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Boxing body near bankrupt, facing 2020 Olympic exclusion

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — The International Boxing Association (AIBA) is near bankruptcy, days before a decision to formally exclude the body from the Tokyo Olympics.

AIBA executive director Tom Virgets told board members it will be insolvent if International Olympic Committee members derecognize the troubled body next Wednesday.

The full IOC membership is expected to sign off on recommendations made last month by its executive board, which would deny AIBA its expected $17.5 million share of Tokyo Games commercial revenue and cut off the men’s and women’s 2019 world championships in Russia as qualifying paths.

“In my opinion, the decisions made by the IOC were clearly designed to bankrupt AIBA,” Virgets wrote in a letter seen by The Associated Press. “Every source of income that AIBA had going forward was taken away.”

The IOC board, chaired by President Thomas Bach, discussed the Tokyo boxing tournaments again Wednesday. However, there were no detailed talks about AIBA’s financial and staffing issues, IOC sports director Kit McConnell said.

AIBA has less than $400,000 in the bank and cannot afford to challenge any IOC ruling at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, Virgets wrote to senior officials.

The boxing body is also releasing all but three staff from its Lausanne offices, close to the IOC’s new lakeside headquarters which opened this month and cost around $145 million.

Virgets said he also is leaving, explaining “It is the correct thing to do” because he failed in his mandate to keep AIBA involved in the Tokyo Olympics.

AIBA plans to hold an executive committee meeting one day after its Olympic fate is likely sealed.

The IOC board wants AIBA excluded after appointing an inquiry panel to investigate its finances, governance, and the integrity of judging and refereeing in Olympic bouts, including at Rio 2016.

A key factor against AIBA was its members having elected Gafur Rakhimov as president last year while on a U.S. sanctions list with suspected links to organized crime. He denies wrongdoing.

The IOC detailed its plans Wednesday for a fresh qualification program next year to send male and female boxers to 13 medal events in Tokyo.

The eight men’s weight classes are a reduction of two from Rio, with two women’s classes added to make five.

Four regional qualification tournaments are planned between January and April — in the Americas, Africa, a combined Asia-Oceania region, and Europe — with a final global qualifier, likely in May, McConnell said. Past and future Olympic host cities should host the qualifiers.

After the previous AIBA president, long-time IOC member C.K. Wu, sought to put professional boxers into the Olympic tournaments, that is not a priority for Tokyo.

McConnell said national Olympic teams could choose to enter pro boxers, who would have to go through the full qualifying program.

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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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