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Simone Biles clarifies timeline for gymnastics break

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Don’t expect to see Simone Biles compete at all in 2017.

“I won’t be competing for at least a year and a half,” Biles said Thursday during a media tour promoting her book, “Courage to Soar,” at the 15-minute mark here. “I’m going to take some time off from the gym, just so that I can go out, have fun and really just embrace the moment that we have. Especially vacation, because I couldn’t do that before with how much I trained. I was always in the gym.

“I think my body needs a rest,” Biles added, smiling. “It’s breaking down on me for a little bit.”

Biles last competed at the Rio Olympics in August, which would mean a break of at least 18 months would go into 2018.

Biles previously said she would take at least one year off from competing, while leaving the door open to possibly make a late run for the October 2017 World Championships in Montreal. Biles said she plans to return at some point to make a run for the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Biles’ absence in 2017 means she will pass the baton of world all-around champion to a different gymnast. Biles won three straight world all-around titles from 2013 through 2015, before taking four golds and a bronze in Rio.

An American has taken the last six combined Olympic and world all-around titles, starting in 2011.

The last non-American to win, Aliya Mustafina of Russia in 2010, could compete at 2017 Worlds. Mustafina took bronze behind Biles and Aly Raisman at the Rio Games.

Raisman, like Biles, said she’s taking 2017 off from competition. Gabby Douglas, the 2012 Olympic champion and 2015 World silver medalist, hasn’t said if or when she’ll return to competition.

Biles could follow the trend set by Raisman and Douglas in the last Olympic cycle. That duo took all of 2013 and 2014 off from competition before returning.

Next year’s all-around favorite may well be Laurie Hernandez, who finished second to Biles at the Olympic Trials but did not compete in the all-around in Rio.

VIDEO: Biles shows Stephen Colbert how to stick the landing

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

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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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