Brian Boitano

Brian Boitano says U.S. delegation has to be careful in Sochi (video)

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Olympic champion figure skater Brian Boitano expressed gratitude and caution in his first interview since being named to the White House delegation to Sochi and coming out as gay two weeks ago.

“When the president named the delegation, and I read in the news what his message was of tolerance and diversity, I thought I have to take this opportunity [to come out],” Boitano said on TODAY on Thursday. “I think the message is so strong, I’ve always wanted to represent my country as best I could. I knew that I had to go past my comfort zone and reveal a private side of my life that I had never done before because I felt that the message is so strong.”

Boitano and two other gay athletes — two-time Olympic hockey medalist Caitlin Cahow and tennis legend Billie Jean King — were among the delegation named by president Barack Obama on Dec. 17.

“I was so honored to be asked by the White House,” Boitano said. “Going through the whole vetting process and being named to the delegation, it was really interesting because I didn’t know who was going to be on the delegation or any part of it.”

He’s set to travel to Sochi the day before the Opening Ceremony. His actions will be scrutinized in Russia, where a law is in place banning the promotion of non-traditional sexual relations toward minors.

“I think that we have to be careful once we go over there,” Boitano said. “I think the statement is already being made by us being on the delegation — Billie Jean and Caitlin — and us standing together, united as gay people showing that there is freedom of speech and we are successful human beings and athletes. I think that speaks measures.”

Boitano urged freedom of expression for anybody in Sochi, though.

“I encourage everybody to do what they feel is best for themselves,” he said. “I never thought that I would be coming out in this way. In a matter of 10 hours, I decided to do it. That was what was right for me at this time. I tell everybody that I think that they should do what’s right for them at their correct time.”

Boitano, 50, came out publicly two days after he was named to the delegation. He said his life has changed and the reaction has been fantastic and supportive.

“I really never felt that I had to [come out publicly],” he said. “I’ve always been a private person. I’ve kept my private side of my life special for family and friends who really knew me. I’ve never been ashamed of who I was. I’ve always been open with them, so I really didn’t feel that there was a need. I’m just a private guy. I realize that there was a public side of my life and a private side. I’ve always chosen to keep my sexuality private.”

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Maria Sharapova on provisional Russia Olympic team

Maria Sharapova
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Maria Sharapova will be on Russia’s provisional Olympic team, as expected, as she waits to see if her meldonium suspension will be lifted in time for the Rio Games, according to Russian media.

It has been known for weeks that Sharapova, the 2012 Olympic silver medalist, would likely meet Olympic qualification criteria via her WTA ranking on the June 6 cutoff. Despite not playing since January due to injury and her meldonium ban.

It has also been known for weeks that Russia’s tennis federation president wants Sharapova on the Olympic team.

Sharapova is ranked No. 23 in the world and second among Russians behind No. 15 Svetlana Kuznetsova. Russia can enter four women in the Olympic singles competition.

If Sharapova is not allowed to compete in the Olympics, the next highest-ranked Russian singles player can replace her.

MORE: U.S. Olympic tennis player refuses to answer meldonium questions

Five events to watch at Prefontaine Classic; broadcast schedule

Vashti Cunningham
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The Prefontaine Classic fields are so stacked that it is the best Diamond League meet so far this season, even with the reported absences of Allyson FelixGenzebe Dibaba, Matthew Centrowitz and Galen Rupp.

In addition to Olympic sprint champion headliners Shelly-Ann Fraser-PryceJustin GatlinSanya Richards-Ross and LaShawn Merritt, the meet features duels between reigning Olympic and World champions in multiple events.

The Diamond League’s lone trip to the U.S. doubles as the best gauge of form this spring ahead of the U.S. Olympic Trials (July 1-10).

The annual meet in Eugene, Ore., is a Friday-Saturday affair:

Friday
USATF.TV — 11:20 p.m. ET

Saturday
NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra — 3:30-5 p.m. ET
NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra — 5-6 p.m. ET

Here are the start lists. Here is the schedule of events (all times Eastern):

Friday
9:55 p.m. — Men’s hammer throw
11:11 — Women’s long jump
11:15 — Women’s discus
11:18 — Men’s shot put
11:37 — Women’s 800m
11:53 — Men’s 10,000m
12:27 a.m. (Saturday) — Women’s 5000m

Saturday
3:15 p.m. — Men’s triple jump
3:18 — Men’s pole vault
3:33 — Men’s 110m hurdles
3:42 — Men’s mile
3:53 — Women’s 100m
4:03 — Men’s 400m hurdles
4:09 — Women’s high jump
4:12 — Women’s 3000m steeplechase
4:26 — Men’s 800m
4:32 — Men’s javelin
4:35 — Men’s 400m
4:43 — Men’s 5000m
5:04 — Women’s 200m
5:13 — Men’s 100m
5:22 — Women’s 1500m
5:33 — Women’s 100m hurdles
5:42 — Women’s 400m
5:51 — Men’s Bowerman Mile

Here are five events to watch (all times Eastern):

Women’s long jump — Friday, 11:11 p.m.

The most loaded field event of the meet. It includes five of the six women to earn medals at the 2012 Olympics and 2015 World Championships, with the lone absentee a Russian who is ineligible to compete due to the country’s ban.

It’s headlined by Olympic champion Brittney Reese and World champion Tianna Bartoletta, both Americans. There’s also reigning World silver and bronze medalists Shara Proctor of Great Britain and Ivana Španović of Serbia and U.S. Olympic bronze medalist Janay DeLoach.

Men’s pole vault — Saturday, 3:18 p.m.

The U.S. is suddenly a factor in this event, after Sam Kendricks became the first American man to win a Diamond League contest on May 14 in Shanghai. The 23-year-old Kendricks has the highest clearance in the world this year at 5.92 meters, higher than anybody from the 2015 World Championships and any American since 2008.

In Eugene, Kendricks will face Olympic champion and world-record holder Renaud Lavillenie of France and World champion Shawn Barber of Canada in a rematch of Shanghai.

Women’s high jump — Saturday, 4:09 p.m.

World Indoor champion Vashti Cunningham is the star here. The 18-year-old daughter of retired NFL Pro Bowl quarterback Randall Cunningham could be an Olympic medal favorite, especially if Russians aren’t allowed to compete in Rio.

Russians took two of three medals at the 2012 Olympics and the 2015 World Championships.

Without them in Eugene, Cunningham could very well beat a field that includes 2013 World bronze medalist Ruth Beitia of Spain and 2005 World silver medalist Chaunté Lowe, a strong opponent for Cunningham at the Olympic Trials on July 3. Lowe is 14 years older than Cunningham. Beitia is 19 years older.

Men’s 100m — Saturday, 5:13 p.m.

Three of the five fastest men of all time line up here in Justin GatlinTyson Gay and Asafa Powell, who were all born in 1982 and likely all seeking one last Olympics in Rio.

Joining them is Andre De Grasse, the 21-year-old Canadian who shared bronze at August’s World Championships behind Usain Bolt and Gatlin.

Gatlin will be the favorite, given he is 31-2 in individual sprints since the start of 2014 with the only losses coming to Bolt at Worlds last summer.

Women’s 100m hurdles — Saturday, 5:33 p.m.

With six Americans in the field of eight, this is arguably the closest event to a U.S. Olympic Trials field. It includes six of the seven fastest women in the world last year.

Only the top three at the Olympic Trials on July 8 make the team for Rio. The top finishers Saturday among 2008 Olympic champion Dawn Harper-Nelson, 2013 World champion Brianna RollinsNia AliKeni HarrisonSharika Nelvis and Jasmin Stowers will become favorites to make Team USA.

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