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Carissa Moore wins fourth surfing world title ahead of Olympic debut

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Hawaiian Carissa Moore clinched her fourth surfing world title, one day after qualifying for the sport’s Olympic debut.

Moore, 27, was crowned at the season-ending Maui Pro after her closest pursuer, fellow U.S. Olympic qualifier Caroline Marks, was eliminated in the quarterfinals on Monday.

Only Kelly Slater has won more world titles than Moore among American men or women (11).

Moore, Marks and another American, Lakey Peterson, came to Maui with chances for the world title. Moore led the standings going into the event by finishing first, second or third in the previous six contests, and therefore controlled her own destiny.

Peterson’s bids for a world title and the Olympics ended when she was eliminated in the round of 16 on Sunday. Two surfers per gender per nation can qualify for Tokyo.

Moore, who started surfing at age 5 off the beaches of Waikiki, has been a force for nearly a decade. In 2011, she became the youngest male or female world champion at 18. She won again in 2013 and 2015, but was supplanted by Australians Tyler Wright and Stephanie Gilmore the last three years.

“This has not only been three years of work, but three years of learning and growing,” Moore said. “It’s been a journey.”

Marks, a 17-year-old from Florida, has been a revelation in this Olympic cycle. In 2017, she became the youngest surfer to qualify for the Championship Tour. She finished 2018 ranked No. 7 in the world. Then she won the 2019 season opener, plus the penultimate contest, and made the Olympic team over Peterson, last season’s world No. 2.

Moore and Marks head into the Olympic year as medal favorites. Their closest competition comes from Australia: seven-time world champion Gilmore and Sally Fitzgibbons.

The U.S. men are comparative underdogs to Brazil, which boasts three of the world’s top four. The men’s world champion will be decided later this month at the Billabong Pipe Masters on the North Shore of Oahu.

Pipe Masters will also decide the second American to join Kolohe Andino on the Olympic team — either Slater, two-time world champion John John Florence (returning from an ACL tear) or Seth Moniz.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

MORE: Athletes qualified for U.S. Olympic team

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Beach volleyball player’s dog becomes social media sensation

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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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