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Roglic caps Slovenia's run with Olympic time trial win

Roglic caps Slovenia's run with Olympic time trial win

Primoz Roglic capped an incredible month for Slovenian cycling by winning the Olympic time trial on WednesdayBy DAVE SKRETTA AP Sports WriterJuly 28, 2021, 8:20 AM• 1 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleOYAMA, Japan — Primoz Roglic capped an incredible month for Slovenian cycling by winning the Olympic time trial on Wednesday.Roglic finished in 55 minutes, 04.19 seconds, adding a gold medal for Slovenia to the bronze teammate Tadej Pogecar won in the Olympic road race. Pogecar also cruised to his second consecutive Tour de France title earlier this month.Roglic’s closest rival was Dutch time trial specialist Tom Dumoulin, who finished more than a minute behind to win his second consecutive Olympic silver medal. Rohan Dennis of Australia claimed the bronze medal while the prerace favorite, Italian time trial champ Filippo Ganna, faded over the final kilometers and finished fifth.———More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/olympic-games and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Brazil's Mourao trades bike for skis for next Winter Games

Brazil's Mourao trades bike for skis for next Winter Games

The real work began for Jaqueline Mourao the moment she finished a muddy mountain bike race at the Tokyo GamesBy DAVE SKRETTA AP Sports WriterJuly 27, 2021, 4:16 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleIZU, Japan — The real work began for Jaqueline Mourao the moment she finished a muddy mountain bike race at the Tokyo Games.With her seventh Olympics behind her, the 45-year-old Brazilian planned to immediately swap her bike for her skis.She is planning to compete in cross country at the Beijing Games in February, which would move her into a tie for the third-most Olympic appearances by any athlete and break the record by someone from her country.“There’s a quick transition in little time,” said Mourao, who finished 35th of 38 starters in the mountain bike race held in the forested hills southwest of Tokyo. “In March we stopped (skiing), then I trained mountain bike in April, May, June and July. Now I will get back to muscle training to get that core strength back.”Mourao, who was born in the mountainous Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte, made her Olympic debut in mountain biking at the 2004 Athens Games. She also competed four years later in Beijing — yes, she would also be the first athlete to compete at summer and winter Olympics in the same city in February — before stepping away from the sport for a decade.During that time, the woman from a sun-kissed, warm-weather nation lost her heart in the snow.Despite picking up skiing at 29 years old, Mourao fell in love with everything so many of her compatriots disdain. That allowed her to take advantage of the fact few Brazilians participate in winter sports and qualified for the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy. She was back four years later in Vancouver, added shooting to her repertoire and qualified for the cross country race and biathlon in Sochi, then was back to just skiing for the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang.She’s not the only Brazilian to compete in her seventh Olympics this year. Soccer player Formiga, equestrian Rodrigo Pessoa and sailor Robert Scheidt also reached that benchmark in Tokyo.None of them is planning to compete six months later in Beijing, though.“I came back to mountain bike much stronger after having lived as a cross-country skier,” said Mourao, who did not compete in the Olympics in her home nation in 2016. She was still focused entirely on skiing at the time.“It helps me a lot because it gives me much more joy to go biking,” she said. “Before, I was on the bike for 12 months a year. Now, I ski in the winter and come back to mountain bike with a lot more joy. So it’s good mentally, too.”Equestrian Ian Miller of Canada set the record with 10 Olympic appearances in 2012. Hubert Raudaschl of Austria took part in nine Summer Games in sailing and Afanasijs Kuzmins of the Soviet Union and Latvia the same in sailing.But none of those sports has the same physical demands as skiing, where those competing for medals are usually 20-year-old athletes in their primes. The two sports demand flawless technical skills and ability, but they also require immense cardiovascular and leg strength that tends to lag as athletes get older.Still, there’s precedent when it comes to cyclists competing in winter sports.Katerina Neumannova competed in six Olympics in cycling and cross-country skiing for Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic. Bulgaria’s Evgeniya Radanova and perhaps most famously, Canada’s Sarah Hughes, also competed in six in cycling and speedskating. Hughes won gold, silver and two bronze medals in skating and two bronze medals in cycling.Mourao is different in that she comes from an equatorial climate where temperatures are in the 80s in the summer, but rarely dip below the 60s in winter. Even more rarely can snow be found, and only then at higher elevations.“I’m enjoying every moment because I know that these will be my last Olympic Games in mountain bike,” said Mourao, who has two children cheering back home. “I’m feeling happy and accomplished. I was away from mountain bike for 10 years, between 2008 and 2018. When I decided to come back I became Brazilian champion, I won a medal at the Pan American Games — and now, the icing on the cake, ending my career with the Olympics.”———More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Neff leads Swiss sweep of medals in women's mountain biking

Neff leads Swiss sweep of medals in women's mountain biking

Jolanda Neff won the women’s mountain bike race at the Tokyo Olympics on Tuesday to lead a Swiss sweep of the medal standBy DAVE SKRETTA AP Sports WriterJuly 27, 2021, 8:28 AM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleIZU, Japan — Jolanda Neff won the women’s mountain bike race at the Tokyo Olympics on Tuesday, leading a Swiss sweep of the medal stand while capping a long comeback from a career-threatening crash in the North Carolina mountains.Sina Frei and Linda Indergand tried to chase down their countrywoman but never had a chance. They were left battling among themselves, at one point riding side by side, before Frei pulled ahead to take silver and left Indergand with bronze.Neff took the lead when world champion Pauline Ferrand-Prevot crashed on a slippery section of rocks on the first loop in the mountains southwest of Tokyo.She soon built her advantage to more than a minute over a field that included France’s Loana Lecomte, the winner of every World Cup race this season, and reigning Olympic champ Jenny Rissveds.Neff has long been among the best in the world, the winner of six world championships across different distances and events.But her chances of winning gold at the Tokyo Games was put in peril in December 2019, when Neff crashed on an unfamiliar stretch of forested trail during a training ride near Asheville, North Carolina.Neff’s spleen ruptured and she nearly had it removed, but surgeons used a special procedure called embolization to save it. Along with internal bleeding, Neff also fractured her ribs, collapsed her lung and spent several days in the hospital.Her comeback hit another root when she broke her hand just last month.Yet nobody was Neff’s equal Tuesday on one of the hardest courses in Olympic history.Unlike the men’s race, which took place on a hard-packed layout baked by days of searing sun, the women were greeted by a greasy, mud-splattered mess courtesy of steady early showers cast off approaching Typhoon Nepartek.The rubble-strewn downhill section that caused Dutch star Mathieu van der Poehl to go catapulting over his handlebars on Saturday had become even more harrowing.The sharp inclines and technical descents were covered in slime. Even the wet tarmac caused tires to spin during a race demanding total focus for more than 20 kilometers.Despite subtle tweaks in an effort to make the course safer, riders bunched together were still forced to dismount at the first rocky uphill. They looked like mountaineers summiting Mt. Fuji as they scrambled to the top.Neff and Ferrand-Prevot found themselves neck and neck for the lead on the first of seven loops when the Frenchwoman slipped going up a steep, rocky ramp.Not only did Ferrand-Prevot have to dive off her bike, the rig skittered down the rocks and she had to clamber after it, losing five spots and nearly 30 seconds to the race leader.The advantage Neff gained over second place by the crash only grew as the laps wore on.Without any pressure behind her, the 28-year-old multidiscipline star was able to choose whatever route she wanted. She easily soared over jumps, picked her way through rock gardens and took her time on the most treacherous sections.Meanwhile, the 22-year-old Lecomte continued to have trouble. She had to dismount several times over tough climbs, then the winner of the first four World Cup events of the season dropped her chain over some rocks.Ferrand-Prevot didn’t give up after her early spill, at one point passing Frei and Indergand for second place. But the energy she expended to make up ground cost her and Ferrand-Prevot soon gave her medal spot right back to the Swiss.Lecomte wound up sixth and Ferrand-Prevot faded to 10th in a disappointing day for the French.———More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Britain's Pidcock dominates Olympic mountain bike race

Britain's Pidcock dominates Olympic mountain bike race

IZU, Japan — Tom Pidcock’s golden dreams were nearly dashed on a road in the French Pyrenees, where the British cyclist had been putting in some training in the weeks leading up to the mountain bike race at the Tokyo Olympics.The 21-year-old multidiscipline star was going down a sharp descent when he was hit by a car, sending him catapulting over the vehicle and breaking his bike into two pieces. Pidcock was taken to the hospital and underwent a battery of tests, but escaped any internal injuries and the worst of the wounds was a broken collarbone.He was back on his bike a week later. He was at the Olympic starting line southwest of Tokyo on Monday.He was at the finish line before anyone else, too.Leaving reigning champion Nino Schurter and his Swiss teammate Mathias Flueckiger behind on the fourth of seven laps, Pidcock cruised to the first medal in mountain biking for Britain — a nation that has a storied history on the road and for years has dominated on the track, but hasn’t been so good when the course turns to dirt.“The last week I knew I was in really good shape, but there was still a lot of doubt in my mind,” said Pidcock, who won the prestigious road race Brabantse Pijl earlier this year. “I just didn’t know if I would have my best shape.”Turns out he was better than ever.“I knew he was going to be one of the favorites,” said Flueckiger, who gave chase in vain and was left with a silver medal around his neck. “He had a really good race and I’m sure he’s really happy.”David Valero Serrano of Spain capped off the podium finishers with a surprising bronze medal.Olympic organizers originally wanted to carve out a mountain bike course at Yumenoshima, a district in Tokyo, on an artificial island built upon landfill waste. But the idea was scrapped for a multitude of reasons, including topography, and the site shifted 150 kilometers southwest of the Japanese capital to the heavily forested Shizuoka prefecture.There, South African course designer Nick Flores — who also masterminded courses for the 2012 and 2016 Games — found a perfect canvas featuring dramatic elevation changes, gnarly sections of root and rocks and plenty of problems for riders.As expected, the heat turned out to be one of them.Despite some light breezes cast ahead of the approaching Typhoon Nepartak, which could make landfall Tuesday and drench the women’s race, the men found a mixture of dirt, gravel and asphalt baking in the summer sun.They also found fans lining the course. Like the road racers before them, mountain bikers benefited from the fact that strict COVID-19 protocols that have barred fans from most Olympic venues do not extend past the Tokyo environs.Several responded to their warm welcome from the Japanese people by popping wheelies during introductions.The field of 38 riders, much smaller than a typical World Cup race, was trimmed to a selection of 10 on the short opening circuit before the main loops began. Missing the break was Jordan Sarrou, the world champion from France.Another of the favorites, Mathieu van der Poel, crashed hard over a rubble-strewn downhill stretch on the first of the seven technical loops. The Dutch rider, whose Olympic tune-up consisted of a Tour de France stage win and six days in the yellow jersey, was left clutching his ribs at the base of the hill and eventually dropped out of the race.Schurter went to the front on the second lap and began to hammer out the pace.He was followed by Flueckiger, his countryman who has long ridden in Schurter’s shadow, along with Pidcock and Anton Cooper in a four-man breakaway. They traded turns at the front, putting distance between themselves and the field.Then it was Pidcock who went on the attack. At one point he unleashed an acceleration so striking that Schurter, one of the greatest mountain bikers in history, nearly had his wheels slip out from under him as he tried to answer it.“When he attacked, I got on the defensive and I couldn’t do my race,” said Schurter, who has a medal of each color from the last three Olympics, but missed an opportunity to tie the mountain bike record with a fourth on Monday.Instead, Schurter slowly drifted backward as Pidcock and Flueckiger made it a two-man race.Pretty soon, Pidcock was all alone.With his effortless climbing, daredevil descents and composure belying his 21 years, Pidcock left the world’s best gasping for air behind him. The rider from Leeds, whose prep for Tokyo included a homemade heat chamber in his spare bedroom that kept tripping his electricity, built a 14-second gap on Flueckiger heading into the final 4.1-kilometer lap.The only races left were for silver and bronze.“I was just telling myself I was going to be an Olympian. Now I’m an Olympic champion,” Pidcock said. “It’s incredible.”———More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Cycling's arms race could help decide Tokyo Olympics medals

Cycling's arms race could help decide Tokyo Olympics medals

IZU, Japan — One thing that sets cycling apart from most other sports at the Olympics is the importance of technology.With the exception of a few other sports, such as sailing and rowing, most events that take place at the Summer Games come down solely to the performance of the athlete.They try to swim and run faster, jump and climb higher, lift and hit with more strength, and that is what determines whether they go home with a medal.In cycling, the competition is so close — often hundredths of a second separates riders — that the difference in winning and losing can be found in the bike, the wheels, the kit and even the helmet that they choose to wear.Want proof? After six hours of racing, silver and bronze in the men’s road race Saturday was decided in a photo finish.“Speed and winning are the name of the game,” said Bouker Pool, the chief commercial officer at USA Cycling, which has partnered for years with American manufacturer Felt Bicycles in researching and developing their Olympic steeds.That’s why federations and equipment partners spend each four-year cycle between Olympics doing everything they can to shave a few grams from their bikes, carve them into increasingly aerodynamic shapes and, perhaps most importantly, find a way to transfer every last watt from the pedal to the pavement in search of speed.For high-profile teams such as the U.S. and Britain, that means an exceedingly expensive arms race.The U.S. made headlines five years ago at the Rio Games, when it rolled out a radical track bike design that moved the entire drive train from the right side to the left. Researchers at Felt claimed that it made the bike better through the tight corners of the velodrome, giving the Americans a big advantage in endurance events.It might not catch the attention of the average bicyclist, who probably can’t think to themselves what side the drive train is on their own bikes. But it caused plenty of consternation from the UCI, the sport’s global governing body, which doesn’t always appreciate the way some nations think outside the box.“We’re pushing the boundaries of athletic excellence,” said Eric Sakalowsky, the vice president of marketing for Felt. “For us, it’s all about the finish line, not the bottom line. There’s a deep-seated passion for competition at Felt and we’ll continue to take on projects like this so that we can take part in these athletes’ passion for pushing our sports’ limits.”Sakalowsky’s not kidding about the bottom line. Olympic rules state any bike used in competition must be made available to the public. But Felt only expects to sell a handful of its top-of-the-line track bike. Its price tag: $25,999.“We don’t have anything like that up our sleeve this year,” USA Cycling’s Jim Miller said coyly, “but we’ll have to see.”While the Americans appear to be standing pat for Tokyo, the British have teamed up with bike maker Hope Technology and Lotus Engineering — yes, the designer of high-performance supercars — to create something entirely new.Their cutting-edge track bike features wider seat stays, proprietary disk wheels, advancements in carbon fiber and other subtle advancements. And while the looks are sure to turn off some cycling purists, that’s hardly the point.The point is to go fast.“I love the bike,” said Katie Archibald, a member of the reigning Olympic gold medalist women’s pursuit team. “I love the image of the bike as well, the fact that you can come out with a question of how different looking it is.“To me,” Archibald said, “it’s like when Felt put the chain setup on the left-hand side of their track bikes. It’s when something looks weird, I guess — yeah, it puts a swagger in your pedal. I do also love to ride it. It’s fast. It’s fun.”It’s also expensive. The frame alone retails for about $23,500. Tack on another $6,000 for the wheels.It’s not just track cycling, either. While most new road bike technology is unveiled earlier this summer during the Tour de France, some of it comes out again for the Olympics. In mountain biking, manufacturer Specialized created a special paint five years ago in Rio that changed colors from yellow to orange to red based on the temperature.Throw in the skinsuits made of cutting-edge materials to cut down on drag, advanced lubricants for chains, and top-of-the-line helmets, sunglasses and shoes, and the investment needed to compete for a cycling medal can be staggering.“This is the best time of the cycle because all the shiny bits come out. We’re not holding back,” said six-time Olympic gold medalist Jason Kenny of Britain. “We have our best bike, our best wheel, our best tire, our best kits on. This is it.”———More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/olympic-games and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Carapaz wins men's road race for Ecuador's 1st cycling medal

Carapaz wins men's road race for Ecuador's 1st cycling medal

OYAMA, Japan — Richard Carapaz climbed onto the medal stand and locked arms with Wout van Aert on his right and Tadej Pogacar to his left, the diminutive Ecuadoran rider dwarfed by two of the giants of modern cycling.Funny thing? On this day, Carapaz had stood taller than everyone.Playing his tactics perfectly on one of the toughest race courses in Olympic history, Carapaz rode away from some of the biggest names in his sport on Saturday to win one of the first gold medals of the Tokyo Games. In fact, “The Locomotive” was so far ahead at the finish line that he could enjoy the roar from one of the few crowds allowed in a venue.“The truth is this is the best moment,” Carapaz said with a smile. “It is an incredible moment that words can’t describe.”Dangling around his neck was just the third Olympic medal ever won by his small South American country. The other two belong to Jefferson Perez, who won race walking gold at the 1996 Atlanta Games and silver at the 2008 Beijing Games.The chasing group rounded the corner in sight of Carapaz at the finish line, then played a game of cat-and-mouse for the other two medals. Van Aert, who did everything he could to pull back Carapaz on the run-in to the finish, was rewarded for the effort by edging Tour de France champion Pogacar in a photo finish.“We knew beforehand it was going to be difficult,” van Aert said. “Carapaz stayed ahead very well. We knew he would be very, very strong, and he deserved the win.”Dutch rider Bauke Mollema was fourth and Canadian Michael Woods fifth after launching a failed attack of his own.Carapaz’s breakaway buddy on the final climb of a torturous day, Brandon McNulty, finished sixth for one of the best finishes by an American since Alexi Grewal won the 1984 gold medal in Los Angeles.“I think McNulty was a great companion in the breakaway, period, because he’s very, very good on even terrain,” Carapaz said. “We were able to maintain that advantage that we had, 20 or 30 seconds that separated us from the rest. And then of course, coming here down to the circuit, I simply continued on that level and that’s how I won.”Carapaz, who finished third at the Tour six days ago, had been given merely an outsider’s chance with just one teammate joining him on the starting line. But he perfectly played off some of the more powerful teams, biding his time safely in the peloton before unleashing the decisive move at the most opportune time.“To my country, the truth is you have to believe, no?” Carapaz said. “I have worked so hard to get here. I’m here, I’m enjoying — it’s something so big for me. And simply thank you for the support which truthfully really helped me get here.”The ban on spectators for this Summer Olympics did not extend past Tokyo, and that meant thousands of them — wearing sun hats and waving fans — turned up at the speedway for the finish. There was still a cap of 50% of capacity, but that left room for about 11,000 fans overlooking one of the longest straightaways in motorsports.How eager were they to get a rare glimpse of these Olympics, especially after a year’s delay? Many showed up seven hours before riders were expected to reach them, spending almost the entire time baking in the sweltering sun.Thousands more lined the route. At one point, traditional drummers provided a roadside soundtrack.Once the race began it was defending Olympic champion Greg van Avermaet, who triumphed in stunning fashion along Copacabana Beach five years ago, going to the front for Belgium. He set a punishing pace through the foothills of Mt. Fuji, sacrificing his own ambitions to position van Aert and fellow teammate Remco Evenepoel for a run at gold.Slovenia also pushed the tempo as it tried to set up Pogacar and Primoz Roglic, two of the prerace favorites.Another rider with medal aspirations, Britain’s Geraint Thomas, crashed hard near the base of the first climb. His shoulder bloodied with road rash, the 2018 Tour de France winner eventually dropped out with 60 kilometers to go.The peloton began to thin as it climbed the lower slopes of Mt. Fuji, the searing heat and humidity coupled with the brutal pace ejecting riders right off the back. But the real fireworks began as it headed up the steep slopes of Mikuni Pass, where gradients up to 17% left dozens more riders with anguished faces awash in sweat and grime.Pogacar finally launched an attack, and initially only two riders could go with him: Woods, a former runner and one of the breakout stars of the Tour, and the 23-year-old McNulty, who had been overlooked by just about everyone.“I tried my best when I attacked,” Pogacar said, “and soon I was regretting it.”The trio was caught before the summit, though, and a dozen contenders were left to mix it up for the medals.Carapaz wound up riding all the way to the top step of the podium.”This has been an almost crazy day today, and I just waited for the good moment, the right moment,” he said. “My country, they’re over the moon right now. It’s a very special moment for us.”———More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/olympic-games and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Olympic cyclists enjoy natural COVID-19 bubble outside Tokyo

Olympic cyclists enjoy natural COVID-19 bubble outside Tokyo

TOKYO — The indignant outcry from the UCI, the global governing body for cycling, and several dozen riders that would be competing in the track cycling events at the Tokyo Olympics was easy to understand.The original proposal put forth by organizers included a $100 million velodrome to be built in the city, near the heart of the Olympics, allowing athletes to get the full feel of the Summer Games. They would’ve been able to cheer on fellow athletes in other sports, eat in the same facilities and hang out together between competitions.But organizers soon realized they could cut millions from a ballooning budget if they instead used an existing velodrome near Izu, about 2 1/2 hours southwest of Tokyo — effectively shoving cycling to the Olympic periphery.All of this took place before the arrival of COVID-19, though. Now, what was once viewed as a bummer for cyclists competing in the Summer Games has become a beneficial bubble. They are essentially quarantined among themselves in a few hotels near the velodrome, making it easier for them to control close contacts and prevent virus spread.“I think even before the pandemic, at least our program was very much aware this was going to be different because we’re so far outside of Tokyo,” said Jennifer Valente, part of the world record-holding U.S. pursuit team and partner for Megan Jastrab in the debut of the women’s Madison. “We’re basically in a satellite village with just cyclists.”Valente remembers the difference at the Rio Games, where she was part of the silver medalist pursuit team.There, organizers planned on using a velodrome that was built a decade earlier for the Pan American Games. But when the UCI deemed it unsuitable for Olympic competition, it was razed — the site was used for the Olympic Aquatics Stadium — and a $50 million velodrome was built in the heart of the main Olympic park. Surrounding the facility on three sides were the tennis facility, gymnastics arena and a multipurpose venue used for judo, handball and other sports.It was hard to get much more in the middle of the Olympics.There was a similar setup at the London Games, where a velodrome costing nearly $150 million turned out to be one of the striking architectural features of the the Olympic Park. Nine years later, it is still used for races and by the public.Meanwhile, the 10-year-old Izu velodrome is far removed from the circus that typically accompanies the Summer Games.“But it’s different for everyone, you know?” said Britain’s Jason Kenny, a six-time gold medalist who has returned from retirement to compete in Tokyo. “At the Olympics, you’re kind of head-down-in-a-bubble anyway.”It’s not just track cyclists that have a built-in bubble, either; almost all the cyclists do.Mountain biking, which has been moved up in the program from the final weekend to the first week, takes place on a course near the Izu velodrome. That means riders will stay in many of the same facilities as their track counterparts.The men’s and women’s road races begin the cycling program this weekend. Most of those riders also stay in outlying areas, where they are better able to recon the course. For the men, that includes two trips up Mt. Fuji, and both races will begin at Musashinonomori Park on the outskirts of Tokyo before finishing at Fuji International Speedway.“I came from the Tour (de France), straight to the hotel here in Gotemba,” Canada’s Michael Woods said of a city near the base of Mt. Fuji. “And the hotel is filled exclusively with cyclists, basically everybody from the road race. So it feels like I’ve gone from the Tour de France, which was a cycling bubble, to the same cycling bubble.”In fact, the only cyclists in the heart of it all are the BMX riders.The high-flying race course sits next to the venue for freestyle BMX, which is making its Olympic debut. Both are joined by the skateboarding venue — also a new sport this year — in the stunning waterfront Ariake Urban Sports Park.Otherwise, cyclists will be enjoying some Olympic isolation that could turn out to be quite beneficial.“It all changes kind of the environment that we’re in without being in the Olympic Village, the sponsor houses, the Team USA Houses — all the extra stuff that’s off the playing field,” Valente said. “It’s a summer we won’t get to experience that after competing. But you know, with COVID now, even the people in Tokyo — in the middle of everything — they’re going to have a completely different experience. I think we already had our minds wrapped around being a little more isolated.”———More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

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