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IOC, committed to Tokyo Olympics, prepares for changes to qualifying process

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The IOC remains fully committed to the Tokyo Olympics, which open July 24, after continuing talks Tuesday with Games stakeholders amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“With more than four months to go before the Games there is no need for any drastic decisions at this stage; and any speculation at this moment would be counter-productive,” according to an IOC press release.

Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo added, “I want to hold the Olympics and Paralympics perfectly, as proof that the human race will conquer the new coronavirus, and I gained support for that from the G-7 leaders.”

IOC officials consulted with Summer Olympic sports bodies and plan talks with National Olympic Committees, athlete representatives, the International Paralympic Committee, other International Federations and others.

The IOC will work with the International Federations to make changes to Olympic qualifying, which has been impacted by global sporting events being postponed and canceled into April and May.

Any sport qualifying process revisions will be published by the beginning of April.

An increase in the number of overall athletes allowed for a sport will be considered on a case-by-case basis under exceptional circumstances.

So far, 57 percent of athletes are qualified for the Olympics, according to the IOC.

The U.S. Olympic team, which is expected to be more than 500 athletes, named its first 75 members over the last year.

On top of that, the U.S. has earned many more quota spots that will be filled by team sports naming rosters or trials events determining individual qualifiers.

U.S. Olympic Trials events in rowing, shooting and wrestling, scheduled for March and April, have been postponed indefinitely. Trials events in diving, gymnastics, swimming and track and field remain scheduled for June.

“The health and well-being of all those involved in the preparations for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is our number-one concern,” IOC President Thomas Bach said, according to the release. “All measures are being taken to safeguard the safety and interests of athletes, coaches and support teams. We are an Olympic community; we support one another in good times and in difficult times. This Olympic solidarity defines us as a community.”

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MORE: U.S. athletes qualified for Tokyo Olympics

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.

MORE: Michael Phelps qualifies for first Olympics at age 15

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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.

MORE: Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis competition

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