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Two-time Olympic medalist Ayumu Hirano to compete in skateboarding this month

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After winning his second straight Olympic silver medal in PyeongChang, Japanese snowboarding star Ayumu Hirano had barely undone his bindings when he was asked about his plans for Tokyo.

“If I’m going to start aiming for [Tokyo 2020], I don’t have much time. I’ll need to train hard,” Hirano said at a post-event press conference, according to the Japan Times. “I need to organize my thoughts. It’s just a possibility at this point.”

Hirano, 20, plans to compete in skateboarding at the Japan Open on March 16, according to Reuters, and has said he’s aiming for a spot on the Japanese team when skateboarding makes its Olympic debut in 2020.

Known for his incredible amplitude and smooth board control on the halfpipe, Hirano’s ties to skateboarding link back to childhood: his father, Hidenori, owns a skate park in Hirano’s hometown of Murakami, located on the west coast of Japan. He could be one of the host nation’s most prominent stars in Tokyo if he makes the Olympic team.

He could also could face a familiar foe: Shaun White, who topped Hirano for gold in PyeongChang, has said he’s pondering a run at his first summer Olympics. White, 32, has won five X Games medals in skateboarding, but all of those were in vert, a non-Olympic discipline.

White said in February he was “cruising into skating,” in an interview with Olympic.org, while trying to plot out what he’ll need to do to qualify for Tokyo. “I’m best preparing for any outcome,” he said, and enjoying some time away from the snow. “I’m skating on Venice Beach, the sun is going down and I’ve stopped to get a taco,” she said. “I’m kicking it with my friends, instead of being in Colorado. It’s been great and I’m having fun. It’s a different type of skating [in Tokyo] to what I did previously, which was vert skating, the big ramps. Now I’m doing bowl skating which is rad, it’s so much fun.”

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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