Usain Bolt

IAAF announces candidates for World Athlete of the Year

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Usain Bolt is a candidate for track and field’s athlete of the year award, as expected, but he’s by no means a sure bet to take home the title for the fifth time in six years.

Bolt had a stellar 2013, winning the 100 meters, 200 and 4×100 relay gold at the World Championships and losing one race all season, but he did not break a world record. He graded his season an eight out of 10.

“I won, but I wouldn’t say it was in Usain Bolt fashion,” he said earlier this month.

Bolt won the IAAF World Athlete of the Year Award in 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012. Kenyan David Rudisha, the world record holder in the 800 meters, won in 2010, when Bolt was hampered by injury and lost a 100 to Tyson Gay.

Who could beat Bolt this year? Here are the other nine men up for the award:

Mohammed Aman (ETH) — World champion, 800 meters
Bohdan Bondarenko (UKR) — World champion, high jump
Ashton Eaton (USA) — World champion, decathlon
Mohamed Farah (GBR) — World champion, 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters
Robert Harting (GER) — World champion, shot put
Wilson Kipsang (KEN) — Berlin Marathon winner in world record time
Aleksandr Menkov (RUS) — World champion, long jump
LaShawn Merritt (USA) — World champion, 400 meters
Teddy Tamgho (FRA) — World champion, triple jump

The strongest candidates appear to be Bondarenko, Farah and Kipsang.

Bondarenko was the only male track and field athlete to win a specific event at five Diamond League meetings this season and capture a world championship. The lanky Ukrainian also made several failed attempts to break Javier Sotomayor‘s world record of 2.45 meters from 1993.

Farah was the only man other than Bolt to win two individual world championships in 2013. The Somalian-born, Oregon-trained Brit became the first man to sweep the 5,000 and 10,000 at worlds the year after sweeping the events at the Olympics.

The top candidate, though, could very well be Kipsang. The Kenyan became the only track and field athlete to break a world record this year Sunday, winning the Berlin Marathon in 2 hours, three minutes, 23 seconds.

The last time Bolt did not take World Athlete of the Year, the winner, Rudisha, also broke a world record (twice, actually) in 2010.

The women’s winner will likely be Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who, like countryman Bolt, swept the 100, 200 and 4×100 at worlds. She became the second woman to win three golds at a single worlds, joining Allyson Felix.

Fraser-Pryce starred on the Diamond League circuit, too, winning the season titles in the 100 and the 200. She posted the world’s three fastest times of 2013 in the 100 and the two fastest in the 200.

The other women’s candidates:

Valerie Adams (NZL) — World champion, shot put
Abeba Aregawi (SWE) — World champion, 1,500 meters
Meseret Defar (ETH) — World champion, 5,000 meters
Tirunesh Dibaba (ETH) — World champion, 10,000 meters
Zuzana Hejnova (CZE) — World champion, 400-meter hurdles
Caterine Ibargüen (COL) — World champion, triple jump
Sandra Perkovic (CRO) — World champion, discus
Brianna Rollins (USA) — World champion, 100-meter hurdles
Svetlana Shkolina (RUS) — World champion, high jump

Defar is the only nominee to previously win the award (2007). Felix, whose 2013 was cut short by injury, won the award in 2012 after taking triple gold at the Olympics. If Fraser-Pryce wins, she’ll become the second Jamaican woman to take it, joining Merlene Ottey (1990).

Her biggest competition would appear to be throwers. Adams posted the six farthest throws in the world this year and won the Diamond League season title in the shot put. Perkovic won all seven Diamond League meets this year with the five farthest discus throws in the world.

There’s also Hejnova, who won seven of eight Diamond League races in the 400 hurdles and posted seven of the eight fastest times of the year.

The lists will be narrowed to three finalists for each award after an email poll of track and field officials closes Oct. 27. The winners will be announced Nov. 16 after a council decision.

U.S. track and field athlete’s Olympic bronze medal stolen

Mark McMorris hospitalized after snowboarding accident

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Olympic bronze medalist Mark McMorris suffered several injuries including a fractured jaw, fractured left arm, ruptured spleen, stable pelvic fracture, rib fractures and a collapsed left lung during a backcountry snowboarding trip Saturday, according to Canada Snowboard.

McMorris underwent surgery to control bleeding from the spleen on Saturday. He underwent another surgery to repair the jaw and arm fractures Sunday and was resting in Vancouver General Hospital on Monday morning.

“While both the mandible and humerus fractures were complicated injuries, the surgeries went very well, and both fractures are now stabilized to heal in excellent position,” Canada Snowboard team physician Dr. Rodney J. French said, according to the press release. “It is too early to speculate on a timeline for Mark’s recovery.”

McMorris, 23, won bronze in the first Olympic snowboard slopestyle event in Sochi, competing 12 days after breaking a rib.

McMorris has been considered a threat for two gold medals in PyeongChang, with the addition of big air. He earned Winter X Games medals in both slopestyle and big air in 2015, 2016 and 2017, including double gold in 2015.

He has already come back in this Olympic cycle from breaking his right femur in an Air and Style big air run in Los Angeles on Feb. 21, 2016 (video here). His rehab has been extensively documented by Canadian media.

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MORE: McMorris, after horrible injury, ups risk for 2 golds in PyeongChang

Several women’s players spurn worlds inquiry from USA Hockey

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As sports organizations and notable hockey figures express support of the U.S. women’s team, several players say they rejected overtures from USA Hockey to serve as replacements for the upcoming world championships.

Two players told The Associated Press on Friday that USA Hockey reached out to them to gauge their interest for the worlds, which begin next week in Plymouth, Michigan.

Brittany Ott, a goaltender for the Boston Pride of the National Women’s Hockey League, and Annie Pankowski, a junior forward at the University of Wisconsin, said the email from USA Hockey was not an invitation but rather an inquiry about their availability.

“I responded to that email and I said I’m not willing,” Pankowski said.

A third player, goalie Lauren Dahm, told the AP on Saturday she also turned down an invitation. Dahm plays for the Canadian Women’s Hockey League Boston Blades.

The U.S. team has said it plans to boycott the worlds over a wage dispute with USA Hockey, which confirmed Thursday it would begin reaching out to potential replacement players. Several players posted messages on social media saying they support the national team and would decline or have declined any outreach from USA Hockey.

“From a personal standpoint I have never been invited to a USA Hockey series or camp or anything like that and I would honestly love to be invited to something like that,” Ott said by phone. “However at the current time, this is a fight that I believe in and I’m definitely going to stand up and help fight as much as I can.”

Many players posted a version of a Jerry Rice quote on Twitter on Friday: “Today I will do what others won’t so tomorrow I can do what others can’t. I said no to USAH & will not play in the 2017WC.” Not all players who tweeted that message were asked by USA Hockey if they could play.

On Saturday, NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith joined the chorus of support for the players, saying on Twitter the organization stands behind their pursuit of fairness and equality.

“These women understand inequality when they see it and are expressing their right to be treated fairly as athletes and workers,” Smith tweeted. “Of course, they have the NFLPA’s support in daring to withhold their services until a fair agreement is reached.”

Philadelphia Flyers coach Dave Hakstol posted his support on Twitter, calling players competitors and role models.

On Friday, the NHL Players’ Association and Major League Baseball players posted messages of support. The NHLPA posted on Twitter that it supports players and panned USA Hockey’s bid to stock the team with replacements, adding that the decision “would only serve to make relations, now and in the future, much worse.”

The MLBPA encouraged all female hockey players to stand united behind their national team colleagues.

Players are seeking a four-year contract that includes payments outside the six-month Olympic period. The sides met for 10-plus hours Monday, but players have called USA Hockey’s counterproposal “disappointing.”

USA Hockey said Thursday its priority was to have all the players selected for the national team on the ice March 31 when the tournament begins. But the organization added that it informed players’ representatives it would begin reaching out to potential replacements with the tournament coming up.

Star national team forward Hilary Knight said last week she wished USA Hockey luck putting together a suitable team of replacements to defend the gold medal because the player pool was united in the dispute. Ott and Pankowski said they had not heard from any players expressing a willingness to play in worlds.

“It’s a very unified front,” Ott said. “It’s a tight-knit community that we have in women’s hockey here. This is definitely a big opportunity for us to make a big change and have a big impact on our sport and have it grow. We’re all standing together.”

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MORE: Stanley Cup-winning goalie joins U.S. women’s coaching staff