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Olympic table tennis tables suit Tokyo to a T

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The tables upon which Olympic athletes will serve and slam in 2020 are not your basement ping-pong tables.

Japanese company San-Ei designed and built the tables for the 2016 Olympics in Rio, and the manufacturers are building a new style for the 2020 Games in their home country.

The most distinctive part of the table is the undercarriage, which has graceful curves spelling out the letter T — “T” for Tokyo and “T” for table tennis. 

San-Ei is using monarch birch wood from the Tohoku region in Japan, which the company says is part of an effort to help the tsunami-stricken region rebound.

A promotional video for the new table shows machinery rolling the birch logs and cutting them into sheets that workers assemble into a surface that is painted before it is subjected to tests to make sure the bounce and friction meets precise specifications.

The tables are not in use this week at the ITTF Team World Cup this week in Tokyo, which is being live-streamed on the ITTF site.

In the first day of group play, South Korea swept the U.S. men, setting up a must-win for the U.S. against Sweden. The U.S. features 19-year-old Kanak Jha, once the top-ranked under-18 player in the world and now ranked 26th at the senior level. Jha was the youngest U.S. athlete at the 2016 Olympics.

The U.S. women are in the same situation, needing a win against Austria after a 3-0 loss to Japan. Two-time Olympian Lily Zhang, who last month became the first U.S. player to reach a semifinal in the World Cup, is currently ranked 33rd.

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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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