Sofia Kenin leads U.S. Olympic tennis qualifying after Australian Open

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Sofia Kenin not only earned her first Grand Slam singles title at the Australian Open, but she also moved closer to one of her modest goals for 2020: qualifying for her first Olympics.

Kenin supplanted Serena Williams atop U.S. Olympic qualifying standings more than halfway through the process. The top four U.S. singles players in the WTA Rankings after the French Open in June are in line to play in Tokyo.

Kenin is all but assured a spot, since she is more than 3,000 points ahead of the No. 5 American, Coco Gauff. A Grand Slam title nets a player 2,000 points. Second-tier tournaments like in Miami and Indian Wells in March offer 1,000 points to winners.

Kenin plays doubles with countrywoman Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who has signaled her intent for the Tokyo Games. If the current singles standings hold, and Mattek-Sands is added to the Olympic team for doubles with Kenin, one discretionary doubles spot would be left.

The U.S. Tennis Association could go with the next-highest-ranked singles player — currently the 15-year-old Gauff — or perhaps Venus Williams, the most decorated Olympic tennis player in history, to pair with Serena. Gauff is younger than any Olympic tennis player since Martina Hingis and Anna Kournikova in 1996.

Venus Williams, who turns 40 on June 17, could become the second-oldest female Olympic tennis player in the modern era after Martina Navratilova (47 at the 2004 Athens Games).

The U.S. men’s picture is far different. The top American in Olympic qualifying — Sam Querrey — ruled out playing in the Olympics. The top U.S. man in current ATP rankings — No. 18 John Isner — said he’s leaning to skipping the Olympics for a second straight time.

That U.S. should still qualify four men for the field of 64 with the likes of 22-year-old Taylor Fritz and Australian Open quarterfinalist Tennys Sandgren.

Notably, two men who are currently not in outright Olympic singles qualifying position: Brit Andy Murray, who won the last two Olympic titles, and Japan’s most decorated player, Kei Nishikori. Murray and Nishikori missed the Australian Open with injuries.

However, there is one Olympic place reserved for a past Olympic or Grand Slam champion — should his nation not have qualified the full four singles spots — which would conceivably go to Murray. And Nishikori, who last played at last summer’s U.S. Open, can take a protected ranking.

U.S. Olympic tennis singles qualifying standings through Australian Open:

Women
1. Sofia Kenin — 4,051 points
2. Serena Williams — 3,595
3. Alison Riske — 2,053
4. Madison Keys — 1,972
5. Coco Gauff — 979
6. Jennifer Brady — 726
7. Danielle Collins — 692
Outside the top 10
Venus Williams — 449
Sloane Stephens — 431

Men
1. Sam Querrey — 920 (skipping Olympics)
2. Taylor Fritz — 900
3. John Isner — 890 (likely skipping Olympics)
4. Tennys Sandgren — 727
5. Reilly Opelka — 705
6. Tommy Paul — 615
7. Steve Johnson — 580

MORE: Coco Gauff eyes Olympics; can she qualify?

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Elena Fanchini, medal-winning Alpine skier, dies at 37

Elena Fanchini
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Italian skier Elena Fanchini, whose career was cut short by a tumor, has died. She was 37.

Fanchini passed away Wednesday at her home in Solato, near Brescia, the Italian Winter Sports Federation announced.

Fanchini died on the same day that fellow Italian Marta Bassino won the super-G at the world championships in Meribel, France; and two days after Federica Brignone — another former teammate — claimed gold in combined.

Sofia Goggia, who is the favorite for Saturday’s downhill, dedicated her win in Cortina d’Ampezzo last month to Fanchini.

Fanchini last raced in December 2017. She was cleared to return to train nearly a year later but never made it fully back, and her condition grew worse in recent months.

Fanchini won a silver medal in downhill at the 2005 World Championships and also won two World Cup races in her career — both in downhill.

She missed the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics because of her condition.

Fanchini’s younger sisters Nadia and Sabrina were also World Cup racers.

USA Boxing to skip world championships

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USA Boxing will not send boxers to this year’s men’s and women’s world championships, citing “the ongoing failures” of the IBA, the sport’s international governing body, that put boxing’s place on the Olympic program at risk.

The Washington Post first reported the decision.

In a letter to its members, USA Boxing Executive Director Mike McAtee listed many factors that led to the decision, including IBA governance issues, financial irregularities and transparency and that Russian and Belarusian boxers are allowed to compete with their flags.

IBA lifted its ban on Russian and Belarusian boxers in October and said it would allow their flags and anthems to return, too.

The IOC has not shifted from its recommendation to international sports federations last February that Russian and Belarusian athletes be barred, though the IOC and Olympic sports officials have been exploring whether those athletes could return without national symbols.

USA Boxing said that Russian boxers have competed at an IBA event in Morocco this month with their flags and are expected to compete at this year’s world championships under their flags.

“While sport is intended to be politically neutral, many boxers, coaches and other representatives of the Ukrainian boxing community were killed as a result of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, including coach Mykhaylo Korenovsky who was killed when a Russian missile hit an apartment block in January 2023,” according to the USA Boxing letter. “Ukraine’s sports infrastructure, including numerous boxing gyms, has been devastated by Russian aggression.”

McAtee added later that USA Boxing would still not send athletes to worlds even if Russians and Belarusians were competing as neutrals and without their flags.

“USA Boxing’s decision is based on the ‘totality of all of the factors,'” he said in an emailed response. “Third party oversite and fairness in the field of play is the most important factor.”

A message has been sent to the IBA seeking comment on USA Boxing’s decision.

The women’s world championships are in March in India. The men’s world championships are in May in Uzbekistan. They do not count toward 2024 Olympic qualifying.

In December, the IOC said recent IBA decisions could lead to “the cancellation of boxing” for the 2024 Paris Games.

Some of the already reported governance issues led to the IOC stripping IBA — then known as AIBA — of its Olympic recognition in 2019. AIBA had suspended all 36 referees and judges used at the 2016 Rio Olympics pending an investigation into a possible judging scandal, one that found that some medal bouts were fixed by “complicit and compliant” referees and judges.

The IOC ran the Tokyo Olympic boxing competition.

Boxing was not included on the initial program for the 2028 Los Angeles Games announced in December 2021, though it could still be added. The IBA must address concerns “around its governance, its financial transparency and sustainability and the integrity of its refereeing and judging processes,” IOC President Thomas Bach said then.

This past June, the IOC said IBA would not run qualifying competitions for the 2024 Paris Games.

In September, the IOC said it was “extremely concerned” about the Olympic future of boxing after an IBA extraordinary congress overwhelmingly backed Russian Umar Kremlev to remain as its president rather than hold an election.

Kremlev was re-elected in May after an opponent, Boris van der Vorst of the Netherlands, was barred from running against him. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled in June that van der Vorst should have been eligible to run against Kremlev, but the IBA group still decided not to hold a new election.

Last May, Rashida Ellis became the first U.S. woman to win a world boxing title at an Olympic weight since Claressa Shields in 2016, taking the 60kg lightweight crown in Istanbul. In Tokyo, Ellis lost 3-0 in her opening bout in her Olympic debut.

At the last men’s worlds in 2021, Robby Gonzales and Jahmal Harvey became the first U.S. men to win an Olympic or world title since 2007, ending the longest American men’s drought since World War II.

The Associated Press and NBC Olympic research contributed to this report.

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