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Allyson Felix finds maternity protection with new apparel sponsor

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Allyson Felix sought an apparel deal that offered maternity protection. History’s most decorated female Olympic track and field athlete found one with a company that has never before sponsored an athlete.

Felix agreed to a multiyear contract with Athleta, a Gap brand women’s apparel company.

Felix wore Athleta apparel at the USATF Outdoor Championships last week, where she competed unsponsored and placed sixth in the 400m. She qualified for this fall’s world championships in the 4x400m relay, but will decide later this summer whether to compete at a ninth straight worlds. Her priority is preparing for the Olympics.

Nationals marked her first meet in more than one year and since Nov. 28 chlidbirth by emergency C-section.

The Athleta deal does not include footwear. Felix said she is working on her next shoe sponsorship after seven years with Nike preceded by seven with Adidas.

Athleta reached out to Felix in the spring, when she penned an op-ed voicing concern for female athletes who decide to start a family. Felix revealed in May that her seven-year sponsorship with Nike ended in December 2017 and was not extended, at least in part over pay protection for pregnancy.

The Athleta contract and compensation is consistent whether Felix is or is not competing, including “full protection during maternity,” according to the company. Felix, 33, plans to compete beyond one year, but the Tokyo Olympics would be her fifth and final Games.

Athleta said it will work with Felix on initiatives to empower women and girls through sports.

“Allyson joins Athleta as an athlete, mother and activist, in support of a female athlete’s holistic life,” the company said.

At nationals last week, Felix said she wants to end her career on her own terms. Her previous Olympic cycle did not go as planned. She partially tore two ligaments in her right ankle in late April 2016 and missed her goal of qualifying for Rio in both the 200m and 400m, coming up .01 short in the 200m at trials.

Felix did go to Rio in the 400m and took silver behind Bahamian Shaunae Miller-Uibo, who dived across the finish line and prevailed by .07.

“I felt like in 2016, with the injury right before trials, that just kind of like took over for me,” she said this week. “It wasn’t how I pictured things. I just want to be able to work hard as I can, be at the best level that I could physically, give my all, have no regrets. To me that’s what it is about my terms and just to be happy with that.”

And those terms would include a seventh Olympic title.

“With the journey I’ve been on and the things with the past year, it might be hard for other people to buy in, but, for me, I feel like I’m going after a gold medal just like any other major championship. I’m not changing that,” she said.

MORE: Dalilah Muhammad breaks world record after ‘freak’ concussion

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Chinese swimmer Sun Yang gets rare open hearing in doping case

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The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) said Monday it will hear the World Anti-Doping Agency’s case against three-time Olympic gold medalist Sun Yang on Nov. 15 in front of reporters — possibly even live-streamed — at the Fairmont Le Montreux Palace in Montreux, Switzerland.

The hearing won’t be completely open. Registration will be required, and photographers and videographers “will be invited to leave the hearing room after the opening,” CAS said in a statement. But those outside the room may still get a glimpse of the proceedings.

“With the agreement of all parties, it is intended to live stream all or parts of the hearing on the CAS website,” CAS said.

CAS noted that it has only held one prior hearing that wasn’t in a private setting — the 1999 case involving Irish swimmer Michelle Smith de Bruin, who won three gold medals in the 1996 Olympics but was banned for four years for tampering with a urine sample, a case that still prompts soul-searching in the Irish media. De Bruin lost the appeal.

Sun is accused of smashing a vial of blood at a drug test last fall. FINA allowed him to continue to compete, but the WADA has appealed, seeking a substantial suspension.

The Chinese swimmer won two gold medals at the world championships this summer and snubbed by some rivals at each medal ceremony, leading to a confrontation with British swimmer Duncan Scott.

RECAP AND VIDEO: Sun taunts Scott after medal ceremony

Sun has won 11 world individual titles in several freestyle distances but also has a long history of controversies ranging from a prior positive drug test and confrontations with other swimmers.

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U.S. women’s volleyball team ends year with surprise loss to Dominican Republic

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The Dominican Republic surprised the U.S. women’s volleyball team in the final of the NORCECA (North, Central America and Caribbean) women’s continental championship Sunday in San Juan, Puerto Rico, winning the first two sets and regrouping after a U.S. rally to win the fifth set.

The final score of the back-and-forth match: 25-19, 25-23, 15-25, 20-25, 15-9. The U.S. women had defeated the Dominican Republic in three previous finals: 2011, 2013 and 2015. The Dominican Republic won a semifinal matchup on its way to the 2009 title.

In group play, the U.S. team had beaten the Dominican Republic in straight sets. The U.S. also breezed past Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico in group play and swept past Canada in the semifinals.

The loss doesn’t affect Olympic qualification. The U.S. women had already qualified for the 2020 Olympics by winning a qualification tournament in August in Bossier City, La.

MORE: U.S. women rally to qualify

Semifinalists Canada and Puerto Rico qualified for a last-chance Olympic qualifier that the Dominican Republic will host in January. Mexico defeated Cuba in the NORCECA fifth-place game to be the last of the four teams vying for one spot.

The Dominican Republic has had some success in women’s volleyball, finishing fifth in the 2014 world championships and reaching the 2012 Olympic quarterfinals before falling to the U.S. The team also won this year’s Pan Am Games, to which the U.S. did not send its top players. Currently, the team is ranked 10th in the world.

Earlier this year, the U.S. women had defeated the Dominican Republic in two tournament finals — the Pan American Cup and the NORCECA Champions Cup. The U.S. also won a matchup in the World Cup last month, but the Dominican Republic won another five-set match in the Nations League preliminary round in Italy.

The U.S. finishes the year with a 44-7 record in tournament play, including a first-place finish in the Nations League and second place in the World Cup.

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