Ashton Eaton

Ashton Eaton makes history at Oslo Diamond League

Leave a comment

source: Getty ImagesAshton Eaton became the first decathlete to win a Diamond League event ever, while Allyson Felix notched her first race victory of the Diamond League season in Oslo on Wednesday.

Eaton, the Olympic and World decathlon champion, captured the non-decathlon event of 400m hurdles in 49.16 seconds.

It was .09 of a second slower than his personal best from Sunday, but Eaton beat an Oslo field that included 2011 World bronze medalist LJ Van Zyl.

Eaton is focusing on the 400m hurdles this season since there are no Olympics or World Championships to defend his decathlon titles.

He is the 10th fastest 400m hurdles man this year and said he would like to break 49 seconds in his next meet, Tuesday in the Czech Republic.

Felix took the 200m in 22.73, continuing her comeback from a torn hamstring at the 2013 World Championships.

The six-time Olympic medalist actually ran .29 faster in Eugene, Ore., two weeks ago, when she finished third against a stronger field.

The Diamond League moves to New York for the Adidas Grand Prix on Saturday.

In other Oslo events, Galen Rupp followed up his 10,000m American record from Eugene with a third-place finish in the 5000m. Rupp clocked 13:03.35, 10 seconds slower than Bernard Lagat‘s American record. Ethiopian Yenew Alamirew won in 13:01.57.

Trinidad and Tobago’s Richard Thompson won the 100m in 10.02, .02 faster than France’s Jimmy Vicaut. The event was missing stars Usain BoltYohan BlakeJustin Gatlin and Tyson Gay.

Djibouti’s Ayanleh Souleiman edged New Zealand’s Nick Willis in the Dream Mile, 3:49.49 to 3:49.83. American Matthew Centrowitz was eighth in 3:52.23.

Olympic champion and world record holder Renaud Lavillenie stayed perfect on the Diamond League season with a 5.77m pole-vault clearance.

Olympic silver medalist Will Claye won his third straight triple jump competition (17.41m), topping Olympic champion Christian Taylor (17.15m). Brit Phillips Idowu, on the comeback trail after winning medals at every global championship from 2008 through 2011, was eighth and last at 16.30m.

American Joe Kovacs upset Olympic and World shot put medalists David StorlReese HoffaTomasz Majewski and Christian Cantwell with a 21.14m throw.

Olympic and World high jump champions Anna Chicherova and Blanka Vlasic were beaten by Russian World Indoor champion Mariya Kuchina, who leaped 1.98m.

Jamaican Novlene Williams-Mills, a breast cancer survivor, won the women’s 400m in 50.06, ahead of American Natasha Hastings (50.6) and 2011 World champion Amantle Montsho of Botswana (51.05).

Kenyan Eunice Sum took the 800m in 1:59.02, ahead of American World bronze medalist Brenda Martinez (1:59.68). South African Caster Semenya was 12th out of 12 finishers in 2:03.68.

France’s Pascal Martinot-Lagarde took the 110m hurdles in 13.12, the fastest time in the world this year. He smashed a field that included the four reigning Olympic and World silver and bronze medalists by .24.

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce out of Adidas Grand Prix

Ashley Wagner, Nathan Chen make for contrasting favorites at U.S. Championships

Ashley Wagner, Nathan Chen
Getty Images
1 Comment

Ashley Wagner and Nathan Chen trained on the same ice for the last three years. They enter this week’s U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Kansas City as favorites, but took different routes to arrive there.

Wagner, 25, seeks her fourth national title, following the worst Grand Prix result of her 10-year career.

Still, Wagner is the 2016 World Championships silver medalist, which carries the most weight of all with the PyeongChang Olympics coming in 13 months.

Wagner, the most accomplished U.S. women’s singles skater in a decade, can become the oldest U.S. women’s singles champion in 90 years.

“Mentally, I’m feeling very confident,” Wagner said last week. “At this point in my career it is very easy for me to get mentally worn out and worn down, but I usually feel strongest when my training is backing me up and when I know that I am physically fit.”

Chen, 17, is an even bigger favorite in the men’s field. The Salt Lake City native is already one of the most accomplished young skaters in U.S. history, taking two novice and two junior national titles.

In this his first senior international season, Chen had the best fall series of a U.S. man since Evan Lysacek won gold at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Chen’s autumn culminated with a silver medal at December’s Grand Prix Final, beating the reigning Olympic and world champions in the free skate.

This week, Chen can become the youngest U.S. men’s singles champion in 51 years. He would do it one year after taking bronze and suffering a hip injury later that day that required season-ending surgery.

“I never thought that I would get there that fast,” Chen said.

MORE: U.S. Figure Skating Championships broadcast schedule

Chen was already working with Armenian coach Rafael Arutyunyan in Los Angeles when Wagner joined the training group in the middle of 2013.

Chen was barely 14 years old at the time, but Wagner, by then already a two-time U.S. champion, had learned about him back in 2010.

Wagner saw Chen win the U.S. Championships novice division at age 10, beating skaters six and seven years older than him, including her younger brother, Austin.

“And my brother retired after that year because of Nathan Chen,” Wagner said with a hint of humor.

Under Arutyunyan, a noted jumping technician, Wagner developed into the top consistent challenger to the dominant Russians.

She endured failure — finishing fourth at the 2014 U.S. Championships and last-place programs at the Grand Prix Final. She experienced success — national and international feats not done by an American since Michelle Kwan.

Most of the U.S. skaters whom Wagner came up with have retired. Her closest recent domestic rivals — Olympic teammates Gracie Gold and Polina Edmunds — struggled with poor performances and injury, respectively, in the last year.

If Wagner prevails as she should in Kansas City, the next step is returning to the podium at the world championships in two months in Helsinki, where three Russians, three Japanese and a Canadian will try to keep her off of it. A second straight world medal would make Wagner the best U.S. hope for an Olympic women’s singles medal since 2006.

“The biggest thing about her is her mental toughness,” Chen said of Wagner, “especially when she goes to competitions and zones in on what she wants to do and comes out with the result she wants.”

MORE: Gracie Gold makes desperate move after rock bottom

Mental toughness is something Chen hopes to develop with experience. He already owns the physical tools, most notably an arsenal of quadruple jumps.

Chen, whose adorable 2010 U.S. Championships exhibition at age 10 aired on NBC, is now electrifying. He attempts six quads combined in two programs.

At his last event, the Grand Prix Final in December, Chen recorded the highest free skate score, bettering Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan and world champion Javier Fernandez of Spain, who both were off their game. He finished second overall behind Hanyu, becoming the second-youngest men’s medalist in the event’s 22-year history.

NBC Olympics analyst Tara Lipinski, who took 1998 Olympic gold at age 15, has, like Wagner, known about Chen since 2010. Lipinski was in Spokane, Wash., for those U.S. Championships seven years ago.

“I remember thinking, oh boy, this kid is so talented, but not really thinking much of it because he was itty-bitty,” Lipinski said of Chen, who has grown a foot since 2010, to 5 feet, 5 inches. “Over time and with growth spurts, everything can change. But that’s why he’s so special. Every year, he improves. You talk about this quad revolution. He’s leading it.”

Chen responded to critics of his artistic skills this season by spending weeks away from Arutyunyan, which the coach supported.

“There is a brain of an adult in this kid’s head,” Arutyunyan said.

Chen went from Los Angeles to work in Michigan under Marina Zoueva, a Russian known for coaching the last two Olympic champion ice dance teams.

NBC Olympic analysts Johnny Weir and Lipinski saw an upgrade in Chen’s artistic components in his fall competitions. If he can challenge the top international skaters artistically, he can beat them with his jumping strength.

“The way that men’s figure skating is progressing, it’s about the quad game and how many you can do,” Wagner said. “It’s starting to look a little bit like ping-pong on the ice. … Going into the next couple of years, the ones that are going to stand out are the ones that do quads and are able to have a full, well-rounded program.”

In Sochi, the U.S. earned no singles figure skating medals for the first time since 1936.

The U.S. hasn’t earned men’s and women’s figure skating medals in the same Olympics since 2002, but it’s certainly looking possible with 13 months until PyeongChang.

“Of course, my goal would be to win the Olympics,” Chen said. “I feel like that’s everyone goal. It’s still a goal for me, but we’ll see how realistic it becomes over the next season.”

MORE: Jason Brown again slowed by injury going into U.S. Championships

Los Angeles 2024 Opening Ceremony plan includes multiple venues

Leave a comment

The Los Angeles 2024 Olympic bid plans to use both the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and a to-be-built NFL stadium for its Opening Ceremony.

The ceremony would start with a portion of the torch relay at the Coliseum, with the flame making its way to the NFL stadium for the rest of the Opening Ceremony, including the cauldron lighting.

The Coliseum “will be filled with 70,000 spectators for a Hollywood-produced program of live entertainment, top musical performances and a live viewing and virtual-reality experience of all ceremony events at the L.A. [NFL] stadium at Hollywood Park,” according to an LA 2024 press release.

The Closing Ceremony will be similar, but in reverse, with the Coliseum hosting the formal portion and the NFL stadium opening for a live viewing experience.

The Coliseum hosted the ceremonies in 1932 and 1984, the previous two times Los Angeles hosted the Olympics.

Opening Ceremonies generally have one venue, though a cauldron has been lit outside the venue, such as at Vancouver 2010 and Rio 2016.

Los Angeles is bidding against Budapest and Paris for the 2024 Olympics.

International Olympic Committee members will vote to choose the 2024 host city on Sept. 13.

MORE: 2024 Olympic bidding news