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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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Federica Brignone hopes World Cup rival Mikaela Shiffrin will return soon

Shiffrin and Brignone
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Mikaela Shiffrin‘s prolonged absence from the World Cup Alpine skiing circuit has opened the door for Italy’s Federica Brignone to break the American’s grip on the season title, but Brignone hopes her friend and rival will be back in competition soon.

“I really do hope that she will return soon for herself so she can do again what she loves most,” Brignone said.

Brignone took the season lead from Shiffrin, who has won the last three World Cup overall titles, on Sunday and has a 73-point advantage with 11 of the season’s 40 races remaining. She also leads Shiffrin by 74 points in the giant slalom standings.

READ: Brignone moves into World Cup lead

No Italian woman has won the overall World Cup. Brignone was fifth in 2017 and won the Alpine combined discipline title last season.

Brignone will have a chance to clinch another Alpine combined discipline title and extend her overall lead in her home country this weekend. While some other sports events in Italy have been canceled or otherwise affected by the coronavirus outbreak, the host resort of La Thuile has so far been spared from the virus’ spread.

Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova, the only other skier with a realistic chance of winning the overall trophy, is dealing with a knee injury and might not be able to race this weekend. Vhlova leads Shiffrin by 20 points in the slalom standings.

Shiffrin has not competed since the death of her father Feb. 2, and she has not announced plans to return. She was not on pace to match her astounding 17-win 2018-19 season but still had six wins and had reached the podium in 13 of 19 races.

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World short-track speedskating championships will be moved, postponed or canceled

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The International Skating Union announced Tuesday that the world short-track speedskating championships will not proceed as scheduled because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Seoul’s Mokdong Ice Rink, where the competition was set to be held March 13-15, held the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships earlier this month but closed on Monday.

The ISU left open the possibility that the championships will be postponed or relocated, but the window to do so may close rapidly.

“Taking into account the uncertain world-wide development of the coronavirus, the limited and uncertain available time slots during the coming weeks and the logistical challenges of potential organizers and participating teams, a postponement and/or relocation of the Championships would be difficult to achieve,” the ISU said. “Nevertheless, a postponement and/or relocation of this Championships might be considered if the circumstances would allow so in due time.”

South Korea is one of short-track speedskating’s traditional powers. Last year, the country dominated the world championships in Sofia, Bulgaria, winning both relays and taking gold in all of the men’s individual races. South Korea also led the medal count on home ice in the 2018 Olympics.

The coronavirus outbreak has forced the cancellation of many events in China, where the illness was first found. The world indoor track and field championships were pushed back a whole year.

With the virus spreading to other regions, other countries’ sports schedules are being affected. Several soccer games are proceeding in empty stadiums in Italy and Iran.

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