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Joe Girardi to manage U.S. baseball in Olympic qualifying, 35 years after missing Olympic team

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Joe Girardi, a longtime MLB catcher and former New York Yankees manager, will be at the helm as the U.S. tries to qualify for the first Olympic baseball tournament since 2008.

Girardi will manage at the World Baseball Softball Confederation Premier12 in November, 35 years after he was among the last cuts for the 1984 Olympic team when baseball was a demonstration sport.

B.J. Surhoff wound up being the starting catcher,” Girardi said, according to MLB.com. “That was a wise choice on their part. I still remember seeing all those great players there. I was disappointed that I didn’t make the team, but I understood.”

Two nations from the 12-team field — the top finisher from the Americas and the top finisher from Asia/Oceania — will become the first 2020 Olympic baseball qualifiers, joining automatic entry host Japan.

If the U.S. fails to grab that spot at Premier12, it can still qualify at a last-chance Americas tournament in February.

Girardi is not guaranteed to be the U.S. manager at the Olympics, should the Americans qualify. The last two U.S. Olympic managers were Davey Johnson in 2008 and Tommy Lasorda in 2000.

The U.S. baseball team for Premier12 is expected to be made up of minor-leaguers. The same is expected for a 2020 Olympic team, though the selection process hasn’t been announced. MLB has never interrupted its season or sent players from 25-man rosters to the Olympics.

No players from MLB 40-man rosters are eligible for Premier12, according to USA Baseball.

The 2020 Olympic field will include six nations, down from eight at the 2008 Beijing Games, the last Olympics for baseball and softball as they were voted off the Olympic program.

Baseball and softball will not be on the 2024 Paris Olympic program but could return for the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

The U.S. earned three medals at the five Olympic baseball tournaments from 1992 through 2008, including gold in 2000. Its alumni include Stephen StrasburgJason Giambi and Nomar Garciaparra.

In 1984, the U.S. roster included Mark McGwire, Barry Larkin and Will Clark.

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MORE: Tokyo Olympics to feature new sports, return of baseball, softball in 2020

WATCH LIVE: U.S. Figure Skating Championships rhythm dance, women’s free skate

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Can Bradie Tennell hold off 14-year-old Alysa Liu? The U.S. Figure Skating Championships crowns its female medalists on Friday, live on NBC Sports.

Action starts with the rhythm dance at 4:30 p.m. ET for NBC Sports Gold subscribers, with NBCSN broadcast coverage joining in at 5. The women start at 7:25 on Gold, with NBC TV coverage starting at 8.

LIVE STREAM: Rhythm dance — Gold | NBCSN | Skate Order
LIVE STREAM: Women’s free skate — Gold | NBC | Skate Order

Tennell topped Thursday’s short program with a clean slate of jumps, plus the highest artistic score.

She bettered Liu in the short program last year, too, but fell in the free skate to take silver. Liu, meanwhile, landed two triple Axels to win by 3.92 points and become the youngest U.S. champion in history.

Another skater to watch is Gracie Gold, the two-time U.S. champion competing at nationals for the first time in three years. Gold, lauded for her return from an eating disorder, depression and anxiety, struggled with jumps in the short and is in 13th place of 18 skaters.

In the rhythm dance, past U.S. champions Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue and Madison Chock and Evan Bates are expected to begin a duel that should come down to Saturday’s free dance.

Key Skate Times
5:32 p.m. — Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue
5:38 — Kaitlin Hawayek/Jean-Luc Baker
5:44 — Madison Chock/Evan Bates
8:07 — Gracie Gold
10:03 — Karen Chen
10:11 — Amber Glenn
10:27 — Bradie Tennell
10:35 — Mariah Bell
10:43 — Alysa Liu

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NATIONALS: TV Schedule | Full Results

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

Iran’s only female Olympic medalist, who defected, eyes Tokyo Games as German or refugee

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LÜNEN, Germany (AP) — Iran’s only female Olympic medalist said Friday she wants to compete for Germany after defecting from her native country.

Kimia Alizadeh is trying to rebuild her life and career after she announced this month she had left Iran, citing sexism on the part of officials there.

“Even if I do not make it to the Olympics, it does not matter because I have made up my mind,” Alizadeh said at a meeting with journalists at a taekwondo club.

“I am sure that I will be judged by many, but I am just 21 years old and can attend world tournaments and future Olympics. However, I will spare no effort to get the best result at this time as well.”

She added she doesn’t expect ever to compete in Iran again.

Alizadeh was just 18 when she won bronze in taekwondo at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, catapulting her to instant fame at home. Despite Iran’s long history of victories in men’s wrestling and weightlifting, no Iranian woman had ever won a medal before.

However, Alizadeh was frustrated with life in Iran despite her Olympic success. In an Instagram post this month announcing she had left Iran, she accused Iranian officials of sexism and criticized wearing the mandatory hijab headscarf.

Alizadeh hasn’t given up hope of being able to compete at this year’s Olympics in Tokyo. However, getting there would require highly unusual exemptions from the usual rules on nationality switches and qualification, regardless of whether she tries to represent Germany or the International Olympic Committee’s refugee team.

Alizadeh spent time in the Netherlands before heading to Germany this week to meet with taekwondo officials there. The German Taekwondo Union has spoken up in favor of Alizadeh staying in the country in what it calls a first step toward her gaining nationality and becoming eligible to compete for Germany.

“If the German government assists me and I can go through this process as fast as possible, I might be able to make it to the Olympics, too,” she said.

In recent years, many Iranian athletes have left their country, citing government pressure. In September, the former world judo champion Saeed Mollaei moved to Germany after walking off the Iranian team at the world championships in Japan. He said Iranian officials had tried to force him to withdraw so as not to compete against an Israeli opponent.

Alireza Faghani, an Iranian international soccer referee, also left Iran for Australia last year.

Alizadeh said she just wants “a peaceful life,” and she’s not looking back.

“I have a great feeling to have made a decision for my life that would definitely change my future,” she said. “I think it is not even clear enough now and. in the years to come, I will understand what a good decision I made.”

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MORE: Full list of U.S. athletes qualified for Tokyo Olympics