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Joey Mantia wins speedskating mass start in Poland

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Two-time world mass start champion Joey Mantia won his favored event Saturday at a speedskating World Cup event in Tomaszów Mazowiecki, Poland.

Mantia’s win was the first for a U.S. men’s skater this season. Brittany Bowe won the 1,000m and was third in the 1,500m at the season opener last week in Minsk, Belarus. Bowe was fourth in the 500m Saturday and has a 1,500m race scheduled for Sunday.

“After crashing last week and slowly building back into it this week, I really didn’t know what to expect,” Mantia said in a release from US Speedskating. “I kept a positive outlook and took the race lap by lap. With six to go, I was feeling really confident, the legs were good, and I had the liberty to make the moves I needed to make to get me across the line first. This is my first world cup win in a while, so it feels great. Still have a bit of work to do before worlds though, I think.”

The World Cup season is streaming on the NBC Sports Gold Speed Skating Pass. Sunday’s races start at 5:30 a.m. ET and will end with finals in the men’s 500m, women’s 1,500m, men’s team pursuit and women’s mass start.

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Beach volleyball player’s dog becomes social media sensation

Mathias Berntsen
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Norwegian beach volleyball player Mathias Berntsen‘s dog, Kiara, captivated social media this weekend.

A video of Kiara peppering with Berntsen and a pair across the net on a grass field spread from Berntsen’s Instagram across platforms. Kiara now has 12,000 Instagram followers, more than twice the total of Berntsen.

Berntsen, 24, is one half of Norway’s second-best beach volleyball team.

He and partner Hendrik Mol are ranked 45th in the world and well outside the Tokyo Olympic picture (24 teams go to the Games), but could get in the mix depending on how qualification is amended once sports resume.

Berntsen and his cousin Mol are part of a group called the Beach Volley Vikings. Mol’s younger brother, Anders, and family friend Christian Sorum are the world’s top-ranked team (profiled here).

MORE: Beach volleyball players fly to Australia, learn event is canceled

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FIFA rules on Olympic men’s soccer tournament age eligibility

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For the first time since 1988, some 24-year-olds will be eligible for the Olympic men’s soccer tournament without using an over-age exception.

FIFA announced Friday that it will use the same age eligibility criteria for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 that it intended to use in 2020 — that players born on or after Jan. 1, 1997 are eligible, plus three over-age exceptions. FIFA chose not to move the birthdate deadline back a year after the Olympics were postponed by one year.

Olympic men’s soccer tournaments have been U-23 events — save those exceptions — since the 1992 Barcelona Games. In 1984 and 1988, restrictions kept European and South American players with World Cup experience ineligible. Before that, professionals weren’t allowed at all.

Fourteen of the 16 men’s soccer teams already qualified for the Games using players from under-23 national teams. The last two spots are to be filled by CONCACAF nations, potentially the U.S. qualifying a men’s team for the first time since 2008.

The U.S.’ biggest star, Christian Pulisic, and French superstar Kylian Mbappe were both born in 1998 and thus would have been under the age limit even if FIFA moved the deadline to Jan. 1, 1998.

Perhaps the most high-profile player affected by FIFA’s decision is Brazilian forward Gabriel Jesus. The Manchester City star was born April 3, 1997, and thus would have become an over-age exception if FIFA pushed the birthdate rule back a year.

Instead, Brazil could name him to the Olympic team and still keep all of its over-age exceptions.

However, players need permission from their professional club teams to play in the Olympics, often limiting the availability of stars.

MORE: Noah Lyles details training near woods, dog walkers

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