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Satoko Miyahara to miss figure skating world championships

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Japanese champion Satoko Miyahara, the second-ranked women’s figure skater this season, will miss the world championships next week due to a hip injury.

The 2015 World silver medalist will be replaced on the three-woman Japanese team by Rika Hongo, the Japanese Skating Federation announced Monday, according to Japanese media.

Miyahara, 18, was the closest skater this season to Russian Yevgenia Medvedeva, who is a massive favorite to become the first woman to repeat as world champion since Michelle Kwan in 2000 and 2001. Medvedeva hasn’t lost a competition since November 2015.

Miyahara finished second to Medvedeva at December’s Grand Prix Final, the second-biggest annual competition behind worlds. Medvedeva won the event with 227.66 points.

Miyahara tallied a personal-best 218.33, the highest score in the world since the 2014 Olympics, save Medvedeva. Miyahara then won the Japanese Championships for a third straight time but withdrew ahead of February’s Four Continents Championships with the hip injury.

Miyahara’s absence from worlds should boost the U.S. women’s contingent of Ashley WagnerMariah Bell and Karen Chen. Hongo’s top score this season is 181.75 points, ranking 14th out of skaters in the worlds field.

The two best results out of Wagner, Bell and Chen must total to no more than 13 for the U.S. women to keep three spots for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics. For example, if Wagner finishes fifth and Bell finishes eighth, the U.S. would get three spots on the number.

With Miyahara out, the U.S. skaters’ rankings in the world championships field this season by best scores in international competitions:

Wagner: No. 8
Bell: No. 10
Chen: No. 17

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U.S. swimmers sweep relays, break world record at short course worlds

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Caeleb Dressel and the U.S. 4x100m freestyle relay broke a nine-year-old world record to open the world short-course swimming championships in Hangzhou, China, on Tuesday.

Dressel, the seven-time 2017 World champion, led off a quartet that included fellow Rio 4x100m free gold medalists Ryan Held and Blake Pieroni, plus Michael Chadwick. Dressel opened a .56 lead that the Americans never relinquished, holding off Russia by .08.

The U.S. also won the women’s 4x100m free, anchored by Kelsi Dahlia, who earned four relay golds at the 2017 Worlds. Mallory Comerford overtook the Netherlands on the third leg, with Dahlia holding off triple Olympic champion Ranomi Kromowidjojo by .24.

Short course worlds are held in even-numbered years in a 25-meter pool rather than the 50-meter pool used at the Olympics. U.S. Olympic champions Katie LedeckySimone Manuel and Lilly King are among those not competing this week.

WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

In other events Tuesday, Hungarian Katinka Hosszu extended her all-stroke dominance, winning the 400m individual medley by 4.44 seconds over American Melanie Margalis. Hosszu swept the IMs at the Rio Olympics, the last three long-course world championships and the 2016 short-course worlds.

Daiya Seto, in line to be one of the host nation’s stars at the Tokyo Olympics, broke Chad le Clos‘ world record in the 200m butterfly and edged the South African by .08 for gold.

The U.S. also earned individual silvers in the 200m free (Comerford) and 200m IM (Josh Prenot).

Worlds continue Wednesday, live on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and streaming on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

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Steven Lopez, Olympic taekwondo champion, removed from banned list

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DENVER (AP) — Olympic taekwondo champion Steven Lopez won arbitration Monday in a sexual-misconduct case and had his name removed from the U.S. Center for SafeSport’s banned list.

Lopez was permanently banned in September for sexual misconduct involving a minor. He has denied the allegations.

This marks the first case to be overturned by arbitration in the 21-month history of the center. SafeSport spokesman Dan Hill said arbitration is part of the center’s “code that is built on fairness and has a process for both parties.”

Lopez’s brother and coach, Jean Lopez, remains on the interim restricted list.

The Lopezes are named as defendants in a sex-trafficking lawsuit filed against the SafeSport center, the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Taekwondo.

The lawsuit alleges the organizations were long aware that the Lopezes were sexual predators but kept sending young women with them to competitions and practices.

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