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Tokyo Marathon limited to elite runners due to coronavirus

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TOKYO (AP) — Tokyo Marathon organizers drastically reduced the number of participants for this year’s race on Monday out of fear of the spread of the virus coming from China.

The general public is being barred from the race on March 1. It will now be limited to a few hundred elite participants, organizers said in a brief statement.

“We cannot continue to launch the event within the scale we originally anticipated and we regret to inform you the following: The Tokyo Marathon 2020 will be held only for the marathon elites and the wheelchair elites,” organizers said.

The Tokyo Marathon is the city’s annual race and not to be confused with the Olympic marathon that will take place during the 2020 Tokyo Games. Those races are to be held in the northern city of Sapporo.

The marathon is the latest large sports event to be impacted by the virus. Almost all sports events in China over the next few months have been called off, including next month’s world indoor track and field championships and a Formula One race in April.

The cancellations in China have a domino effect on Olympic qualifying, both in China and elsewhere, and muddle the picture for thousands of hopeful Olympians, families, and their travel plans.

The Tokyo Marathon was expected to attract about 38,000 participants. Only one death in Japan has been attributed to the virus. The latest death toll in mainland China is 1,770.

Organizers of the Tokyo Olympics and the International Olympic Committee have said repeatedly they will not cancel or postpone the Games and are following the advice of the World Health Organization.

“Certainly the advice we’re receiving externally from the WHO is that there’s no case for any contingency plans or cancelling the Games or moving the Games,” John Coates, the head of an IOC inspection team, said Friday in Tokyo.

The Olympics open on July 24 with about 11,000 athletes participating. About 7.8 million tickets are available for Olympic events, which draw hundreds of thousands of tourists. There are another 2.3 million tickets for the Paralympics.

Much of the focus in now on China. It will further intensify with the next Olympics — the 2022 Winter Games — taking place in Beijing.

The spreading virus has already forced organizers to cancel World Cup ski races this month in Yanquig, China, which were also to serve as test events. Also called off was a biathlon test event in Zhangjiakou.

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Gregorio Paltrinieri swims second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history

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Olympic champion Gregorio Paltrinieri swam the second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history, clocking 14:33.10 in his native Italy on Thursday.

Paltrinieri, 25, missed Chinese Sun Yang‘s world record from the 2012 Olympics by 2.08 seconds.

The Italian now owns the second- and third-fastest times in history, including his 14:34.10 from the 2016 European Championships, also held at the 2012 Olympic pool in London.

Paltrinieri is a versatile distance swimmer. At last year’s world championships, he finished sixth in the open-water 10km to qualify for the Olympics, then won the 800m free in the pool in a European record time and finished with 1500m bronze, just missing a third straight world title in that event.

German Florian Wellbrock won the 1500m in 14:36.54 at worlds, with Paltrinieri finishing 2.21 seconds back.

Sun, 28, was in February banned eight years stemming from destroying a drug-test sample with a hammer in September 2018. Sun, who focused more on the 200m and 400m frees in recent years, did not race the 1500m at the 2017 or 2019 Worlds.

Top-level swim meets in the U.S. are scheduled to resume in November with the Tyr Pro Series.

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Bianca Andreescu to miss U.S. Open

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Bianca Andreescu withdrew from the U.S. Open, citing “unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic” compromising her ability to prepare to defend her Grand Slam title.

“I have taken this step in order to focus on my match fitness and ensure that I return ready to play at my highest level,” Andreescu, a 20-year-old Canadian, posted on social media. “The US Open victory last year has been the high point of my career thus far and I will miss not being there. However, I realize that the unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic, have compromised my ability to prepare and compete to the degree necessary to play at my highest level.”

Andreescu’s absence means the U.S. Open, the first Grand Slam tournament since tennis resumed amid the coronavirus pandemic, will be without both 2019 male and female singles champions.

Rafael Nadal previously announced he would not defend his title, saying he would rather not travel given the global situation. Roger Federer is also out after knee surgery. Women’s No. 1 Ash Barty didn’t enter, either, citing travel concerns.

Last year, Andreescu made her U.S. Open title run as the 15th seed, sweeping Serena Williams in the final. Ranked 208th a year earlier, she became the first player born in the 2000s to win a Slam and the first teen Slam winner since Maria Sharapova at the 2006 U.S. Open.

Andreescu then missed the Australian Open in January due to rehab from a knee injury that forced her to retire during a match at the WTA Finals on Oct. 30. She also missed the French Open and Wimbledon in 2019 following a rotator cuff tear.

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