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James Magnussen retires from swimming

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James Magnussen, Australia’s biggest swimming star going into the 2012 Olympics, has retired at age 28 after slowing down considerably in recent years following 2015 shoulder surgery.

“I have taken the time to make the best decision for myself moving forward and to do that I wanted to make sure I was in the best space mentally and physically before announcing my retirement,” he said in a press release. “I could have swum at another Olympic Games, but with the lofty standards I have held myself to over the years and the high expectations I have, I believe now is the right time to step away from the sport.”

Magnussen, nicknamed “The Missile,” was world champion in the sport’s marquee event, the 100m freestyle, in 2011 and 2013. However, he was edged for gold at the London Olympics by .01 by Nathan Adrian.

Magnussen was part of an overall disappointing 2012 Games for the Australian swim team, which came home with one relay gold. Magnussen led off the Aussie men’s 4x100m free team that finished fourth, one year after winning the world title.

He came back from shoulder surgery to make the Rio 2016 team as a relay-only swimmer, helping Australia to bronze. Magnussen missed the 2017 Worlds and 2018 Pan Pacific Championships. His only major international meet since Rio was the 2018 Commonwealth Games, where he was sixth in the 50m free and part of a gold-medal freestyle relay.

He was surpassed in the sprints in the last Olympic cycle by Cameron McEvoy, the 2015 World silver medalist in the 100m free, and then surprise Rio Olympic 100m free champ Kyle Chalmers.

He still owns the second-fastest 100m freestyle in history aside from the high-tech suit era, a 47.10 from the 2012 Olympic Trials bettered only by McEvoy’s 47.04 at the 2016 Olympic Trials.

MORE: Olympic breaststroke champion retires at age 22

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World Cup Alpine season opener gets green light

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After checking the snow on the Rettenbach glacier in Soelden, Austria, FIS officials announced Thursday that the traditional World Cup season opener is set to go ahead as planned Oct. 26-27 with men’s and women’s giant slalom races.

Current conditions at Soelden show a solid 30 inches of snow at the summit. The race finishes at an altitude of 2,670 meters (8,760 feet), far above the currently snowless village.

The first races of the season are never guaranteed to have enough snow, though last year’s men’s race at Soelden had the opposite problem, being canceled when a storm blew through with heavy snowfall and high winds. 

France’s Tessa Worley won the women’s race last year ahead of Italy’s Frederica Brignone and U.S. skier Mikaela Shiffrin, who would go on to dominate the rest of the World Cup season.

The Soelden weekend is followed by three dormant weeks until the season resumes Nov. 23-24 in Levi, Finland. The World Cup circuits then switch to North America. The men will run speed events Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Lake Louise, Alberta, then head to Beaver Creek, Colo., for more speed events and a giant slalom Dec. 6-8. The women run slalom and giant slalom Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Killington, Vt., and head to Lake Louise the next weekend.

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Olympic marathon and race walk move from Tokyo to Sapporo draws some pushback

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In the wake of a dropout-plagued set of world championship endurance races in Qatar, moving the 2020 Olympic marathons and race walks from Tokyo to the cooler venue of Sapporo is a quick fix for one problem, pending the potential for untimely heat waves.

But the move has drawn some opposition for a variety of reasons.

First, many organizers and politicians appear to have been caught by surprise. Tokyo’s governor, Yuriko Koike, was “taken aback” and Sapporo’s mayor, Katsuhiro Akimoto, learned about the move from the media, Kyodo News reported. Koike even sarcastically suggested that the races could move all the way northward to islands disputed by Russia and Japan.

South African sports scientist Ross Tucker suggested that running in heat and humidity poses an interesting challenge for athletes, some of whom may be able to catch up with faster runners by preparing for the conditions.

British marathoner Mara Yamauchi made a similar point, saying the move was unfair to those who already were preparing for the heat, humidity and other conditions.

Belgian marathoner Koen Naert said he will make the best of the change but complained that some of his preparation and every runner’s logistical planning would no longer apply.

The angriest athlete may be Canadian walker Evan Dunfee, who placed fourth in the 2016 Olympic 50km race and nearly claimed bronze as a Canadian appeal was upheld but then rejected. He says runners and walkers can beat the conditions if they prepare, which many athletes did not do for the world championships in Qatar.

“So why do we cater to the ill prepared?” Dunfee asked on Twitter.

The move also takes athletes out of the main Olympic city and takes away the traditional, tough less frequent in modern years, finish in the Olympic stadium.

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