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Paris open to esports on 2024 Olympic program

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LONDON (AP) — Video gamers could be competing for Olympic medals by 2024.

Tony Estanguet, co-president of the Paris Olympic bid committee, told The Associated Press that he will hold talks with esports representatives and the IOC about the possibility of gaming joining the 2024 program.

The explosion in popularity of esports events, drawing large crowds of youngsters to arenas for tournaments, has already seen gaming embraced by the Asian Games. It will become a full sport by the 2022 edition, although details of which games will be contested are yet to be provided.

Paris will be confirmed as 2024 hosts at an International Olympic Committee gathering in Lima, Peru next month after its only competitor, Los Angeles, agreed to take the 2028 Games.

Estanguet believes that a contest of digital prowess should be considered a legitimate sport if the Olympics is to maintain its relevance for new generations of fans.

“We have to look at it because we can’t say, ‘It’s not us. It’s not about Olympics,'” Estanguet said in an interview with the AP in London. “The youth, yes they are interested in esport and this kind of thing. Let’s look at it. Let’s meet them. Let’s try if we can find some bridges.

“I don’t want to say ‘no’ from the beginning. I think it’s interesting to interact with the IOC, with them, the esports family, to better understand what the process is and why it is such a success.”

The 2024 program will start to be shaped in 2019 with a final decision on the addition of sports in Paris to be taken by the IOC after the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“There is some time to look at it, to interact, to engage,” Estanguet said. “We will spend some time after (the IOC meeting in September) Lima to engage with new people and stakeholders. The IOC will have the last … say, if they want esports on the program. Let’s discuss among ourselves.”

Paris is gaining the 2024 hosting rights without the usual dramatic vote. The IOC decided to award two Summer Games at the same time and LA later abandoned its bid for 2024 during negotiations with the IOC and Paris.

“We feel that we are the winner because we have what we wanted,” said Estanguet, a triple Olympic canoe slalom champion.

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Mark Spitz takes on Katie Ledecky’s challenge

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Swimmers around the world took on Katie Ledecky‘s milk-glass challenge since it became a social media sensation, including one of the few Americans with more Olympic gold medals.

Mark Spitz, who won seven golds at the 1972 Munich Games, took 10 strokes in an at-home pool while perfectly balancing a glass of what appeared to be water on his head.

“Would’ve been faster with the ‘stache, @markspitzusa, but I still give this 7 out of 7 gold medals,” Ledecky tweeted.

Spitz joined fellow Olympic champions Susie O’Neill of Australia and American Matt Grevers in posting similar videos to what Ledecky first shared Monday.

In Tokyo next year, Ledecky can pass Spitz’s career gold-medal count of nine if she wins all of her expected events — 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles and the 4x200m free relay.

Then she would trail one athlete from any country in any sport — Michael Phelps, the 23-time gold medalist who has yet to post video of swimming while balancing a glass on his head.

MORE: Spitz puts Michael Phelps’ career in perspective

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Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis eyeing Grand Slam record

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Serena Williams travels with “like 50 masks” and has been a little bit of a recluse since early March and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t have full lung capacity, so I’m not sure what would happen to me,” Williams said Saturday, two days before the start of the WTA’s Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky., her first tournament since playing Fed Cup in early February. “I’m sure I’ll be OK, but I don’t want to find out.”

Williams, 38, has a history of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms. She faced life-threatening complications following her Sept. 1, 2017, childbirth that confined her to a bed for six weeks. She said her daily routine was surgery and that she lost count after the first four.

More recently, Williams enjoyed “every part” of the last six months at home in Florida, her longest time grounded since her teens.

“I’ve been a little neurotic, to an extent,” on health and safety, she said. “Everyone in the Serena bubble is really protected.”

Williams is entered to play next week in Lexington and at consecutive tournaments in New York City later this month — the Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open, the latter starting Aug. 31.

Williams is the highest-ranked player in the Lexington field at No. 9. Others include 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, older sister Venus Williams and 16-year-old Coco Gauff.

She has been bidding ever since having daughter Olympia to tie Margaret Court‘s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, albeit many of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and, notably at the Australian Open, against small fields lacking the world’s best players. Williams reached the last two Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals, losing all of them.

She showed her seriousness in committing early to this year’s U.S. Open by installing a court at home with the same surface. Three of the top 10 female singles players already said they will skip the U.S. Open due to travel and/or virus concerns, including No. 1 Ash Barty.

“Tennis is naturally a socially distanced sport, so it was kind of easy to go back and just walk on my side of the court and have my hitter walk on his side of the court,” Williams said.

The French Open starts two weeks after the U.S. Open ends. Williams was asked if she will fly to Europe for tournaments this autumn.

“I see myself doing it all, if it happens,” she said.

The Tokyo Olympics are too far away to make plans.

“We’ll have to kind of wait to see what happens in the fall,” she said. “One thing I have learned with this pandemic is don’t plan.”

MORE: Past U.S. Open champions get wild cards

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