Bernard Lagat

How will Bernard Lagat fare at World Speedgolf Championships?

Leave a comment

Bernard Lagat‘s season didn’t end with the Fifth Avenue Mile on Sunday.

No, the four-time Olympian has one more major international competition left — the World Speedgolf Championships.

Lagat and Fifth Avenue Mile winner Nick Willis, an Olympic silver medalist from New Zealand, are among the entrants at the Oct. 26-27 event in Bandon, Ore.

What is speedgolf?

Let speedgolfinternational.com explain:

Speedgolf is pretty much just what it sounds like; golf played at a very fast pace. Competitors play 9 or 18 holes and run between shots. Scores are calculated by adding the time taken to complete the round and the total strokes taken. For instance, if a competitor shoots a golf score of 80 and it takes 60 minutes to complete their round, their Speedgolf score (SGS) would be 140 (80 + 60).

Competitors generally carry 5-6 clubs in a small bag, wear athletic golf attire, put on their running shoes and they are ready to go.

The only real differences from traditional golf are the flagstick is left in when putting and lost balls are dropped anywhere on the line of flight of the previous shot with a one-shot penalty.

The 2012 world champion, Chris Walker, carded a 77 and a 76 in times of 53 minutes, 29 seconds and 56:59 for a total of 263:28 and an $18,000 grand prize.

Lagat doesn’t have a registered golf handicap, and his personal best is an 89 in five years of playing. Lagat will have to rely on his speed, which is, of course, world class. A course is usually about four miles long, and Lagat’s personal best in the 5,000 meters (3.12 miles) is 12:53.60.

“I’m just going to go there and enjoy it,” Lagat, 38, told Spikes magazine, adding that he’d like to see Michael Phelps give it a shot. “If I get a round of 90 and I run 40 mins I think I’ll be very competitive. The winners of these events are very good athletes, but they are also very good golfers who can hit 71 or 72 shots. To play that consistently and run that fast is unbelievable. For me, a very good day is to hit under 90.”

The world record 109:06, a round of 65 in 44:06 in 2005.

Willis, with a nine handicap, “could be a threat to win,” Speedgolf International executive director Tim Scott told the (Eugene, Ore.) Register-GuardJ.J. Killeen, who played 33 tournaments on the PGA Tour in 2012, is among the best golfers expected to compete.

This isn’t the first time a noted distance runner has ventured into speedgolf. Steve Scott, who ran a record 136 sub-4-minute miles in the 1970s and 1980s, played an 18-hole round in 29:33 in 1982, carding a 95.

Willis has said he learned about speedgolf from Scott’s Wikipedia page.

“Oxygen debt is a bit of an issue, so you have to run slightly within yourself,” Willis told Runner’s World. “The key is to be comfortable not taking long to set up your shot and swing. I have never been one to take practice swings anyway, so I haven’t had to alter my game too much.”

Ben Johnson returns to Seoul Olympic Stadium (photos)

USOC supports athletes expressing themselves after anthem protests

Getty Images
Leave a comment

PARK CITY, Utah — The U.S. Olympic Committee supports American athletes expressing themselves at winter sports events leading up to the PyeongChang Olympics.

Some MLB, NFL and WNBA players kneeled and remained in locker rooms during the national anthem at games over the weekend.

USOC CEO Scott Blackmun was asked Monday if the USOC would support American athletes peacefully protesting during the national anthem this fall and winter at pre-Games competition.

“I think the athletes that you see protesting are protesting because they love their country, not because they don’t,” Blackmun said at a pre-Winter Games media summit. “We fully support the right of our athletes and everybody else to express themselves. The Olympic Games themselves, there is a prohibition on all forms of demonstrations, political or otherwise. And that applies no matter what side of the issue you’re taking, no matter where you’re from. … But we certainly recognize the importance of athletes being able to express themselves.”

Blackmun was correct to reference the Olympic Charter, which states that “no kind of demonstration … is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”

Blackmun mentioned Tommie Smith and John Carlos‘ raised-fist salute at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, which got them kicked out of the Games by the IOC.

The USOC has honored Smith and Carlos. They visited the White House last year with the Rio Olympic team.

“That was a seminal moment not only for the Olympic Movement, but for the U.S. Olympic team,” Blackmun said of the 1968 podium gesture. “Our stance on this has been fairly clear. We certainly recognize the rights of the athletes to express themselves.”

Olympic hopefuls were peppered with questions about possible protests at the media summit.

“One of the proudest parts of being an American is the ability to have freedom of speech,” four-time Olympian Julia Mancuso said. “I really look up to athletes who take a stand for what they believe in. I really believe as athletes that compete for Team USA, when it comes to the Olympics, I like to think it’s a special event. Not like the NFL or pro sports teams that compete every weekend. For us, it’s every four years. I’m proud for athletes that stand up for what they believe in if they really want to have a message to get out. But I like to think of us all as patriotic.”

Elana Meyers Taylor, a two-time Olympic bobsled medalist, is the daughter of a U.S. Marine who served in Kuwait and spent summers in the 1980s playing at Atlanta Falcons training camps.

She said any decisions on demonstrations or whether she attends a post-Olympics Team USA White House visit come secondary to her pursuit of making the Olympic team this winter.

“I can’t afford to focus on what I would do in that situation or how I would react,” Meyers Taylor said, adding that anything would be a “game-time decision.” “Maybe the social climate changes a little bit [before the Olympics]. … There’s a lot to consider.”

Aja Evans, a 2014 Olympic bobsled bronze medalist, the sister of former NFL defensive tackle Fred Evans, did not say that she would follow the football players’ lead.

“I honor and commend anyone that does that,” Evans said. “My way of showing my stance is to continue to try to be a positive influence for my city, for my country. I’m representing Team USA the best way I can.”

NCAA hockey players Troy Terry and Jordan Greenway, both prospective Olympians with the NHL not participating, said they didn’t envision taking a knee during the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

“I’ve always stood for the national anthem,” Greenway said. “I always will.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar details passing on 1968 Olympics in new book

U.S. Olympic men’s hockey player from 2006 has shot at PyeongChang

Getty Images
Leave a comment

PARK CITY, Utah — Though no active NHL players will be in PyeongChang, veteran NHL forward and free agent Brian Gionta could very well play for his second U.S. Olympic team in February.

A USA Hockey official confirmed Monday that the 2006 Olympian Gionta “has a very decent opportunity” to be part of the 2018 Olympic team.

That came in response to a Buffalo radio report that Gionta said it’s looking good for him to play for Team USA.

Gionta, 38, played 15 NHL seasons through last year but is currently unsigned as the NHL preseason continues. The U.S. Olympic team of 25 players named around Jan. 1 is likely to include very few, if any, players with Gionta’s experience.

Gionta was seen at the Rochester (N.Y.) AHL club’s practice Monday (but not taking part), according to media in that area. Gionta could play for an AHL club and be eligible for PyeongChang. USA Hockey wants prospective Olympians to be active in the AHL, NCAA or a European league.

Gionta’s agent has not responded to a request for comment on his Olympic prospects on Monday. Earlier in the summer, Gionta’s agent said that the skater was considering the Olympics.

Gionta led the 2006 U.S. Olympic team with four goals. The Americans lost in the quarterfinals to Finland, their worst Olympic result over the last four Winter Games.

That came during Gionta’s most productive NHL season — 48 goals (sixth in the league) and 41 assists for the New Jersey Devils.

Another Olympian — Ryan Malone from 2010 — embarked on a comeback this preseason and could pursue the Olympics. He has been in camp with the Minnesota Wild. If he doesn’t make the Wild, Malone could play on an AHL contract and be eligible for the Olympics.

U.S. general manager Jim Johannson said this summer that he was interested in some players who “have a rich history in the NHL and with USA Hockey that we think could potentially really help this roster.” Johannson wouldn’t name names then.

Johansson said a “long list” of potential players for the final 25-man roster must be submitted in September.

A U.S. team of primarily European-based players will take part in a tournament in November in Germany. That roster is expected to be named in October.

The U.S. staff will also look at NCAA and AHL players ahead of naming the PyeongChang team.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Olympic hockey schedule released