who was a prominent Clinton supporter, said his group has already been in contact with members of Trump’s transition team.

“My personal support of Clinton isn’t an indictment of president-elect Trump’s ability to support our effort,” Wasserman told The Associated Press. “We’re fully confident that he will be an enthusiastic supporter of the Olympics and our bid.”

“Having said that, I think the Olympics are at its best when they rise above politics,” he added. “It has the ability to unite people. Our bid isn’t a political bid. It’s a private bid with political support. We are privately funded and privately operated. We are one step removed from the politics and the ups and downs of politics.”

While details have been kept secret, the Los Angeles presentation – which includes Mayor Eric Garcetti, a Democrat – is likely to deal head-on with the U.S. election result and seek to reassure Olympic officials that the bid represents openness, diversity and inclusiveness.

“We’re not going to pretend like there wasn’t an election but we’re not going to be defensive about it,” Wasserman said. “I think there are some things we’re going to say that will surprise some people.”

Perhaps as a contrast to Trump’s image, the bid team selected sprint star Allyson Felix, a Los Angeles-born African-American athlete who has won six Olympic gold medals and three silvers – as one of its key speakers for the presentation. Felix won two relay gold medals and a silver medal in the 400 meters in Rio de Janeiro in August.

“She’s born, bred, raised and developed in Los Angeles. She’s a hometown girl,” Wasserman said. “I can’t think of anybody better to tell our story.”

The Doha audience will include officials from 205 national Olympic committees, dozens of international sports federations and, most importantly, dozens of members of the International Olympic Committee, which will vote on the host city next September in Lima, Peru.

Under tighter IOC rules, these are the first of only three presentations during the two-year bid race. The second will be at a private technical briefing for IOC members in Switzerland in July, and the third will be the final presentations on the day of the vote in Lima.

Whether Trump will be part of the Los Angeles bid team in Lima remains to be seen.

President Barack Obama went to Copenhagen in 2009 to speak on behalf of Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Olympics, but his appearance didn’t help as the city went out in the first round of an election won by Rio de Janeiro.

“We’re getting way ahead of the game,” Wasserman said. “We’re going to make the right judgment at the right time for our bid.”

Paris and Los Angeles, which have each held the Olympics twice, have been viewed as close front-runners in the 2024 race. Paris last held the games in 1924, with Los Angeles hosting in 1984.

Paris bid leaders said they plan to use Tuesday’s presentation – which includes Mayor Anne Hidalgo and two-time Olympic judo champion Teddy Riner – to announce plans for collaboration with national Olympic committees.

“We are feeling the excitement,” Paris bid co-chairman and three-time Olympic canoeing gold medalist Tony Estanguet said Monday. “I feel like an athlete. I feel the adrenaline.”

Like Los Angeles, the Paris bid could be influenced by a presidential election. Far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen is among the contenders in next spring’s French presidential race.

Estanguet downplayed any concerns over a potential Le Pen victory, saying the bid has support across the political spectrum in France. He said France was also working hard to guarantee security following a spate of deadly attacks in the country.

“It can happen anywhere in the world, but we have a strong base and lots of experience in security,” he said.

Budapest, meanwhile, is expected to portray itself as the right-sized, affordable alternative from central Europe.

“Holding the Olympic Games in Budapest would help to pave the way for a greater range of mid-sized cities to host the games, in addition to the larger capitals and mega cities that have hosted the games in recent times,” bid chairman Balazs Furjes said.

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MyKayla Skinner’s motivation for Tokyo: her Rio Olympic experience

MyKayla Skinner
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MyKayla Skinner remembers the little room at the SAP Center in San Jose. She remembers the wait, somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes.

After the 2016 U.S. Olympic Women’s Gymnastics Trials, the competitors (14 total performed) assembled while a selection committee convened in another space.

The committee finalized the five-woman Olympic team (plus three alternates), marched into the athletes’ room and delivered the verdict.

“They say the first four names, and then there’s that one spot left,” Skinner recalled. “I’m like, is it going to be me? You’re so tense just waiting there. All of us holding each other’s hands in the room. We’re all sitting there. It’s just, like, frozen dead silent. Then they say that fifth spot.”

Skinner doesn’t remember who was the fifth name. Just that it wasn’t her.

“I just broke down crying,” she said in a recent interview. “All that hard work I put in still wasn’t good enough. Even though it was. It’s just who they needed for the team.”

Skinner placed fourth in the all-around at those Olympic Trials, the highest finisher who was not named to the Olympic team. She was one of three alternates. If the Olympic team was chosen by all-around standings, a selection committee would not be necessary. Instead, gymnasts are puzzle pieces, chosen as who best fits the Olympic format: three gymnasts per apparatus in the team final and up to two per nation per individual final.

Skinner’s mind raced while she waited for the committee’s decision. She eventually settled on a gut feeling, that she would not make the team.

“I thought that it should be enough, but at the same I didn’t think that it would be,” said Lisa Spini, Skinner’s coach at Desert Lights Gymnastics in Chandler, Arizona. “I thought the team was already decided before the Olympic Trials.”

Spini said it was her toughest night as a gymnastics coach.

“Being an alternate is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in gymnastics,” said Skinner, who traveled to Brazil and, with fellow alternates Ashton Locklear and Ragan Smith, trained separately from the Olympic team. “The whole time I was in Rio, I probably cried every single night

“The Olympics should be something so special, but I feel like it was definitely miserable at times. It was really hard to enjoy being an alternate. With this comeback, that has pushed me so hard just because I was so close.”

You may have read about Skinner back in the spring, after the Tokyo Olympics were postponed to 2021.

It’s a devastating delay for a female gymnast, whose peak often lasts for one Olympic cycle (sometimes even shorter). Skinner is an exception, excelling for the better part of a decade on different levels.

She made her first world championships team in 2014. After Rio, she matriculated at the University of Utah, where she was twice an NCAA all-around runner-up and hit an NCAA record 161 straight routines without a fall. In 2019, she decided to come back to international competition — for an Olympic run — with one year left of NCAA gymnastics.

She is 23, the oldest of the 16-woman U.S. national team. She is trying to become the oldest woman to make a U.S. Olympic gymnastics team since 2004. And the first with NCAA experience to do so since Alicia Sacramone in 2008.

“The reason why a lot of college gymnasts couldn’t come back and do it is they’ve been so injured over the years,” Spini said. “Their body wouldn’t hold up. She’s been really lucky that way.”

Skinner could have easily followed the path of so many other stars who signaled the end of an elite career by going to college, where training and routines are less demanding.

She questioned herself often after the Tokyo postponement whether it was worth it to return to elite training. The Olympic team event roster size has been cut from five to four. Simone Biles is an overwhelming favorite to earn one spot. In the face of those odds, Skinner can’t shake a memory from Rio.

“I just go back to the moment of when I was sitting in the stands,” watching the Final Five earn gold, Skinner said. “I was so close to making the team. This has been my dream ever since I went to Desert Lights when I was 12.”

Skinner’s comeback is already a success. Last year, on three months of elite training, she placed eighth at the U.S. Championships. She was convinced to accept an invitation to the world championships selection camp, where six women would make the traveling team (one later named an alternate).

Like in 2016, Skinner placed fourth in the all-around competition before the roster was chosen.

Again, the gymnasts gathered for the announcement. This time, Skinner made the cut as the sixth woman named. Biles, the other 20-something at the camp and a friend, jumped in excitement.

The team traveled to Germany in late September. After training, one woman had to be designated the alternate. High performance team coordinator Tom Forster took Skinner aside one day on the way to lunch. She knew what was coming and broke down in tears, flashing back to 2016.

“Simone was like, hey, let’s go to the bathroom. She helped talk me through it and helped me calm down and definitely made me a feel a lot better,” said Skinner, who supported Biles and the U.S. team that competed in Stuttgart. She then wed Jonas Harmer in November and decided what must be done to make the Olympic team.

“We’re going to try to add in some big skills, which will put her difficulty level, probably, second only to Simone,” Spini said.

Skinner is documenting her last year-plus in elite gymnastics on a YouTube channel with 29,000 subscribers. She has been fortunate during the coronavirus pandemic to train at her gym if no more than 10 people were present. Many other gymnasts — and athletes across Olympic sports — spent weeks or months out of their facilities.

“I definitely don’t think I would have been able to have that much time off,” she said. “That’s really hard with gymnastics because you feel like, you take two days off, and it’s like you had a year off.”

One day this spring, Skinner’s mom called, in tears, fearing for her life with an illness that turned out to be the coronavirus. Both of her parents, in their 60s, had it and briefly lost their senses of taste. Her mom had breathing problems, but they recovered.

One night last month, Skinner had a dream about next year’s Olympic Trials. The Final Five all came back to compete, and Skinner was again named an alternate. She woke up. Skinner doesn’t know how she would handle that kind of disappointment in real life, again.

“So it’s kind of scary,” she said. Then Skinner thinks back to Rio, and that burning she felt while watching the Final Five win gold medals.

“This is what I’m supposed to do. This is what I’m meant to do is elite gymnastics,” said Skinner, who was born via life-threatening, early-labor C-section, needing to be revived by doctors. “I think it’s cool that I can have this opportunity to go and push myself one last time so I can reach that end goal.”

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Wilson Kipsang, former marathon world-record holder, banned 4 years

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Wilson Kipsang, a former marathon world-record holder and Kenyan Olympic bronze medalist, was banned four years for whereabouts failures — not being available for drug testing — and providing false evidence in his case.

Kipsang had been provisionally banned in January in the case handled by the Athletics Integrity Unit, track and field’s doping watchdog organization. Athletes must provide doping officials with locations to be available for out-of-competition testing. Three missed tests in a 12-month span can lead to a suspension.

Kipsang, 38, received a four-year ban backdated to Jan. 10, when the provisional suspension was announced. His results since April 12, 2019, the date of his third whereabouts failure in a 12-month span, have been annulled. He is eligible to appeal. The full decision is here.

Kipsang won major marathons in New York City, London, Berlin and Tokyo between 2012 and 2017.

He lowered the world record to 2:03:23 at the 2013 Berlin Marathon, a mark that stood for one year until countryman Dennis Kimetto took it to 2:02:57 in Berlin. Another Kenyan, Eliud Kipchoge, lowered it to 2:01:39 at the 2018 Berlin Marathon.

Kipsang, the 2012 Olympic bronze medalist, last won a top-level marathon in Tokyo in 2017. He was third at the 2018 Berlin Marathon and 12th at his last marathon in London in April 2019, a result now disqualified.

Other Kenyan distance-running stars have been banned in recent years.

Rita Jeptoo had Boston and Chicago Marathon titles stripped, and Jemima Sumgong was banned after winning the Rio Olympic marathon after both tested positive for EPO. Asbel Kiprop, a 2008 Olympic 1500m champion and a three-time world champ, was banned four years after testing positive for EPO in November 2017.

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