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Wayde van Niekerk misses comeback meet after coronavirus concerns

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Wayde van Niekerk did not race in his scheduled international comeback meet in Italy on Saturday after coronavirus concerns.

Van Niekerk, the Olympic 400m champion and world-record holder returning from leg injuries, reportedly tested positive for the virus on Thursday, then had a negative test on Friday but was still held out of the meet. He was on the start list but was a DNS (did not start) on the results page.

Van Niekerk’s agent confirmed Friday that a member of the sprinter’s group, which arrived in Italy from South Africa earlier in July and had been quarantining, tested positive for the virus. Van Niekerk’s agent did not specify if the person who tested positive was van Niekerk.

Since arriving in Italy, each member of the group had “a number of tests” that all came back negative before Thursday, the agent said.

Van Niekerk’s last international race was the 200m at the 2017 World Championships, where he took silver following a 400m gold.

Two months after worlds, van Niekerk tore the ACL and meniscus in his right knee in a non-contact injury playing a celebrity tag rugby match in his native South Africa.

Van Niekerk raced domestically, in Bloemfontein, in February 2019 and February 2020, but setbacks rebuilding his knee strength prevented an international return last summer.

Van Niekerk, after breaking Michael Johnson‘s world record with a 43.03 in Rio, is bidding to become the first person to repeat as Olympic 400m champion since Johnson in 2000.

Last year, American Michael Norman and Bahamian Steven Gardiner established themselves as Olympic favorites, becoming the first men other than van Niekerk to break 43.50 seconds since 2007.

MORE: Cross-country could be added to Olympics

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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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