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Wayde van Niekerk among athlete of the year finalists; no Caster Semenya

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Mo Farah, Wayde van Niekerk and Mutaz Barshim have been nominated for the IAAF world athlete of the year award.

The women’s nominees were Ethiopian distance runner Almaz Ayana (10,000m gold, 5000m silver at worlds), Greek pole vault world champion Ekaterini Stefanidi and heptathlon world champion Nafi Thiam of Belgium.

Farah won 10,000m gold and 5000m silver at worlds in London. Van Niekerk also took gold and silver, in the 400m and 200m respectively. Barshim went undefeated in 2017, including his first world outdoor title in the high jump.

Noticeably absent from the finalists was South African Caster Semenya, who took 800m gold and 1500m bronze at worlds. Semenya, scrutinized since her 2009 gender-testing controversy, is undefeated at 800m for more than two years and twice lowered her national record in 2017.

Also missing the cut was Polish hammer throw world-record holder Anita Włodarczyk, who is undefeated since June 2014 and had the second-best throw of all time this year. And Russian high jumper Maria Lasitskene, who won all 24 of her indoor and outdoor meets in 2017 and had the six highest clearances in the world for the year.

Usain Bolt and Ayana won the awards last year.

The IAAF says the finalists were determined by a “three-way voting process.” Half of the votes came from the IAAF Council, 25 percent from the IAAF member federations and committee members, and the remaining portion from a public vote conducted by social media.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Federica Brignone passes Mikaela Shiffrin for World Cup overall lead

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Italian Federica Brignone passed an absent Mikaela Shiffrin for the World Cup overall standings lead by winning a combined in Switzerland on Sunday.

Brignone prevailed by .92 of a second adding times from super-G and slalom runs in Crans-Montana. Full results are here.

Brignone moved 73 points ahead of Shiffrin in the overall through 29 of 40 scheduled races. A race winner receives 100 points on a descending scale through the 30th-place finisher. The season runs through March 22.

Shiffrin, the three-time reigning World Cup overall champion, has not competed since the unexpected death of her father on Feb. 2. She has not announced if or when she will return this season.

Brignone, 29, is having a career season with five wins and 10 podiums across four disciplines.

Brignone’s best previous World Cup overall standings finish was fifth. She earned giant slalom medals at the 2018 Olympics (bronze) and 2011 World Championships (silver).

She could become Italy’s first female World Cup overall champion. The last Italian male winner was Alberto Tomba in 1995.

The women’s Alpine skiing World Cup moves to La Thuile, Italy, for a super-G and a combined next Saturday and Sunday.

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Jade Carey on brink of becoming first gymnast to qualify for U.S. Olympic team

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The U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials aren’t until late June, but Jade Carey is in position to qualify for the Tokyo Games in March.

Carey, seeking an individual Olympic gymnastics spot outside of the team competition, earned the maximum points in a World Cup series that is one path to Olympic qualification.

Carey has three wins each on floor exercise and vault with two World Cups left in March. Carey will mathematically clinch an Olympic spot if no other gymnasts win three times on one of the apparatuses to force a tiebreaker.

So far, no other gymnast has two wins on floor. One gymnast has two wins on vault. A gymnast’s top three finishes across the eight-stop series count in Olympic qualifying. If Carey finishes atop the floor or vault standings, she goes to the Olympics.

Carey picked up those third wins on floor and vault at the sixth World Cup in Melbourne, Australia, this weekend.

The one downside to qualifying this route: Carey would not be able to compete in the team competition at the Olympics. Those four spots will be determined at and after June’s trials in St. Louis, with Simone Biles likely grabbing one of them.

“I knew I would be giving up being on the team,” Carey said in October of going the World Cup route, “but I think, for me, it made sense to just go for it.”

Carey is a world medalist on vault and floor, but she doesn’t have the all-around credentials of Biles and some other U.S. gymnasts.

Olympic team event roster sizes were cut from five to four for Tokyo, putting a greater onus on all-around prowess given a team must put three gymnasts on each apparatus in the Olympic final.

The U.S. is the deepest country in women’s gymnastics, so the only truly safe pick to make the four-woman Olympic team event roster is Biles.

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