Djokovic, Serena still planning to play in Olympics despite Zika risk
Opening ceremonies for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro are scheduled for Aug. 5. Each week, as the countdown continues, we will bring you a roundup of the latest results, news items and storylines in Olympic sports. Here’s a look at what happened over the last seven days on the road to Rio:
While the French Open has yet to yield any major surprises with its top stars, tennis finds itself at an interesting crossroads between as the sport’s biggest stars decide whether or not will compete at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro due to the Zika virus, which has been linked to a rare birth defect and other severe problems of the brain.
Novak Djokovic plans to play in Rio and believes the idea of cancelling the Olympics due to Zika is “unthinkable.”
“For the moment I’m planning to play,” Djokovic said in Paris. “Nothing is changing. But let’s see what happens.”
In January, Djokovic told The Telegraph that winning a gold medal would be a priority for 2016, and the world No. 1 is no doubt a favorite to win. If Djokovic can lock up his first French Open title (he’s currently in the fourth round), he could potentially match Steffi Graf’s Golden Slam in 1988, when she won the calendar-year Grand Slam and the Olympic gold in Seoul.
The Serbian has a bronze medal from the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. He finished fourth at the 2012 Olympics in London after losing to Great Britain’s Andy Murray in the semi-final and Juan Martín del Potro of Argentina in the bronze-medal game.
Serena Williams, the reigning Olympic singles champion, told reporters in Paris that Zika has been on her mind and she will be “super-protected, maybe.”
Williams, 34, has two Olympic gold medals from the 2008 and ’12 women’s singles titles, She has also won doubles gold with her sister Venus in 2000, ’08 and ’12. They have previously said they plan to go for a fourth Olympic gold together in Brazil.
The woman Williams beat for gold in 2012 is still also in question for Rio. Fellow star Maria Sharapova, who tested positive for Meldonium at the Australian Open, was named to Russia’s provisional Olympic team, and a decision has yet to be made on whether or not she can play.
Track and field
• The Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore. produced several world-leading marks as well as near-world records. Olympian Emma Coburn set an American record in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, and Keni Harrison ran the second-fastest time in history for the women’s 100-meter hurdles, setting the American record of 12.24. She’s now a gold-medal favorite, if she can make the tough women’s 100-meter hurdle team.
• Identical triplets Leila, Liina and Lily Luik of Estonia will run the Olympic marathon on August 13, becoming the first pair of triplets to compete at the Olympics. Leila, 30, holds the fastest personal best with her 2:37:11.
• This week provides a double-dip of Diamond League action with stops in Rome and Birmingham (U.K.) on June 2 and 5 respectively.
• Kara Goucher, a two-time Olympian, will not run in July, which means she will not make a third Olympic team. Goucher, 37, will focus on a fall marathon.
• Paralympic long jump champion Markus Rehm is still hoping to make the German Olympic team after a scientific study by German Sport University in Cologne came back with inconclusive findings on whether his carbon-fiber prostheses provide an unfair advantage over able-bodied athletes. He competed at the 2014 German national championships and won the title over able-bodied athletes. If he were to compete in Rio de Janeiro, he would be the second Paralympian to also compete against able-bodied athletes after Oscar Pistorius did so in 2012 for South Africa.
• The U.S. Olympic Trials are quickly approaching and this weekend will serve as one last tune-up for swimmers in Austin, Santa Clara and Indianapolis. Michael Phelps will swim the 100-meter and 200-meter freestyle, 100-meter butterfly and 200-meter individual medley at the Longhorn Elite Invite in Austin, and Missy Franklin will race the 100 and 200 free and 100/200 back.
• Nathan Adrian, Natalie Coughlin, Anthony Ervin and Dana Vollmer headline the USA Swimming Pro Series in Santa Clara. Adrian will tackle the 50 and 100 freestyles. Coughlin will do the 50 freestyle, 100 freestyle and 100 backstroke.
• In the midwest, Olympians Connor Jaeger, Micah Lawrence and Shannon Vreeland will race at the Arena Pro Series in Indianapolis.
• Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross beat Brazil’s Larissa and Talita at the Moscow Grand Slam. Walsh has settled into her pairing with Ross as they are now undefeated in their last 22 FIVB World Tour matches. They will conclude their FIVB World Tour in Hamburg, Germany this week.
• On the men’s side, Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena mathematically qualified for the Rio Olympics playing in their 12th international tournament together—the FIVB minimum for the Games. Rio will be Lucena’s first Olympics.
• Claressa Shields became the first American woman to win two elite world championship titles as she won gold at the world championships in Astana, Kazakhstan. She is now undefeated in her last 48 fights.
• Manny Pacquiao will not box at the Olympics and will focus on his responsibilities as a senator in the Phillipines.
• Brady Ellison and Jake Kaminski, silver medalists from the 2012 Summer Games in London, punched their tickets to Rio. They will be joined by first-time Olympians Zach Garrett and Mackenzie Brown.
• Vincenzo Nibali targets Olympic gold after winning the Giro D’Italia.
• Eight Russian athletes tested positive in re-tests of doping samples from the 2012 Olympics.
• The World Health Organization has rejected the idea of relocating the 2016 Olympic Games from Rio de Janeiro due to the Zika virus.
• In addition to Zika, the unfinished venues, political turmoil, drug testing woes, corruption in the bidding for the 2020 Olympics and water problems highlight the many headaches on the International Olympic Committee’s executive board meeting that starts Wednesday in Lausanne, Switzerland.