Sydney McLaughlin broke her own world record by almost three-quarters of a second to win 400m hurdles gold at the World Championships in Eugene, Oregon on Friday.

The American, who claimed double gold at Tokyo 2020 last year, including in this event, blew past her rivals to post a new world-best time of 50.68 seconds.

It marked a further reduction on the previous world record she set last month with a remarkable 51.41 seconds, and now means she possesses five of the six fastest times in the race's history.

The Netherlands' Femke Bol, who nabbed bronze last year in Japan, came home second for silver behind the 22-year-old, with 52.27, while United States team-mate Dalilah Muhammad.settled for bronze.

"The time is absolutely amazing and the sport is getting faster and faster," said McLaughlin. "I only get faster from here."

McLaughlin is now expected to consider a potential switch in her field, with a move to the 400m flat a likely option.

Luis Rubiales, president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), has rejected claims of wrongdoing after reports that Gerard Pique asked him to intervene in the selection of Spain's squad for the Tokyo Olympics.

A series of conversations between Rubiales and Pique have been leaked by Spanish publication El Confidencial in recent days, focusing on Pique's involvement in moving the Supercopa de Espana to Saudi Arabia.

New leaks, however, appear to show Pique asking Rubiales to ensure he was picked for the delayed 2020 Olympic Games, at which he wished to make his Spain return after retiring from international football in 2018.

Pique is allegedly heard telling Rubiales in one audio message: "You have to do this for me Rubi, you have to get it for me," referencing a spot in the Olympic squad coached by Spain U21 boss Luis de la Fuente. The Barcelona centre-back is also have said to have hit out at Sergio Ramos' more public request to be involved.

At a news conference held on Wednesday, however, Rubiales denied the messages exposed any wrongdoing from himself or Pique, saying it was "normal" for players, with many of whom he is close, to make such requests.

"Maybe another one [player] appears who asked me to, and it's not Pique. I'm going to keep talking to them like that. I have a conversation with someone I've known for years and I speak as I speak," Rubiales said.

"There were more [players] who asked me. He [Pique] announced a long time ago that he did not want to return, and I spoke with Luis de la Fuente so that he would know who had called me. 

"It is common when one is a great player and he wants to come back [to the national team]. Then Luis made a very different decision. We act with the utmost honesty. He is not the only footballer who has asked me to do so."

Pique, along with Ramos, was ultimately left out of the squad, with Spain earning the silver medal after a 2-1 extra-time defeat to Brazil in the final.

Meanwhile, attention has also been drawn to the new four-team format introduced for the Supercopa since it moved to Saudi Arabia, with Rubiales' federation accused of being motivated by a financial need for giants Real Madrid and Barca to remain involved.

Rubiales admitted that the likelihood of those two clubs being involved did result in greater revenue being generated through TV rights sales, but denied that this amounted to any sort of favouritism.

"We sell the TV rights to the final all over the world. There are some countries that wait to bid when they are the finalists," Rubiales added. "If there is a derby or Clasico, the offer multiplies a lot. 

"That adds to the management and would affect the variable. [But] we have no idea who is going to play in the final."

The International Olympic Committee has called on international sporting federations to relocate or cancel any events set to take place in Russia or Belarus.

After weeks of rising political tensions, Russia invaded neighbouring Ukraine on Thursday, with the conflict escalating further on Friday.

Russia's invasion has been widely condemned by governments, world leaders and sporting bodies.

UEFA has moved this season's Champions League final from St Petersburg to Paris, while Formula One has removed the Russian Grand Prix from its race schedule for this year.

On Thursday, the IOC condemned Russia for breaking the Olympic Truce and on Friday, the governing body urged sporting federations around the world to reconsider the hosting of any events in Russia or neighbouring Belarus, which has helped facilitate the Ukraine invasion.

It has also called for the Belarusian and Russian flags and national anthems not to be displayed or played at any sporting events.

"The IOC EB [executive board] today urges all International sports federations to relocate or cancel their sports events currently planned in Russia or Belarus," a statement read.

"They should take the breach of the Olympic Truce by the Russian and Belarusian governments into account and give the safety and security of the athletes absolute priority. The IOC itself has no events planned in Russia or Belarus.

"In addition, the IOC EB urges that no Russian or Belarusian national flag be displayed and no Russian or Belarussian anthem be played in international sports events which are not already part of the respective World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) sanctions for Russia.

"At the same time, the IOC EB expresses its full support to the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) for the upcoming Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022.

"The IOC EB expresses its deep concerns about the safety of the members of the Olympic Community in Ukraine and stands in full solidarity. It notes that the special IOC task force is in contact with the Olympic Community in the country to coordinate humanitarian assistance where possible."

Suni Lee was lauded as "the best athlete in the world" by Auburn gymnastics coach Jeff Graba after a winning college all-around debut against Alabama.

Lee took the gold medal in the event at Tokyo 2020 and now, still just 18, is entering her first NCAA season this year.

With limited involvement since the Olympics, Lee has had to bide her time ahead of an all-around return, but it was worth the wait on Friday.

A total score of 39.700 pipped Mati Waligora to the all-around crown and led Auburn to a 197.525-197.125 victory – just their third ever against rivals Alabama.

Lee was second on the vault, joint-second on the floor and tied for first on both the bars and beam.

"She's the best athlete in the world," Graba said.

"She just had a different drive this week. She's been trying to catch up from where everybody else had five months and she's had less than five weeks, and I think it's been hitting her like a ton of bricks. She finally just let it come to her this week.

"Now, she took control of her training a little bit better."

Quoted by AL.com, Graba said: "I do think the mistake last week [a fall in Lee's beam routine against Iowa State] probably fuelled some of that, because she doesn't handle mistakes very well sometimes, and that's a good thing; you want people driven by that.

"She just came in with a fire this week, and I'm not sure I could have not put her in the all-around. I might not be talking to you tonight if that was the case."

Lee said of the success: "We were hungry. We felt like we had something to prove, and I feel like we did exactly that. This was up there with the Olympics."

An Olympic gold medal would be most athletes' prized possession, but Alexander Zverev's ownership has perhaps been a little more carefree – or it was until he found himself wondering if his brother had sold it on eBay.

Zverev claimed arguably the biggest title of his career last year when claiming gold in Tokyo, adding that to his 2018 ATP Finals success – he went on to repeat that triumph at the year-end tournament in Turin.

The German beat Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals at the Olympics before going on to defeat Karen Khachanov in straight sets to win the tournament.

That made him the first German man to win a gold in the singles and first to win any medal since Tommy Haas got silver 21 years earlier.

While some might tend to their gold medal on a daily basis, polishing it generously as it takes pride of place on the mantelpiece, it turns out Zverev has not actually seen his for a while.

His older brother Mischa has had it for a few months, leaving the younger sibling not even sure if it is still in the family's possession.

After beating Australian's John Millman to reach the third round of the Australian Open, Zverev was asked where he keeps his gold medal, to which he replied: "That's actually a good question because my brother took it for a media appearance.

"He didn't give it back to me yet. I don't know where it is for the past five months. Hopefully he hasn't sold it on eBay or something."

 

Zverev will presumably be a little more attentive to any silverware he claims in Melbourne this year, with the 24-year-old still chasing his first major.

Seeded third this month, Zverev is certainly considered one of the favourites after an excellent 2021 in which he won six titles, more than anyone else on the ATP Tour.

Zverev was initially on course to meet Djokovic in the semis, but the Serbian's absence means many will consider him the favourite to reach the showpiece from his side of the draw and he has made a solid start.

After dispatching fellow German Daniel Altmaier, Zverev saw off the tricky Millman, a big-serving Australian who understandably had the crowd's backing on Rod Laver Arena, coming through both games in straight sets.

"My tactic today was to hit the ball as slow as possible," he said. "That was my mindset going into the match, but hopefully I can hit it even harder next match and harder the next match after that.

"I could really feel that you guys have been locked down for two years. I'm prepared that everybody will hate me after the match. It's quite accurate and that's my mindset.

"I'll get a lot of boos and hopefully everybody will cheer against me. I'm kidding."

Simone Biles is prouder of the mental health lessons she gave the world with her Tokyo Olympics withdrawal than any of the medals she has won.

The United States star withdrew from four individual events for which she had qualified after pulling out of the women's team competition after just one rotation in Japan in late July.

Biles cited a need to focus on her mental health as she chose not to contest the individual all-round, vault, uneven bars and floor exercise finals.

But she returned to action emphatically as she won the bronze medal in the women's balance beam final at the Games in early August, an achievement that she stated felt far more significant than her exploits in Brazil, in which she collected four gold medals in 2016.

Asked by MARCA if she was prouder of her achievements or the message sent by her withdrawal, the seven-time Olympic medallist said: "Most definitely the lesson that I gave the world in Tokyo, because nobody would have ever thought that would happen but everything that happened because of that has brought real good attention to mental health and the awareness that it brings.

"It was kind of a whirlwind of emotions, like 'oh my God, what's happening because I've trained five years for this?' 

"So, I was really sad, but I had to do what was right for the team and I knew that was the correct decision, but also what was right for me and my mental wellbeing.

"I am really proud that people are taking it more seriously. But I wish I could have gone out there and done a little bit more. But, with the cards I was dealt I'm not mad at the results."

 

Biles continued to reflect on mental health in sport as she pinpointed more athletes standing up to talk about a potentially sensitive topic as a positive for the future.

"I think it cost so much because everybody thought of us as entertainment and they feel entitled to our work and [wanted us to] just go out there and put on a brave face and compete," she said.

"But now you have these sports figures and heroes standing up for themselves and saying 'I'm not doing this competition, I don't get why it has an effect on you guys when I'm really the one that's being affected'. 

"To have that topic come to the forefront is really great, but it's sad that it's been silenced and forgotten for so many years and not as cared about. But, luckily we're bringing more attention to that."

Though she is proud of the impact of her experience in Tokyo, Biles admitted there are still some aspects of gymnastics that she is scared to perform.

"Some of the skills which I twist a lot on and flip a lot on, I am really scared to do just because of everything that happened," Biles added. 

"But, [my coaches] are really great every time I come into the gym if I want to play around. They make sure I'm doing all the proper steps, so they definitely make me feel a lot better."

While citing her coaches' help as a driving factor for her recovery, Biles also believes she would not have made it through the troubles in Tokyo without the help of her USA team-mates.

Despite a turbulent 2021, Biles remains happy as she continues on her indefinite break to rest and recover from a difficult year.

"What's next in my career right now is I'm obviously on a break," she concluded. "So, we have to see. I'm not sure if I'll continue with the sport. Right now, I think it's just relaxing taking quality time with family and with friends and just being normal for once.

"I think I'm happy with the way my life has turned out, especially starting gymnastics at six years old. 

"All I wanted was a college scholarship and I've been to five World Championships and two Olympic Games. So, I think I've achieved more than my wildest dreams, so I can't complain."

The Paris 2024 Olympics opening ceremony will be staged along the River Seine with bumper crowds of up to 600,000 expected to attend, organisers have confirmed.

It will be the first Games to have an opening ceremony not take place in a stadium.

There will be in excess of 160 boats carrying athletes and officials representing more than 200 nations, with a six-kilometre journey between the Pont d'Austerlitz and Pont d'Iena bridges in the French capital.

Organisers said there will be 80 giant screens, with tickets for the lower part of the bank but free entry for the upper parts.

The closing ceremony will take place at the gardens of the Trocadero that overlook the Eiffel Tower.

"The Games is a unique, once-in-a lifetime experience," said Tony Estanguet, head of the organising committee.

"We want people to feel it. [The boats] will pass along the iconic landmarks of Paris - Notre Dame, the Orsay and Louvre museums, the Pont Neuf [Paris's oldest bridge], the Pont Alexandre III, the Grand Palais, the Eiffel Tower.

"It will be the first time people have free access to the opening ceremony, and not just in a stadium. It will also be a popular event."

The Paris Games take place between July 26 and August 11.

The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) is to investigate allegations that two Belarus coaches tried to force sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya to board a flight home from the Tokyo Olympics.

Tsimanouskaya claimed Artur Shimak and Yury Maisevich took her to the airport against her will after she criticised the coaches on social media.

The 24-year-old finished fourth in her 100 metres heat, before being pulled out of the Games by Belarusian officials.

Due to also compete in the 200m, she claimed a Belarusian coach entered her for the 4x400m relay despite her never having raced in the event before.

Tsimanouskaya said she did not feel safe returning to her homeland amid a crackdown on anti-government dissent following mass protests that erupted last year over a disputed election.

She flew to Warsaw rather than Belarus after being granted a humanitarian visa by Poland. 

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) revoked Shimak and Maisevichas' accreditation in August after launching an investigation into the saga.

The IOC and World Athletics on Thursday revealed that the AIU will look into the matter.

World Athletics and the IOC stated: "Further to the incident involving Belarusian athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 and the decision taken by the IOC to cancel and remove the accreditations of the two coaches, Messrs A. Shimak and Y. Maisevich, as a provisional measure during the Games, the IOC and World Athletics have jointly agreed to continue the investigation and to open a formal procedure vis-à-vis the two aforementioned coaches. 

"To this effect, and given that the Olympic Games have now concluded, it has been decided that the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) – the independent body created by World Athletics to manage all integrity issues (both doping-related and non-doping-related) for the sport of athletics – will conduct the procedure, with the full collaboration and support of the IOC. 

"The AIU will publish the outcome of its investigation when this has been finalised."

 

Eight-time Olympic champion sprinter Usain Bolt is not contemplating a return to athletics despite feeling the temptation for a comeback.

Bolt ended his career on the track in 2017, calling it quits at the age of 31 after a spate of hamstring injuries, one of which curtailed his efforts in what was supposed to be the Jamaican's final race at the 2017 World Athletics Championships.

Although it was not the glorious conclusion he may have hoped for, Bolt still left sprinting as the world record holder in the 100 metres, 200m and 4x100m relay and his exploits on the track saw him collect a remarkable eight Olympic golds.

Back in August 2018, Bolt begin training with Australian football club the Central Coast Mariners and he scored twice in a friendly before being offered a contract, which was to be partially funded by the A-League.

He ultimately left the Mariners in November and declared two months later that he was done with all sports – though the thought of a U-turn did cross his mind later in 2019.

However, his coach urged Bolt to resist such a temptation, seemingly denying the world another opportunity to see the legendary sprinter in action at another Olympic Games.

Asked if he was contemplating a comeback at the age of 35, Bolt told BBC Sport: "It's too late. If I was going to come back it would have been to be for this Olympics.

"When I told my coach I was going to retire he sat me down and said, 'when you retire, that's it. I'm not doing any comeback tours, nothing. So, make sure you are ready to retire'.

"I remember I went to him in 2019 and said, 'what do you think about coming back for the Olympics?' And he looked at me and said, 'don't even start'.

"So, if it's not my coach, I'm not going to do it, because I believe in him and if he says no, it's no - but I've got that itch though."

Neil Fachie and wife Lora claimed cycling golds within just over a quarter of an hour for Team GB at the Tokyo Paralympics.

Neil and pilot Matt Rotherham posted a world-record time of 58.038 seconds – smashing their previous record time – as they beat team-mates James Ball and Lewis Stewart to gold in the B 1,000m time trial.

Lora followed suit shortly afterwards; her and Corrine Hall set their own world record on the way to go retaining the B 3,000 pursuit title.

"There are days that are good in the relationship and there are days like today which we'll never forget," Neil told BBC Breakfast.

"We knew this day would be our big one. Finally, we've managed to both do it together, and to both break the world record as well is beyond our dreams.

"We hoped this would happen, but for it to actually come together is mind-blowing."

Rafa Mir has completed a full transfer to Sevilla from Premier League side Wolves.

The Spain youth international had been attracting reported interest from LaLiga giants Barcelona and Atletico Madrid after starring for Spain at Tokyo 2020 but it is Sevilla who have won the race for his signature.

Mir has signed a six-year deal with Julen Lopetegui's side and will wear the number 12 shirt. He played in all of Spain's fixtures at the Games as La Roja reached the final where they were beaten by Brazil in the gold medal match.

The 24-year-old, who has been on the books at Wolves since 2018 but has spent each of the past three seasons out on loan, scored hat-trick in a 5-2 win over the Ivory Coast.

He had spent the previous season-and-a-half on loan at Huesca, scoring nine goals in a successful promotion push in 2019-20, before netting 13 times in LaLiga last term.

Mir is Sevilla's fifth signing of the transfer window, after Erik Lamela, Gonzalo Montiel, Marko Dmitrovic and Ludwig Augustinsson.

Former hurdles star Edwin Moses believes he would have matched Karsten Warholm's world record time at the Tokyo Olympics had the same technology been available to him during his time on top.

One of the more remarkable moments of the 2020 Games was Warholm's victory in the men's 400 metre hurdles, the Norwegian knocking a huge 0.76 seconds off his record pace of 46.70s.

Warholm was not alone in setting a new Games best at this year's showpiece, with the United States' Sydney McLaughlin also doing so in the women's equivalent with a time of 51.46s.

That has prompted some concerns over the design of the Tokyo track, which is said to have given athletes a one to two per cent performance advantage compared to previous years.

The track technology, footwear and indeed training has come a long way since Moses dominated the men's 400m hurdles between 1977 and 1987 when winning 107 successive finals, during which time he set four world records in the sport.

And two-time Olympic gold medallist Moses, whose fastest time was clocked at 47.02s, has told Stats Perform that he could have held his own against today's crop if the playing field was level.

"I would like to think I could," he said. "When I ran 47.02 I had no competition, no one else was running under 49. It was very, very different," he said.

"I was reading an article recently about the track and technology and they built in a two per cent increase in performance. 

"It changes things. It makes it very difficult to look back at Kevin Young or mine that had no assist. With tracks and shoes it becomes a statistically significant difference. 

"If Kevin Young was running on that then he'd have had run 45.86, my 47.02 would have been a 46.08. 

"I wish I had the opportunity to run on that track and to have that competition. I was way out in front of everyone else. The track has been programmed for speed. They've changed the paradigm."

 

This year's Olympic men's 400m hurdle final was labelled arguably the greatest ever, with USA's Rai Benjamin hot on Warholm's heels to win silver having also beat the previous world record.

Brazil's Alison dos Santos took the bronze medal with a time of 46.72s, meaning three of the top four fastest times ever posted in the event were set in Tokyo.

"I thought it was a very good race," Moses said. "Rai Benjamin made a couple of errors that probably cost him. Warholm made no mistakes. It always comes down to who makes the least. 

"The race could have gone either way. Benjamin could have won by a metre.

"Not many races have come down to the wire like that, especially in a dramatic race like the hurdles. It was a great race, as was the women's."

Warholm may remain the world's best in his discipline, but Moses has tipped compatriot Benjamin to potentially set another world record time in the near future.

"It's possible," he said. "I think Rai could beat the world record this summer. He was still competitive even with those mistakes. Even second placed smashed the record."

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has confirmed no spectators will be allowed to attend events at the upcoming Games in Tokyo.

Japan is still in a state of emergency as it battles with a spike in coronavirus cases and the recent Olympic Games were held mostly behind closed doors as a result.

Similarly, the Paralympians competing in Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba and Shizuoka will not have the backing of the crowd when the Games start on August 24.

The IPC, along with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG), and the Government of Japan, held a remote meeting on Monday to determine if spectators would be allowed to attend.

"We very much regret that this situation has impacted the Paralympic Games," the Games' organisers said in a statement.

"We sincerely apologise to all ticket buyers who were looking forward to watching the Games at the venues.

"We hope that you understand that these measures are unavoidable and being implemented in order to prevent the spread of infection. Everyone is encouraged to watch the Games at home."

 

Former hurdles star Edwin Moses questioned the Games going ahead in Tokyo but insisted time will tell as to whether the decision was correct.

Prior to the delayed Games, there was scepticism towards the safety of holding such an event amid a global pandemic, but Tokyo 2020 was completed without major incident.

Moses, a two-time Olympic gold medallist, agreed with the concern throughout Japan – and across the world – as he discussed the unusual competitive conditions.

"I was always very concerned," the former United States athlete told Stats Perform.

"I always wondered whether it was the right decision to expose the Japanese people to tens and thousands of people coming in. I guess we’ll see what the fallout is.

"I would have been compelled to go if I was 25 years old. [The] conditions are not normal for athletes. I can't imagine competing under them."

Paris awaits in 2024 before Los Angeles and Brisbane follow as the next hosts.

But Moses, who set the world record four times in 400 metre hurdles, was unsure as to whether the Olympic model has been too restrictive for a competition that prides itself on inclusivity.

"[It] was talked about trying to move the Olympics to different countries," the 65-year-old continued. "I think the set up and model now means that it will never be somewhere like Africa. They can't afford it.

"I think they're behind the eight ball in terms of moving it around. Right now they've restricted themselves to American, [Asian] and European countries. [The] model is not sustainable to diversify delivery."

Asked whether they can alter this issue and make the model more inclusive, Moses responded: "I don't know. I'm not sure if it was in somewhere like South Africa for example.

"People would want that amount of money spent on it. They've been trying but [I am] not sure theyve found a reasonable solution."

One leading light for the delayed games, however, is the conversations that have opened on mental health.

Simone Biles, who would later take to social media to further inform her audience as to her mental health struggles, made the headlines when she courageously withdrew from artistic gymnastic events before emphatically returning to secure bronze on the beam.

IOC president Thomas Bach praised the athletes for offering "hope" as one of the "most precious gifts" during Sunday's closing ceremony and Moses offered insight into the mental health aspects of being an athlete.

"It's intense," Moses added. "People have no idea what it takes. And in today's world with the commercialism, Simone Biles was expected to win five medals.

"I think it was a combo of physical and mental. Her internal GPS system disconnected from her motor system and she could have been in danger."

Moses, who credited athletes for removing the stigma of mental health by opening up on the topic, concluded: "At a certain level competition is competition and if you are not ready for it it's okay.

"The problem is big athletes are pulling out of events now. Athletes will have had deaths in the family, people ill, all kinds of situations."

As the Tokyo Olympics bade farewell Sunday a year later than planned, organisers of the 2024 Paris Games looked forward to welcoming the world to France in three years. 

Paris 2024 chief Tony Estanguet, a three-time gold medallist in canoe slalom, praised everyone involved with the Tokyo Games for managing to hold the event amid a global pandemic. 

As the Olympic flag was passed from Tokyo to Paris on Sunday, though, Estanguet talked up his team's plans to host their first Summer Games since 1924.

"We waited an extra year for this moment, but we are already waiting 100 years to bring the Olympic flag back to Paris, so the excitement is very strong in our team and back home in France,” Estanguet said.

The Paris bid, awarded in 2017, features venues familiar to any tourist, with competitions to be held at the Place de la Concorde, Champs de Mars, Les Invalides and the Palace of Versailles, among other high-profile spots.

"Every host city must bring something new and contribute to the evolution of the Games," Estanguet said. 

"With Paris 2024, our ambition is to offer a new model to open the Games to more people. This starts with offering the Games to the city.

"Our plan is based on taking sport out of its traditional spaces and putting competitions at the heart of the city, in front of the most famous Parisian landmarks; the Eiffel Tower for beach volleyball, wrestling and judo, and equestrian at the Chateau de Versailles.

"The ambition is simple: invite the world, including the hundreds of millions of viewers, into the very heart of Paris.”

Thanks to that one-year delay, the welcome will occur relatively quickly. On July 26, 2024, Paris will take centre stage. 

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