Laura Graves, U.S.’ top dressage rider, to miss Olympics

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Laura Graves, the U.S.’ top dressage rider and an Olympic medal contender, will miss the Tokyo Games after retiring her Rio Olympic bronze-medal horse Verdades.

“With the retirement of my longtime partner, Verdades (Diddy), it will no longer be possible for me to pursue a place on the team that will represent the United States in Tokyo,” Graves said in a statement via U.S. Equestrian. “This decision was not taken lightly, but was made in Verdades’ best interests.”

Graves, 32, announced earlier this week that “it became clear in recent weeks that [Verdades] was not going to be able to return to his usual top form in 2020.”

Verdades, an 18-year-old KWPN gelding, has been with Graves since he was 6 months old. Horses can live well into their 30s, and while there is no maximum age for a horse competing in the Olympics, 18 is generally considered senior, or close to it.

With Verdades, Graves helped the U.S. earn team bronze in Rio. its first dressage medal since 2004 and matching its best finish since the 1948 London Games. Graves also finished fourth individually, just missing the second-ever U.S. individual dressage medal.

Then in 2018, Graves and Verdades earned team and individual silver medals at the World Equestrian Games, essentially the world championships for the sport that take place every four years. Graves became the first U.S. dressage rider to move into the No. 1 spot in the world rankings.

“Diddy helped me reach goals and milestones that at times, I didn’t think were possible,” Graves said. “As I look back on all of our success, I continue to be moved by the support of the community, and the country, who invested in our journey throughout the years. Participating in the 2016 Rio Olympics is one of my fondest memories with Diddy, and I know the team is in good hands with the combinations who will represent our country this summer. We will be supporting and cheering them on every step of the way.”

Graves and Verdades dropped to seventh in the most recent world rankings. The next-highest U.S. rider is No. 11 Kasey Perry-Glass with Goerklintgaards Dublet.

Graves’ absence creates an opening for the three-rider U.S. Olympic team expected to be named in the spring. The current No. 3 American in the world rankings, excluding Graves, is Shelly Francis, a 61-year-old who could become the oldest U.S. Olympic competitor in any sport since 1904, excluding art competitions.

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Meghan Duggan, U.S. Olympic hockey captain, fills in for teacher battling coronavirus

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Meghan Duggan, captain of the U.S. Olympic champion hockey team, is helping out her elementary school, subbing for a physical education teacher who has the coronavirus.

“Unfortunately she’s been battling Covid, and needed a little bit of help to encourage and keep her gym-class students active while they’re at home,” Duggan told local Boston TV station WHDH.

Duggan, a 32-year-old, three-time Olympian, gave birth to son George on Feb. 29.

She was asked by her former PE teacher to fill in, according to the report, which added that the regular teacher is on antibiotics and improving.

Two decades ago, Duggan attended Willis E. Thorpe Elementary School in Danvers, Mass. This week, she taught Thorpe students with a virtual workout video.

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U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials set new dates in 2021 in Omaha

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The U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials, originally scheduled for June 21-28 in Omaha, will now be June 13-20, 2021 at the same venue.

The Olympic Trials event schedule will remain the same across the 15-session, eight-day meet.

The top two finishers per individual event are in line to qualify for the Tokyo Games. Usually, the top six finishers in the 100m and 200m freestyles also qualify for relays.

Trials will be one week earlier in relation to the Olympics, which moved from July 24-Aug. 9, 2020 to July 23-Aug. 8, 2021.

As of Friday, 1,213 athletes have achieved the 2020 qualifying times to swim at trials. USA Swimming anticipates those swimmers will remain qualified for 2021. Updated trials qualifying standards will be released before swimming competition resumes.

Around 1,800 swimmers qualified to compete at the 2016 Olympic Trials.

Omaha, announced as host in May 2017, will hold the trials for a record fourth straight time.

The trials were first held at the CHI Health Center Center (then the Qwest Center) in 2008, after they were in Long Beach, Calif., in 2004 and Indianapolis in 1992, 1996 and 2000.

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