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What you need to know about the Tokyo Olympics, six months out

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A look at the top storylines, athletes to watch and important dates on the road to Tokyo, six months from the Opening Ceremony on July 24 …

Who will be the Face of the Tokyo Olympics?
Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt retired since Rio, creating an opening for new alpha athletes at the Games. Successors emerged at recent world championships.

Simone Biles is a familiar name, having earned four gold medals in Rio. After a one-year break, she returned even more dominant than before. She could earn five golds in Tokyo, and perhaps medals in all six events.

In swimming, Caeleb Dressel could try for seven gold medals and Simone Manuel and Katie Ledecky for six each. They won’t approach the Phelpsian feat of eight golds, but the addition of a mixed-gender relay and the women’s 1500m freestyle will make the U.S.’ best even busier than in Rio.

Bolt’s world records don’t look under threat, but the U.S. is set to retake the throne of men’s sprinting. Christian Coleman is the reigning world 100m champion, Noah Lyles the reigning world 200m champion and Michael Norman the world’s fastest 400m sprinter last year. Coleman and Lyles are each expected to attempt the Bolt triple of the 100m, 200m and 4x100m.

Final Olympics for legends
Biles has said she’s 99 percent sure the Tokyo Olympics will be her final competition at age 23. She’s not the only megastar bidding for a farewell this summer.

No more evident than in tennis. Come 2024, Venus Williams will be 44; Roger Federer and Serena Williams 42 and Rafael Nadal 38. It’s possible if not likely that they all retire at some point in the next Olympic cycle. Federer, Serena and Nadal are all but assured to qualify for Tokyo. Venus might need a doubles invitation.

Tiger Woods, if he was from any other nation, would be a near-lock to qualify. But he’s currently outside the cutoff for the U.S., by far the deepest golf nation. Woods must be ranked among the top four Americans after the U.S. Open to make it to Tokyo at age 44.

LeBron James, 35, has not publicly committed to playing, but he has massive respect for new U.S. coach Gregg Popovich. And everyone within USA Basketball has to be motivated after a seventh-place finish at last year’s FIBA World Cup without the NBA’s best stars. Two of the greatest female players in history, Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi, are back for their fifth Olympics.

Allyson Felix eyes her fifth and likely last Olympics, too, and her first as a mom. She owns six gold medals so far. Two more would tie swimmer Jenny Thompson‘s record for an American woman. But can she qualify for the U.S. individually by placing top three at the trials in June? She was sixth in the 400m in her comeback meet at nationals last year, eight months after childbirth.

Another mom, Kerri Walsh Jennings, is making her sixth and final Olympic push. This time with another new partner, Brooke Sweat. They’re in position to make it as the second and final U.S. team, though they’re not assured with five months left in qualifying. Walsh Jennings, 41, is older than any previous Olympic beach volleyball player.

Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe will lead the U.S. women’s soccer team in qualifying later this month. Even FIFA World Cup star Kylian Mbappe expressed interest in playing in the men’s tournament, which is mostly comprised of players 23 and under. But he may be back in four years when Paris hosts as an over-age exception.

What’s new for 2020?
Five sports were added to the Olympic program for Tokyo — karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing for the first time — and the return of baseball and softball for the first time since 2008.

The U.S. has reigning world champions in skateboarding and surfing, the latter with a team so deep that the world’s third-best woman didn’t qualify. Neither did 47-year-old Kelly Slater, ranked eighth in the world. The U.S. softball team had no problem qualifying as world champion, but baseball will come down to qualifiers in two months.

What about Russia?
Russia’s doping issues haven’t gone away since PyeongChang, when sanctions included having their team name changed to “Olympic Athletes from Russia.” Though December headlines labeled Russia as being banned from the Olympics for four years, in reality it might not be much different than in South Korea in 2018. Its athletes are still in line compete, even if they must be cleared by anti-doping authorities. But perhaps without the Russian flag or anthem (as it was in PyeongChang). Perhaps the word “Russia” will be removed entirely from the Games, but nothing goes into effect until after an appeals process plays out.

Who qualifies for Team USA?
That’s the primary question from now until Olympic competition starts July 22. So far, these 31 athletes are on Team USA. By July, it will be more than 500. Key events this spring:

April 4-5: Wrestling trials
June 14-21: Diving trials
June 19-28: Track and field trials
June 21-28: Swimming trials
June 25-28: Gymnastics trials

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MORE: 20 Olympic sports events to watch in 2020 (before the Tokyo Games)

Chloe Dygert crashes over guard rail, fails to finish world championships time trial

Chloe Dygert
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American Chloé Dygert crashed over a guard rail and failed to finish the world road cycling championships time trial, where she appeared en route to a repeat title in Imola, Italy.

Dygert, who last year won by the largest margin in history as the youngest-ever champion, lost control of her bike while approaching a curve to the right. Her front wheel bobbled, and she collided with the barricade, flipping over into an area with grass.

Dygert, her legs appearing bloodied, was tended to by several people, put on a stretcher and taken toward an ambulance.

“All we know is that she is conscious and talking,” according to USA Cycling, about 25 minutes after the crash. “More updates to come.”

About 10 minutes after the crash, Dutchwoman Anna van der Breggen won her first time trial title.

Van der Breggen took silver the last three years behind Dygert and countrywoman Annemiek van Vleuten, who missed this year’s race after breaking her wrist last week in the Giro Rosa.

Dygert, 23, had a 26-second lead at the 14-kilometer time check of the 31-kilometer race. Full results are here.

Dygert qualified for the Tokyo Olympics when she won last year’s world time trial title. She has been bidding to make the Olympics on the road and the track.

Worlds continue Friday with the men’s time trial airing on Olympic Channel and NBC Sports Gold for Cycling Pass subscribers at 8:15 a.m. ET. A full TV schedule is here.

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MORE: USA Cycling names Olympic team finalists

Diamond League slate ends in Doha with record holders; TV, stream info

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The Diamond League season ends on Friday in the place where it was supposed to start — Doha.

Like many sports, track and field’s calendar was put in disarray by the coronavirus pandemic. The Doha meet, originally scheduled for April 17 to open an Olympic season, was postponed five months while other stops were canceled altogether.

Now, Doha caps an unlikely season that still produced stirring performances. NBCSN coverage starts at 12 p.m. ET. NBC Sports Gold also streams live for subscribers.

The headliner is Swedish pole vaulter Mondo Duplantis, a leading contender for Male Athlete of the Year. Duplantis, who twice bettered the world record in February at indoor meets, last week produced the highest outdoor clearance in history, too, breaking a 26-year-old Sergey Bubka record.

Duplantis can mimic Bubka on Friday by attempting to raise his world record another centimeter — to 6.19 meters, or more than 20 feet, 3 inches.

The deepest track event in Doha is the finale, the women’s 3000m, featuring 3000m steeplechase world-record holder Beatrice Chepkoech, 5000m world champion Hellen Obiri and rising 1500m runner Gudaf Tsegay.

Here are the Doha entry lists. Here’s the schedule of events (all times Eastern):

11:18 a.m. ET — Men’s Pole Vault
11:33 — Men’s 200m
12:03 p.m. — Men’s 400m
12:08 — Women’s Long Jump
12:12 — Women’s 100m Hurdles
12:21 — Men’s 1500m
12:34 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
12:43 — Women’s 800m
12:56 — Women’s 100m
1:07 — Men’s 800m
1:18 — Women’s 3000m

Here are three events to watch (statistics via Tilastopaja.org):

Men’s Pole Vault — 11:18 a.m.
Duplantis looks to complete a perfect 2020 against his two primary rivals — reigning world champion and American Sam Kendricks (who went undefeated in 2017) and 2012 Olympic champion and former world-record holder Renaud Lavillenie of France. Kendricks was the last man to beat Duplantis, at those 2019 World Championships, and is the only man to clear a height within nine inches of Duplantis’ best this outdoor season.

Women’s 100m — 12:56 p.m.
Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah looks poised to finish the year as the world’s fastest woman after clocking 10.85 seconds in Rome last week, her fastest time outside of Jamaica in more than three years. That’s one hundredth faster than countrywoman Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce‘s best time of 2020. Thompson-Herah was fifth and fourth at the last two world championships after sweeping the Rio Olympic sprints. Like in Rome, her primary challengers in Doha are Ivorian Marie-Josée Ta Lou and 2018 U.S. champion Aleia Hobbs.

Women’s 3000m — 1:18 p.m.
A meeting of titans in a non-Olympic event. Chepkoech is the fastest steeplechaser in history by eight seconds. Obiri is the fastest Kenyan in history in the 3000m and the 5000m. Tsegay, just 23, chopped 3.26 seconds off her 1500m personal best in 2019, taking bronze at the world championships to become the second-fastest Ethiopian in history in that event. In all, the field includes five medalists from the 2019 Worlds across four different events.

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