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Martin Fourcade, France’s most decorated Winter Olympian, retiring from biathlon

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Martin Fourcade, France’s most decorated Winter Olympian with seven medals and five golds, announced a surprise retirement on Friday at age 31, the International Biathlon Union confirmed.

Fourcade is expected to make Saturday’s World Cup 12.5km pursuit in Finland the last race of his career. It’s also the last race of the season, which will end prematurely due to the coronavirus.

Fourcade has been a force for nearly a decade: seven straight World Cup overall titles from 2012-18, 28 world championships medals, including 13 golds, and five gold medals between the last two Olympics.

Last season, Fourcade struggled with zero world championships medals for the first time since 2010 and a 12th-place finish in the overall standings. This season, he is battling Norwegian rival Johannes Thingnes Bø for the overall title going into Saturday’s finale.

Only Norwegian Ole Einar Bjørndalen owns more Olympic biathlon gold medals (eight), world titles (20) or World Cup victories (94) than Fourcade.

Fourcade, born in Céret, near the Spanish border in the south of France, began cross-country skiing at 6 and switched to biathlon at 13. He followed older brother Simon, who competed in three Olympics.

Fourcade developed a successful method that other biathletes copied — making shooting accuracy his top priority, followed by speed at the range and then making up lost time skiing.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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Il y a des décisions qui changent une vie.Je me suis souvent demandé si cela avait été le cas lorsque je suis monté…

Posted by Martin Fourcade on Friday, March 13, 2020

Neymar, Kylian Mbappe face PSG opposition to play Olympics, report says

Kylian Mbappe, Neymar
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Neymar and Kylian Mbappe both need to approval from their club, Paris Saint-Germain, to play in the Tokyo Olympics. That hasn’t come, though there is still time.

PSG wrote a letter to the French Football Federation (FFF) last week indicating Mbappe would not be released to play in the Tokyo Games, according to L’Equipe, which also reported the club doesn’t want Neymar to play for Brazil at the Olympics.

Both stars indicated in the last year-plus that they were willing to play in the Olympics.

But, as in 2016, a problem arises for the world’s best male soccer players. Clubs were not required to allow them to play at the Rio Games, and FIFA has not said that policy will change for Tokyo. FIFA did not immediately respond to a message seeking clarification on Tuesday.

Complicating matters, the European Championship and Copa America are each held in Olympic summers. Clubs can’t stop their players from competing for senior national teams at those events.

Clubs are often opposed to letting stars play both a continental championship and the Olympics in the same offseason, potentially tiring them for the start of the club season.

In 2016, Neymar and his club at the time, Barcelona, made an agreement to let him play in the Rio Olympics if he sat out Copa America Centenario. That Neymar’s home nation was hosting the Olympics made that deal more enticing for the player and the Brazilian federation than it might be for this summer.

Neymar went on to lead Brazil to its first Olympic soccer title, knocking home the clinching penalty kick in the final shootout with Germany.

Mbappe, star of France’s 2018 World Cup champion team, would be particularly valuable to France at the Olympics. At 21 years old, he would not take up one of the three over-age roster spots for players born before Jan. 1, 1997.

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Teddy Riner, French judoka, loses for first time since 2010

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French judoka Teddy Riner suffered his first defeat since 2010, ending his win streak at 154 matches.

Japanese Kokoro Kageura beat Riner in the third round of the Paris Grand Slam on Sunday.

“If this happens at the [Tokyo Olympic] Games I’ll be annoyed. Better this happens now than then,” Riner said, according to Agence France-Presse. “But I’ll tell you another thing too. It’s a relief in a way. Counting wins as I closed in on [Yasuhiro] Yamashita‘s record [203 straight in the 1970s and ’80s] was really heavy.”

Riner, a 30-year-old, 6-foot-8-inch native of Guadeloupe, was undefeated since December 2010.

He earned Olympic titles in 2012 and 2016 and world titles in 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017. Riner rarely competed the last two years, skipping the 2018 and 2019 World Championships to rest up for another Olympic run.

He could compete through the 2024 Paris Games.

“When I am invincible, I will stop,” Riner said in 2013, according to The Associated Press.

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