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France World Cup star eyes 2024 Paris Olympics

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Antoine Griezmann, a star striker on France’s World Cup team, sounds like he wants an over-age spot on France’s 2024 Olympic soccer team.

“I would really like that, and that could be a dream. I experienced the Euros in France [in 2016] and it was the ultimate blast,” Griezmann replied to a question from five-time French Olympic biathlon champion Martin Fourcade, according to an ESPN translation of Le Figaro report. “To experience that in 2024 at the Paris Games, I’d sign up for that now. It would be magnificent. Honestly, it could be one of the objectives for the end of my career.”

France hasn’t qualified for an Olympic men’s soccer tournament since 1996, but it should receive automatic entry into Paris 2024 as the host nation.

Current Olympic men’s soccer rules would allow three players per nation born before Jan. 1, 2001.

Host nations recently used those spots on Neymar for Brazil in 2016 and Ryan Giggs for Great Britain in 2012.

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Sunny Olympic host Sochi turns into World Cup playground

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SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Warm weather, beaches, amusement parks.

It’s not exactly what Australian fan Adam McKinley expected to find when he decided to make the trip to Russia for the World Cup.

But that’s exactly what he got in Sochi, the city introduced to the world as a winter destination during the Olympics four years ago, with its coastal location on the Black Sea and its majestic snow-capped peaks a short distance away.

“Whenever I think of Russia, I picture something like cold Siberia. I picture, like, real cold stuff,” McKinley said. “I’ve been blown away by this. We even went for a swim and it was lovely. It was just nice and warm. We’ve been pleasantly surprised.”

Sochi wasn’t so cold during the Olympics, either, with temperatures frequently climbing into the mid-50s in the Olympic Park. The chillier mountains are roughly an hour’s drive away.

But in the summer, the snow is replaced by sun, lots of it, as Russia’s seaside playground explodes into a scene more akin to Southern California or Miami Beach than Siberia.

“The moment we saw Peru was going to play in Sochi, we wanted to come here,” said Peru supporter Luis Medina, one of the thousands of World Cup fans who have come to the city. “We knew this was going to be the place to be.”

Even the teams based in Sochi were taking full advantage of the region’s attractions. Brazil was feeling right at home, enjoying the warm temperatures and a private beach at the team’s hotel in possibly the closest setting to what it had back home before traveling to Russia.

“We are having lunch and breakfast with a view of the sea. That’s a plus for us,” goalkeeper Alisson said shortly after Brazil arrived.

The Brazilians fought hard to secure Sochi as their base. The Austrian federation initially picked the five-star hotel where Brazil is staying, but luckily for the Brazilians, Austria did not end up qualifying for the World Cup.

Germany stayed in Sochi during the Confederations Cup last year, but this time it chose a different location in part because it said it couldn’t secure a proper private training field. After the opening loss to Mexico, some local media questioned whether the decision not to return to Sochi played a part in the team’s disappointing performance.

Poland also is based in Sochi. On a day off, the team visited the city’s dolphin park, one of the most famous in the region.

The micro-district of Adler, where the Olympic Park sits and the World Cup matches are played, is a hub of activities catering to tourists of all ages and tastes.

Many gather at the rock-covered beach by Fisht Stadium, which is hosting six World Cup matches, including one in the round of 16 and another in the quarterfinals.

But if sunbathing isn’t high on the agenda, there is plenty more to do.

Sochi Park, known as the Russian Disneyland, is walking distance from the stadium. Based on local fairy tales, it’s the country’s first modern theme park — and one of the biggest.

It was mostly empty during the Olympics, but four years later it has been popular among World Cup fans. Officials estimate the tournament has added about 2,000 people a day to the park, which annually receives 1 million visitors.

“It’s a shame we can’t stay longer and enjoy more of the park because we have to go to the game,” Panama supporter Nathalie Nielsen Atencio said.

The park includes a “roller-coaster” restaurant, with orders sliding down to customers on metal tracks. It’s believed to be the only restaurant of its type in Russia, and one of nine in the world.

Also near the park is the Sochi Autodrom, which hosts Formula One races but is open to people wanting guided tours and even a chance — for a price — to drive the circuit.

“There are so many things to do in Sochi,” said Alexey Titov, who is in charge of the company that organizes the Russian Grand Prix and operates the track. “It has developed greatly in the past four years since the Olympics have gone. You can see it has changed massively. This place went from a swamp in 2008 to a thriving park with restaurants, food, activities, things to do.”

By the track there’s also a go-karting circuit, and the remaining Olympic venues offer indoor sports like tennis, skating and hockey.

Sochi’s downtown is some 20 miles from the Olympic park, but activities there also revolve around the waterfront, including a lengthy promenade of storefronts, souvenir stands and water-related activities connecting the heart of the city with the seaport where the Fan Fest is taking place.

Beach clubs playing a mix of pop hits from Europe and the United States are mixed with more family-oriented places to enjoy the sun, like waterparks with slides and splash-pads on the shore of the Black Sea.

The train line connecting Adler and Sochi runs mostly along the shore and is filled with small pockets of land teeming with beachgoers.

All those waterfront activities don’t include the resorts of the Krasnaya Polyana mountain cluster 30 miles inland, where the Alpine events of the Winter Olympics were held. They offer a summer attraction for those not as interested in the beach.

Martin Fasth was visiting from Sweden for the World Cup and was impressed with all the options.

“We kind of expected something better than Sweden,” he said, “but not something this nice.”

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Lindsey Vonn’s injury history

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Lindsey Vonn is certainly no stranger to crashes and injury.

Over the course of her career, the American has made frequent trips from the slope to the hospital with varying degrees of damage to her body.

Here is a brief synopsis of Vonn’s injury history:

2017-18 World Cup: Vonn jarred her back in a Dec. 9 super-G, calling the injury an acute facet (spinal joint) dysfunction. She gingerly walked with aid to congratulate the race winner, then skipped the following day’s race before returning to the World Cup circuit the following week.

2016-17 World Cup: On Nov. 10, Vonn suffers a severely fractured humerus bone in her right arm in a training crash in Copper Mountain, Colo. The injury requires surgery.

Vonn had hoped to make her season debut either two or three weeks later, but her latest setback puts her return into question as well as her pursuit of the career World Cup wins record. She’s at 76, needing 10 more to reach Ingemar Stenmark. Vonn won eight and nine races the last two seasons.

2015-16 World Cup: In New Zealand preseason training Aug. 13, Vonn crashed and fractured an ankle. She missed the World Cup opener Oct. 24 but returned for the following giant slalom Nov. 27.

On Feb. 27, Vonn crashed in a super-G in Andorra, was taken off the course in a sled and learned she suffered one hairline left knee fracture. She raced the next day, finishing 13th in a super combined.

Two days after that, Vonn underwent more scans that showed she suffered three, larger fractures rather than the one hairline, forcing her to end her season while leading the World Cup overall standings, eight races from a possible fifth World Cup overall title.

2013-14 World Cup: While preparing to come back from knee surgery at Beaver Creek, Vonn crashed during a training run at Copper Mountain, Colo. She was taken off the slope on a sled and underwent an MRI and said she sustained a mild strain and partial tear of the ACL in her right knee, minor facial abrasions and scapular contusions from her fall.

It turned out that she had a complete ACL tear, which she compounded with MCL and joint damage when she skied out of the downhill in Val d’Isere on Dec. 21. On Jan. 7, Vonn was forced to withdraw from the Sochi Olympics and didn’t return to World Cup action until December 2014.

2013 World Championships: In her opening race in Schladming, Austria, Vonn crashed hard during the super-G and needed to be airlifted off the mountain to a nearby hospital. Doctors diagnosed her with tears of the medial collateral and anterior cruciate ligaments in her right knee and a fractured tibial plateau, all of which resulted in season-ending surgery.

2011 World Championships: One week before the start of competition, Vonn crashed during giant slalom training in Kintereit, Austria. Although she walked away from the incident with no major injuries, she did suffer a concussion in the collision. After much debate, she decided to compete in Garmish-Partenkirchen where she finished second in the downhill and seventh in super-G.

2010 Olympics: Vonn came to the Vancouver Games banged up, having bruised her right shin during pre-Olympic workouts in Austria. Putting on a ski boot resulted in “excruciating” pain, but she competed through it and won gold in the downhill and bronze in the super-G. Vonn crashed during the giant slalom, breaking her right pinkie, and then crashed out of the slalom run of the super-combined competition.

2009-10 World Cup: Just weeks before the Olympics, Vonn suffered a violent crash during her first giant slalom run in Lienz, Austria. She was taken to the hospital where doctors diagnosed her with swelling and microfractures in her left forearm. She continued to ski after the injury.

2009 World Championships: In perhaps the most bizarre injury of Vonn’s career, she sliced open her right thumb on a broken champagne bottle while celebrating her victory in the downhill in Val d’Isere, France. The incident left her with a cut tendon, which required surgery, but did not prevent her from skiing the remainder of that season. She went on to earn nine World Cup podium finishes.

2007 World Championships: The technical events continued to cause Vonn trouble in Are, Sweden where she crashed in a slalom training run and suffered a season-ending ACL sprain. Fortunately for her, she won silver medals in the downhill and super-G prior to the crash.

2006 Olympics: Vonn’s second Olympic appearance did not get off to a good start as she crashed during a downhill training run and was airlifted by helicopter off the mountain in Torino. The incident left her with a bruised hip but did not knock her from the Games. Two days later, she finished eighth in the downhill.

VIDEO: Vonn meets Ingemar Stenmark