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SPORTSBRIEFING

Masks off for a few seconds

The faces of victory will be a bit more visible for the rest of the Tokyo Olympics.

On Sunday, the International Olympic Committee relaxed its health rules and said medalists can remove their masks on the podium for photos — for 30 seconds.

This, says the IOC, acknowledges “a unique moment in their sporting career.”

Health protocols agreed to ahead of the Tokyo Olympics to control COVID-19 infections had required all medalists to keep masks on for the whole ceremony.

But it’s not all freedom and exposed mouths from here on out. Athletes have to stay on their own podium step. And group photos on the top step? Masks back on, please.

Ratings down at NBC

NEW YORK (AP) — An estimated 17 million people in the United States watched the opening ceremony for the Tokyo Olympics held in a largely empty stadium, down 36% from the kickoff to the Rio de Janeiro Games five years ago.

The 17 million includes people who watched the ceremony live on NBC or online when it aired Friday morning and those who saw an edited version on NBC in prime time that night, the Nielsen company said Sunday.

NBC was unable to break down how many people watched live and how many saw the prime-time version. The 26.7 million who saw the Rio opening ceremony included both television and online viewership.

Nine years ago, when the Summer Olympics were held in London, the opening ceremony drew a record-setting U.S. audience of 40.7 million people.

Eight-time Olympian retires

Olympic legend Oksana Chusovitina’s journey is over. The 46-year-old from Uzbekistan did not qualify during the vault final at her record eighth Olympics.

Athletes, judges and administrators rose to their feet to salute Chusovitina as she made her way off the floor. She waved to the crowd with tears in her eyes before posing for pictures with whoever wanted one.

“I’m saying goodbye to sports,” Chusovitina said.

Chester runs to 10-1

COLUMBIANA — The Chester Old-Timers men’s 50-lus baseball team knocked off Niles 3-0 on Sunday at Firestone Park.

The team is 10-1 and hosts Girard at 2 p.m. on Sunday at Firestone Park.

Dave Smith had six shutout innings for the winners. Bill Sattler had the save. Smith and Doug Comm had two hits each.

Tribe cracks Rays

CLEVELAND (AP) — The Indians showed the Rays they can mount a comeback, too.

Bobby Bradley’s sacrifice fly in the eighth inning capped Cleveland’s late rally and sent the Indians to a 3-2 win on Sunday, snapping their losing streak against Tampa Bay at 11 games.

On the verge of being swept and dropping under .500 for the first time since May 1, the Indians, who managed just one run in seven innings against Rays starter Ryan Yarbrough, rallied in the eighth off reliever Matt Wisler (3-4).

“It shows character,” said Indians bench coach DeMarlo Hale, who filled in for ailing manager Terry Francona for the second straight game. “They’re not going to give up. There’s some resiliency with these guys.”

The win closed a memorable weekend for Cleveland, which included the team announcing its name will change to Guardians after this season.

The Indians also turned the tables on the Rays, who have 30 come-from-behind wins and lead the majors with 192 runs after the seventh inning.

Cesar Hernandez opened the eighth with a single before Wisler hit Amed Rosario on the hand. Harold Ramirez delivered a game-tying RBI single before Bradley hit a fly to center deep enough to score Rosario ahead of Kevin Kiermaier’s throw.

“It’s really exciting, not only for the win,” Ramirez said through a translator. “But also because over the last couple of losses they took away from our pocket, it’s very exciting to do it and for us to do it in the late innings like we did.”

Hernandez also homered for the Indians, whose playoff hopes have been fading quickly.

OBJ feels special

CLEVELAND (AP) — Odell Beckham Jr. doesn’t want to miss a single moment this season.

The star wide receiver believes he and his Cleveland Browns teammates are poised to do something big.

Appearing at his youth football camp, Beckham, who has made a speedy recovery from a season-ending knee injury in 2020, said he has high hopes for this year’s Browns.

“It’s just something that feels special about this team,” he said Sunday at Gilmour Academy. “I think there’s something special going on and something special with this city. Cleveland needs a championship. And I think that’s the goal and mentality in that building.

“And that’s what I want to be a part of.”

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