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Usain Bolt sets debut match with Australian soccer team

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GOSFORD, Australia (AP) — Usain Bolt will make his debut for the Central Coast Mariners in an Australian A-League preseason exhibition game against an amateur team.

The eight-time Olympic sprinting gold medalist from Jamaica is on trial with the Mariners, hoping to win a professional contract.

He has been practicing this week on the left wing and expects to play about 15 to 20 minutes in that position during Friday’s exhibition match.

Club officials are predicting a crowd of 12,000 for the home game in Gosford, north of Sydney.

Bolt, who is at home on a much larger stage, expected to be nervous on his debut.

“There definitely will be nerves, it’s not like it’s a charity game anymore,” Bolt said. “I expect to make mistakes but I also expect to go out there, make myself proud and to push myself.

“I know I’m not going to have a perfect game.”

Bolt had his first full practice session with the Mariners on Tuesday after taking time to ease into his new role during his first week with the club. He appeared at times to struggle with the pace and demands of training.

Some critics have said Bolt’s bid to turn professional is little more than a gimmick, but staff at the club say they’re giving the world’s fastest runner a chance to prove himself.

“The thing he’s struggling with more than anything else right now is getting used to the football fitness,” Mariners coach Mike Mulvey said. He said in terms of skills, Bolt is “doing OK.”

“He’s got rudimentary skills, there’s no problem about that,” Mulvey said. “It’s about being able to do it at the speed that we do it.”

Bolt said he’s finding the nature of football training different and demanding but felt he had made some improvement in his first week.

“For me, it’s the stop and go’s, the tick-tacks. Because I’m not used to picking up speed, going back down, up and down, up and down, back and forth, that’s the most challenging,” he said. “The season doesn’t start until the end of October, so I have time.”

The 32-year-old Bolt, who holds the world records for the 100m and 200m sprints and was the undisputed track and field star of three Olympics, thinks he isn’t far from full fitness.

“It’s just time,” he said. “I don’t know how my body is going to feel. I know when I’m on the field I’m always going to push myself.”

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David Boudia adjusts diving event, goal for world championships

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David Boudia earned diving medals at his last three world championships and the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, but that was on the platform. He competes on the global stage on the springboard for the first time at worlds this week.

“I don’t have a lot of high hopes,” Boudia, who is still learning the springboard after switching to it in the last year, said in a phone interview from South Korea, where he begins competition Wednesday (TV schedule here). “But I think my biggest goal is to walk away with an Olympic spot.”

An Olympic spot not necessarily for himself, but for the U.S.

Boudia, a 30-year-old father of three, and any other American will clinch 2020 Olympic quota spots by placing in the top 12 in their respective individual events this week. Those spots, and any others earned at later competitions in the next year, will be filled at trials in June in Indianapolis.

NBC Sports analyst Cynthia Potter believes Boudia, who left the sport to sell homes in 2017 and came back and suffered a concussion off the platform in 2018, can meet his goal of making Friday’s 12-man final in Gwangju.

“He would have to dive well, but not better than he’s been diving,” she said. “His springboard is really well-timed, rhythmic, and he’s for a long time known how to go into the water without making a splash.”

But challenging Rio Olympic gold and silver medalists Cao Yuan of China and Jack Laugher of Great Britain, plus defending world champion Xie Siyi of China would be very tough.

Boudia lacks their degrees of difficulty, for now. He hopes to switch out two of his six dives before his first competition of 2020, though he could insert one of them should he make the world final.

“I need a good six months, so from August to December is when we’re kind of really drilling the fundamentals of learning those new dives and getting them perfected,” he said.

Boudia rallied to beat Rio Olympic springboard diver Michael Hixon for the title in May at nationals, where the top two per event earned world berths. But Boudia competed there with about a month of competition dive practice, about half as long as he would prefer.

“Hix and I are going to have a lot of training to do if we want to be even close to cracking that top five,” at worlds, Boudia said in May, according to TeamUSA.org.

Boudia is the lone U.S. diver to earn an individual world medal in an Olympic diving event since 2009.

The U.S. produced breakthroughs at worlds so far. Sarah Bacon became the first American woman to earn a world title since 2005, taking the non-Olympic 1m springboard event. Murphy Bromberg and Katrina Young bagged bronze in synchronized platform, ending a decade-long medal drought in any synchro event.

But Boudia’s goal must be shared among the whole team — as many top-12 finishes individually and top three in synchro events to gobble up Tokyo 2020 quota spots. The U.S. failed to qualify full teams for the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.

“Getting in the top 12 in the four individual Olympic events is the big deal right now,” Potter said. “Whether you are on the awards stand or not, that would be icing on the cake for a lot of these divers.”

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Anita Wlodarczyk, one of track and field’s most dominant, sidelined

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Poland hammer thrower Anita Wlodarczyk, the only woman to win the last five combined Olympic and world titles in a track and field event, will not go for a fourth straight world championship this fall.

Wlodarczyk had season-ending, arthroscopic left knee surgery on Monday, according to Polish media citing her coach.

Wlodarczyk, 33, has the top 15 throws on the IAAF’s all-time list, and 27 of the top 29. Her world record of 82.98 meters (scribbled on her leg pre-op) is 11 and a half feet farther the second-best woman in history. She originally took silver at the 2012 Olympics and 2013 Worlds but was upgraded to gold after Russian Tatyana Lysenko was stripped for doping.

Wlodarczyk won a reported 42 straight finals between 2014 and 2017, then suffered three losses in 2018 and two so far this year in three lower-level meets before the operation.

Americans DeAnna Price and Brooke Anderson rank Nos. 1 and 2 in the world this year. A U.S. woman has never finished in the top five of an Olympic or world championships hammer throw, which debuted at worlds in 1999 and the Olympics in 2000.

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