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Tokyo marks 1,000 days until 2020 Olympics

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TOKYO (AP) — Tokyo marked 1,000 days until the 2020 Olympics on Saturday with a ceremony that included a demonstration of new sports that will debut at the Summer Games.

Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike and kabuki actor Ebizo Ichikawa were among the dignitaries attending the festivities in the Nihonbashi district in downtown Tokyo.

“The Olympic Games has the power to bring dreams to children and cultivate a peaceful society,” said Tsunekazu Takeda, president of the Japanese Olympic Committee. “The success of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is necessary so that sport can contribute to foster a better society and world peace.”

Four floats numbered 1-0-0-0 were carried through the streets to a main stage where a countdown display was unveiled. Organizers said 15,000 people attended Saturday’s event.

In an effort to give the games a more youthful and urban appeal, the IOC has added several new sports to the program.

Saturday’s event included demonstrations of three of those sports: 3×3 basketball, skateboarding and BMX freestyle cycling.

Sports climbing, surfing, baseball and softball, and karate are the other new sports added to the program. Karate and the combined sports of baseball and softball were added because of their popularity in Japan.

Tokyo’s preparations so far have won high praise from the International Olympic Committee.

“Of course there are still a lot of things that need to be done over the next three years and we must achieve them successfully,” said Toshiro Muto, CEO of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee.

While Tokyo organizers are eager to showcase their progress, the preparations have not been without difficulties.

In a bid to reduce costs, some sports venues originally included in Tokyo’s compact bid, have been moved to existing facilities in neighboring prefectures, some as far as two hours away by train.

The IOC is calling for further cuts of $1 billion from a $12 billion budget.

Meanwhile, the building of the new national stadium, which will host the opening and closing ceremonies and track and field, has been plagued by a series of problems and delays.

The initial design by the late Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid had risen to $2.65 billion, more than twice the original forecast.

The Japanese government decided to scrap that plan and approved a new project totaling nearly $1.5 billion. Officials say construction will be completed by November 2019.

More recently, a water quality survey during the summer at the triathlon venue in Tokyo Bay found E.coli at concentrations up to 21 times the levels permitted by the sport’s governing body, a surprise for a country known for cleanliness.

This raised concerns among athletes but organizers insist the water will be clean and safe.

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Eliud Kipchoge sets next marathon

Eliud Kipchoge
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Eliud Kipchoge will race the London Marathon on April 26 before he is expected to defend his Olympic title in Japan on Aug. 9, which would mark the shortest break between marathons of his career.

Kipchoge, who in his last 26.2-mile effort became the first person to break two hours at the distance, won all four of his London Marathon starts, including breaking the course record in 2016 and 2019.

His time this past April 28 — 2:02:37 — is the third-fastest time in history. Kipchoge has the world record of 2:01:39 set at the 2018 Berlin Marathon. His sub-two-hour marathon in Vienna on Oct. 12 was not in a record-eligible race.

Kipchoge’s previous shortest break between marathons came in 2016, when he also ran London and the Olympics. The Olympics will be two weeks earlier in 2020 than in 2016.

Kipchoge, 35, has won 11 of 12 marathons since moving to road racing after failing to make Kenya’s 2012 Olympic track team.

He has yet to race the two most prestigious marathons in the U.S. — Boston and New York City — but has said they are on his bucket list.

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Canadians become first female doubles luge team in World Cup

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WHISTLER, British Columbia (AP) — Caitlin Nash and Natalie Corless made luge history Saturday, becoming the first female team to compete in a World Cup doubles race.

The 16-year-olds from Whistler combined to finish 22nd in a field of 23 sleds, though that seemed largely irrelevant. There have been four-woman teams in what is typically called four-man bobsledding, but luge has never seen a pairing like this until now.

The German sled of Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken won the race in 1 minute, 16.644 seconds. Germany’s Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt finished second and the Russian team of Vsevolod Kashkin and Konstantin Korshunov placed third for their first medal of the season.

The U.S. team of Chris Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman placed 11th.

But the story was the Canadian teens, who qualified for the World Cup event on Thursday. They were nearly a half-second behind any other finisher and almost 2.7 seconds back of Eggert and Benecken. But they’ll forever be able to say that they were winning the race at one point — a technicality because they were the first ones down the hill at the Whistler Sliding Center, but accurate nonetheless.

The only sled they beat was the Italian team of Ivan Nagler and Fabian Malleier, who crashed in the second heat.

There are women’s singles and men’s singles races on the World Cup luge circuit, but there is no rule saying doubles teams must be composed of two men. There have been more female doubles racers at the junior level in recent years, and it was generally considered to be just a matter of time before it happened at the World Cup level.

That time became Saturday.

Canada had the chance to qualify a second sled into the doubles field because some teams typically on the circuit chose to skip this weekend’s stop, and Nash and Corless got into by successfully finishing a Nations Cup qualifying race on Thursday.

They were 11th in that race out of 11 sleds, more than a full second behind the winner and nearly a half-second behind the closest finisher. But all they had to do was cross the line without crashing to get into Saturday’s competition, and earned their spot in the luge history books as a result.

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