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Russia eyes Tokyo Olympics amid doping troubles

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MOSCOW (AP) — Russia will become a force in the medals table at the Tokyo Olympics despite its current doping problems, the country’s sports minister said Wednesday.

Russia won just 19 gold medals in Rio, its lowest count since Soviet days. It was fourth in the medals table behind the United States, Great Britain and China.

“We’re not thinking about lawsuits or arguments. We’re preparing calmly,” Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov said. “In most sports, even in sports where we didn’t have great results a while back, we will be competing for medals.”

Russia was allowed to field only one athlete in track and field and none in weightlifting because of measures imposed in the wake of doping cases. Two years later at the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, Russia’s team was officially barred for past doping offenses, and a diminished team of “Olympic Athletes from Russia” competed instead.

Russia was formally readmitted by the International Olympic Committee after the PyeongChang Games and restrictions on its roster will be relaxed next year compared to the last Summer Olympics.

Dozens of Russians have passed vetting from the IAAF and are now allowed to compete internationally in track.

Russia will only be able to send one male and one female weightlifter to Tokyo under new rules restricting quotas for countries with a history of doping in that sport. China, India and Iran are among 16 other countries hit by the weightlifting rule change.

“Roughly speaking, we understand we’ve already formed a pool of athletes who can compete for (Olympic) medals. I can say that we’ll be competitive in 20 sports,” Kolobkov said. “So we’re expecting a very interesting year of qualification for the Olympics, and I’m sure the Olympics will please our fans with good results.”

The five new sports on the Olympic program for Tokyo, including skateboarding, baseball and surfing, generally don’t play to Russia’s traditional strengths. However, officials say they are drawing up plans to help more young Russians to train for those events.

MORE: Russia doping: 100 ‘strong cases’ found by WADA

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Federica Brignone passes Mikaela Shiffrin for World Cup overall lead

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Italian Federica Brignone passed an absent Mikaela Shiffrin for the World Cup overall standings lead by winning a combined in Switzerland on Sunday.

Brignone prevailed by .92 of a second adding times from super-G and slalom runs in Crans-Montana. Full results are here.

Brignone moved 73 points ahead of Shiffrin in the overall through 29 of 40 scheduled races. A race winner receives 100 points on a descending scale through the 30th-place finisher. The season runs through March 22.

Shiffrin, the three-time reigning World Cup overall champion, has not competed since the unexpected death of her father on Feb. 2. She has not announced if or when she will return this season.

Brignone, 29, is having a career season with five wins and 10 podiums across four disciplines.

Brignone’s best previous World Cup overall standings finish was fifth. She earned giant slalom medals at the 2018 Olympics (bronze) and 2011 World Championships (silver).

She could become Italy’s first female World Cup overall champion. The last Italian male winner was Alberto Tomba in 1995.

The women’s Alpine skiing World Cup moves to La Thuile, Italy, for a super-G and a combined next Saturday and Sunday.

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Jade Carey on brink of becoming first gymnast to qualify for U.S. Olympic team

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The U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials aren’t until late June, but Jade Carey is in position to qualify for the Tokyo Games in March.

Carey, seeking an individual Olympic gymnastics spot outside of the team competition, earned the maximum points in a World Cup series that is one path to Olympic qualification.

Carey has three wins each on floor exercise and vault with two World Cups left in March. Carey will mathematically clinch an Olympic spot if no other gymnasts earn maximum points on one of the apparatuses to force a tiebreaker.

A gymnast’s top three finishes across the eight-stop series count in Olympic qualifying. If Carey finishes atop the floor or vault standings, she goes to the Olympics.

Carey picked up those third wins on floor and vault at the sixth World Cup in Melbourne, Australia, this weekend.

So far, no other gymnast has two wins on floor. One other gymnast can get to the maximum points on vault with one win between the last two stops (and others with two).

The one downside to qualifying this route: Carey would not be able to compete in the team competition at the Olympics. Those four spots will be determined at and after June’s trials in St. Louis, with Simone Biles likely grabbing one of them.

“I knew I would be giving up being on the team,” Carey said in October of going the World Cup route, “but I think, for me, it made sense to just go for it.”

Carey is a world medalist on vault and floor, but she doesn’t have the all-around credentials of Biles and some other U.S. gymnasts.

Olympic team event roster sizes were cut from five to four for Tokyo, putting a greater onus on all-around prowess given a team must put three gymnasts on each apparatus in the Olympic final.

The U.S. is the deepest country in women’s gymnastics, so the only truly safe pick to make the four-woman Olympic team event roster is Biles.

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