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Marieke Vervoort, Belgian Paralympian, ends her life by euthanasia

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Marieke Vervoort, a Belgian Paralympian, died via euthanasia on Tuesday, 11 years after signing euthanasia papers so she could decide when to end her life, according to the Belgian Paralympic Committee.

Euthanasia is legal in Belgium.

Vervoort, 40, competed in wheelchair racing with an incurable, degenerative spinal disease that limited her to 10 minutes of sleep on some nights. She earned four Paralympic medals between 2012 and 2016, including 100m gold at the London Games.

Back in 2016, Belgian newspapers reported Vervoort intended to kill herself after the Paralympics ended, which she refuted at the Games.

Vervoort said then that if she didn’t have the euthanasia papers, she would have committed suicide years ago.

“You can go in peace when the time comes,” she told NBC Sports’ Lewis Johnson in Rio. “I don’t want to live like a plant that I need day-in, day-out and during all night that I need all the time somebody with me to help me.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Kim Clijsters announces tennis comeback

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Kim Clijsters, a four-time Grand Slam singles champion, will end a seven-year retirement and return to the WTA Tour next year at age 36.

“What do I really want from life?” the Belgian said in a social media video published Thursday. “For the past seven years, I’ve been a full-time mom, and I love it. I really, really do. But I also loved being a professional tennis player. And honestly, I miss that feeling. So … what if I tried to do both? Could I be loving mum to my three kids and the best tennis player I can possibly be? Let’s do this. Let’s come back one more time. See you at 2020.”

Clijsters retired for a second time after the 2012 season.

She and husband Brian Lynch, a former Villanova basketball player, have three children. Daughter Jada was born in 2008, after which Clijsters came out of retirement to win two U.S. Opens and an Australian Open, and sons Jack in 2013 and Blake in 2016.

“What my first kind of goal would be is to get myself to feel where I want to be at, to know that, OK, I feel ready to be able to compete where I’m fit enough to play tough matches,” she said on the WTA Insider podcast. “If I feel in December that I’m not even near where I want to be, then I’m not going to even go for the sake of going somewhere.”

Clijsters is one of three moms to win a Grand Slam singles title in the Open Era, along with Margaret Court and Evonne Goolagong Cawley.

She said she “started from scratch” in training to get back in shape and, even if she does return as early as the pre-Australian Open swing in January, could go two or three months between tournaments.

“Still a long road ahead,” she said. “More energy these last six months than the last two years.”

If Clijsters can get into the world top 60 (and perhaps as low as No. 80) by the end of the French Open, she could outright qualify for the Olympics. She could also be an option for a wild card, but Clijsters dismissed the notion if she’s not playing at a certain level.

“I’m not going to the Olympics because I want to be a part of the Olympics,” she said. “If I go to the Olympics, I want to play at a decent level.”

MORE: Roger Federer undecided on Tokyo Olympics

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Eden Hazard eyes Olympics with Belgium, but obstacles ahead

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Eden Hazard is about to leave Chelsea for Real Madrid, but he also eyes another new squad: the Belgium Olympic team.

The star forward told a Belgian coach that he wants to play at the Tokyo Olympics, but significant obstacles are in the way for him to be an overage exception next year.

“Hazard has already asked me if he could come to Tokyo if we qualify,” Belgian Under-21 coach Johan Walem reportedly said last week, according to a Marca translation. “If we qualify, I will stick with the group that played at the [U21 European Championship]. But I already know that picking a squad for an Olympics will be difficult.”

Inherently difficult. Olympic men’s soccer teams are typically under-23 affairs, but each nation is allowed to pick three overage players. These exceptions included Neymar and Ryan Giggs at the last two Olympics.

But adding an overage star typically comes at the expense of a player who helped a nation qualify for the Olympics, such as at the European U21 Championship later this month. The top four at that event will be Europe’s representatives at Tokyo 2020.

Belgium must get out of a tough group at Euro U21s, one that includes Spain and Italy.

But if Belgium’s junior players get out of the group and qualify for the Olympics (for just the second time since 1928), Hazard would have a strong argument to be added for the Olympics. He won the Silver Ball as the second-best player at the 2018 World Cup, where Belgium placed third, its best finish ever.

“Right now, I have more than 30 players and reducing this to 23 for the Euros was a hellish task, and reducing it to 18 [for the Olympics] would be impossible,” Walem said, according to the report.

Hazard’s situation is complicated by the fact he would be a centerpiece of Belgium’s team at the 2020 European Championship, which end 11 days before the start of the Olympic soccer tournament.

In past Olympics, clubs have been under no obligation to release players for the Games. In summer 2016, Neymar did not play Copa America Centenario and in exchange was allowed to play at the Rio Olympics.

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MORE: Gianluigi Buffon dreams of being oldest Olympic soccer player ever

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