Chris Froome, hospitalized after crash, may be in line for 2011 Vuelta title

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PARIS (AP) — Chris Froome remained hospitalized in France on Thursday after the high-speed crash that left him with multiple fractures and shattered his hopes of going for a record-equaling fifth Tour de France title next month.

He also may now be in line to be the 2011 Vuelta a España winner after the International Cycling Union (UCI) announced original champion, the retired Juan José Cobo, was banned three years for biological passport abnormalities from 2009 and 2011.

The UCI did not say whether Cabo’s doping ban could affect his Vuelta title, won by 13 seconds over Froome, two years before Froome won the first of his six Grand Tours at the 2013 Tour de France.

If Froome gets the 2011 Vuelta, he will move into a tie for fourth on the all-time Grand Tour titles list with Fausto Coppi, Miguel Indurain and Alberto Contador. Only Eddy Merckx (11), Bernard Hinault (10) and Jacques Anquetil (eight) have more.

Froome was airlifted to Saint-Etienne hospital in central France and underwent surgery after he hit a wall at 34 miles per hour during a training ride before the fourth stage of the Criterium du Dauphine in Roanne on Wednesday.

The Dauphine is a traditional warmup race for the Tour de France, the three-week showpiece race Froome and his teammates have dominated in recent years.

The 34-year-old Froome broke his right femur, elbow and several ribs. He was in intensive care and underwent surgery for several hours. His Ineos Team, which already said the crash ruled him out of the Tour, is expected to give an update on his condition later Thursday.

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Team principal Dave Brailsford told the BBC that Froome was on a descent with teammate Wout Poels when he went to blow his nose and a gust of wind took out his front wheel, he lost control, and he hit the wall of a house.

Froome, who won the Tour de France in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017, has often crashed in his career but had never been so seriously injured.

Last year on the Tour, he crashed in the opening stage and hit the ground again on a cobbled stage in northern France. He was also forced out of the 2014 Tour after injuring his left wrist in crashes, and abandoned the 2015 Spanish Vuelta with a foot injury following yet another accident.

After his third-place finish in last year’s Tour, Froome had only one goal this season: matching the record of five wins shared by Anquetil, Merckx, Hinault and Indurain.

He had skipped the Giro to focus solely on cycling’s marquee event and was hoping to put the final touches to his preparations at the Dauphine.

“Chris had worked incredibly hard to get in fantastic shape and was on track for the Tour, which unfortunately he will now miss,” Brailsford said.

Froome’s absence will settle the leadership question within Ineos, with Geraint Thomas looking to defend his title in July without a rival in his squad.

“Such crap news!! It’s always horrible hearing about any bad crash, but even worse when it’s a good mate!!” Thomas wrote on Twitter after finding out about Froome’s accident.

The Tour de France starts on July 6 from Brussels, Belgium.

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Kelly Slater has an Olympic decision to make

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Surfing icon Kelly Slater is in great position to qualify for his sport’s Olympic debut in 2020, but he’s undecided about making a required event appearance this summer to stay eligible.

The top two U.S. male surfers in this season’s World Surf League final standings are in line to qualify for the Olympics.

Slater, a 47-year-old, 11-time world champion, is ranked third among Americans through six of 11 events, but the No. 2, two-time world champion John John Florence, is likely out for the rest of the season after an ACL tear.

If Slater keeps up his current pace of results, he will pass Florence’s point total by the end of the season in December.

“It appears as though I have to make a decision [on the Olympics] sooner than that,” Slater said after being eliminated from South Africa’s J-Bay Open in ninth place on Wednesday. “I’ve really got to figure out all the factors around that and make a decision in the next few weeks.”

Slater’s concern is the ISA World Surfing Games in Miyazaki, Japan, in September, an event that top Olympic hopefuls on the WSL tour are required to attend, barring illness or injury.

“I think I have to surf that event, and if I don’t, it may disqualify me,” he said (the International Surfing Association, the sport’s governing body, later confirmed it would disqualify him). “But I’m not sure if I want to go to Japan and compete right now.”

The ISA Games take place in the week between the next two WSL events, the latter hosted by Slater’s Surf Ranch wave pool in California.

“I’m not exactly sure how I feel about the Olympics right now, anyways,” said Slater, who last year said he was “50-50” on the Olympics when noting his differing thoughts on the qualification process and venue. “The point is, I’m not really focusing on it at this point. I’m trying to get myself back in the flow of the tour.”

Slater missed 13 tour stops between the 2017 and 2018 seasons after breaking a foot and having multiple surgeries.

He finished fifth, third, ninth, ninth and ninth in his five most recent events to get into Olympic qualifying position. He expected more after placing third in the two contests he entered healthy last season. Slater said he competed at J-Bay after straining his back “really bad” on Sunday, keeping him from surfing the three days before the contest.

“Ninth place, to me, used to be a pretty awful result. I’m used to at least a quarterfinal on for most of my career,” he said. “I’m not horrified by my results, but I’m also not surprised. Maybe other people are because everyone focuses on my age and that kind of thing. It’s not like I’m going to all of a sudden forget how to do this thing, you know?”

Slater, at 48, would be the oldest U.S. Summer Olympic rookie competitor in a sport other than equestrian, sailing or shooting (or art competitions!) in the last 100 years, supplanting Martina Navratilova, via the OlyMADMen.

“Right now in my head the focus is more on this tour than it is on the Olympics, but we’ll see,” he said. “I was starting this year with a lot of pressure on myself to try and make the Olympic team and think, maybe I’ll retire there next year and that will be the end for me. It put so much pressure on the start of the year for me that I didn’t feel like I could freely compete. It was putting too many things in my head. I needed to let that take a backseat and not worry about it. I’m just not really thinking about it a lot.”

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China on brink of sweeping every gold medal at diving worlds

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Shi Tingmao joined Guo Jingjing as the only women to win three straight world titles in an individual diving event, giving China 11 gold medals in 11 events with two finals left in Gwangju, South Korea.

Shi, who swept the individual and synchronized springboard titles in Rio, claimed the 3m world title on Friday by 18.25 points with 391 total. Countrywoman Wang Han took silver, 5.8 points ahead of Australian Maddison Keeney.

Americans Sarah Bacon and Brooke Schultz missed the 12-woman final, placing 14th and 29th.

China, which has dominated the sport for two decades, is looking to sweep the golds at an Olympics or worlds for the second time after winning all 10 events in 2011. This year’s feat could be more impressive, should China win the last two events Saturday — a mixed-gender springboard and the men’s platform.

That’s because three mixed-gender events were added to the world program (but not the Olympic program) since 2011. And this year, China has not only won every gold but also taken every silver in the three individual Olympic program events thus far.

China is in strong position to go one-two in the men’s platform. Yang Jian and Yang Hao were nearly 70 points clear of the field in Friday’s semifinals.

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