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Russian track and field stars cleared to compete as neutral athletes

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Russia’s two gold medalists from the 2015 World Championships were among seven athletes from the country cleared to compete as neutral athletes by the IAAF on Tuesday.

Sergey Shubenkov and Maria Kuchina, reigning world champions in the 110m hurdles and high jump, respectively, can now compete internationally for the first time in more than one year.

Russia has been banned from international track and field since November 2015 due to serious doping issues. One Russian track and field athlete competed in Rio, long jumper Darya Klishina as a neutral athlete.

Russia’s ban is set to last through the 2017 season, including the world championships in London in August.

A doping review board examines applications by Russians to compete as neutral athletes. The IAAF has received about 100 applications this year and ruled on 27 so far, accepting 10 and declining 17.

“There can be no time constraints on a process which has been established to safeguard the rights and aspirations of the world’s clean athletes and is about rebuilding confidence in competition,” IAAF president Seb Coe said in a press release. “For the avoidance of any doubt as we have consistently stated from the beginning of this process, all athletes given exceptional eligibility will compete as independent neutral athletes and not as a Russian team.”

Twelve Russian athletes total have been cleared to compete as neutral athletes since July:

Illia Mudrov (pole vault)
Sergey Shubenkov (sprint hurdles)
Sergey Shirobokov (race walks)
Daniil Tsyplakov (high jump)
Maria Kuchina (high jump)
Olga Mullina (pole vault)
Yana Smerdova (race walks)
Anzhelika Sidorova (pole vault)
Kristina Sivkova (sprints)
Aleksei Sokirskii (hammer throw)
Darya Klishina (long jump, cleared in 2016)
Yuliya Stepanova (800m/1500m, cleared in 2016)

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Jordan Wilimovsky qualifies for Tokyo Olympics in open-water swimming

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Open-water swimmer Jordan Wilimovsky is the first male athlete on the 2020 U.S. Olympic team.

Wilimovsky, who placed fourth and fifth in two distance events at the 2016 Rio Games, joined fellow open-water swimmers Haley Anderson and Ashley Twichell in qualifying for Tokyo via the world championships in Gwangju, South Korea.

Wilimovsky, 25, placed fifth in the 10km event on Tuesday. Anderson and Twichell were second and sixth in the women’s 10km on Sunday. Top-10 finishers at worlds qualified for Tokyo.

German Florian Wellbrock won by two tenths of a second over French Olympic bronze medalist Marc-Antoine Olivier after 1 hour, 47 minutes in the water. Wilimovsky led with 600 meters left. Olympic 1500m freestyle champion Gregorio Paltrinieri also qualified for Tokyo in the open-water 10km by finishing sixth.

The other American, David Heron, was 25th, missing the Olympic team, but he can try again in the 1500m free in the pool at the Olympic trials next June.

Wilimovsky missed a medal in the Rio Olympic 1500m in the pool by 4.17 seconds, taking fourth. Three days later, he was fifth in the open-water 10km, 1.2 seconds out of bronze.

Wilimovsky, a Malibu native who redshirted at Northwestern to train for Rio, earned gold and silver in the 10km at the 2015 and 2017 World Championships.

A U.S. man has never earned an Olympic open-water medal. The event debuted at Beijing 2008.

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Ted Ligety scales back race schedule

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Two-time Olympic champion Ted Ligety is scaling back his race schedule as he enters the final portion of his decorated Alpine skiing career.

Ligety, a 34-year-old who has endured many injuries since his last World Cup win in 2015, said he will race strictly giant slaloms this year. The World Cup season starts in late October.

“So it’ll be a little bit easier schedule on my body,” Ligety said in a KPCW radio interview in his native Park City, Utah. “I’ll be able to be home a little bit more as well, and then we see. I mean, I would like to keep going as long as I feel like I can win races and feel healthy. That’s really the biggest part, and nowadays I have a 2-year-old son, and there’s more factors than there was when I was 25 years old.”

Ligety, nicknamed “Mr. GS” for his giant slalom prowess, has a 2014 Olympic gold medal and three world titles in that event.

He also owns an Olympic combined title from 2006 and world titles in the super-G and combined from 2013, but he hasn’t won a race in one of those disciplines since January 2014. And since then, he has undergone back and knee surgeries and dealt with hip problems.

“There’s a lot of hard miles on my body up to this point, but I’m still enjoying it,” said Ligety, whose 321 World Cup starts are the most among active Olympic medalists now that Lindsey Vonn and Aksel Lund Svindal have retired. “Right now, I feel really healthy and trying to get to a point where I feel I can win races. That’s the goal right now.”

Ligety, a four-time Olympian, has not publicly committed to a 2022 Olympic run.

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