Tokyo Olympics organisers have promised a "calm" response to the coronavirus epidemic and remain confident the Games will go ahead as planned.

Over 1,350 deaths have occurred in China, and a major spike in recorded cases on Wednesday has caused fresh concern over the spread of the virus.

A Japanese cruise ship, the Diamond Princess, has been quarantined because of the large number of confirmed cases on board, with over 200 passengers reported to be infected.

Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori said: "Regarding the coronavirus which started in Hubei province in China, there were irresponsible rumours. I would like to clearly reiterate that cancellation or postponement of the Tokyo Games are not being considered."

Mori added: "The [Japanese] government has also set up a task force for new coronavirus infectious diseases at the prime minister's office and they are implementing measures such as border control. The organising committee will deal [with the coronavirus] calmly in co-operation with the government."

International Olympic Committee co-ordination commission chairman John Coates said at the same event in Tokyo: "We have unexpected issues to deal with, for example the coronavirus outbreak is one event."

He said the objective ahead of the Olympics and Paralympics was "to ensure that all of the athletes and all of the people who come to Japan for the Games are not going to be affected and that all the necessary precautions are being taken".

Saburo Kawabuchi, who is mayor of the Olympic Village, attempted to calm fears surrounding the spread of the coronavirus and its possible impact on the Games.

He said: "As far as we know from various sources, we have heard that the virus is not stronger than influenza. Because the virus is weak against moisture and heat, Japan has the best season to kill the rainy season virus."

A number of major sporting events in China have been cancelled or postponed because of the coronavirus, including the Formula One Chinese Grand Prix and the athletics World Indoor Championships.

On Thursday, World Rugby announced it had rescheduled the Hong Kong and Singapore legs of the World Rugby Sevens Series because of the outbreak.

Both had been due to take place in April but World Rugby said the Singapore event would now take place on October 10-11, and the Hong Kong tournament would be played on October 16-18.

"The health and safety of our players, fans and everyone working on the event is always our highest priority," World Rugby said in a statement.

"This prudent decision has been taken in order to help protect the global rugby community and the wider public and was taken based on the World Health Organization and relevant public authority travel and health guidelines."

Jamaica’s Tajay Gayle, after winning the long jump at last year’s IAAF World Championships of Athletics, is now making a serious push at earning a spot at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan as a sprinter.

Gayle showed he was not joking when he said he might try the sprints when he turned up at the Milo Western Relays last week but could only manage a fifth-place finish in a race won by former World Record holder over 100 metres, Asafa Powell.

The placing and the time, 6.87 seconds, is not a deterrent to Gayle, as he went into the race without any significant expectations.

 “The time doesn’t really matter, I would have been satisfied with anything, even 7.0. I’m just here to get competition and experience in sprinting,” said Gayle in an interview with Jamaican Newspaper, The Gleaner.

According to Gayle, the idea that he could be making the Olympic team as both sprinter and long jumper is something that is the brainchild of his coach Paul Francis.

Francis is playing the situation by ear, saying sprinting is a part of jumping, so the process of racing would always have been included in his traditional training.

But he isn’t ruling out the possibility though.

“I can’t predict the future, we’re just trying our best to prepare him. And what will happen will happen at the Trials,” said Francis, coach at MVP Track Club and brother of the famous Stephen Francis.

Gayle though is already finding it difficult to straddle the two events, saying he hasn’t been able to work on certain technical issues like his start because he has had to focus on his jumping.

“Within technical sessions, I’m doing jumps while others are sprinting, so I don’t get the chance to work on it a lot,” he said.

Despite that, the World Champion believes his coach knows what he is capable of, even better than he does.

"If my coach says I can do it, I guess I can," he said.

LeBron James says there are multiple factors that will determine whether he ends up playing at the Olympic Games this year.

The Los Angeles Lakers star is one of 44 finalists for a place in the United States men's basketball team and he acknowledged his "name is in the hat".

By early June, that group will be cut down to a final 12 to play at the Olympics in Tokyo and, should he feature, James will join Carmelo Anthony as the second player to represent Team USA at four separate Games.

The 12-team basketball event will run from July 25 until August 9 and James is unsure over his participation at this stage of the NBA season.

But he was thrilled to see five Lakers players make the initial group, with Anthony Davis, Kyle Kuzma, Dwight Howard and Javale McGee also included.

"Spectacular, it's amazing," said the 35-year-old. 

"We're very well represented with the Lake Show representing the red, white and blue. So it's a pretty cool thing."

On his participation, James added: "It's always predicated on: one, my body, how my body is feeling at the end of the season – I hope to make a long playoff run.

"And then where my mind is and then where my family's head is. So it's a lot of factors, but my name is in the hat."

James was speaking after the Lakers cruised to a 125-100 home win over the Phoenix Suns on Monday, a fourth win from five games moving them to 40-12 for the season.

Davis had 25 points and 10 rebounds, while Rajon Rondo impressed from the bench with 23 points as Howard added 14 points and 15 rebounds.

James, meanwhile, narrowly missed a triple-double with 17 points, nine assists and eight rebounds as the Lakers reached 40 wins before the All-Star break for the first time in nine years.

"It was a great game for our bench," said James.

"Rajon had great pace all night and he was taking all the looks he was getting. Dwight controlled the glass."

Suns coach Monty Williams added: "We dared Rondo to shoot from the perimeter and he made us pay."

LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant were among the 44 finalists for a place in the United States men's basketball team for the 2020 Olympic Games.

Three-time Olympic medallist James and nine of the players from the successful 2016 campaign in Rio were included on the list announced by USA Basketball on Monday.

Should the Los Angeles Lakers star make the final 12-man roster, he will join Carmelo Anthony as the second player to represent Team USA at four separate Games.

Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson won gold in Brazil four years ago and have made the cut despite being yet to play a minute in the NBA this season due to respective Achilles and knee injuries.

Curry was named despite being sidelined since October with a broken left hand.

All 12 members of the USA's 2019 FIBA World Cup team remain in the running, with 21 NBA franchises represented in the 44-man list.

Head coach Gregg Popovich said: "I'm looking forward to coaching the U.S. Olympic Team, and I'm excited about the potential and possibilities this team has.

"Anyone who follows international basketball knows there are many really good players from all around the world, and therefore there are many excellent national teams.

"International basketball has improved so much from the days of the 'Dream Team'. The Olympics in 2020 will be a true competition, and there are many teams that will have a legitimate shot at capturing gold."

 

Finalists for the USA's Tokyo 2020 team:

Bam Adebayo (Miami Heat), LaMarcus Aldridge (San Antonio Spurs), Harrison Barnes (Sacramento Kings), Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards), Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns), Malcolm Brogdon (Indiana Pacers), Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics), Jimmy Butler (Miami Heat), Mike Conley (Utah Jazz), Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors), Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers), DeMar DeRozan (San Antonio Spurs), Andre Drummond (Cleveland Cavaliers), Kevin Durant (Brooklyn Nets), Paul George (Los Angeles Clippers), Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors), James Harden (Houston Rockets), Montrezl Harrell (Los Angeles Clippers), Joe Harris (Brooklyn Nets), Tobias Harris (Philadelphia 76ers), Gordon Hayward (Boston Celtics), Dwight Howard (Los Angeles Lakers), Brandon Ingram (New Orleans Pelicans), Kyrie Irving (Brooklyn Nets), LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers), Kyle Kuzma (Los Angeles Lakers), Kawhi Leonard (Los Angeles Clippers), Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers), Brook Lopez (Milwaukee Bucks), Kevin Love (Cleveland Cavaliers), Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors), JaVale McGee (Los Angeles Lakers), Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks), Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz), Victor Oladipo (Indiana Pacers), Chris Paul (Oklahoma City Thunder), Mason Plumlee (Denver Nuggets), Marcus Smart (Boston Celtics), Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics), Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors), Myles Turner (Indiana Pacers), Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics), Russell Westbrook (Houston Rockets), Derrick White (San Antonio Spurs).

Hubert Busby, who had the unfortunate task of leading the Reggae Girlz in their failed bid for a place at the Tokyo Olympics this month, believes that despite the obvious regression since a historic World Cup berth last year, there is hope for the future of the programme.

According to Busby, while investment in the Reggae Girlz is important, even more focus should be paid to the younger members of the programme, to the youth.

“I do think there needs to be some true strategic planning and putting things in place that are vitally important, not just for the [senior] women's programme, but the youth programme as well,” said Busby in an interview with Jamaican newspaper The Jamaica Observer.

According to Busby, he would want to continue as Reggae Girlz head coach, saying he would be honoured were the conditions right.

The conditions certainly were not right when Busby led the team into the final round of CONCACAF Olympic qualifiers, with the Reggae Girlz going down 1-0 to Mexico before receiving a 9-0 thrashing from Canada. There was some joy for the Reggae Girlz though, as their final game of the round was a 7-0 demolition of St Kitts & Nevis.

“Obviously if the conditions are right and there's a serious collaborative effort for the programme to progress, obviously I would once again be honoured to lead my country in this role,” he said.

The Reggae Girlz had one camp ahead of the qualifiers, largely because the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) and the coaching staff which took the Girlz to the World Cup, were at war.

Head coach Hue Menzies had resigned and his assistant Lorne Donaldson, who should have been a shoo-in for the top job, had enough reservations that his employers ultimately went in another direction with Busby. Donaldson consequently resigned having not known what his position with the team was.

“If you truly look at other national teams and how far they've come, all you have to do is look how much investment has gone into the youth programmes to see what comes through. So I'd love to be a part of the solution to make that happen in Jamaica, and look at how we can kind of formulate and work with those local coaches and the director of football and the federation to figure out how we continue to develop players on the island who are ready to play at international level,” said Busby.

Olympic organisers are "extremely worried" about the impact the spread of the coronavirus could have on the Tokyo Games.

In excess of 24,300 cases of the virus have been recorded in China, with 490 people confirmed dead.

A cruise ship in the Japanese port of Yokohama has been quarantined after 10 people on board tested positive.

Tokyo Organising Committee chief executive Toshiro Muto has expressed his concern over the epidemic five months before the Olympics get under way.

"We are extremely worried in the sense that the spread of the infectious virus could pour cold water on momentum for the Games," Muto said.

"I hope that it can be eradicated as quickly as possible. We plan to cooperate with the IOC (International Olympic Committee), the IPC (International Paralympic Committee), the government and the city of Tokyo to tackle the disease."

Saburo Kawabuchi, head of the athletes' village, said: "I hope from my heart that we can overcome this (virus) and have a smooth Olympics.

"We will do everything we can to protect the athletes to allow them to produce their best performances."

The IOC last week refuted reports that the Games could be cancelled.

An IOC statement said: "Countermeasures against infectious diseases constitute an important part of Tokyo 2020's plans to host a safe and secure Games.

"Tokyo 2020 will continue to collaborate with all relevant organisations which carefully monitor any incidence of infectious diseases and will review any countermeasures."

World Athletics will prevent competitors using the type of shoes Eliud Kipchoge wore when famously breaking the marathon's two-hour barrier - warning advances in technology are threatening the "integrity of the sport".

The governing body announced an immediate "indefinite moratorium" on any shoe with a sole thicker than 40 millimetres, or 30mm for the sole on shoes with spikes.

Also subject to the moratorium will be shoes with more than one "rigid embedded plate or blade that runs either the full length or only part of the length of the shoe".

Nike's Alphafly bespoke shoe, which Kipchoge wore when setting his marathon record in Vienna last October, is widely reported to feature three carbon fibre plates.

World Athletics did not mention the Nike shoes in its news release on Friday, or say whether Kipchoge's world record would remain in the record books, and did not reply to requests from Omnisport for comment.

All manufacturers' prototype shoes are to be blocked from use, World Athletics said, and from April 30, athletes will only be permitted to compete in footwear that has been available for the public to buy for four months.

Sebastian Coe, the World Athletics president, said the new rules would provide "certainty to athletes and manufacturers" ahead of this year's Tokyo Olympics.

The new regulations will allow for modification of shoes but only for cosmetic or medical reasons.

As well as Kipchoge's historic achievement in 2019, which was not an officially ratified record, his fellow Kenyan Brigid Kosgei set a world record for the women's marathon also in Nike shoes.

It is not known whether the Nike Vaporfly shoes that Kosgei wore would be allowed under the specifications provided by World Athletics, or whether the shoes were modified.

According to The Times, Nike plans to commercially release an Alphafly shoe that will meet the new guidelines.

World Athletics said independent research had raised "concerns that the integrity of the sport might be threatened by the recent developments in shoe technology".

Coe said "It is not our job to regulate the entire sports shoe market but it is our duty to preserve the integrity of elite competition by ensuring that the shoes worn by elite athletes in competition do not offer any unfair assistance or advantage.

"As we enter the Olympic year, we don't believe we can rule out shoes that have been generally available for a considerable period of time, but we can draw a line by prohibiting the use of shoes that go further than what is currently on the market while we investigate further.

"I believe these new rules strike the right balance by offering certainty to athletes and manufacturers as they prepare for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, while addressing the concerns that have been raised about shoe technology."

Coco Gauff said playing at the Olympic Games in Tokyo this year is "definitely the goal" following the 15-year-old's Australian Open exit.

Gauff's fairytale run in Melbourne came to an end at the hands of fellow American Sofia Kenin, who rallied past the teenage sensation 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 6-0 in the fourth round on Sunday.

After dethroning defending champion Naomi Osaka, highly rated Gauff was unable to get past Kenin to reach her maiden grand slam quarter-final.

But the world number 67 was in good spirits post-match as she looks to qualify for Tokyo 2020.

"That's definitely the goal," Gauff told reporters when asked about the Olympics, which gets underway in July. "Hopefully I can get my ranking up and qualify. I'm sure the cutoff is French Open. 

"I'm pretty sure I only have like three tournaments before French Open, so… it will be difficult. But I'm going to try as hard as possible. I definitely do want to play the Olympics. I mean, it would be pretty cool."

Gauff dazzled in her first Australian Open main draw appearance, upstaging Venus Williams, Sorana Cirstea and Osaka en route to the last 16.

"My short-term goal is to improve," Gauff added. "That's the main thing. I'm doing well right now at 15. I still have so much I feel like I can get better on. Even my parents, my team, they all believe I can get better.

"I don't even think this is close to a peak for me, even though I'm doing well right now. The goal is just really to get better, you know, have these good runs at tournaments, building up my experience and playing more tournaments just so I can be ready for matches like this today."

Word coming out of the MVP Track Club is that Double Olympic sprint champion, Elaine Thompson Herah, will be on the track ready to defend her title in Tokyo, Japan.

Thompson Herah looked a certain possibility for a gold medal at last year’s IAAF World Championships of Athletics in Doha Qatar but inexplicably finished out of contention with countrywoman Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce going on to win an unprecedented fourth 100-metre world title.

It was later explained, that an Achilles injury that had stymied too seasons for Thompson Herah, was back and the athlete was not able to generate the kinds of speeds that saw her win the National Championships in Kingston, Jamaica in a world-leading 10.72 seconds, or the Pan American Games gold medal in Lima, Peru.

At the time, Thompson Herah’s coach, Stephen Francis, had said while the Achilles problem was a recurrent one, on this occasion, it was caused by calf tightness and that she would get over it without surgery.

Thompson Herah still managed a fourth-place finish in Doha but had to pull out of the 200 metres, for which she had already made the semi-final. She would take no further part in the tournament.

According to MVP Track Club President, Bruce James, who spoke to local newspaper, The Gleaner, Thompson Herah is looking better than just injury-free.

“Elaine has returned to training and is looking set to be in fully fit form long before the Olympics in Tokyo,” said James.

How many races it will take Thompson Herah to get back to her best is yet to be ascertained but James is still of the belief that all will be well.

That’s not a decision that is made in January but we are just pleased to know that she’s in training and looking so good,” he said.

A motor vehicle accident in Florida last week has not slowed World Championship sprint relay gold medallist Jonielle Smith too much as the Jamaican is already back in training ahead of her bid to make the team to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.

According to reports, the vehicle Smith was driving, was rear ended, causing a spin that led to a second collision.

Though the car was badly damaged, it was reported that neither Smith, nor the two family members she was travelling with, were badly injured.

Smith, a standout at high school for Wolmer’s Girls in Jamaica’s biggest track and field championships, ran the third leg on Jamaica’s gold medal 4x100-metre team at the IAAF World Championships of Athletics in Doha, Qatar last year and finished sixth in the 100-metre final there.

Smith also recently graduated from Auburn University where she also had a more-than-creditable time on the track.

Despite earning a historic World Championship silver medal and a World Athletics Diamond League win in 2019, Jamaican triple jumper Shanieka Ricketts will be tweaking her preparations for the Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.

According to Ricketts coach and husband, Kerry Lee Ricketts, Shanieka will be working on more technical advances to her jumping, which will mean she competes less ahead of the Olympics.

That method is in stark contrast to the way Ricketts approached last year when she had what has been her most successful season to date.

Ricketts competed in 15 meets last year but her coach says she won’t need as many this time around.

“We won’t need many meets. I think she will probably open at either the Jamaica [International] Invitational if it has a triple jump or the Racers Grand Prix,” said coach Ricketts.

Ricketts pointed out that last year, there was a lot of testing to see what worked and what didn’t.

Now that the testing is over, Ricketts says there is no need to jump as much.

“This year, it’s not so much testing, it’s more of preparation, so we’re just basically going to prepare, prepare, prepare,” he said.

Shanieka Ricketts has been hunting for marks over 15 metres, getting closer with her personal best 14.93 metres. To get there, her coach believes she needs to get her final phase right, something that while there has been improvement, accounting for consistently bigger jumps, she still hasn’t nailed down.

“We’ve been putting in a lot of work in the last phase and we haven’t gotten it yet and we still have some work to do,” said the coach.

“It’s a learning process where, you know, you learn A and then you move on to B. You can’t learn A and B at the same time,” he said.

Former Jamaican sprinter and triple-double Olympic gold medallist, Usain Bolt, said he was heartened to see the kind of support that turned out for the inauguration of the National Stadium in Tokyo ahead of the Olympic games to be held there and what it meant for the 2020 showpiece multi-sport event.

Coach of rising sprint sensation Jamaican sprinter, Briana Williams, Ato Boldon expects the young phenom to go even faster in 2020 after her preparations for this season put her in a good place.

Williams, who decided to run as a senior at last year’s IAAF World Championships of Athletics, made the Jamaican team after finishing third at the country’s national champions in a quick 10.94 seconds, behind legends, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, and Elaine Thompson.

Despite the qualification, Williams was not at the World Championships after a positive drug test, which was eventually commuted with the athlete found to have done nothing wrong, meant there was no time for her to get there.

Last season, Williams also ran a nippy 22.88 seconds.

According to Boldon, Williams could have been faster last season and the season before, but for some reason, was not achieving her full potential.

“In 2019, only five women ran faster at 100m. I’ve considered the possibility that she had been holding back in practice in the last two years, training with a group. That’s clearly not the case this year, and she has set numerous personal bests in her preseason practice runs,” said Boldon.

The difference, this season, is that Williams has ditched her training routine, and is now doing her practice on her own.

“As far as her training, I had some major concerns when we started in October. She had no female training partners for the first time under me and she hadn’t competed since July,” said Boldon, who had split with Williams training partner Khalifa St Fort.

“I thought taking in someone to train with her would be a good idea. Well, it turns out I was wrong. She assured me she didn’t need a training partner. Her workouts have always accurately indicated to me what’s coming, and she will be better in 2020 than she was in 2019,” Boldon said.

Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) president Michael Ricketts says his organization will be announcing a new head coach for the Reggae Girlz in a matter of days.

According to Ricketts, the JFF’s technical committee, which has the prevue of selecting a coach, will make its decision after discussions with stakeholders on Tuesday.

According to Ricketts, the decision will be made to replace former head coach Hue Menzies, who announced his intention to leave the programme via the media more than a week ago, despite not receiving a formal resignation.

“We haven’t gotten anything official,” said Ricketts.

“But he has gone public [with his resignation], so we just have to take it that he will not be a part of the programme,” he said.

Menzies announced his intention to leave the programme after four years, citing a lack of communication from the JFF regarding a new contract that had expired in August, as well as unpaid salaries and reimbursements.

Menzies had refused to coach the team until all unpaid monies were sent his way.

The former coach’s stance meant he missed the first round of Olympic Qualifiers with the Reggae Girlz.

Those qualifiers still went well under the guidance of assistant coach Lorne Donaldson, with the final round of qualifiers set to take place from January 28 to February 9, 2020.

Donaldson’s performance is reported to have made him frontrunner for the job, however, the assistant has hinted at reservations about taking the new post.

As athletes from all over the world go for gold at Paris 2024, Olympic surfing champions are set to be crowned over 15,000 kilometres away in Tahiti.

Organisers of the Games on French soil have confirmed the best surfers on the planet will be heading to compete in Teahupo'o in French Polynesia, subject to International Olympic Committee approval.

The possibility of using an artificial wave in Paris had been ruled out, but Biarritz was among the locations in France seen as having a strong case to host the events.

Lacanau, Les Landes and La Torche also hoped to be selected to stage the second edition of surfing at the Olympics, but it is instead set to take place in South Pacific waters.

"One of the most beautiful waves in the world for the most spectacular Games! Paris 2024 chooses Teahupo'o in Tahiti to host Olympic surfing," read a tweet posted from the Paris 2024 official account. 

Lionel Teihotu, president of Tahiti's surfing federation, is quoted as saying by BBC Sport: "It's an extremely pleasant surprise and recognition for our history that will restore honour to Polynesia, where surfing began."

Surfing will debut at the Tokyo Olympics next year.

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