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Roger Federer, undecided on Olympics, may need help to be eligible

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NEW YORK — Roger Federer doesn’t know if he wants to play a fifth Olympics in Tokyo. He doesn’t know if he will be eligible.

“Who knows if I’ll have a chance to play,” Federer said before the U.S. Open, according to his apparel sponsor, Uniqlo. “We shall see.”

Asked to clarify on Sunday, Federer said he hasn’t determined his summer 2020 schedule this far out. The Olympic tennis competition starts two weeks after the Wimbledon final.

“As I don’t know if I will be playing, I don’t know the requirements, it was hard to give a proper answer,” Federer said. “I don’t know if I’m actually going to do it or not because it all depends on family, on scheduling, on body, on future. I don’t know. We’ll see.”

There’s also the fact that Federer does not meet an eligibility requirement of having played Davis Cup in recent years. He last suited up in 2015.

But there are exceptions. An International Tennis Federation spokesperson said last week that a national federation can appeal on behalf of a player who does not meet Davis Cup requirements, taking into account considerations including a past commitment to the Olympics (which Federer clearly has).

A Swiss Tennis Federation spokesperson then said that its president has been in talks with Federer. Should Federer request the federation to apply for an exemption, it will do it “without doubt.” That came as no surprise to Federer.

“Naturally it’s always going to be a possibility for me to play Tokyo if there is an exemption,” he said.

An Olympic singles gold medal is the biggest missing prize from Federer’s collection, but he has repeated that he is content without it.

“It’s not my No. 1 goal, or my No. 2 goal,” Federer said in 2016, four months before withdrawing due to injury from what would have been his fifth Olympics in Rio. “It’s just something I’ve said, maybe I can reach that tournament and then see how it goes.”

Federer, 38, would break Swede Jonas Bjorkman‘s record as the oldest Olympic singles player since the sport was readded to the Games in 1988. Several players in their 40s played Olympic tennis in its previous iteration between 1896 and 1924, according to the OlyMADMen.

Federer debuted at the Olympics in Sydney 2000 as a 19-year-old without an ATP title to his name.

He did well to reach the quarterfinals, losing to Tommy Haas, but said in 2016 that losing two medal matches was “the most disappointed I’ve ever been in my tennis life.” More importantly, Federer met future wife and fellow Swiss Olympic tennis player Mirka Vavrinec in Australia and kissed her on the last day of the Games, sparking their relationship.

Federer entered the 2004 Athens Games ranked No. 1 but was upset in round two by 79th-ranked Tomas Berdych (who went on to a strong career but looks set to retire later this year).

At Beijing 2008, Federer was stunned by American James Blake in the quarters and ended a record 237-week run as world No. 1. Rafael Nadal took gold and the top spot. Federer did, however, leave with an Olympic gold medal in doubles with Stan Wawrinka.

Federer looked primed for a gold-medal singles run at the 2012 London Games, considering they were played at Wimbledon, where he had won seven titles. But he was swept in the final by Andy Murray, whom he had beaten in four sets in the Wimbledon final a month earlier.

“Don’t feel too bad for me,” Federer said that day. “It’s not front and center in my mind. But, of course, I’d love an Olympic gold in singles. But I am very happy with an Olympic silver in singles.”

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Nino Schurter, with 8th world title, pads claim to greatest mountain biker in history

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MONT-SAINTE-ANNE, Quebec – Tack one more title onto Nino Schurter’s already cluttered resume.

The Swiss mountain biker and reigning Olympic gold medalist won his eighth world title and fifth straight Saturday afternoon. His 10th world medal also broke a tie for the career record with recently retired mountain biking great Julien Absalon.

Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel, who likely would have challenged Schurter for the world title, skipped the event amid a busy racing schedule across multiple disciplines.

Schurter called it “an amazing victory” and said, “I worked hard this year towards that goal and it’s important toward next year. I know I’m still [on] top and I can battle for the gold in Tokyo.”

The 33-year-old has an Olympic medal of every color: he won a surprising bronze at the 2008 Beijing Games as a 22-year-old, then a silver in London before completing the collection in 2016 with gold in Rio.

Schurter noted earlier this week that records within reach continue to motivate him. In addition to passing former rival Absalon’s world medals total this week, he’s one World Cup win shy of Absalon’s 33 victories.

If he makes the podium in Tokyo, he’ll become the first mountain biker to win four Olympic medals (Germany’s Sabine Spitz, who plans to retire at the end of the season, also has three).

Still, Schurter said he’s driven primarily by joy.

“I still love to race and compete, and I think that’s the most important thing, that you enjoy what you do,” he said. “On one side, it’s nice to have all those records, but on the other side, every race [is] actually enough.”

Motivation has never been an issue for Schurter. He’s careful to avoid burnout, strategically mapping out a season-long schedule that might mean fewer races than his competitors. He also spends a few weeks without his bike at the end of each season to vacation with family, though he admits his rest time isn’t spent lazily.

“After three or four days, I’m thinking, ‘Maybe I’ll go for a run,’” he said.

He’s also enjoyed passing the sport on to his daughter, Lisa, who turns 4 in October.

Schurter introduced her to cycling by adding a small seat to his bike frame so she could hold the handlebars. Now, she rides on her own and is learning how to climb from an overly qualified instructor: Schurter attaches a rope to the back of his bike to tow her uphill before they ride down together.

While a few records remain on his radar, Schurter is content with what he’s already accomplished. That means less pressure and more time to enjoy the ride.

“All those goals I really wanted to achieve, I actually achieved,” he said. “So what’s coming is now just extra.”

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Iouri Podladtchikov has concussion after halfpipe comeback crash

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Olympic snowboarding gold medalist Iouri Podladtchikov suffered a concussion and broken nose in a crash at his comeback halfpipe event in China on Friday, according to the Swiss federation.

Podladtchikov, the 2014 Olympic champion, fell on a backside 900 when his board landed mostly on the lip of the 22-foot pipe, according to NBC Sports’ Tina Dixon. His head smacked against the wall on the way down, snapping his goggle lens off.

Medics tended to Podladtchikov for five minutes before he was taken out from the bottom of the halfpipe on a sled.

The 30-year-old rider known as iPod missed the PyeongChang Olympics after suffering a traumatic brain injury and cerebral hemorrhages in a Jan. 28 crash at the Winter X Games.

This week’s World Cup in Secret Garden, China, marked his first contest in 11 months.

Podladtchikov won the Sochi Olympic halfpipe title by throwing his signature “YOLO flip,” a cab double cork 1440, on a halfpipe that received criticism from other riders for its condition.

Rival Shaun White was fourth in Sochi, then earned his third gold in PyeongChang in Podladtchikov’s absence. White is taking an entire season off from snowboard contests for the first time in his near-two-decade career.

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