U.S. women’s soccer team opens Tokyo Olympics with showdown match

FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019"Women:  United States of America v The Netherlands"
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The U.S. women’s soccer team’s first Tokyo Olympic opponent is Sweden, which knocked the Americans out of the Rio Olympics.

The Americans face the Swedes on July 21, the first day of competition across all sports and two days before the Opening Ceremony, at Tokyo Stadium.

Soccer traditionally begins group play before the cauldron is lit. Softball, returning to the Olympic program for the first time since 2008, also has games before the Opening Ceremony.

The U.S. was also grouped with Australia and New Zealand in Wednesday’s draw.

The top two teams in the group advance to the quarterfinals, which is where Sweden stunned the U.S. in penalty kicks at the Rio Games, marking the Americans’ only elimination in an Olympics or World Cup since 2011.

Then-U.S. goalie Hope Solo called the Swedes, then coached by former U.S. coach Pia Sundhage, “a bunch of cowards” for their style of play. Solo was suspended for six months and hasn’t played for the national team since.

The U.S. was also grouped with Sweden at the 2019 World Cup, winning 2-0 en route to a repeat title. No nation has followed a World Cup crown with an Olympic title.

The U.S. Olympic roster, led by new coach Vlatko Andonovski, hasn’t been named. It will likely include many of the top players from Rio, like Megan Rapinoe, who recently reflected on the Sweden defeat.

“We have very high standards for the team, which is championship or total failure, so we felt like total failures,” she said. “It definitely left, I wouldn’t say a bad taste. I think it left a fire under people to never let that happen again.”

In the men’s draw, Brazil and Germany were grouped together and meet in their opening match the day before the Opening Ceremony. That’s a rematch of the Rio Olympic final won on Neymar‘s penalty kick in a shootout at the Maracana.

The U.S. men failed to qualify for the Olympics for a third consecutive time.

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Olympian Derrick Mein ends U.S. men’s trap drought at shotgun worlds

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Tokyo Olympian Derrick Mein became the first U.S. male shooter to win a world title in the trap event since 1966, prevailing at the world shotgun championships in Osijek, Croatia, on Wednesday.

Mein, who grew up on a small farm in Southeast Kansas, hunting deer and quail, nearly squandered a place in the final when he missed his last three shots in the semifinal round after hitting his first 22. He rallied in a sudden-death shoot-off for the last spot in the final by hitting all five of his targets.

He hit 33 of 34 targets in the final to win by two over Brit Nathan Hales with one round to spare.

The last U.S. man to win an Olympic trap title was Donald Haldeman in 1976.

Mein, 37, was 24th in his Olympic debut in Tokyo (and placed 13th with Kayle Browning in the mixed-gender team event).

The U.S. swept the Tokyo golds in the other shotgun event — skeet — with Vincent Hancock and Amber English. Browning took silver in women’s trap.

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Mo Farah withdraws before London Marathon

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British track legend Mo Farah withdrew before Sunday’s London Marathon, citing a right hip injury before what would have been his first 26.2-mile race in nearly two years.

Farah, who swept the 2012 and 2016 Olympic track titles at 5000m and 10,000m, said he hoped “to be back out there” next April, when the London Marathon returns to its traditional month after COVID moved it to the fall for three consecutive years. Farah turns 40 on March 23.

“I’ve been training really hard over the past few months and I’d got myself back into good shape and was feeling pretty optimistic about being able to put in a good performance,” in London, Farah said in a press release. “However, over the past 10 days I’ve been feeling pain and tightness in my right hip. I’ve had extensive physio and treatment and done everything I can to be on the start line, but it hasn’t improved enough to compete on Sunday.”

Farah switched from the track to the marathon after the 2017 World Championships and won the 2018 Chicago Marathon in a then-European record time of 2:05:11. Belgium’s Bashir Abdi now holds the record at 2:03:36.

Farah returned to the track in a failed bid to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, then shifted back to the roads.

Sunday’s London Marathon men’s race is headlined by Ethiopians Kenenisa Bekele and Birhanu Legese, the second- and third-fastest marathoners in history.

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