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Wayde van Niekerk to miss world championships

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Wayde van Niekerk, the Olympic and world 400m champion and world-record holder, will miss next month’s world championships. He has been essentially sidelined from competition for two years since tearing a meniscus and ACL in a celebrity tag rugby match.

“I’m still positive and I’m just taking things day by day, respecting all the calls made by the doctor and respecting my body,” Van Niekerk, who has resumed training, said in a statement. “For now I’m not rushing myself or putting pressure on myself. I’m extremely happy and at peace with where I am.”

Van Niekerk, who ran 43.03 at the Rio Olympics to break Michael Johnson‘s world record, had hoped to return in full this season, but a knee bone bruise set him back.

Van Niekerk made a low-key return at a meet in South Africa on Feb. 28, clocking 47.28 seconds. That’s his lone meet since he won the 400m and took 200m silver at the August 2017 World Championships, according to Tilastopaja.org.

Van Niekerk would have been a clear underdog had he entered worlds in Doha that start in three weeks.

American Michael Norman ran the sixth-fastest 400m in history on April 20, a 43.45 that was also the fastest ever run before the month of June. Van Niekerk has broken 43.45 just once, in that Rio Olympic epic. He and Norman have never raced head-to-head.

It looks like the Rio Olympic 400m silver and bronze medalists will both be absent from worlds.

Grenada’s Kirani James, who has not raced since July 2018 and has been out with Graves’ Disease, must race by Saturday to be eligible for worlds. Representatives for James and Grenada’s federation have not responded to requests for comment on his status.

American LaShawn Merritt has raced once since June 2, 2018,and has not raced a 400m since bowing out of the 2017 World Championships in the semifinals.

The U.S. has the six fastest 400m runners this season.

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U.S. beats Japan in Olympic baseball qualifier, may still need help

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The U.S. handed Japan its first loss in the Premier12 global Olympic baseball qualifier, at the Tokyo Dome no less, but now the Americans must root for the host nation.

The Americans, with a roster mostly of Double-A and Triple-A players, won 4-3 over a Japanese team that includes some of its domestic league’s biggest stars like two-time Central League MVP Yoshihiro Maru and veteran shortstop Hayato Sakamoto.

Outfielder Jo Adell, MLB Pipeline’s top-ranked prospect on the U.S. team, starred by reaching base four times with a home run.

Japan is already qualified for baseball’s Olympic return as the host nation.

The U.S., meanwhile, has a sense of urgency at Premier12, the first of a possible three tournaments in which it could clinch an Olympic spot.

At Premier12, the top-ranked nation from North and South America qualifies for the Olympics. The tournament is at the super-round stage of the final six teams, and two are from the Americas: the U.S. and Mexico.

The top four nations after each has played five games advance to gold- and bronze-medal games.

Mexico already beat the U.S. and ran its super-round record to 3-0 on Tuesday, clinching a spot in the medal round.

The U.S. moved to 1-2 in the super round on Tuesday and must at least get into the same medal-round game as Mexico to keep its hope of finishing as the top team from the Americas.

Japan could help, since it plays Mexico on Wednesday. If Mexico beats Japan, the Mexicans clinch a spot in the gold-medal game, which would put more pressure on the U.S. to win its last two games (vs. Australia on Wednesday and Chinese Taipei on Friday). Even then, South Korea would get into the gold-medal game if it wins out.

If the U.S. is not the top team from the Americas at Premier12, it can still earn an Olympic berth in March. But then it faces trying to come up with a roster at the end of MLB’s spring training rather than during the offseason. MLB teams may be less inclined to release minor leaguers.

“That’ll be a delicate dance,” U.S. general manager Eric Campbell said before Premier12.

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College gymnast dies after practice accident

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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — An accomplished gymnast at Southern Connecticut State University has died following a serious spinal cord injury suffered in a training accident.

Melanie Coleman, 20, of Milford, Connecticut, was training Friday at New Era Gymnastics in Hamden when she was injured, said her mother, Susan Coleman.

She was taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital and died Sunday.

Coleman was a former All State gymnast at Jonathan Law High School in Milford and was captain of the school’s gymnastics team. She was named a Women’s Collegiate Gymnastics Association Scholastic All-American this year.

Her former club coach, Tom Alberti, said she attained a level 10, the highest level in the USA Junior Olympics Program.

She was a junior studying nursing, following in the footsteps of her two older sisters, her mother said.

“She’s from a very large, loving family; there’s seven of us, we were the Coleman seven,” Susan Coleman said. “We spent every day together for the past 20 years.”

She volunteered at the gym where her accident occurred.

Her coaches and professors described her as a special young woman who excelled in both the classroom and gym, college President Joe Berolino said in a written statement.

“Our deepest sympathies are extended to her family and friends on this tragic loss,” he said.

People the family has met by traveling to gymnastics events around the country are giving support that is “holding us up,” Coleman’s mother said.

She described her children, which also include two sons older than Melanie, as “inseparable.”

“We’re going to leave an empty space in our photos for her” from now on, Susan Coleman said.