What Olympic baseball, softball will look like for the first time since 2008, and perhaps the last time

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With the Tokyo Olympics postponed to 2021, OlympicTalk is taking a sport-by-sport look at where things stood before sports were halted and how global circumstances could alter the Olympic picture …

Baseball and softball are in the Olympics for the first time since 2008, but won’t stay there.
This is, for now, a one-time-only return to the Olympic program. Baseball and softball were among a handful of sports added for the Tokyo Games only, proposed by organizers given the popularity within the host country.

Paris 2024 chose not to propose baseball and softball. The IOC could re-add baseball and softball to the regular Olympic program before the 2028 Los Angeles Games, perhaps if 2021 goes well. Or, LA organizers could copy Tokyo and propose the sports be added for their Games only.

The U.S. qualified for Tokyo as a favorite in softball. Baseball is a different story.
The Tokyo field will be six teams in each sport, down from eight at the 2008 Beijing Games. The softball field is already set. Japan, which won the 2008 Olympic title, got in as host. The U.S. took the next spot by winning the most recent world title in 2018 (over Japan in an extra-inning final). Italy, Mexico, Canada and Australia round it out.

In baseball, the U.S. gets up to three chances to qualify. It missed on the first try, the Premier12 event in Tokyo in November. The U.S. was stunned by Mexico with an Olympic spot at stake. The next qualifier was to be a North and South American event in Arizona in March, but that was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Top competition there was to come from Canada, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. If the U.S doesn’t get the lone spot available at the rescheduled tournament, it could try at the last-chance, global qualifying tournament.

2021 Olympic Capsules: Track and Field | Swimming | Gymnastics
Beach Volleyball | Diving | Basketball | Golf | Tennis

Softball’s biggest names will be in Tokyo. Baseball’s likely will not.
The already named U.S. Olympic softball roster includes two well known pitchers from the previous Olympic generation — Monica Abbott and Cat Osterman, who combined to throw every U.S. pitch in the 2008 Olympic final. And Rachel Garcia, the 2018 and 2019 NCAA Player of the Year from UCLA.

Despite Bryce Harper‘s adamant wishes, active MLB players are not expected to be made available for the Olympics. MLBers were never part of the Olympics in the previous medal generation from 1992 through 2008. It was always minor leaguers or college players, though some went on to All-Star careers (Jason GiambiNomar GarciaparraRoy Oswalt, Stephen Strasburg among them). In the first round of qualifying, the U.S. team was made up of mostly double-A and triple-A caliber players. For the second round (before it was postponed due to the coronavirus), MLB reduced restrictions, allowing players on 40-man rosters, but likely not active 26-man roster players.

This could benefit Japan, whose domestic league is expected to take an Olympic break in 2021, granted some Japanese superstars are in MLB (Shohei OhtaniMasahiro Tanaka). By the way, Ichiro, before he retired from MLB, ruled out bidding for an honorary spot on the Olympic team.

Familiar names are still lining up for Olympic baseball, though.
If the U.S. does qualify, it could have five-time MLB All-Star outfielder Adam Jones as an option. Jones, one of five Americans to play at each of the last two World Baseball Classics, signed in December to play in Japan’s domestic league with an eye on attaining Olympic eligibility.

Another MLB All-Star, retired second baseman Ian Kinsler, made aliyah over the winter to fulfill Israeli citizenship requirements. Israel had a magical run to qualify for the Olympics for the first time last September. Yet another, retired first baseman Justin Morneau, was originally named to Canada’s team for Premier12 before withdrawing due to an unspecified setback. Six-time All-Star slugger Jose Bautista showed reported interest in playing for the Dominican Republic in Olympic qualifying, perhaps also as a two-way player.

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MORE: David Beckham’s Olympic omission, explained

Eliud Kipchoge breaks marathon world record in Berlin

Eliud Kipchoge Berlin Marathon
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Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge broke his own world record in winning the Berlin Marathon, clocking 2:01:09 to lower the previous record time of 2:01:39 he set in the German capital in 2018.

Kipchoge, 37 and a two-time Olympic champion, earned his 15th win in 17 career marathons to bolster his claim as the greatest runner in history over 26.2 miles.

His pacing was not ideal. Kipchoge slowed in the final miles, running 61:18 for the second half after going out in an unprecedented 59:51 for the first 13.1 miles. He still won by 4:49 over Kenyan Mark Korir.

“I was planning to go through it [the halfway mark] 60:50, 60:40,” Kipchoge said. “My legs were running actually very fast. I thought, let me just try to run two hours flat, but all in all, I am happy with the performance.

“We went too fast [in the first half]. It takes energy from the muscles. … There’s still more in my legs [to possibly lower the record again].”

MORE: Berlin Marathon Results

Ethiopian Tigist Assefa won the women’s race in 2:15:37, the third-fastest time in history for somebody who ran one prior marathon in 2:34:01. Only Brigid Kosgei (2:14:14 in Chicago in 2019) and Paula Radcliffe (2:15:25 in London in 2003) have gone faster.

American record holder Keira D’Amato, who entered as the top seed, was sixth in 2:21:48. D’Amato, who went nearly a decade between competitive races after college, owns the American record of 2:19:12 and now also the 10th-best time in U.S. history.

“Today wasn’t my best day ever, but it was the best I could do today,” she said in a text message, according to Race Results Weekly, adding that she briefly stopped and walked late in the race.

The last eight instances the men’s marathon world record has been broken, it has come on the pancake-flat roads of Berlin. It began in 2003, when Kenyan Paul Tergat became the first man to break 2:05.

The world record was 2:02:57 — set by Kenyan Dennis Kimetto in 2014 — until Kipchoge broke it for the first time four years ago.

The following year, Kipchoge became the first person to cover 26.2 miles in under two hours, clocking 1:59:40 in a non-record-eligible showcase rather than a race.

Kipchoge’s focus going forward is trying to become the first runner to win three Olympic marathon titles in Paris in 2024. He also wants to win all six annual World Marathon Majors. He’s checked off four of them, only missing Boston (run in April) and New York City (run every November).

Kipchoge, the 2003 World 5000m champion at age 18, moved to the marathon after failing to make the 2012 Olympic team on the track.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

FIBA Women's World Cup
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The U.S. goes for its fourth consecutive title at the FIBA World Cup in Sydney — and eighth global gold in a row overall when including the Olympics.

A’ja Wilson, a two-time WNBA MVP, and Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP, headline a U.S. roster that, for the first time since 2000, includes neither Sue Bird (retired) nor Diana Taurasi (injured).

The new-look team includes nobody over the age of 30 for the first time since 1994, before the U.S. began its dynasty at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The Americans have won 52 consecutive games between worlds and the Olympics dating to the 2006 Worlds bronze-medal game.

The field also includes host Australia, the U.S.’ former primary rival, and Olympic silver medalist Japan.

Nigeria, which played the U.S. the closest of any foe in Tokyo (losing by nine points), isn’t present after its federation withdrew the team over governance issues. Spain, ranked second in the world, failed to qualify.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup Schedule

Date Time (ET) Game Round
Wed., Sept. 21 8:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 82, Bosnia and Herzegovina 58 Group A
9:30 p.m. USA 87, Belgium 72 Group A
11 p.m. Canada 67, Serbia 60 Group B
Thurs., Sept. 22 12 a.m. Japan 89, Mali 56 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 107, South Korea 44 Group A
6:30 a.m. France 70, Australia 57 Group B
8:30 p.m. USA 106, Puerto Rico 42 Group A
10 p.m. Serbia 69, Japan 64 Group B
11 p.m. Belgium 84, South Korea 61 Group A
Fri., Sept. 23 12:30 a.m. China 98, Bosnia and Herzegovina 51 Group A
4 a.m. Canada 59, France 45 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 118, Mali 58 Group B
Sat., Sept. 24 12:30 a.m. USA 77, China 63 Group A
4 a.m. South Korea 99, Bosnia and Herzegovina 66 Group A
6:30 a.m. Belgium 68, Puerto Rico 65 Group A
Sun., Sept. 25 12:30 a.m. France 74, Mali 59 Group B
4 a.m. Australia 69, Serbia 54 Group B
6:30 a.m. Canada 70, Japan 56 Group B
9:30 p.m. Belgium vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina Group A
11:30 p.m. Mali vs. Serbia Group B
Mon., Sept. 26 12 a.m. USA vs. South Korea Group A
2 a.m. France vs. Japan Group B
3:30 a.m. China vs. Puerto Rico Group A
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Canada Group B
9:30 p.m. Puerto Rico vs. South Korea Group A
11:30 p.m. Belgium vs. China Group A
Tues., Sept. 27 12 a.m. USA vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina Group A
2 a.m. Canada vs. Mali Group B
3:30 a.m. France vs. Serbia Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Japan Group B
Wed., Sept. 28 10 p.m. Quarterfinal
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Quarterfinal
4 a.m. Quarterfinal
6:30 a.m. Quarterfinal
Fri., Sept. 30 3 .m. Semifinal
5:30 a.m. Semifinal
11 p.m. Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. Final