Marvin Bracy

Five events to watch at World Indoor Track and Field Championships

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There are no Olympics or World Outdoor Championships for track and field this year, making this weekend’s World Indoor Championships a major highlight on the 2014 calendar.

The competition in Sopot, Poland, lacks sprint stars such as Usain BoltYohan BlakeJustin Gatlin and Allyson Felix. But the athletes who traveled to the Baltic Sea city include Olympic and world champions and rising stars who could be medal threats come Rio 2016.

The U.S. won 18 medals at the 2012 World Indoors, twice as many as any other nation, including 10 golds (no other nation had three). It is in line to win the medal count again.

World Indoor Championships broadcast schedule

Here are five events to keep an eye on:

1. Men’s Heptathlon, Friday and Saturday

Two years ago, Ashton Eaton won his first major international championship at World Indoors in Istanbul, doing so in world-record fashion. It catapulted Eaton to unprecedented outdoor success, a decathlon world record at the Olympic Trials followed by Olympic gold.

Eaton, 26, is back to defend his heptathlon title. His still-standing world record from 2012 in the seven-event competition is 6,645 points.

The top total from the rest of the eight-man field in Sopot is 6,372. It would be a shock if Eaton doesn’t win his fourth straight major multi-event championship.

Eaton’s wife, Canadian Brianne Theisen-Eaton, will compete in the pentathlon Friday.

Don’t take your eyes off Eaton the rest of the year, either. He’s said he wants to try running the 400m hurdles in the outdoor season.

2. Men’s 60m final, Saturday, 2:57 p.m. ET

The World Indoors schedule is smaller than the Olympics or World Outdoor Championships, with 13 events each for men and women. In sprinting, this means no 100m or 200m, but there is a 60m.

The men’s field is missing not only Bolt, Blake and Gatlin, but also the two fastest 60m sprinters this year — Great Britain’s James Dasaolu and France’s Jimmy Vicaut.

That makes American Marvin Bracy the frontrunner. Bracy, 20, won the U.S. Championship in a personal-best 6.48 seconds in Albuquerque, N.M., on Feb. 23.

Bracy is a former Florida State football recruit who turned professional in track in 2013, after his freshman year. He could very well be the future of U.S. sprinting with Gatlin and Tyson Gay being 32 and 31 years old.

The key for Bracy’s star will come in the outdoor season in the 100m, where his personal best is 10.09. He needs to be able to run sub-10 consistently to make waves there.

In Sopot, Bracy’s biggest competition will come from fellow American Trell Kimmons, who lost to Bracy by .01 at the U.S. Championships, as well as 2012 world silver and bronze medalists Jamaican Nesta Carter and Brit Dwain Chambers.

3. Women’s Pole Vault, Sunday, 9 a.m. ET

U.S. Olympic champion Jenn Suhr could win her first World Championship with 2012 and 2013 World Indoor and Outdoor champion Yelena Isinbayeva on a break.

But Suhr will face stiff competition from Olympic silver medalist Cuban Yarisley Silva, 2012 World Indoor bronze medalist Brit Holly Bleasdale  and crowd favorite Anna Rogowska, the 2009 World Outdoor champion and one of Poland’s most decorated track and field athletes ever.

Suhr broke the world record last year, but Rogowska owns the top mark of 2014.

4. Men’s 3000m final, Sunday, 10:10 a.m. ET

Bernard Lagat is still running at 39, and he’s the two-time defending champion in this event. Lagat won the 3000m title at the U.S. Championships in Albuquerque, two seconds better than Olympic 10,000m silver medalist Galen Rupp, who is 27.

If Rupp can’t challenge Lagat in Sopot, look for Kenyans Augustine Choge and Caleb Ndiku and Ethiopians Dejen Gebremeskel and Hagos Gebrhiwet. Choge took silver behind Lagat at the 2012 World Indoors. Gebremeskel won silver in the 2012 Olympic 5000m. Gebrhiwet, 19, is the 2013 World Outdoors silver medalist in the 5000m.

The women’s 3000m final (Sunday, 10:50 a.m. ET) could also be exciting as Ethiopian Genzebe Dibaba has already broken the world record this season.

5. Women’s 60m final, Sunday, 12:05 p.m. ET

This field is loaded. It includes Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who swept the 100m and 200m at the 2013 World Outdoor Championships, 2014 world 60m leader Murielle Ahoure of the Ivory Coast and American Tianna Bartoletta, who won 60m bronze in 2012 as Tianna Madison.

Most eyes could be on the defending champion, though. Jamaican Veronica Campbell-Brown is competing for the first time since it was revealed June 14 that she tested positive for a banned diuretic May 4.

Campbell-Brown, the most decorated Jamaican Olympic champion of all time with seven Olympic medals, was cleared to resume competing by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in February. In June, a spokesman for track and field’s international governing body told The Associated Press the case appeared to involve a “lesser” offense of unintentional use of a banned substance.

“I press on,” Campbell-Brown, 31, said in a February statement. “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of the redemptive quality of unearned suffering, and I must say I am redeemed.”

U.S. female star pulls out of World Indoors

Claressa Shields congratulated by famous boxing actor (video)

Claressa Shields
Getty Images
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Claressa Shields may just be the most dominant female athlete on the planet. The Flint, Mich., native is now a two-time Olympic boxing champion with a 77-1 record and a four-year unbeaten streak.

Actor Mark Wahlberg, who played boxer Micky Ward in the 2010 film “The Fighter,” took notice.

He taped a video that Shields watched before a celebration in her hometown Thursday, according to the Flint Journal.

“You are the true definition of a champion,” Wahlberg said. “You continue to inspire so many people, not only in Flint, but all over the world. I’m so proud of you. Your performance was amazing. God bless you. I look forward to seeing you, and I look forward to doing lots of things with you.”

Now Shields must decide whether to turn professional, which would end her Olympic career.

“Professional women’s boxing is not nowhere near on the same attention level as the Olympics are,” the 21-year-old Shields said, according to the Flint Journal. “I get way more attention than any female boxer who is professional right now with me being an amateur.

“So the goal is to go professional but still have that same attention and same mainstream. Hopefully, if they have the rule changed that the women professionals can come back and fight the Olympics, I would go professional to fight on TV and make a bunch of money but then come back and defend my two gold medals in 2020.”

MORE: Shields becomes first U.S. fighter to win back-to-back golds

Russian Olympic medalists gifts include racehorse

Abdulrashid Sadulaev
AP
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MOSCOW (AP) — Luxury cars, apartments, even a racehorse — being an Olympic medalist in Russia can come with great material rewards but also controversy.

Under President Vladimir Putin, it’s become a tradition for Russia’s Olympic heroes to be showered with large cash sums and sometimes unwanted gifts.

On Friday, less than 24 hours after dozens of medalists were presented with BMW cars at the Kremlin by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, an advertisement appeared online offering one of them for sale, with photographs showing the car still covered in stickers celebrating Russia’s medal haul in Rio.

The advertisement offering the BMW X6 for 4.67 million rubles ($72,000) was anonymous and quickly withdrawn. It couldn’t be independently verified by The Associated Press, though Russian agency R-Sport claimed the seller was a Russian medalist who thought the car was too big and unwieldy.

Figure skater Maxim Trankov, who received a Mercedes-Benz SUV for his gold medal in 2014, said few Olympians could afford to own such cars.

“Has no one thought that these gift cars are not only liable for the tax on luxury items, but also aren’t cheap to run and earnings can’t cover it?” he wrote on Twitter. “I’d sell mine too if it came to it … Or does everyone think all sports pay as well as soccer, hockey or tennis?”

Gymnast Seda Tutkhalyan said she wouldn’t be able to drive her new BMW because at 17 years of age she was too young to have a license.

While online commenters mostly supported an athlete’s right to sell expensive Olympic gifts, many were critical of the government for a display of conspicuous consumption at the Kremlin at a time when Russia’s pension and healthcare systems are under financial strain.

It’s not fully clear how much the prizes have cost the Russian government.

State TV channel Rossiya 24 reported that the fleet of BMWs was provided by the Olympians’ Support Fund, which is backed by a group of Russia’s richest men, but that the accompanying cash prizes of tens of thousands of dollars per medalist came in part from the federal budget.

More awards are on offer from regional governments, many of which made public displays of generosity despite financial troubles of their own.

The Caucasus region of North Ossetia last month promised a free apartment for any medalists from the area, though it isn’t clear if this has happened yet.

In another grand gesture, the head of the restive Dagestan region gave Olympic wrestling champion Abdulrashid Sadulaev 6 million rubles ($93,000) in cash and a racehorse at a lavish welcoming ceremony featured on local TV.

Still, all may not be well for Sadulaev, who’s nicknamed the “Russian Tank” for his habit of crushing opponents on the wrestling mat. He’s already facing an allegation from a Moscow radio presenter of reckless driving in his eye-catching BMW.

MORE: Putin slams Russia’s Paralympic ban