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Justin Morneau nixes Olympic baseball qualifying return

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Justin Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP with the Minnesota Twins, was taken off Canada’s Olympic baseball qualifying roster before he would have played his first competitive game in more than two years.

Morneau, 38, experienced an unspecified setback in training and was replaced on Canada’s roster for next month’s Premier12. The global tournament marks the first opportunity for many world baseball powers to qualify for the sport’s return to the Olympics.

Morneau never played in the Olympics before baseball was cut from the Games after 2008; active MLB players have never competed in the Games. But he was on Canada’s roster at all four World Baseball Classics from 2006 through 2017.

At November’s Premier12, the top nation from North and South America will qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. Japan and Israel are already qualified. Those that do not qualify will get another chance next year.

Morneau could become the second Major League Baseball MVP to play Olympic baseball as a medal sport. The other was Jason Giambi, who made the U.S. team in 1992, the same summer he was drafted in the second round by the Oakland Athletics.

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Justin Morneau out of retirement to play for Canada in Olympic baseball qualifying

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Justin Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP first baseman for the Minnesota Twins who last played in 2016, is on the Canadian roster for Olympic qualifying as baseball returns to the Games next summer for the first time since 2008.

Morneau, 38, headlines the Canadian roster for next month’s Premier12, a global tournament where the top nation from North and South America will qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. Japan and Israel are already qualified.

Active MLB players are not expected to be released to participate in the Tokyo Games.

Canada will have its hands full at Premier12, as well as a potential last-chance North and South American qualifier in March, when the winner qualifies for the Games. The U.S., Cuba and Mexico are all ranked higher the Canada, which is 10th overall.

Canada played in two previous Olympic tournaments in 2004 and 2008 but did not earn a medal.

Morneau could become the second MVP to play Olympic baseball as a medal sport. The other was 2000 AL MVP Jason Giambi, who made the U.S. team in 1992, the same summer he was drafted in the second round by the Oakland Athletics.

Canada’s coaching staff at Premier12 includes another former MVP, Larry Walker.

The U.S. roster for Premier12 has not been announced, though Joe Girardi has already been named manager.

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Canadian ski cross racer dies after mountain bike accident

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SQUAMISH, British Columbia (AP) — Canadian ski cross racer Mikayla Martin died Tuesday after a mountain bike accident in her hometown of Squamish.

The 22-year-old Martin, the winner of a world junior championship last year in Cardrona, New Zealand, was biking with a male friend on the Slhaney Trail system behind Stawamus Chief Provincial Park when she was injured, the Squamish RCMP, Squamish Search and Rescue and the B.C. Coroners Service said Wednesday in a joint statement. Martin was airlifted to a hospital.

“Mikayla embodied a love of skiing and passion for ski cross that were boundless and words can’t express how sorely she’ll be missed,” Alpine Canada President Vania Grandi said Wednesday in a statement. “We wish to express our most sincere condolences to Christine and James, Mikayla’s parents, as well as her entire family and circle of friends.”

Squamish RCMP and the coroner are continuing to investigate the incident.

“The death of Mikayla is a huge loss for the community of Squamish and an immense loss for her family and friends and our thoughts are with them,” Sgt. Sascha Banks said in the statement. “It can’t be stressed more that adventuring in Squamish comes with inherent risks.”

Martin was a promising alpine ski racer out of the Whistler Mountain Ski Club who switched to ski cross in 2017. She raced on the World Cup circuit last winter, finishing a career-best sixth in Innichen, Switzerland.