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Allison Schmitt to compete for first time since Rio Olympics

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Allison Schmitt, an eight-time Olympic medalist, will race at this weekend’s USA Swimming Pro Series meet in Mesa, Ariz., her first competition since the Rio Olympics.

The headliners include Schmitt and fellow individual Olympic champions Nathan AdrianRyan Murphy and Matt Grevers, plus Chase Kalisz, who swept the individual medleys at the 2017 World Championships.

It was possible that Katie Ledecky could make the Pro Series meet her professional debut, but she did not enter.

The Mesa meet runs Thursday through Sunday, with live coverage of finals on Olympic Channel (Friday) and NBCSN (Saturday).

Schmitt, now 27, earned medals in all five of her events at the 2012 Olympics, including gold in the 200m freestyle and the 4x100m medley and 4x200m free relays.

She struggled with depression between London and Rio. She also failed to qualify for the biggest meets of 2013 (World Championships), 2014 (Pan Pacific Championships) and 2015 (World Championships).

Schmitt rebounded to make the Rio Olympic team in the 4x100m and 4x200m free relays, earning silver and gold medals at her third Games.

While Schmitt remained in the drug-testing pool last year to stay eligible for meets, she did not compete. In September, longtime friend and training partner Michael Phelps teased at a potential Schmitt comeback with Instagram posts referencing the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Dara Torres, Jenny Thompson and Amanda Beard are the only U.S. female swimmers to compete in four Olympics.

After Mesa, the Pro Series moves to Indianapolis (May 16-19), Santa Clara, Calif. (June 7-10) and Columbus, Ohio (July 6-8) on the road to the U.S. Championships in July and Pan Pacific Championships in August.

The Pan Pacific Championships are the major international meet of the year, featuring top swimmers from nations outside Europe.

Times from nationals and Pan Pacs determine the U.S. team for the 2019 World Championships in South Korea.

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MORE: ‘I’m getting closer to Ledecky,’ new teen swim star says

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Justin Morneau nixes Olympic baseball qualifying return

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Justin Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP with the Minnesota Twins, was taken off Canada’s Olympic baseball qualifying roster before he would have played his first competitive game in more than two years.

Morneau, 38, experienced an unspecified setback in training and was replaced on Canada’s roster for next month’s Premier12. The global tournament marks the first opportunity for many world baseball powers to qualify for the sport’s return to the Olympics.

Morneau never played in the Olympics before baseball was cut from the Games after 2008; active MLB players have never competed in the Games. But he was on Canada’s roster at all four World Baseball Classics from 2006 through 2017.

At November’s Premier12, the top nation from North and South America will qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. Japan and Israel are already qualified. Those that do not qualify will get another chance next year.

Morneau could become the second Major League Baseball MVP to play Olympic baseball as a medal sport. The other was Jason Giambi, who made the U.S. team in 1992, the same summer he was drafted in the second round by the Oakland Athletics.

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MORE: Joe Girardi replaced as U.S. baseball manager by World Series champion

Kolohe Andino is first U.S. Olympic surfing qualifier; Kelly Slater faces last chance

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Kolohe Andino is the first American to qualify for surfing’s Olympic debut, which leaves one spot left for 47-year-old Kelly Slater to chase at the final contest of the season.

Andino, a 25-year-old Californian whose first name means “rascal” in Hawaiian, clinched his place in Tokyo on Friday at the penultimate stop on the World Surf League Championship Tour in Portugal. He is ranked fifth in the world, trailing a trio of Brazilians.

One more American man will join Andino on the Olympic team. It will be one of Slater, the 11-time world champion, John John Florence, the 2016 and 2017 World champion, and rising 22-year-old Hawaiian Seth Moniz.

Slater was handed a golden opportunity to qualify when Florence announced in early July that he tore an ACL for the second time in 13 months. Florence had won two of the first five events this season.

Slater has been chasing the sidelined Florence in the standings ever since. But it has not been easy.

Slater hasn’t made the quarterfinals in any of his last seven contests going into December’s finale — the prestigious Billabong Pipeline Masters on the North Shore of Oahu.

“Ninth place, to me, used to be a pretty awful result. I’m used to at least a quarterfinal on for most of my career,” he said in July, noting a back injury. “I’m not horrified by my results, but I’m also not surprised. Maybe other people are because everyone focuses on my age and that kind of thing. It’s not like I’m going to all of a sudden forget how to do this thing, you know?”

Slater, who won the Pipe Masters seven times between 1992 and 2013, must reach the quarterfinals at this year’s event to have any chance of passing Florence to qualify for the Olympics.

Complicating matters: Florence said in August it was his “goal to get better for Pipeline in case I have to come back and compete and gain points,” according to ESPN.com. If Florence does return for the December contest, and makes the quarterfinals, Slater could only pass him with a victory.

Moniz goes into the finale ranked one spot behind Slater, meaning he, too, can grab that second and final Olympic spot with a win or a runner-up.

Slater, who turns 48 on Feb. 11, would be the oldest U.S. Summer Olympic rookie competitor in a sport other than equestrian, sailing or shooting (or art competitions!) in the last 100 years, supplanting Martina Navratilova, according to the OlyMADMen.

MORE: Top U.S. surfer has links to Egg McMuffin, Guinness World Record holder

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