Rachael Lynch
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Hockey field to hospital ward; Olympian’s life amid coronavirus pandemic

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PERTH, Australia (AP) — The coronavirus pandemic ended any chance of Rachael Lynch competing for Olympic gold in Tokyo this year. Now she’s switching into the medical mode to take on the virus.

Lynch, the goalkeeper for Australia’s women’s field hockey team, is a registered nurse.

So after the Olympics were postponed to July of next year, Lynch applied to work as a registered nurse at two COVID-19 clinics in the Western Australia state capital.

Lynch was already working a day a week in a neuro-rehabilitation ward — part of her of work-life balance with training for elite sport. She initially didn’t have any scheduled shifts last week because the national squad — the Hockeyroos — were supposed to be in Europe preparing for the Olympics.

“As soon as we finished up on Monday I went in and saw my boss,” the 33-year-old Lynch, rated among the best goalkeeper’s globally in the sport, told the Australian Associated Press. “They’re trying to recruit as many nurses and healthcare workers as they can, because they’re anticipating the load is going to be massive soon.

“For the first time since being a graduate, I’m able to work full time” as a nurse.

Lynch has been frustrated by seeing images of people gathering on beaches in parts of Australia and others of people not taking the coronavirus pandemic seriously enough, despite government policies to curb travel and ensure social distancing.

“Anybody in hospital for any reason, they’re now put at risk (because of that), Lynch said.

There have been more than 5,000 infections and 24 deaths in Australia during the coronavirus pandemic. Altogether, close to 940,000 people around the world have contracted the virus, according to a tally being kept by Johns Hopkins University. More than 47,000 people have died from the virus, which was first detected in China late last year.

Lynch said focusing on work meant she didn’t have time to dwell on missing an opportunity at the Olympics. The Australians were knocked out in the quarterfinals in 2016. With 150 international caps and a World Cup silver medal, Lynch is open-minded about her playing future.

“Most of the advice in the sporting world is to not make any big decisions now,” she told AAP. “I’ve reflected on the thoughts, words and emotions you might use to describe an Olympics being postponed.

“None of them are relevant now. You can’t say — devastated, disappointed or sad — because it just does not compare to what’s actually happening in the world right now.”

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Olympic champion field hockey player retires after freak head injury

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LONDON (AP) — A field hockey player who helped Britain win a gold medal at the Rio Olympics announced her retirement on Thursday after failing to recover from head trauma caused by hitting a brick wall hard while laughing at a joke.

Alex Danson-Bennett said her head injury had been life-changing “in terms of my perspective and things that have happened within my family.”

“It’s difficult because this has been my life,” said Danson-Bennett, a 34-year-old who co-led the last two Olympic tournaments in goals.

A key player for Britain when the team won Olympic gold in 2016, she was on holiday in Kenya with her now-husband, Alex, when she threw her head back to laugh at his joke and hit her head against a brick wall.

She suffered a mild traumatic brain injury, and said she had to spend 24 hours a day in bed for a few months and struggled to walk to the bathroom.

“I couldn’t bear light, sound, touch, anything,” she told the BBC in an interview. “It was almost like my sensory dials had been whacked up. Even holding a conversation, I’d have to talk very slowly.”

Danson-Bennett was told she would make a full recovery, and made changes in her personal life in an attempt to get back playing for Britain.

“Hockey has always been my priority, but I’ve come to that stage where I can’t do that and it wouldn’t be fair to the team,” she said.

Danson-Bennett said she will be Britain’s “No. 1 supporter” when the team tries to retain the Olympic title in Tokyo this year.

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MORE: Full list of U.S. athletes qualified for Tokyo Olympics

U.S. wraps Pan Am Games with 293 medals, 18 Olympic quota spots

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The Pan American Games, bringing together athletes from North America, South America and the Caribbean, are an interesting grab bag of events: Olympic sports bringing in the top-ranked athletes in the hemisphere, Olympic sports that are much lower on the priority list for world-class competitors, and non-Olympic sports such as racquetball, water skiing and basque pelota.

The program fluctuates a bit, and this year’s competition in Lima, Peru, featured a staggering 419 events, up from the 364 events contested in Toronto four years ago and far more than the 339 events on the Tokyo 2020 schedule.

One thing that doesn’t change in the Pan Am Games is the U.S. dominance in the medal count. The final tally this year: 120 gold medals, 88 silver and 85 bronze. The next-best country, Brazil, earned 55 gold medals, 45 silver and 71 bronze for a total of 171, lagging far behind the U.S. total of 293. Canada (152 total) and Mexico (136) took the next two spots on the medal table.

For some sports, the competition was vitally important. Modern pentathletes Samantha Achterberg and Amro Elgeziry earned spots on the 2020 Olympic team with their performances. Elgeziry took a silver medal in the 2014 world championships while competing for Egypt, then moved to the United States after marrying U.S. pentathlete Isabella Isaksen. Elgeziry and Isaksen also combined for gold in the mixed relay.

READ: Elgeziry, three-time Egyptian Olympian, qualifies for 2020 U.S. team

Some events offered Olympic quota spots, ensuring a place for at least one U.S. athlete in the event in 2020. U.S. shooters nailed down seven spots. Other U.S. athletes earned spots in archery, equestrian, sailing, shooting and water polo.

In other sports, with less at stake, the U.S. didn’t send its top athletes. One exception: Swimmer Nathan Adrian followed up his world championship relay medals with six medals in Lima, matching the total of fellow world championship medalist Margo Geer.

Most top gymnasts were competing in the U.S. Championships, and yet the U.S. women took the team gold medal and Riley McCusker finished with four medals.

The U.S. sent substantially weakened teams in several sports and posted several results that would be shockers in the Olympics. The men’s and women’s volleyball teams failed to medal. In men’s basketball, a U.S. team composed entirely of current and recent Big East players fell to Argentina by a stunning score of 114-75 in the semifinals, then rebounded to take bronze. The U.S. women, virtually unbeatable with WNBA players in the World Cup and Olympics, lost to Brazil in the final.

On the other hand, the U.S. swept the gold medals in the new Olympic sport of 3×3 basketball and took medals in several sports in which teams would rarely be competitive in the Olympics such as artistic swimming (formerly known as synchronized swimming) and men’s field hockey. The women’s handball team narrowly missed the podium, losing 24-23 to Cuba in the bronze medal game.

U.S. bowlers Jakob Butturff and Nick Pate took the doubles bowling gold in unusual circumstances after Puerto Rico’s Jean Perez Faure tested positive for a masking agent. Butturff has won seven PBA events.

The Parapan American Games, for athletes with disabilities, start Aug. 23.

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