Fukushima
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Fukushima added as Tokyo 2020 Olympic baseball, softball venue

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TOKYO (AP) — Organizers on Friday confirmed that baseball and softball games for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be held in Fukushima, an area hit by the 2011 earthquake and nuclear disaster.

The International Olympic Committee approved the use of Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium as an additional venue for baseball and softball.

The IOC and Tokyo organizers have been eager to use the games as a symbol of recovery from the 2011 disaster that hit Japan’s northeastern region including Fukushima, 240 kilometers (150 miles) north of Tokyo, where entire communities fled after meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant.

More than 18,000 people died or went missing after a massive earthquake and tsunami.

“By hosting Olympic baseball and softball events, Fukushima will have a great platform to show the world the extent of its recovery in the 10 years since the disaster,” Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori said.

The stadium, which has hosted professional baseball games in recent years, will be renovated for the games. Yokohama Stadium, some 40km (24 miles) from Tokyo, will be the main stadium for the baseball and softball competitions.

The proposal to use the 31-year-old Fukushima stadium was approved at the IOC Executive Board meeting in Pyeongchang.

Baseball and softball were dropped after the Beijing Olympics in 2008 but have been added to the Olympic program for the 2020 Games.

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Gregorio Paltrinieri swims second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history

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Olympic champion Gregorio Paltrinieri swam the second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history, clocking 14:33.10 in his native Italy on Thursday.

Paltrinieri, 25, missed Chinese Sun Yang‘s world record from the 2012 Olympics by 2.08 seconds.

The Italian now owns the second- and third-fastest times in history, including his 14:34.10 from the 2016 European Championships, also held at the 2012 Olympic pool in London.

Paltrinieri is a versatile distance swimmer. At last year’s world championships, he finished sixth in the open-water 10km to qualify for the Olympics, then won the 800m free in the pool in a European record time and finished with 1500m bronze, just missing a third straight world title in that event.

German Florian Wellbrock won the 1500m in 14:36.54 at worlds, with Paltrinieri finishing 2.21 seconds back.

Sun, 28, was in February banned eight years stemming from destroying a drug-test sample with a hammer in September 2018. Sun, who focused more on the 200m and 400m frees in recent years, did not race the 1500m at the 2017 or 2019 Worlds.

Top-level swim meets in the U.S. are scheduled to resume in November with the Tyr Pro Series.

MORE: Michael Phelps qualifies for first Olympics at age 15

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Bianca Andreescu to miss U.S. Open

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Bianca Andreescu withdrew from the U.S. Open, citing “unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic” compromising her ability to prepare to defend her Grand Slam title.

“I have taken this step in order to focus on my match fitness and ensure that I return ready to play at my highest level,” Andreescu, a 20-year-old Canadian, posted on social media. “The US Open victory last year has been the high point of my career thus far and I will miss not being there. However, I realize that the unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic, have compromised my ability to prepare and compete to the degree necessary to play at my highest level.”

Andreescu’s absence means the U.S. Open, the first Grand Slam tournament since tennis resumed amid the coronavirus pandemic, will be without both 2019 male and female singles champions.

Rafael Nadal previously announced he would not defend his title, saying he would rather not travel given the global situation. Roger Federer is also out after knee surgery. Women’s No. 1 Ash Barty didn’t enter, either, citing travel concerns.

Last year, Andreescu made her U.S. Open title run as the 15th seed, sweeping Serena Williams in the final. Ranked 208th a year earlier, she became the first player born in the 2000s to win a Slam and the first teen Slam winner since Maria Sharapova at the 2006 U.S. Open.

Andreescu then missed the Australian Open in January due to rehab from a knee injury that forced her to retire during a match at the WTA Finals on Oct. 30. She also missed the French Open and Wimbledon in 2019 following a rotator cuff tear.

MORE: Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis competition

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