Kelly Cheng, Betsi Flint earn big win for U.S. beach volleyball as Olympic qualifying nears

Kelly Cheng, Betsi Flint
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Olympian Kelly Cheng (née Claes) and new partner Betsi Flint won a top-level international beach volleyball tournament in Hamburg last week, the biggest title for an American pair since the Tokyo Olympics.

Cheng and Flint won the World Beach Pro Tour Elite 16 event in Hamburg, Germany. Elite 16 events debuted this year. They have smaller fields than other international events, limited to 16 teams based on world ranking points, and are similar in prestige to the previous Grand Slams and Majors.

Cheng and Flint won all six matches in Hamburg, including victories over Brazilians Talita and Rebecca and Germans Karla Borger and Julia Sude, all Olympians.

The world’s top teams from recent seasons — Olympic gold medalists April Ross and Alix Klineman of the U.S., Olympic silver medalists Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho del Solar of Australia, 2022 World champions Duda and Ana Patricia of Brazil and 2019 World champions Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes of Canada — were not entered in Hamburg.

Qualifying for 2024 Olympic beach volleyball starts Jan. 1. It is similar to past Olympics, with no more than two teams per gender per nation able to qualify.

Last year, Cheng and then-partner Sarah Sponcil rallied to take the second and last U.S. women’s Olympic spot from legend Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat. Cheng and Sponcil were eliminated in the round of 16 in Tokyo, then ended their partnership.

Walsh Jennings, who turned 44 on Monday, is expected to decide on a possible 2024 Olympic run later this year. Walsh Jennings said in April that she hoped to play with 2000 Olympic indoor teammate Logan Tom.

Ross and Klineman have not played together this year after Klineman underwent shoulder surgery in January.

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Paris 2024 Olympic marathon route unveiled

Paris 2024 Olympic Marathon
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The 2024 Olympic marathon route will take runners from Paris to Versailles and back.

The route announcement was made on the 233rd anniversary of one of the early, significant events of the French Revolution: the Women’s March on Versailles — “to pay tribute to the thousands of women who started their march at city hall to Versailles to take up their grievances to the king and ask for bread,” Paris 2024 President Tony Estanguet said.

Last December, organizers announced the marathons will start at Hôtel de Ville (city hall, opposite Notre-Dame off the Seine River) and end at Les Invalides, a complex of museums and monuments one mile southeast of the Eiffel Tower.

On Wednesday, the rest of the route was unveiled — traversing the banks of the Seine west to the Palace of Versailles and then back east, passing the Eiffel Tower before the finish.

The men’s and women’s marathons will be on the last two days of the Games at 8 a.m. local time (2 a.m. ET). It will be the first time that the women’s marathon is held on the last day of the Games after the men’s marathon traditionally occupied that slot.

A mass public marathon will also be held on the Olympic marathon route. The date has not been announced.

The full list of highlights among the marathon course:

• Hôtel de ville de Paris (start)
• Bourse de commerce
• Palais Brongniart
• Opéra Garnier
• Place Vendôme
• Jardin des Tuileries
• The Louvre
• Place de la Concorde
• The bridges of Paris
(Pont de l’Alma; Alexandre III;
Iéna; and more)
• Grand Palais
• Palais de Tokyo
• Jardins du Trocadéro
• Maison de la Radio
• Manufacture et Musées
nationaux de Sèvres
• Forêt domaniale
des Fausses-Reposes
• Monuments Pershing –
Lafayette
• Château de Versailles
• Forêt domaniale de Meudon
• Parc André Citroën
• Eiffel Tower
• Musée Rodin
• Esplanade des Invalides (finish)

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International Boxing Association lifts ban on Russia, Belarus

Boxing gloves
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The International Boxing Association (IBA) lifted its ban on amateur boxers from Russia and Belarus over the war in Ukraine that had been in place since early March.

“The IBA strongly believes that politics shouldn’t have any influence on sports,” the federation said in a press release. “Hence, all athletes should be given equal conditions.”

Most international sports federations banned athletes from Russia and Belarus indefinitely seven months ago, acting after an IOC recommendation. It is believed that the IBA is the first international federation in an Olympic sport to lift its ban.

The IOC has not officially changed its recommendation from last winter to exclude Russia and Belarus athletes “to protect the integrity of the events and the safety of the other participants.”

Last week, IOC President Thomas Bach said in an interview with an Italian newspaper that Russian athletes who do not endorse their country’s war in Ukraine could at some point be accepted back into international sports, competing under a neutral flag.

IBA, in lifting its ban, will also allow Russia and Belarus flags and national anthems.

“The time has now come to allow all the rest of the athletes of Russia and Belarus to participate in all the official competitions of their sports representing their countries,” IBA President Umar Kremlev, a Russian, said in a press release last week. “Both the IOC and the International Federations must protect all athletes, and there should be no discrimination based on nationality. It is the duty of all of us to keep sports and athletes away from politics.”

In 2019, the IOC stripped the IBA — then known as AIBA — of its Olympic recognition following an inquiry committee report into finance, governance, refereeing and judging. The IOC ran the Tokyo Olympic boxing competition.

The IBA will not run qualifying events for the 2024 Paris Games, but it does still hold world championships, the next being a men’s event in Uzbekistan next year.

Boxing, introduced on the Olympic program in 1904, was not included on the initial program for the 2028 Los Angeles Games but can still be added. The IBA must address concerns “around its governance, its financial transparency and sustainability and the integrity of its refereeing and judging processes,” Bach said last December.

On Sept. 23, the IBA suspended Ukraine’s boxing federation, citing “government interference.” Ukraine boxers are still allowed to compete with their flag and anthem.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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