U.S. women’s soccer team plays Mexico with Olympics at stake

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All that stands between the U.S. women’s soccer team and a seventh straight Olympic berth is Mexico.

The Americans and Mexicans meet in the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament semifinals on Friday in Carson, Calif. The winner goes to Tokyo. The loser is eliminated from Olympic qualifying.

While the U.S. and Mexico have a fierce rivalry in men’s soccer, the U.S. women dominate the neighbors to the south. The Americans own a 36-1-1 record in the all-time series.

That one loss was memorable. It came in 2011 World Cup qualifying, forcing the U.S. into must-wins against Costa Rica and Italy to grab the last spot in the World Cup.

The U.S., ranked No. 1 in the world, rolled into the semifinals.

It won its three group-stage matches by a combined 18-0 against world No. 37 Costa Rica, No. 68 Panama and No. 72 Haiti. All time, the U.S. is 18-0 in Olympic qualifying with a goal differential of 106-1 (not counting matches played after it already clinched qualification).

The U.S. roster, with 18 of its 20 players coming from the 2019 World Cup champion team, is here.

Mexico is ranked 26th in the world and once qualified out of CONCACAF and into the Olympics — in 2004. It did qualify for the 2011 and 2015 World Cups, but has never won a match at either major tournament.

It did well to reach the semifinals, beating Jamaica and St. Kitts and Nevis before falling to Canada 2-0 on Tuesday. Canada, ranked eighth in the world, gets Costa Rica in the other winner-to-Tokyo semifinal on Friday.

Sunday’s final has no bearing on Olympic qualification.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

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Sifan Hassan sets marathon debut

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Sifan Hassan, who won 5000m and 10,000m gold and 1500m bronze at the Tokyo Olympics in an unprecedented triple, will make her 26.2-mile debut at the London Marathon on April 23.

Hassan, a 30-year-old Dutchwoman, said she will return to the track after the race, but how the London Marathon goes will play into whether she bids for the Olympic marathon in 2024.

“I want to see what I can do on the marathon distance, to make future decisions,” she posted on social media. “We’ll see if I will finish the distance or if the distance will finish me.”

Exhausted by her Olympic feat, Hassan reportedly went at least seven months after the Tokyo Games between training in track spikes. She finished fourth in the 10,000m and sixth in the 5000m at last July’s world championships in Eugene, Oregon.

“I really needed a break after the Tokyo Olympics,” Hassan said at worlds. “I was mentally crashed. I didn’t even care about running.”

London, billed as the best women’s marathon field in history, also boasts Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya, world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya, 2016 Olympic 10,000m champion Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia, 1500m world record holder Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia and the two fastest Americans in history, Emily Sisson and Keira D’Amato.

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