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Sports Briefing

FILE - In this Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012 file photo, Alessandro Zanardi of Italy celebrates winning the gold medal after he competed in the man's road cycle individual time trial H4 category at the 2012 Paralympics games, in London. Italian auto racing champion turned Paralympic gold medalist Alex Zanardi underwent a five-hour surgery Monday, July 6, 2020 to reconstruct his face following a crash on his handbike last month. It was the third major surgery that Zanardi has had since he crashed his handbike into an oncoming truck near the Tuscan town of Pienza on June 19 during a relay event. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, File)

SPORTS BRIEFING

Zanardi has surgery to rebuild face

SIENA, Italy — Italian auto racing champion-turned-Paralympic gold medalist Alex Zanardi underwent a five-hour surgery Monday to reconstruct his face following a crash on his handbike last month. It was the third major operation that Zanardi has had since he crashed into an oncoming truck near the Tuscan town of Pienza on June 19 during a relay event. Dr. Paolo Gennaro of Santa Maria alle Scotte Hospital in Siena said the operation required three-dimensional digital and computerized technology that was “made to measure” for Zanardi. “The complexity of the case was fairly unique, although this is a type of fracture that we deal with routinely,” Gennaro said in a hospital statement. After the surgery, Zanardi was returned to the intensive care unit in a medically induced coma. “His condition remains stable in terms of his cardio-respiratory status and grave in terms of his neurological status,” the hospital medical bulletin read. The 53-year-old Zanardi, who lost both of his legs in an auto racing crash nearly 20 years ago, has been on a ventilator since the crash. Zanardi suffered serious facial and cranial trauma, and doctors have warned of possible brain damage. Zanardi won four gold medals and two silvers at the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics. He also competed in the New York City Marathon and set an Ironman record in his class.

Nick Markakis opts out of season

ATLANTA — Atlanta Braves outfielder Nick Markakis opted out of the 2020 season on Monday due to increased concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. Markakis is the second Atlanta veteran in two days to announce plans to sit out the 60-game season. He follows right-hander Felix Hernandez, the former Cy Young winner with Seattle who was competing for a rotation spot before opting out on Sunday. The 36-year-old Markakis said Monday he was uneasy about playing the season without fans and then was swayed by his telephone conversation with teammate Freddie Freeman, who has tested positive for COVID-19 and has fever and other symptoms. “Just hearing him, the way he sounded on the phone, it was tough,” Markakis said. “It was kind of eye-opening. What everything that’s going on, not just with baseball but all over the world, it makes you open your eyes.” Freeman, top setup man Will Smith, right-hander Touki Toussaint and infielder Pete Kozma tested positive for the coronavirus. Manager Brian Snitker said Saturday that Smith and Toussaint have no symptoms, while Kozma also has fever.

MLS MVP will skip tourney

LOS ANGELES — Major League Soccer MVP Carlos Vela will not accompany Los Angeles FC to the league’s return tournament in Orlando this month. Vela announced his decision Monday, citing his concern for the health of his family, including his pregnant wife. “I always want to give everything I have to my club, our fans and supporters and the city of LA,” Vela said in a statement. “However, it is in the best interest of the health of my family to stay home and be with my wife during what is a risky pregnancy. I will miss being with my teammates and coaches, but I will be cheering and supporting LAFC from a distance.” Vela scored two goals in the first two games of this season before the coronavirus pandemic forced the suspension of competition. The Mexican forward was coming off the most spectacular offensive season in MLS history, setting league records with 34 goals and 49 combined goals and assists in 2019. He led LAFC to the Supporters’ Shield as the league’s top regular-season team. “We stand behind Carlos,” LAFC coach Bob Bradley said. “It’s important for him to be with his family.”

Appeals ruling on obscene gesture

HARTFORD, Conn. — A former UConn soccer player who lost her scholarship after giving the middle finger to a television camera has taken her case to a federal appeals court. Attorneys for Noriana Radwan filed a notice to appeal Friday to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit. They argue the November 2014 gesture amounted to protected speech and that the punishment was both excessive and not in line with discipline meted out to male athletes who violated school policies. Radwan raised her middle finger to an ESPNU camera while celebrating with teammates after the Huskies beat South Florida 3-2 on penalty kicks in the 2014 American Athletic Conference championship game. Coach Len Tsantiris initially suspended Radwan from the 2014 NCAA Tournament and issued a statement apologizing to the conference, South Florida and those who watched the game on television. In her federal lawsuit, Radwan alleged that after the publicity died down, she was stripped of her scholarship midway through the school year without due process for what the coach described as “serious misconduct.” She eventually transferred to Hofstra.

British diver Blagg retires at 23

LONDON — British diver Alicia Blagg is retiring from the sport because of a shoulder injury that has ended her chances of competing in a third Olympics at next year’s Tokyo Games. The 23-year-old Blagg has won medals at the Commonwealth Games and European Championships but said “injury after injury” have taken a toll. “This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to write but after a lot of thought and consideration I have decided to retire,” Blagg said in a recent post on Instagram. Blagg, who also competed for the University of Miami, had shoulder surgery in May 2019 to repair a torn labrum. “This year I’ve kept pushing and doing rehab on my shoulder, working with some of the best people I’ve ever met in Miami, however due to how intense this sport is, my shoulder just could not handle it anymore,” she wrote. Blagg, who had previously undergone two surgeries on her wrist, competed at the London and Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Last year, Blagg said she hoped to recover from the shoulder surgery and qualify for the Toyko Games, which have been postponed to 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic. Blagg and partner Rebecca Gallantree won gold in the 3-meter synchronized springboard at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

1964 decathlon champion dies

BERLIN — Willi Holdorf, the 1964 Olympic decathlon champion, has died. He was 80. Holdorf died at home in northern Germany on Sunday following a severe illness, his wife Sabine Holdorf-Schust told Germany’s dpa news agency. Holdorf led in Tokyo after nine of the 10 events. But his Soviet rival Rein Aun was stronger in the last event, the 1,500 meters. To win, Holdorf had to finish within 17 seconds of Aun. Holdorf had never achieved that, but his coach deliberately misled him and told him 12 seconds. Holdorf, exhausted, weaved across the lanes down the final straight before collapsing over the finish line. He was exactly 12 seconds behind Aun, who helped him off the track. Holdorf was at his strongest in the sprints in the decathlon, leading the 100 and 400 meters, and placed second in the discus and shot put. Despite the Cold War-era division of West and East Germany, Holdorf won under the flag of a united German Olympic team. By the next Olympics in 1968, though, there were separate West German and East German squads. That meant Holdorf was the last gold medalist in athletics representing a united Germany until the Barcelona Olympics of 1992, following the reunification of the country. Holdorf’s Tokyo feat ended a run of six consecutive victories by U.S. athletes dating to 1932.

Qatar World Cup cuts jobs

Organizers of the 2022 World Cup have become the latest Qatari state entity to make staff redundant. The World Cup organizing committee did not directly cite the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic in a statement announcing the job losses. But secretary general Hassan Al Thawadi recently spoke of his concerns about the looming global recession. Qatar Airways, a FIFA sponsor, and Doha-based beIN Sports, which owns broadcast rights to World Cup matches, have also cut jobs recently in response to COVID-19 halting travel and shutting sports events. Qatar has opened three of the eight stadiums that will be used in the tournament across November and December 2022 which means fewer staff overseeing building infrastructure are required. World Cup organizers say the “workforce needs to transition … as new skills are required for the next phase of Qatar’s tournament delivery.”

Accuses police of racial profiling

LONDON — British sprinter Bianca Williams and her partner have accused London police of racial profiling after officers stopped and searched the couple’s car, with their 3-month-old son inside. Williams and Ricardo dos Santos, a Portuguese sprinter, are both Black and were stopped in their Mercedes on Saturday afternoon. The 26-year-old Williams said Metropolitan Police “put out a fabricated report” about driving on the wrong side of the road. “Time for change and for actions to have consequences,” Williams wrote Sunday on her Instagram account. “Still incredibly hurt and shaken by my ordeal yesterday.” Williams, a sprint relay gold medalist at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and 2018 European Championship, told the newspaper “it’s always the same thing” and dos Santos has been pulled over many times. “The way they spoke to Ricardo, like he was scum, dirt on their shoe, was shocking. It was awful to watch,” Williams said. Video of the incident has circulated on social media. A woman, who appeared to be recording the incident, says, “He didn’t do anything,” as the man exits the car. She is then pulled from the back seat. A female officer is heard saying they plan to search the car for weapons.

ESPN will film Kaepernick doc

Colin Kaepernick will be featured in a documentary series produced by ESPN Films as part of a first-look deal with The Walt Disney Co. The deal between Kaepernick’s production arm, Ra Vision Media, and The Walt Disney Co. was announced Monday. The partnership will focus on telling scripted and unscripted stories that explore race, social injustice and the quest for equity. It also will provide a platform to showcase the work of directors and producers of color. “I am excited to announce this historic partnership with Disney across all of its platforms to elevate Black and Brown directors, creators, storytellers, and producers, and to inspire the youth with compelling and authentic perspectives,” Kaepernick said in a statement. “I look forward to sharing the docuseries on my life story, in addition to many other culturally impactful projects we are developing.”

Roger Federer focusing on 2021

ZURICH — Roger Federer is already focusing on the 2021 season, including the postponed Tokyo Olympics, as he recovers from two knee surgeries. Federer said Monday he is not yet able to play top-level tennis but he is on the mend. “I feel much better again,” Federer said when taking questions from fans online. “I’m not at the level where I can play (tennis) fully yet.” Federer has won 20 Grand Slam singles titles, but has never won an Olympic gold medal in singles. “The goal is really that I’m ready for next year,” Federer said. The Olympic final is scheduled for Aug. 1, 2021, one week before Federer — who took doubles gold with Swiss teammate Stan Wawrinka at the 2008 Beijing Games — turns 40. Federer revealed last month he had “an additional quick arthroscopic procedure” on his right knee some weeks earlier. The setback in rehabilitation from an initial knee surgery in February has not yet cost Federer any tournament play because the sport has been shut down by the coronavirus pandemic. It is due to resume next month.

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