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Sydney McLaughlin signs with New Balance

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Sydney McLaughlin, who in 2016 became the youngest U.S. track and field athlete to compete at an Olympics in 44 years, has signed a contract with New Balance as her footwear and apparel sponsor.

The 19-year-old turned pro after her freshman season at the University of Kentucky, when she lowered her personal bests in the 200m, 400m and 400m hurdles, all by more than a second, and ran the world’s fastest 400m hurdles of 2018 by .57.

“New Balance has a long-standing history as an excellent running company and they are the perfect partner for me,” McLaughlin said in a press release. “I’m thrilled to join the Team New Balance family, a brand that not only shares the same values and principles that are important to me but also supports its athletes on and off the track.”

McLaughlin, a Rio Olympic 400m hurdles semifinalist, last raced June 9 at the NCAA Championships. She withdrew from the USATF Outdoor Championships later that month, one year after she was sixth at USATF Outdoors in perhaps the greatest 400m hurdles race ever.

She now ranks Nos. 54, 27 and 5 all time in the U.S. in the 200m, 400m and 400m hurdles. Perhaps the only woman who reached anywhere near that versatility was Jackie Joyner-Kersee, who ranks No. 38 in the 200m and No. 43 in the 400m hurdles but never ran the 400m at her peak.

New Balance’s other notable track and field athletes include Olympic 1500m bronze medalist Jenny Simpson, world 3000m steeplechase champion Emma Coburn and Olympic 100m sprinter Trayvon Bromell.

McLaughlin has not announced a new coach after NBC Sports’ Ato Boldon said on the House of Run podcast in July that she and her Kentucky coach, Edrick Floréal, parted.

Boldon believes McLaughlin will lower her 400m hurdles personal best of 52.75 and challenge the world record of 52.34, set by Russian Yuliya Pechonkina in 2003. He also sees McLaughlin becoming a star off the track, given she signed with Beverly Hills talent agency WME.

“Sydney McLaughlin is about to be what Flo-Jo would have been if she was starting out right now in this era,” Boldon said. “She has the look. She has the performance. … It’s going to be an exciting time to watch her rise.”

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Swim meet canceled after FINA’s threat to ban athletes

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GENEVA (AP) — Amid growing conflict between swimmers and their world governing body, an international swimming meet was canceled on Thursday after threats to ban athletes who took part seeking better prize money.

The Italian swim federation called off the Dec. 20-21 competition it was organizing in Turin, saying it acted to protect athletes from FINA.

The Turin meet was linked to a proposed International Swimming League, a privately run operation which aims to operate outside FINA’s control and pay higher prize money.

“FINA declared the event ‘non-approved,’ threatening sanctions against the participating athletes,” Italian officials said in a statement.

FINA, based in Lausanne, Switzerland, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Some Olympic champions have long criticized FINA, believing swimmers should be better rewarded, have more say in decisions, and could create their own union.

Olympic champion Adam Peaty of Britain wrote on Thursday on Twitter he was “incredibly disappointed” by the cancellation.

The politics involved will “galvanize swimmers, not break them,” wrote Peaty, who holds 50m and 100m breaststroke world records.

Peaty has previously supported Hungarian star Katinka Hosszu in her public criticism of FINA, and calls to create a swimmers’ union.

Italian organizers said Peaty, Hosszu and other Olympic champions including Chad le Clos of South Africa and Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden were due to take part in their 25-meter pool event. It was scheduled days after the short-course world championships being staged in Hangzhou, China.

The clash of events seemed to provoke FINA into finding more prize money for its worlds event in the smaller pool.

On Nov. 6, FINA added to its promised prize fund for China by almost doubling the total to $2.07 million.

FINA wrote to member federations on Oct. 30 warning of bans of up to two years for taking part in Turin.

However, a European Commission decision last year suggests swimmers could successfully challenge any attempt to limit their right to race and earn money.

The European Union’s executive arm ruled the International Staking Union in breach of anti-trust laws by threatening severe bans for speed skaters who wanted to compete in a South Korean-organized event in Dubai.

The ISU’s threats “also serve to protect its own commercial interests,” the European officials said.

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Simon Ammann believes ski jumping career end is near

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Simon Ammann, the most decorated active ski jumper with four Olympic gold medals, said it is hard to imagine competing beyond this season, according to Swiss newspaper Blick.

Ammann, 37, swept the individual Olympic titles in 2002 and 2010 to join retired Finn Matti Nykänen as the only four-time Olympic ski jumping champs.

In PyeongChang, his sixth Olympics, Ammann placed 11th and 13th, one month after making his first World Cup podium in nearly three years. He decided after those Winter Games that he would continue at least one more season, but has no plan to go all the way to a seventh Olympics in 2022, according to Blick.

Ammann has teased retirement since at least 2011 and even said going into the 2014 Sochi Olympics that he was “99 percent sure” they would be his final Games.

The now-father of two first gained crossover celebrity with his surprise Salt Lake City 2002 gold medals, his first wins in top-level international competition. The bespectacled Ammann’s victory screams and resemblance to Harry Potter helped land him on “The Late Show with David Letterman” and one of Europe’s biggest shows, sitting next to Shakira.

Fellow ski jumper Noriaki Kasai of Japan holds the Winter Olympic record of eight appearances. Kasai, 46, has said he plans to go for a ninth participation at Beijing 2022.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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