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Andre De Grasse ready to overtake Usain Bolt this summer

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ROME (AP) — Andre De Grasse isn’t interested in taking over from Usain Bolt as the world’s best sprinter when the eight-time Olympic champion retires later this year.

He’s ready now.

“I’m trying to win this year. I feel like I have a great chance, and that’s what I want to do,” De Grasse told The Associated Press ahead of Thursday’s Golden Gala Pietro Mennea meet, where the Canadian will run the 200m (NBC Sports Gold, 12:15 p.m. ET and NBCSN, 2 p.m. ET).

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Bolt won’t be running in Rome, but De Grasse is looking forward to racing the Jamaican great at the world championships in London in August.

“I feel like I have a great chance in both events — 100m or 200m,” De Grasse said, though Bolt has said he won’t race the 200m at worlds. “If I can execute my race and I’m in top shape I feel like I can do that.”

The 22-year-old De Grasse took silver behind Bolt in the 200m at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and bronze behind Bolt and Justin Gatlin in the 100m. Having also anchored Canada to a bronze medal in the 4x100m relay in Rio, De Grasse became the first Canadian sprinter to win three medals in a single Olympics.

De Grasse pushed Bolt so hard in the semifinals of the 200m in Rio that Bolt acknowledged it was draining and prevented him from improving his world record a night later.

So what would it take to beat Bolt in the 100m in August?

“No idea. It’s anybody’s game. You can’t name a time,” De Grasse said. “It’s always about weather and conditions and those types of things. But it’s going to obviously take a well-executed race. I have to be at the top of my game and if I can do that I can do something special.”

De Grasse is working on improving his starts, which also happens to be the only area that Bolt struggles in.

“If I can have a great start and try to hold the lead that would be great,” De Grasse said. “My top-end speed is good. It’s all about finding the right factors to go out there and win.”

As a teen, De Grasse ran one of his first races wearing basketball shorts and borrowed shoes. He stood up in the blocks while others crouched. It launched his career and led him to signing a big contract with Puma — the same company that sponsors Bolt.

“I was a basketball guy growing up so most of my guys that I looked up to were in the NBA like Allen Iverson and Vince Carter,” said De Grasse, who was born in Ontario to Caribbean parents. “I never really had any track fanatics growing up that I idolized.”

At the Stadio Olimpico, De Grasse’s top competition should come from Olympic bronze medalist Christophe Lemaitre of France.

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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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