AP

2 dead, 8 world aquatics champs athletes hurt in S. Korea balcony collapse

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A balcony inside a nightclub in South Korea collapsed on Saturday, killing two people and injuring 16, including American and other athletes at the world swimming championships, officials said.

Hundreds were at the nightclub in the southern city of Gwangju when the collapse occurred next to the athletes’ village.

Two South Korean men died while 16 others were injured, police said. According to a police account, the injured include 10 foreigners, eight of them athletes who were in Gwangju to participate in the swimming championships.

Among the athletes were three Americans, two New Zealanders, one Dutch, one Italian and one Brazilian, a police officer said, requesting anonymity ahead of an official announcement. He said most had minor injuries but an American female water polo player required surgery. The other two Americans — a man and a woman — are also water polo players, the police officer said.

Police said they detained one of the nightclub’s co-owners and summoned three other club officials to investigate whether the collapsed balcony was an unauthorized structure.

“This is an awful tragedy,” said Christopher Ramsey, CEO of USA Water Polo. “Players from our men’s and women’s teams were celebrating the women’s world championship victory when the collapse occurred at a public club. Our hearts go out to the victims of the crash and their families.”

Among the Americans, Kaleigh Gilchrist of Newport Beach, California, suffered a deep left leg laceration and underwent surgery at a hospital in Gwangju, said Greg Mescall, director of communications for USA Water Polo. He said Paige Hauschild of Santa Barbara, California, suffered lacerations on the right arm and Johnny Hooper of Los Angeles on the left hand that required stitches.

Ben Hallock of Westlake Village, California, suffered minor scrapes on the legs, he said.

The anti-disaster agency said the injured also included two Uzbekistan exchange students. None of the injured was in life-threatening condition.

Members of the New Zealand men’s and women’s water polo teams were also at the nightclub. The men’s captain, Matt Small, described a chaotic scene and said that his team tried to help the injured.

″(It was) business as usual and then it literally collapsed beneath our feet,” Small said, speaking to New Zealand Radio Sport by phone. “None of the boys are hurt or injured though — so that’s good. But everyone’s a bit shaken up at the moment.”

“We did what we could but we couldn’t really do too much. Some of them were pretty dire cases,” he said. “We were more so just concerned about everyone else, we were trying to do a number count and make sure all the boys were there.”

The local organizing committee for the world swimming championships said that eight of the athletes attending the event were injured, most slightly.

A committee statement said seven of them had already returned to the athletes’ village after minor treatments at hospitals. It said one player had a leg lacerated and was to receive stitches at a hospital.

The organizing committee said it won’t disclose other personal information about the athletes at the request of their national teams.

FINA, international swimming’s governing body, said in a statement that it was “carefully monitoring the situation and will activate all measures to ensure health care and assistance is provided whenever necessary.”

Mark Spitz takes on Katie Ledecky’s challenge

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Swimmers around the world took on Katie Ledecky‘s milk-glass challenge since it became a social media sensation, including one of the few Americans with more Olympic gold medals.

Mark Spitz, who won seven golds at the 1972 Munich Games, took 10 strokes in an at-home pool while perfectly balancing a glass of what appeared to be water on his head.

“Would’ve been faster with the ‘stache, @markspitzusa, but I still give this 7 out of 7 gold medals,” Ledecky tweeted.

Spitz joined fellow Olympic champions Susie O’Neill of Australia and American Matt Grevers in posting similar videos to what Ledecky first shared Monday.

In Tokyo next year, Ledecky can pass Spitz’s career gold-medal count of nine if she wins all of her expected events — 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles and the 4x200m free relay.

Then she would trail one athlete from any country in any sport — Michael Phelps, the 23-time gold medalist who has yet to post video of swimming while balancing a glass on his head.

MORE: Spitz puts Michael Phelps’ career in perspective

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Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis eyeing Grand Slam record

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Serena Williams travels with “like 50 masks” and has been a little bit of a recluse since early March and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t have full lung capacity, so I’m not sure what would happen to me,” Williams said Saturday, two days before the start of the WTA’s Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky., her first tournament since playing Fed Cup in early February. “I’m sure I’ll be OK, but I don’t want to find out.”

Williams, 38, has a history of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms. She faced life-threatening complications following her Sept. 1, 2017, childbirth that confined her to a bed for six weeks. She said her daily routine was surgery and that she lost count after the first four.

More recently, Williams enjoyed “every part” of the last six months at home in Florida, her longest time grounded since her teens.

“I’ve been a little neurotic, to an extent,” on health and safety, she said. “Everyone in the Serena bubble is really protected.”

Williams is entered to play next week in Lexington and at consecutive tournaments in New York City later this month — the Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open, the latter starting Aug. 31.

Williams is the highest-ranked player in the Lexington field at No. 9. Others include 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, older sister Venus Williams and 16-year-old Coco Gauff.

She has been bidding ever since having daughter Olympia to tie Margaret Court‘s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, albeit many of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and, notably at the Australian Open, against small fields lacking the world’s best players. Williams reached the last two Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals, losing all of them.

She showed her seriousness in committing early to this year’s U.S. Open by installing a court at home with the same surface. Three of the top 10 female singles players already said they will skip the U.S. Open due to travel and/or virus concerns, including No. 1 Ash Barty.

“Tennis is naturally a socially distanced sport, so it was kind of easy to go back and just walk on my side of the court and have my hitter walk on his side of the court,” Williams said.

The French Open starts two weeks after the U.S. Open ends. Williams was asked if she will fly to Europe for tournaments this autumn.

“I see myself doing it all, if it happens,” she said.

The Tokyo Olympics are too far away to make plans.

“We’ll have to kind of wait to see what happens in the fall,” she said. “One thing I have learned with this pandemic is don’t plan.”

MORE: Past U.S. Open champions get wild cards

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