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How coronavirus is affecting Olympic sports events

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Olympic sports events have been canceled, postponed and limited due to the coronavirus. NBC News has full coronavirus coverage here. A look at what major events have been affected in the Olympic sports world …

Alpine Skiing

The final two weekends of the World Cup season — this week and next — were canceled by the International Ski Federation (FIS) in the last week. Races had been scheduled in Sweden, Slovenia and Italy. “The health and welfare of the athletes and all other participants, as well as the general public are in the forefront and the priority of FIS and all stakeholders,” FIS said in its latest statement Thursday morning in announcing the final round of cancellations. “FIS is fully compliant with the instructions and decisions of the National and Regional Governments and their Health Authorities in any recommendation regarding public gathers that impact FIS competitions.”

Italian Federica Brignone and Norwegian Aleksander Aamodt Kilde led the standings for the World Cup overall titles, the biggest annual prizes in the sport. Mikaela Shiffrin, who took a break from the World Cup following her father’s Feb. 2 death, had traveled to Sweden to make her return for this week’s final races before they were canceled on Wednesday.

Baseball

The last two Olympic qualifying tournaments, set to be held in Arizona in two weeks and in Chinese Taipei in early April, have been postponed. The Arizona tournament, for North and South American teams including the U.S., does not have new dates yet. The final, global Olympic qualifying tournament in Chinese Taipei is now scheduled for June.

Basketball

The primary Olympic 3×3 basketball qualifying tournament, originally scheduled for Bengaluru, India, in two weeks, was postponed on March 5 with no make-up date announced. At the time, the international basketball federation (FIBA) said it must be rescheduled to dates before the April 24-26 universality Olympic 3×3 qualifier. The universality qualifier is strictly for nations without recent Olympic five-on-five history. The primary qualifying tournament is the U.S.’ lone pathway to qualifying men’s and women’s 3×3 teams for the event’s Olympic debut in Tokyo.

Curling

The world women’s curling championship, originally scheduled to start Saturday in British Columbia, was canceled Thursday. Men’s worlds, originally scheduled for March 28-April 5 in Glasgow, and mixed doubles words, originally scheduled April 18-25 in Canada, were canceled on Saturday.

Equestrian

The Kentucky Three-Day Event, originally scheduled for April 23-26 at the Kentucky Horse Park, was canceled for the first time in its 42-year history. It’s the highest-level eventing competition in the North America and one of the three events in the Grand Slam of Eventing. The World Cup Finals for jumping and dressage were also canceled.

Figure Skating

The world championships, originally scheduled for Montreal next week, were called off on Wednesday by the Quebec government. “The ISU [International Skating Union] and Skate Canada have closely monitored the provincial and federal health authorities’ position on the spread of the virus and fully respect the difficult decision made today,” the ISU said in a statement. “Like the authorities, the ISU and Skate Canada are committed to the health and safety of the athletes, coaches, officials, volunteers and spectators.”

The competition could be rescheduled, but not before October. American Nathan Chen, the 2018 and 2019 World champion, said he was concerned before the decision was made. “I’m glad they are able to stay at home, to stay where they are,” he said. More on skaters’ reactions is here.

Gymnastics

An artistic gymnastics all-around World Cup in Stuttgart, Germany, set for next week, was called off. An apparatus World Cup in Doha, set for next week, was postponed until early June. World Cups are part of Olympic qualifying.

Hockey

The women’s world championship, a two-week event set to begin March 31 in Nova Scotia, was canceled last week. “Ultimately the IIHF Council feels that there has not been enough of an improvement to the coronavirus situation to allow us to safely host a 10-team international tournament within this timeframe,” IIHF president Rene Fasel said in a press release, which noted that 2021 Worlds are proposed to be in Canada. The men’s hockey world championship, set for Switzerland in May, remains on schedule.

Modern Pentathlon

The world championships, originally set to be held in Xiamen, China, in late May, were moved to Cancun, Mexico.

Olympic Torch Relay

The Olympic Flame lighting ceremony was held with limited attendance in Olympia, Greece, on Thursday to start the Olympic torch relay leading up to the Opening Ceremony on July 24.

“We are especially grateful that you made today’s ceremony possible, even under difficult circumstances,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in a speech, thanking the Greek Olympic Committee president at the site of the Ancient Olympics. “This demonstrates once more our commitment to the success of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. Nineteen weeks before the Opening Ceremony, we are strengthened in this commitment by the many authorities and sports organizations around the world who are taking so many significant measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus.”

The IOC said in a statement that, given the unprecedented circumstances the world is facing, “the health and safety of the thousands of torchbearers, spectators and staff will be the first priority along the route of the Olympic Torch Relay both in Greece and Japan.”

Short Track Speed Skating

The world championships, originally scheduled for this week in Seoul, were postponed on Feb. 26 after the host ice rink was closed. The following week, the ISU ruled out rescheduling or relocating the event this season but said it was possible that it could be held later in 2020, but not before mid-October.

Soccer

The CONCACAF Olympic men’s qualifying tournament has been postponed with no makeup date yet announced. The event, which was originally scheduled for March 20-April 1 in Mexico, is the U.S.’ chance to qualify for an Olympic men’s soccer tournament for the first time since 2008 and the last continental Olympic men’s soccer qualifier.

Track and Field

The world indoor track and field championships, which were scheduled for this week in Nanjing, China, were announced as postponed on Jan. 29, rescheduling for March 2021. The Boston Marathon, the world’s oldest annual 26.2-mile race held every year starting in 1897, was postponed from April 20 to Sept. 14. The London Marathon, the world’s other major spring marathon, was rescheduled from April 26 to Oct. 4. The Tokyo Marathon went on the date scheduled on March 1, but restricted to elite racers. Significant early season outdoor meets in April and May — the Penn Relays, plus Diamond League meets in China and Doha, have been postponed.

Water Polo

The final, global Olympic men’s and women’s qualifying tournaments were postponed. The men’s event, originally scheduled for late March in the Netherlands, will now be May 31-June 7. The women’s tournament, originally slated for this week in Italy, is now scheduled for May 17-24. A FINA task force will re-examine the situation for both events in late April.

Wrestling

The U.S. Olympic Trials, originally scheduled for April 4-5 at Penn State, were postponed. Organizers were in discussions about rescheduling the event at the same venue. U.S. Olympic hopefuls continued competing at the Pan American Olympic qualifying tournament in Ottawa, looking to secure Olympic quota spots for the country.

Other World Cup-level events and continental Olympic qualifiers in beach volleyball, biathlon, boxing, canoe-kayak, cycling, diving, fencing, rowing, rugby, shooting, skiing and snowboarding, sport climbing, triathlon and weightlifting have been canceled or postponed.

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FIFA rules on Olympic men’s soccer tournament age eligibility

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For the first time since 1988, some 24-year-olds will be eligible for the Olympic men’s soccer tournament without using an over-age exception.

FIFA announced Friday that it will use the same age eligibility criteria for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 that it intended to use in 2020 — that players born on or after Jan. 1, 1997 are eligible, plus three over-age exceptions. FIFA chose not to move the birthdate deadline back a year after the Olympics were postponed by one year.

Olympic men’s soccer tournaments have been U-23 events — save those exceptions — since the 1992 Barcelona Games. In 1984 and 1988, restrictions kept European and South American players with World Cup experience ineligible. Before that, professionals weren’t allowed at all.

Fourteen of the 16 men’s soccer teams already qualified for the Games using players from under-23 national teams. The last two spots are to be filled by CONCACAF nations, potentially the U.S. qualifying a men’s team for the first time since 2008.

The U.S.’ biggest star, Christian Pulisic, and French superstar Kylian Mbappe were both born in 1998 and thus would have been under the age limit even if FIFA moved the deadline to Jan. 1, 1998.

Perhaps the most high-profile player affected by FIFA’s decision is Brazilian forward Gabriel Jesus. The Manchester City star was born April 3, 1997, and thus would have become an over-age exception if FIFA pushed the birthdate rule back a year.

Instead, Brazil could name him to the Olympic team and still keep all of its over-age exceptions.

However, players need permission from their professional club teams to play in the Olympics, often limiting the availability of stars.

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Jenny Thompson’s new team is on the front line fighting coronavirus

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Two weeks ago, Jenny Thompson, the 12-time Olympic swimming medalist turned anesthesiologist, told close friends about the worrisome situation at her hospital in Charleston, S.C.

Thompson and her perioperative team of 40 or 50 were stressed that they would not have the most effective personal protective equipment (PPE) for when the coronavirus pandemic peaks there, projected to be later this month.

The messages caused fellow former Stanford swimmers and Olympic teammates Gabrielle Rose and Lea Maurer to act.

“She almost never asks for any sort of help or support,” Maurer said. “She’s Herculean in her ability to take on life and all its challenges.”

Rose and Maurer started a GoFundMe titled “Go Jenny Go” on March 22 for help to purchase PPE for the hospital. At the time, critical care doctors were “scrambling to piece together purchases on their own in anticipation of their high risk patients,” Maurer wrote.

Thompson said the PPE situation is better now. The GoFundMe was suspended Wednesday. Future support is directed to help those in New York City. Thompson specifically noted a GoFundMe for NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund.

More than $9,000 was raised in less than two weeks. Also, the hospital started receiving more PPE on its own. Thompson’s team now feels prepared for what’s to come.

“People were responding and donating from all chapters of my life,” Thompson said by phone Thursday. “People I didn’t even know. Family from USA Swimming and international swimming. It’s really touched me to know that so many people care and are able to donate, help share the message.”

Thompson woke at 4 a.m. several days this week with thoughts of her peers in New York City. Healthcare workers there have cited a lack of PPE in putting their own lives at risk while they fight to save others. Some have contracted the virus.

“We’ve been fortunate [in South Carolina]. I feel lucky,” Thompson said. “We’ll definitely be in a place where we’re taking care of a lot of Covid patients, but we’re not there yet.

“I’ve heard people say, people in healthcare knew what they were signing up for. I never signed up to get sick and potentially die from this job. I always assumed that I would have the protection or the supplies needed to help me do my job, and that’s been a real struggle nationwide.”

Thompson went to medical school in New York at Columbia University starting in 2001.

“I’d been there maybe a couple weeks at Columbia, when 9/11 happened,” she said. “I remember feeling very helpless as a first-year medical student. I wanted to help so badly, but there really wasn’t much I could do. All my classmates felt the same way. I’ve always had that as part of the making of me as a doctor, having to go through crisis, but I never imagined a pandemic. I guess some people prepare for this sort of thing their whole life, but I didn’t.”

The term “front lines” has been applied to healthcare workers around the globe. Thompson said it’s apt at her hospital.

“We definitely have Covid here, but we have not had a major outbreak like some other cities,” she said. “We consider every patient who we give general anesthesia and intubate to be a potential risk. As anesthesia providers and people who intubate the airway, we are on the front line. We are at a much higher risk of getting sick without the right PPE.”

Thompson’s team feels more ready for the peak with every passing day. They’re simulating, donning and doffing and scheduling to work longer shifts starting next week. The preparation extends home, where she has a husband and three children.

“I have, like, four different pairs of shoes,” Thompson said. “I spray my socks with fabric disinfectant. I take them off in the car, and then I put on flip-flops. Then when I get home, I shower and put my clothes in the wash immediately. It’s a strange place to be, but just consider everything I touch to be contaminated in an effort to protect myself.”

Both Rose and Maurer still see in Thompson that swimmer who awed them in college. As Thompson trained to become the most decorated female U.S. Olympian in history, she studied at Stanford and then Columbia to become a doctor.

“I knew I wanted to take care of critically ill patients,” she said.

As a swimmer, Thompson was known as the ultimate teammate. Eight Olympic gold medals in relays, often an anchor. Always there. Dependable.

“She knows that she’s going to make a difference,” Maurer said. “She knows that she’s going to achieve that goal. She knows that she’s going to help to make people better. And so she does it.”

Thompson believes the next few weeks will be unlike anything she’s ever faced.

“Everybody was sort of freaking out in the beginning and feeling very stressed, and I think that at some level has not gone away,” she said. “That’s going to stay with us, but we have a we-can-do-this-together fighting mentality that we are leaning on each other for. It’s really no different than being a part of any kind of team.”