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Wayde van Niekerk has setback in return from injury

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Wayde van Niekerk, the Olympic and world champion and world-record holder at 400m, suffered a knee bone bruise that sets back his international return from 2017 knee surgery five or six weeks.

Van Niekerk, who has raced once since the summer of 2017, is still hopeful of defending his world title in about three months in Doha.

“It’s very disappointing as I probably pushed myself too hard, but I’m now working towards the goal patiently,” he said in a press release. “I will review my competition schedule with my team, and together with my coach we will decide where and when to race.”

Van Niekerk was scheduled to return this summer, namely at a Diamond League meet in London in three weeks. A representative for van Niekerk said that he withdrew from the meet. Van Niekerk’s account also tweeted that he “won’t be participating in the upcoming Diamond League events.” The Diamond League regular season runs through Aug. 24.

Van Niekerk has a bye into worlds as a defending champion. Two months after the 2017 Worlds, he tore a meniscus and an ACL in a celebrity tag rugby match. Van Niekerk made a low-key return at a meet in South Africa on Feb. 28, clocking 47.28 seconds. His world record from the Rio Olympics is 43.03.

During his absence, American Michael Norman emerged as the world’s top 400m runner (also in the absence of 2008 Olympic champ LaShawn Merritt and 2012 gold medalist Kirani James). Norman, 21, ran the sixth-fastest lap in history on April 20, a 43.45 that was also the fastest 400m ever run before the month of June.

Van Niekerk’s best time since Rio was 43.62. He has never raced Norman head to head.

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World Alpine Skiing Championships on for 2021 after request to delay rejected

Alpine Skiing World Championships
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GENEVA (AP) — A request by the organizers of next year’s skiing world championships in Italy to postpone the event by one year was rejected Thursday by the International Ski Federation.

FIS ruled that the event will go ahead from Feb. 9-21, 2021, in Cortina d’Ampezzo — the highlight of an Alpine season that faces challenges to find safe protocols for international travel and attending races in Europe, North America and China.

The Veneto region of northern Italy was hit hard by the coronavirus and the season-ending World Cup races in Cortina in mid-March were canceled. That week-long event was to be a test for the 2021 worlds.

“The last month of efforts to come to this solution demonstrates the strong collaborative spirit of the ski family and stakeholders.” FIS president Gian-Franco Kasper said.

Organizers in Italy have said they expect losses of about 30 million euros ($34 million) if the worlds are also canceled. They asked for a postponement to March 2022, which would be only weeks after the Beijing Olympics.

“But we will be ready in any case and we will show that these world championships can change the history of a region despite the current difficulties,” Alessandro Benetton, president of the Cortina organizing committee, said in a statement.

Italian racer Sofia Goggia, the 2018 Olympic downhill champion, said she was “happy for Cortina because it will host the first major international event after the coronavirus epidemic.”

Cortina, which hosted the 1956 Olympics, will co-host the 2026 Winter Games with Milan and use the worlds as a showcase for the resort.

The women’s World Cup downhill on the Olympia delle Tofane course each January is one of the most scenic in the sport with a signature jump between tall outcrops of jagged rock.

The Dolomites venue was awarded the 2021 worlds by FIS after missing out as a candidate four straight times from 2013-19.

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Russia track and field athlete clearance frozen due to unpaid fine

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MONACO (AP) — The program allowing Russian track athletes to compete internationally will be frozen because the country’s federation failed to pay a fine on time, World Athletics said Thursday.

The Russian track federation, known as RusAF, owes a $5 million fine and another $1.31 million in costs for various doping-related work and legal wrangles. World Athletics said RusAF missed Wednesday’s deadline to pay.

World Athletics said it would freeze the work of the Doping Review Board, which vets Russian athletes who want the “authorized neutral athlete” status that allows them to compete internationally, and its taskforce monitoring RusAF’s anti-doping reforms.

World Athletics said both bodies will be “put on hold” until its council meets to discuss the situation at the end of July.

“RusAF is letting its athletes down badly,” World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said in a statement. “We have done as much as we can to expedite our ANA process and support RusAF with its reinstatement plan, but seemingly to no avail.”

RusAF president Yevgeny Yurchenko earlier told the Tass state news agency that his federation’s finances were damaged by the coronavirus pandemic and that it had asked for more time to pay.

World Athletics’ statement didn’t directly address that issue, but said Russia hadn’t indicated when it would pay.

Russia was fined $10 million by World Athletics in March, with $5 million suspended for two years, after the federation admitted to breaking anti-doping rules and obstructing an investigation.

The Athletics Integrity Unit said fake documents were used under the previous management to give an athlete an alibi for missing a doping test.

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