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VIDEO: Ben Johnson runs first race in two decades

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Disgraced 1988 Olympic 100m champ Ben Johnson ran in his first “competitive” race in about two decades on Tuesday, as he took part in a celebrity 4x100m relay at the Toronto International Track and Field Games. So how did he feel after anchoring his team to victory in two heats?

“Exhausted,” Johnson admitted to the National Post after running only 100 meters. “I’m in good shape, but my cardio is really bad. My breathing, you know? It’s bad. But my running style is OK.”

The Jamaican-born Canadian sprinter said he got the call about two weeks ago, and added that if he had been given more time he would have spent a couple of months training. For a 100-meters race. Against out-of-shape journalists who already weren’t within shouting distance when he crossed the line.

Johnson, 51, the subject of ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary *9.79 about the infamous 1988 Olympics 100m final that he won before his medal was stripped for doping, then hung out to take pictures with fans, some of whom weren’t alive when Johnson was on the top of the track world a quarter-century ago.

“I got lots of fans, you know?” Johnson said after hearing his hometown crowd roar as he ran down the track. “It’s just a few people in track and field that don’t like me. I’ve got great fans all over the world.”

That’s probably news to Carl Lewis, who lost to Johnson in the ’88 race before being bumped up to the gold medal when the doping results came in. And I can only assume the always bitter Lewis is hard at work preparing for the ultimate rematch at next year’s celebrity race. God willing.


Baseball qualifying for 2020 Tokyo Games would be tricky

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ROME (AP) — If baseball rejoins the Olympics for the 2020 Tokyo Games, just qualifying for the tournament could be a challenge.

Under Tokyo’s recommendations, the men’s baseball competition would consist of just six teams – two less than the World Baseball Softball Confederation’s proposal.

WBSC president Riccardo Fraccari tells The Associated Press that, in addition to host and automatic qualifier Japan, one team would qualify by winning the 2019 Premier 12 tournament.

The other four entrants could be determined by continental qualifying tournaments: two from the Americas, one from Europe-Africa and one from Asia-Oceania.

Fraccari says: “It’s going to be a battle to the last out.”

A combined baseball-softball bid was among five additional sports recommended last month by Tokyo organizers. Karate, surfing, skateboarding and sports climbing were the others.

The IOC will make a final decision in August.

MORE BASEBALL: Mark McGwire remembers Olympic baseball boom in 1984

Shaun White on Torino 2006, Andre Agassi, more

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Shaun White discussed myriad topics at the Forbes Under 30 Summit on Tuesday, including skateboarding at the Olympics and what’s next in snowboarding.

Check out his future Olympic thoughts (and more) here.

There was more from the 28-minute conversation. Here are other noteworthy tidbits from one of the greatest U.S. Winter Olympians:

On becoming a businessman: “The time came where they wanted me to do signature products. I’m thinking, wow, what do I do in this scenario? So I went to my older brother, a really talented artist, really great guy. He helped me with all those things. As you start to develop your own products, and you test them, you send them out there into the world. There’s some kid sitting there looking at this entire rack of clothing or goggles or whatever it is, and he picks your goggles. I mean, there’s something special about that connection to the fan, or to the consumer. For me, that’s when I really thought, wow, I spent so much time sitting here, trying to get this company to think the way that I do, it would be so much easier to cut out that middle man and do my own thing and do my own product lines.”

On the Torino 2006 Olympic title at age 19: “It was heavy. I don’t know. I think everything just changed. It went from me going outside to being kind of recognized, or maybe recognized, to I was going to get spotted. Somebody was going to say something to me. People had won before me, but there was something about the way I could talk to the audience, or my fans. I always felt like the same guy, just extraordinary things kept happening to me through hard work. Something about, I had huge red hair and all these things. So I was recognizable. It really took off for me.”

On White’s owned Air & Style brand versus the X Games or Dew Tour: “I just see us as such a completely different thing. We’re new. It’s fun. It’s fresh. We can be kind of nimble and do different things, where if you’re X Games, you’re embedded in this thing. Your name is extreme games. You’re stuck in this kind of playing field, where I feel like we can kind of dance between genres of art and music and fashion and all the things that kind of represent the sport. It’s kind of like taking an old brand that somebody already knows, and it’s like, ‘Wow, these are mom jeans, I don’t wear these jeans.’ You know what I mean? And then somebody trying to like revamp that company. It’s almost a lot harder to turn the ship around than just build a new one in that sense. At least that’s my take on it.”

White said he learned to play the bright yellow Fender Stratocaster guitar he won as a Winter X Games prize by practicing in hotels and airport lounges, but he kept it a secret from the media at first.

“I didn’t want somebody to like corrupt it in a sense and put me on stage with a guitar trying to do a really terrible cover of Led Zeppelin or something,” he said.

Also Tuesday, White repeated that losing in Sochi was one of the best things that could have happened to him. Video of that response here. He expressed similar sentiments in interviews around this time last year.

And finally, White praised 1996 Olympic tennis gold medalist Andre Agassi. The two are noted friends and have snowboarded together. White said he was inspired by reading Agassi’s autobiography, “Open.”

“He started to win when he really realized that tennis wasn’t his life,” White said. “It was just what he did. It allowed him to kind of go onto the court and leave it on the court. You know what I mean? He would do his match, and he’d be like, you know what, win or lose, I’m going home to my family and the people that care about me and my life. That really struck a chord with me, because that’s how I felt from the get-go. Well, I do snowboarding, but this is who I am, and this is what I’m about. And so for me to play music or for me to design clothing, or fashion, things like that, it’s not out of the wheelhouse for me, because this is who I really am.”

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