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Yevgenia Medvedeva selected for Worlds

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At first, Russia entered their picks for the 2019 World Championships though said they were subject to change on Monday. Double world champion Yevgenia Medvedeva and 2015 world champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva were not on that initial list; instead, listed as alternates.

But Wednesday, Russia’s skating federation made it official, deciding to send Medvedeva, the Olympic silver medalist; Alina Zagitova, the Olympic champion; and Sofia Samodurova, who beat Zagitova at Europeans to win the title there last month. Medvedeva also had won the selection competition on Saturday.

Worlds will take place March 18-24 in Saitama, Japan.

Tuktamysheva and Stanislava Konstantinova, who finished fourth at Europeans, were named the alternates. Tuktamysheva had missed Russian nationals due to a hospitalization with pneumonia and finished second at the selection competition. She also won bronze at the Grand Prix Final.

Neither the men’s nor pairs’ lineups changed from the preliminary list, and Russia still plans to send Maxim Kovtun, Mikhail Kolyada, Alexander Samarin, plus pairs Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov; Natalia Zabiyako and Alexander Enbert; and Alexandra Boikova and Dmitri Kozlovsky.

Russia has two ice dance spots for Worlds and are sending Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov and Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin (read NBCSports’ interview with the team here). Both teams were at the Grand Prix Final and finished with silver and in fourth, respectively.

MORE: Yevgenia Medvedeva responds to social media criticism

As a reminder, you can watch the world championships live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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Beach volleyball player’s dog becomes social media sensation

Mathias Berntsen
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Norwegian beach volleyball player Mathias Berntsen‘s dog, Kiara, captivated social media this weekend.

A video of Kiara peppering with Berntsen and a pair across the net on a grass field spread from Berntsen’s Instagram across platforms. Kiara now has 12,000 Instagram followers, more than twice the total of Berntsen.

Berntsen, 24, is one half of Norway’s second-best beach volleyball team.

He and partner Hendrik Mol are ranked 45th in the world and well outside the Tokyo Olympic picture (24 teams go to the Games), but could get in the mix depending on how qualification is amended once sports resume.

Berntsen and his cousin Mol are part of a group called the Beach Volley Vikings. Mol’s younger brother, Anders, and family friend Christian Sorum are the world’s top-ranked team (profiled here).

MORE: Beach volleyball players fly to Australia, learn event is canceled

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FIFA rules on Olympic men’s soccer tournament age eligibility

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For the first time since 1988, some 24-year-olds will be eligible for the Olympic men’s soccer tournament without using an over-age exception.

FIFA announced Friday that it will use the same age eligibility criteria for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 that it intended to use in 2020 — that players born on or after Jan. 1, 1997 are eligible, plus three over-age exceptions. FIFA chose not to move the birthdate deadline back a year after the Olympics were postponed by one year.

Olympic men’s soccer tournaments have been U-23 events — save those exceptions — since the 1992 Barcelona Games. In 1984 and 1988, restrictions kept European and South American players with World Cup experience ineligible. Before that, professionals weren’t allowed at all.

Fourteen of the 16 men’s soccer teams already qualified for the Games using players from under-23 national teams. The last two spots are to be filled by CONCACAF nations, potentially the U.S. qualifying a men’s team for the first time since 2008.

The U.S.’ biggest star, Christian Pulisic, and French superstar Kylian Mbappe were both born in 1998 and thus would have been under the age limit even if FIFA moved the deadline to Jan. 1, 1998.

Perhaps the most high-profile player affected by FIFA’s decision is Brazilian forward Gabriel Jesus. The Manchester City star was born April 3, 1997, and thus would have become an over-age exception if FIFA pushed the birthdate rule back a year.

Instead, Brazil could name him to the Olympic team and still keep all of its over-age exceptions.

However, players need permission from their professional club teams to play in the Olympics, often limiting the availability of stars.

MORE: Noah Lyles details training near woods, dog walkers

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