U.S. women’s soccer team qualifies for Olympics; tough decisions ahead

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The U.S. women’s soccer team beat Mexico 4-0 to earn a place in the Tokyo Olympics on Friday night, keeping its record intact of qualifying for every major tournament.

Sam Mewis scored twice. Rose Lavelle and Christen Press added goals. Alyssa Naeher got the shutout in Carson, Calif.

The world champion U.S. was a heavy favorite against world No. 26 Mexico. The Americans are now 37-1-1 all-time against the neighbors to the south.

They’re 19-0 all-time in Olympic qualifying with a goal differential of 110-1 (not counting matches played after the U.S. already clinched Olympic berths).

The next tasks should be more difficult. First, forming an 18-player Olympic roster (versus 23 at the 2019 World Cup and 20 in Olympic qualifying). Second, becoming the first nation to follow a World Cup title with an Olympic title the next year.

Past U.S. teams faltered in 2000 and 2016.

In Rio, the U.S. was stunned by Sweden in a quarterfinal shootout. The Americans failed to reach an Olympic final for the first time. After, goalie Hope Solo (no longer with the national team) called the Swedes “a bunch of cowards” for their defensive style.

“I remember not leaving the field for a long time,” Crystal Dunn said last fall. “The tears couldn’t come out of my eyes because I didn’t even want to believe that we were knocked out of the tournament. We had to bring it in for a huddle. And I can’t even remember the words that were said in the huddle because nobody was probably listening. Everybody was like, there’s nothing that could be said that’s going to make this moment feel any better than it is right now. We know the pain that we felt in that moment. And since then we have worked so hard to never have that feeling ever again.”

Julie Ertz, the U.S. Soccer Player of the Year after last summer’s World Cup triumph, agreed.

“If it wasn’t for 2016,” she said, “I don’t know if I’d be on the podium in 2019.”

At least five players from that 2019 World Cup podium will not be on the roster in Tokyo. New U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski and his staff left off the Olympic qualifying roster the two youngest World Cup players — Mallory Pugh and Tierna Davidson — though they could play their way back into Olympic selection.

The most intriguing name for the next few months is Alex Morgan. The star forward also wasn’t on the Olympic qualifying team because she’s due in April with her first child. Morgan said she wants to be considered for the Olympic roster.

Joy FawcettChristie RamponeCarla Overbeck and Kate Markgraf previously made Olympic teams as moms, all doing so at least one year after childbirths.

Carli Lloyd, who turns 38 a week before the Tokyo Games, is bidding to become the oldest U.S. Olympic soccer player in history, breaking Rampone’s record. Lloyd and Tobin Heath are trying to tie Rampone’s U.S. record of playing in four Olympic tournaments.

Lloyd, a substitute in all four 2019 World Cup knockout-round matches, was captain in this week’s tournament and started at center forward against Mexico.

Come the Olympics, the U.S. may have to go through the host nation en route to the gold. Japan beat the U.S. in the 2011 World Cup final, then lost to the Americans in finals at the 2012 Olympics and 2015 World Cup.

Rio Olympic champion Germany failed to qualify to defend its title.

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MORE: Alex Morgan’s Olympic return from pregnancy supported by new U.S. coach

South Korea’s first gold medalist of 2018 PyeongChang Olympics to compete for China

Lim Hyo-Jun
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Lim Hyo-Jun, a short track speed skater who won South Korea’s first gold medal of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, has been cleared to skate for China and was reportedly named to the national team Monday.

Lim, who won the 1500m on the first day of medal competition at the PyeongChang Games, began the process of switching to China after a June 2019 incident where he pulled down a teammate’s trousers, leaving him standing, exposed, in front of female teammates.

Lim, the 2019 World overall champion, was banned from the team for a year and later found guilty of sexual harassment before the verdict was overturned on appeal.

It was reported in March 2021 that Lim was in the process of trying to gain Chinese nationality to compete at the Beijing Winter Olympics, but Lim was not cleared to switch by the International Skating Union until this July. His Chinese name is Lin Xiaojun.

Another star South Korean skater, triple 2006 Olympic gold medalist Ahn Hyun-Soo, switched to Russia after not making the 2010 Olympic team. He then won three golds for the host nation as Viktor Ahn at the 2014 Sochi Games.

China’s national team for the upcoming season reportedly does not include veterans Wu Dajing, the nation’s lone gold medalist across all sports at the 2018 Olympics, and Fan Kexin, a three-time Olympic medalist.

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Brigid Kosgei, world record holder, to miss London Marathon

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World record holder Brigid Kosgei withdrew before Sunday’s London Marathon due to a right hamstring injury that has bothered her for the last month.

“My training has been up and down and not the way I would like to prepare to be in top condition,” was posted on Kosgei’s social media. “We’ve decided it’s best I withdraw from this year’s race and get further treatment on my injuries in order to enter 2023 stronger than ever.”

Kosgei, a 28-year-old Kenyan mother of twins, shattered the world record by 81 seconds at the 2019 Chicago Marathon. She clocked 2:14:04 to smash Brit Paula Radcliffe‘s record from 2003.

Since, Kosgei won the 2020 London Marathon, took silver at the Tokyo Olympics, placed fourth at the 2021 London Marathon and won this past March’s Tokyo Marathon in what was then the third-fastest time in history (2:16:02).

Ethiopian Tigist Assefa moved into the top three by winning the Berlin Marathon last Sunday in 2:15:37.

The London Marathon women’s field includes Kenyan Joyciline Jepkosgei, a winner in New York City (2019) and London (2021), and Yalemzerf Yehualaw, who was the Ethiopian record holder until Assefa won in Berlin.

The men’s field is headlined by Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest male marathoner in history, and Brit Mo Farah, a four-time Olympic champion on the track.

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