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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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Sam Mikulak to retire from gymnastics after Tokyo Olympics

Sam Mikulak
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Sam Mikulak, the U.S.’ top male gymnast, said he will retire after the Tokyo Olympics, citing a wrist injury and emotional health revelations during a forced break from the sport due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It does sound like some pretty crazy news, but there’s a lot of factors that go into it,” Mikulak said in a YouTube video published Sunday night. “I’ve had a lot of time to think about it during quarantine.”

The 27-year-old is a two-time Olympian, six-time U.S. all-around champion and the only active U.S. male gymnast with Olympic experience.

Mikulak said he noticed significant wrist inflammation last year that was temporarily healed by a November cortisone shot. But during quarantine, the wrist worsened even though he wasn’t doing gymnastics. He took a month off from working out, but the wrist didn’t heal.

He thought for a time that he might not return to gymnastics at all. A doctor told him he would need cortisone shots for the rest of his career.

“At that point, it was really made for me that this has to be my final year of gymnastics because I don’t want to ruin myself beyond this sport,” Mikulak said.

Mikulak also noted realizations from the forced time out of the gym. He learned that he’s much less stressed while not doing gymnastics, a sport he began at age 2. Mikulak’s parents were gymnasts at Cal.

“For so long, I’ve been sacrificing, and I’m sick of it,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to being able to be free from gymnastics and being able to do all these things that I’ve been putting off in my life for so long.”

Mikulak realized a career goal in 2018 when he earned his first individual world championships medal, a bronze on high bar. He wants to cap his career with a first Olympic medal in Tokyo, then, perhaps, become a coach or open his own gym.

Mikulak recently got engaged to Mia Atkins, and they got another puppy, Barney.

“Everything I’ve done in gymnastics is enough for me right now,” said Mikulak, who plans to document the next year on YouTube. “I was actually somewhat happy that I was able to come to that type of decision because for so long I felt like gymnastics really wasn’t going to be fulfilling until I’ve gotten my Olympic medal. And during quarantine, I had this whole revelation where, you know what, I am happier than I’ve ever been in my entire life, and I’m not doing gymnastics, so even if I don’t accomplish these goals, I am still going to be so damn happy.”

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April Ross, Alix Klineman complete perfect, abbreviated AVP season

April Ross, Alix Klineman
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April Ross and Alix Klineman consolidated their position as the U.S.’ top beach volleyball team, completing a sweep of the three-tournament AVP Champions Cup on Sunday.

Ross, a two-time Olympic medalist, and Klineman won the finale, the Porsche Cup. They won all 12 matches over the last three weekends, including the last 14 sets in a row, capped with a 21-18, 21-17 win over Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil in Sunday’s final.

“It feels like we’re midseason in a normal year,” Ross said on Amazon Prime. “I can’t believe it’s over.”

The AVP Champions Cup marked the first three top-level beach volleyball tournaments since March, and a replacement for a typical AVP season due to the coronavirus pandemic. The setting: on the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center parking lot without fans and with many health and safety measures.

AVP is not part of Olympic qualifying. It’s unknown when those top-level international tournaments will resume, but Ross and Klineman, ranked No. 2 in the world, are just about assured of one of the two U.S. Olympic spots.

According to BVBinfo.com, they’re 10-0 combined against the other top U.S. teams — Claes and Sponcil and triple Olympic champion Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat, who are likely battling for the last U.S. Olympic spot.

Walsh Jennings and Sweat, who do not play on the AVP tour, have a lead for the last spot more than halfway through qualifying, which runs into June.

Earlier in the men’s final, Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb kept 2008 Olympic champion Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena from sweeping the Champions Cup. Bourne and Crabb prevailed 21-17, 15-21, 15-12 for their first AVP title since teaming in 2018.

Bourne, who went nearly two years between tournaments from 2016-18 due to an autoimmune disease, and Crabb redeemed after straight-set losses to Dalhausser and Lucena the previous two weekends. Crabb guaranteed a title on Instagram days before the tournament.

“Those guys are the best in the world, and they make you look bad at times, but we’re relentless,” Bourne said on Amazon Prime. “You’re going to have to play the best volleyball in the world to beat us every time.”

Bourne and Crabb, Dalhausser and Lucena and Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb (Trevor’s younger brother) are battling for two available U.S. Olympic spots in Tokyo.

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