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Women’s cricket joins Commonwealth Games as boycott threat looms over shooting

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Women’s cricket has been officially added to the program for the 2022 Commonwealth Games, a multisport competition consisting mostly of countries that were once British colonies or have some other tie to the country.

Beach volleyball and para table tennis have been included in the Commonwealth Games before but hold “optional” status and must bid for inclusion each time the quadrennial event is held.

The program includes familiar Olympic sports such as swimming, gymnastics and track and field, along with uniquely Commonwealth sports such as lawn bowls and netball.

Meanwhile, UK sports minister Nigel Adams is trying to prevent a boycott by India over the exclusion of shooting. The sport has been part of the event since 1974, but Commonwealth Games Federation president Louise Martin has said the host city of Birmingham has no room to host the sport’s full slate of events. Adams is proposing a concurrent Commonwealth shooting competition to be split between in Birmingham and London.

Shooters Union Australia has called for Australia to boycott as well. The gun-rights group is an affiliate of the United States’ National Rifle Association, which was pushed out of its oversight role over the sport in U.S. in 1994.

Archery also failed to make the cut for the event.

Women’s cricket has been growing rapidly in recent years, with many Australian players drawing six-figure salaries while the Women’s Big Bash League averages more than 2,000 fans per game. The sport’s traditional eight powers — Australia, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka and West Indies — all pay some sort of salary to their players. The Women’s World Cup struggled to draw teams to participate for decades but now requires a qualification round.

Commonwealth Games organizers had previously announced the inclusion of several other optional sports such as diving, judo and basketball. 3×3 basketball and wheelchair basketball, mountain biking, track cycling and track para-cycling, rhythmic gymnastics, and para-triathlon.

Birmingham replaced Durban, South Africa, as host of the 2022 Games in 2017.

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Gregorio Paltrinieri swims second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history

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Olympic champion Gregorio Paltrinieri swam the second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history, clocking 14:33.10 in his native Italy on Thursday.

Paltrinieri, 25, missed Chinese Sun Yang‘s world record from the 2012 Olympics by 2.08 seconds.

The Italian now owns the second- and third-fastest times in history, including his 14:34.10 from the 2016 European Championships, also held at the 2012 Olympic pool in London.

Paltrinieri is a versatile distance swimmer. At last year’s world championships, he finished sixth in the open-water 10km to qualify for the Olympics, then won the 800m free in the pool in a European record time and finished with 1500m bronze, just missing a third straight world title in that event.

German Florian Wellbrock won the 1500m in 14:36.54 at worlds, with Paltrinieri finishing 2.21 seconds back.

Sun, 28, was in February banned eight years stemming from destroying a drug-test sample with a hammer in September 2018. Sun, who focused more on the 200m and 400m frees in recent years, did not race the 1500m at the 2017 or 2019 Worlds.

Top-level swim meets in the U.S. are scheduled to resume in November with the Tyr Pro Series.

MORE: Michael Phelps qualifies for first Olympics at age 15

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Bianca Andreescu to miss U.S. Open

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Bianca Andreescu withdrew from the U.S. Open, citing “unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic” compromising her ability to prepare to defend her Grand Slam title.

“I have taken this step in order to focus on my match fitness and ensure that I return ready to play at my highest level,” Andreescu, a 20-year-old Canadian, posted on social media. “The US Open victory last year has been the high point of my career thus far and I will miss not being there. However, I realize that the unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic, have compromised my ability to prepare and compete to the degree necessary to play at my highest level.”

Andreescu’s absence means the U.S. Open, the first Grand Slam tournament since tennis resumed amid the coronavirus pandemic, will be without both 2019 male and female singles champions.

Rafael Nadal previously announced he would not defend his title, saying he would rather not travel given the global situation. Roger Federer is also out after knee surgery. Women’s No. 1 Ash Barty didn’t enter, either, citing travel concerns.

Last year, Andreescu made her U.S. Open title run as the 15th seed, sweeping Serena Williams in the final. Ranked 208th a year earlier, she became the first player born in the 2000s to win a Slam and the first teen Slam winner since Maria Sharapova at the 2006 U.S. Open.

Andreescu then missed the Australian Open in January due to rehab from a knee injury that forced her to retire during a match at the WTA Finals on Oct. 30. She also missed the French Open and Wimbledon in 2019 following a rotator cuff tear.

MORE: Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis competition

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