Some Olympic boxing hopefuls needed only one more day

Olympic Boxing Qualifying
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With tears in her eyes, Nadine Apetz asked herself “why not one more day?”

The German boxer had waited four years, and a ticket to the Tokyo Olympics was tantalizingly close when the qualifying tournament in London was suspended because of the coronavirus outbreak.

“One day longer and I might have had it,” said Apetz, a 34-year-old welterweight who is studying for a doctorate in neuroscience. “I was crying because I was so disappointed. You are so close to your biggest goal, and it’s all stopped.”

The pandemic has forced many Olympic hopefuls to wait it out, but the delay is particularly painful for the European boxers who were on the verge of qualification last month. Several were only one victory away.

The competition at the Copper Box was suspended after three days. A short time later, the Tokyo Games were postponed for one year and are now set to open on July 23, 2021.

“They probably shouldn’t have started it in the first place,” Apetz said, citing public health risks.

Fighters including Apetz, Emilie Sonvico of France and Charley Davison of Britain won their opening bouts. If they win their next one, they’ll qualify.

Likewise, lightweights Luke McCormack of Britain and Nikolai Terteryan of Denmark can qualify in their next bout, while their welterweight twin brothers Pat McCormack and Sebastian Terteryan can guarantee spots with two more wins each.

The London competition lasted long enough for 16 boxers to qualify. Among them was British featherweight Peter McGrail.

“Tokyo 2020 see ya there,” he wrote on Instagram, followed by an expletive about the virus.

Sixty-one European spots remain available.

“It was so painful for me,” the 31-year-old Sonvico, who like Apetz was scheduled to fight again on Day 4, said of leaving London empty-handed. “It’s difficult because we have to go back to training. It’s a lot of work, a lot of sacrifice.”

Like other athletes, they also have practical challenges in lockdown. Davison, a flyweight who set aside earlier Olympic aspirations to start a family, trains at home while co-parenting three young children.

Apetz is trying to finish her Ph.D in neuroscience, examining brain stimulation in Parkinson’s disease.

Sonvico is an investigator with the gendarmerie, which conducts police duties but under French military jurisdiction. She’s been on leave while with the national team, but that was to end soon.

“If it goes well, I’ll need one more year,” said Sonvico, who uses a rowing machine and heavy bag at home in the south of France. “It’s a problem. The president of the French (boxing) federation is asking the gendarmerie to see what we can do.”

Both Apetz and Sonvico set goals for Tokyo only after their division — welterweight — and one other was added after the Rio Olympics. The Tokyo Games will have five women’s classes; the men’s divisions were cut from 10 to eight.

For Sonvico, representing her country is like carrying on a family tradition. Her father spent his career in the military.

“Since I was a little girl, I’ve lived with people who wear the French uniform,” she said. “For me, it’s very important.”

Sonvico, ninth at the 2019 World Championships, may turn professional after the Olympic cycle.

“People say I fight like Mike Tyson,” she said.

Any athlete who had already qualified for Tokyo has been assured they will keep their spots for 2021. The International Olympic Committee’s task force overseeing boxing said the European qualifier, when rescheduled, will “pick up from where it was suspended” and that other boxers won’t be eligible.

Qualifying tournaments in Africa and Asia/Oceania preceded the London competition, which began on March 14.

The Turkish boxing federation said at least two of its boxers and a coach tested positive for the virus after the London event. However, the IOC task force said it was “not possible to know the source of infection.”

Apetz, a bronze medalist at the 2018 World Championships and a six-time national champion, is scheduled to fight 6-foot-1 Karolina Koszewska, a 38-year-old Polish southpaw who won gold at the 2019 European Games.

Apetz, who describes herself as a “clever boxer,” had planned to stop fighting in 2016, but her national team asked her to continue when welterweight was added to the program for Tokyo.

Until recently, Apetz was limited to yoga sessions in her cramped Cologne apartment and some jogging. Relaxed rules now allow her to work out at her gym, but numbers are restricted, so there are no partner drills or sparring sessions.

Eased restrictions may allow German athletes to return to serious training sooner than others, but Apetz hopes that’s not the case.

“It’s not what the Olympic spirit is about,” she said. “You want to earn it.”

MORE: Pregnant at 12, she qualified for Olympic boxing at 26

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Eliud Kipchoge, two races shy of his target, to make Boston Marathon debut

Eliud Kipchoge Berlin Marathon
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World record holder Eliud Kipchoge will race the Boston Marathon for the first time on April 17.

Kipchoge, who at September’s Berlin Marathon lowered his world record by 30 seconds to 2:01:09, has won four of the six annual major marathons — Berlin, Tokyo, London and Chicago.

The 38-year-old Kenyan has never raced Boston, the world’s oldest annual marathon dating to 1897, nor New York City but has repeated in recent years a desire to enter both of them.

Typically, he has run the London Marathon in the spring and the Berlin Marathon in the fall.

Kipchoge’s last race in the U.S. was the 2014 Chicago Marathon, his second of 10 consecutive marathon victories from 2014 through 2019.

He can become the first reigning men’s marathon world record holder to finish the Boston Marathon since South Korean Suh Yun-Bok set a world record of 2:25:39 in Boston in 1947, according to the Boston Athletic Association.

In 2024 in Paris, Kipchoge is expected to race the Olympic marathon and bid to become the first person to win three gold medals in that event.

The Boston Marathon field also includes arguably the second- and third-best men in the world right now — Kipchoge’s Kenyan training partners Evans Chebet and Benson Kipruto. Chebet won Boston and New York City this year. Kipruto won Boston last year and Chicago this year.

American Des Linden, who won Boston in 2018, headlines the women’s field.

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2024 Tour de France to end with Nice time trial due to Paris Olympics

2024 Tour de France Nice
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The 2024 Tour de France will end on the French Riviera instead of the French capital because of the Paris Olympics.

The finish of cycling’s marquee race leaves Paris for the first time since 1905.

Tour organizers said on Thursday the last stage of its 111th race will take place in the Mediterranean resort of Nice on July 21. Five days later, Paris opens the Olympics.

Because of security and logistical reasons, the French capital won’t have its traditional Tour finish on the Champs-Elysees. Parting with tradition of a sprint on the Champs-Elysees, the last stage will be an individual time trial along Nice’s famed Promenade des Anglais.

The start of the 2024 race, which will begin for the first time in Italy, was brought forward by one week, a customary change during an Olympic year. The Tour will start on June 29 in Florence.

Nice has hosted the Tour 37 times, including its start twice, in 1981 and in 2020. Two years ago, the start was delayed until Aug. 29 due to lockdowns and travels bans during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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