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Olympic aerials champion sets first World Cup in 3 years

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Australian aerials gold medalist Lydia Lassila will compete at the top international stage this weekend for the first time since the Sochi Olympics.

Lassila, who took gold in Vancouver and bronze in Sochi, gave birth to her second son in February 2015 but never retired. She’s in Lake Placid, N.Y., for a World Cup competition Saturday (finals at 8:15 p.m. ET, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

“I was hoping that retirement feeling would come – but it kind of never did,” the 34-year-old Lassila said, according to the Australian Olympic Committee. “I’m realistic and have different expectations this time. I’d regret it if I didn’t try again.”

Lassila could become the second Australian to compete at five Winter Olympics after speed skater Colin Coates.

“Life is different now,” Lassila said in November, according to the (Melbourne) Herald Sun. “I’ve got a couple of kids instead of just one and we’re juggling different schedules.

“There’s quite a bit going on, but I’m going to have a crack at being an athlete again and see what we can do and just do what I can.”

Lassila upset the favored Chinese for gold at Vancouver 2010, coming back from two ACL tears in June 2005 and at the Torino Winter Games in February 2006.

She took bronze in Sochi behind Belarus gold medalist Alla Tsuper and Chinese silver medalist Xu Mengtao. Tsuper gave birth to her second child in 2015 and returned to training last year, according to Belarusian media.

Xu is tied atop this season’s World Cup standings with Australian Danielle Scott. Another Australian, Laura Peel, is the reigning world champion.

MORE: Hannah Kearney still dreams of Olympics in retirement

Back in the game 😁

Posted by Lydia Lassila on Thursday, January 12, 2017

World champion wins doping case citing bodily fluids from boyfriend

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — A world champion canoeist won a doping case Monday after persuading a tribunal that her positive test was caused by bodily fluid contamination from her boyfriend.

The International Canoe Federation (ICF) ended its investigation into 11-time world champion Laurence Vincent Lapointe, who tested positive for a steroid-like substance in July. She faced a four-year ban and could have missed her event’s Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games.

The Canadian canoe sprint racer and her lawyer detailed in a news program that laboratory analysis of hair from her then-boyfriend showed he was likely responsible for a tiny presence of ligandrol in her doping sample.

“The ICF has accepted Ms. Vincent Lapointe’s evidence which supports that she was the victim of third-party contamination,” the governing body said in a statement, clearing her to return to competition.

The legal debate is similar to tennis player Richard Gasquet’s 2009 acquittal in the “cocaine kiss” case. The Court of Arbitration for Sport accepted Gasquet’s defense that kissing a woman who had taken cocaine in a Miami nightclub, after he had withdrawn injured from a tournament, caused his positive test.

The 27-year-old Vincent Lapointe was provisionally suspended for almost six months and missed the 2019 World Championships, which was a key qualifying event for the Tokyo Olympics. American 17-year-old Nevin Harrison won the 200m world title in her absence.

She can still qualify for the Olympic debut of women’s canoe sprint events with victory at a World Cup event in May in Germany.

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U.S. women’s soccer team begins Olympic qualifying, which should rest on one match

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The U.S. women’s soccer team has never been in danger in Olympic qualifying, but that doesn’t change this fact: It must win on Feb. 7 to reach the Tokyo Games.

The CONCACAF tournament begins Tuesday in Houston, where the world champion Americans face world No. 72 Haiti. The last two group games are against No. 68 Panama on Friday and No. 37 Costa Rica on Feb. 3. The top two nations from the group advance to Feb. 7 semifinals.

The U.S. roster, with 18 of its 20 players coming from the 2019 World Cup team, is here.

Since CONCACAF qualifies two nations to the Olympics, the semifinals are the deciding games.

Should the U.S. win its group, it would face the runner-up from the other group in a winner-goes-to-Tokyo match. The other group (world ranking):

Canada (8)
Mexico (37)
Jamaica (53)
St. Kitts and Nevis (127)

Chaos could result in the unlikely event that either the U.S. or Canada finishes second in its group, and the two North American powers play a semifinal.

The U.S. is undefeated in Olympic qualifying history, since the tournament format began in 2004 — 15-0 with a goal differential of 88-1 (not counting matches played once they’ve already clinched qualification). The lone goal allowed came in a group-stage match in 2008, when the U.S. was already assured a spot in the semifinals.

Still, the U.S. knows the feeling of one poor outing in an important match. In 2010, it lost to Mexico in a winner-to-the-World Cup match. The U.S. was forced to win a last-chance, home-and-home playoff against a UEFA team — Italy — for the last spot in the World Cup.

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