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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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USOPC seeks to revoke USA Badminton’s status

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U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee CEO Sarah Hirshland filed a complaint to revoke USA Badminton’s status as the national governing body for the sport, a year after a USOPC audit found the organization lacked athlete safety requirements.

USA Badminton “failed to meet its responsibilities as an NGB and consistently failed to meet its obligations to its members and to U.S. athletes,” according to the USOPC. “Further, USAB has failed to conduct itself in a manner that demonstrates it can fulfill those responsibilities.”

Asked for reaction, USA Badminton interim CEO Linda French said, “I’m very disappointed in the USOPC and the conduct of their staff.”

USA Badminton recently had mass resignations among its board and top officials amid governance issues and the USOPC threatening decertification. A 2018 USOPC audit found four “high risk” areas in USA Badminton’s athlete safety and SafeSport compliance that, by March, had not been fully resolved.

“We have attempted to work with USAB’s leadership over the course of the last year to address our concerns, however those efforts have not yielded the results necessary to give me confidence in USAB’s ability to continue to serve its athletes as an NGB,” Hirshland wrote. “We remain committed to working with USAB’s leadership to address our concerns but have so far not found a willing partner.”

The next step is for Hirshland to appoint an independent panel to hear the complaint. There is no specific timeline for a resolution, though Hirshland said it will take a minimum of several weeks.

If USA Badminton’s status is revoked, the USOPC would assume control on an interim basis.

Last November, the USOPC filed the same complaint against USA Gymnastics, seeking to revoke its status after the Larry Nassar sexual-abuse crimes came to light followed by several leadership changes.

USA Gymnastics since filed for bankruptcy and named former college gymnast and NBA executive Li Li Leung its new CEO in February. It remains the sport’s NGB with eight months until the Tokyo Olympics.

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Sun Yang should get lengthy ban if he loses doping hearing, WADA says

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — The World Anti-Doping Agency wants China’s star swimmer Sun Yang banned for up to eight years for alleged doping rules violations.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport said Tuesday ahead of a rare appeal hearing in open court on Friday that WADA requests a ban of two to eight years. Sun served a three-month ban in 2014 for a positive test.

If WADA wins, the three-time Olympic freestyle champion will miss the Tokyo Games.

WADA has challenged world swimming body FINA’s ruling to merely warn Sun after a disputed attempt by sample collectors to take blood and urine from him at his home in China in September 2018. The late-night confrontation lasted from 11 p.m. to beyond 3:30 a.m.

The day-long hearing will examine why a secure box storing a glass vial of blood came to be destroyed by Sun’s entourage, who questioned the sample team’s authority. A FINA tribunal panel agreed the officials lacked proper credentials to make the sample collection valid.

WADA believes Sun broke anti-doping rules by refusing to submit to a sample collection.

All sides agreed to Sun’s request to hold a first CAS appeal in public for 20 years.

A verdict is unlikely until early next year.

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