Yohan Blake

Yohan Blake, Lolo Jones beaten at Adidas GP; no high jump WR

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NEW YORK – Yohan Blake suffered a surprising 100m defeat at the Adidas Grand Prix, while Lolo Jones placed a satisfactory third in the 100m hurdles less than 24 hours after flying in from China.

Blake, the Olympic 100m silver medalist, stumbled out of the blocks and clocked a slow 10.21 at Icahn Stadium on Randall’s Island on Saturday evening. He finished second to countryman Nesta Carter, who ran 10.09.

“Everybody saw what happened at the start,” said Blake, in a hurry to escape the media mixed zone. “There’s not much more to say.”

Blake, the top rival to Usain Bolt since 2011, owns a personal best of 9.69 from 2012. He missed most of last season with a hamstring injury.

Blake and Bolt likely will not race against each other this season. Bolt recently pulled out of meets in June and July due to a lack of training coming off a foot injury. The next Diamond League meet, in Lausanne, Switzerland, on July 3, features a 100m showdown between top Americans Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay, who did not run at the Adidas Grand Prix.

In other events Saturday, Jones placed third in the 100m hurdles in 12.77, her first Diamond League meet of the season. Queen Harrison won in 12.62, .01 better than 2008 Olympic champ Dawn Harper-Nelson. World champion Brianna Rollins wasn’t in the field.

Jones, who finished 11th in the Sochi Olympic bobsled competition, flew in from a TV appearance in China on Friday.

“At the start line I was seeing 20 hurdles,” said Jones, whose next meet is the U.S. Championships in Sacramento, Calif., in two weeks. “My body just fell apart at the end [after the first five hurdles].”

The most exciting event was the men’s high jump, where Ukraine’s Bohdan Bondarenko and Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim took a combined five attempts at a new world record of 2.46m. All failed. Both cleared 2.42m, with Bondarenko getting the win with fewer overall misses.

Mary Cain, the 18-year-old who became the youngest athlete to make a U.S. World Championships team last year, was fourth in an 800m. Cain takes her driver’s test Friday, graduates from high school Saturday and plans to run the 1500m at the U.S. Championships.

“[Coach] Alberto [Salazar] wants me to take it slow,” said Cain, adding she wasn’t tapered for Saturday. “We’re training to peak in August.”

David Rudisha notched his first Diamond League victory in more than one year, essentially going wire-to-wire in the 800m in 1:44.63. Rudisha, the Olympic champ and world record holder, suffered a knee injury running in Central Park this time last year. The Adidas Grand Prix was his second Diamond League meet back.

Beijing Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt won for the third time in four Diamond League 400m races this season. Merritt clocked 44.19 against a field that did not include Grenada rival Kirani James.

“For me, it’s not really about times; I just wanted to get the victory,” said Merritt, who will run in the Czech Republic on Tuesday. “It’s a matter of getting these races in and handling business.”

World Indoor champ Francena McCorory captured her 400m by more than one second in 50.15. The field did not include Jamaican world leader Novlene Williams-Mills, who has run 50.04, or U.S. Olympic champion Sanya Richards-Ross.

Tori Bowie continued her surging season by winning the 100m in 11.07. Bowie competed at the World Indoor Championships in March in the long jump. But in the outdoor season she has won three Diamond League sprints with personal bests in the 100m and 200m and the fastest time in the world in the latter.

Olympic and World 100m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce withdrew from the Adidas Grand Prix 200m earlier this week, citing injury.

Jamaican Warren Weir won the 200m in 19.82, the fastest time in the world this year.

Olympic pole vault champion Jenn Suhr was beaten in her Diamond League season debut by Brazilian Fabiana Murer. Suhr, who cleared 15 feet, 6 inches (4.72m) outside in Herald Square on Wednesday, posted 4.70m Saturday and failed at three 4.80m attempts.

Puerto Rican Javier Culson upset Olympic and World silver medalist Michael Tinsley, winning the 400m hurdles in 48.03, the fastest time in the world this year. Tinsley, previously the world leader, was second in 48.56.

New Zealand’s Valerie Adams won her 50th straight shot put competition. Adams, whose brother is Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams, hasn’t lost since 2010.

Ethiopian-born Swede Abeba Aregawi bounced back to win the 1500m in 4:00.13. Top American Jenny Simpson was third in 4:02.54. At the Prefontaine Classic, Aregawi lost her first Diamond League 1500m since Aug. 17, 2012 to Kenyan Hellen Obiri, who was not in Saturday’s race.

USOC chooses 4 finalists for possible 2024 Olympic bid

USOC supports athletes expressing themselves after anthem protests

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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.

The USOC has since 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.”

Olympic freestyle skiing medalists Maddie Bowman and Gus Kenworthy have said they plan to skip the traditional Team USA post-Olympic White House visit due to the current presidential administration. Figure skater Ashley Wagner, too, said she would not go if she had to choose today.

Kenworthy said he was shocked that President Donald Trump believed that athletes kneeling during the national anthem disrespected the flag.

“Those people [servicemen and women] are fighting for the freedom to express their beliefs,” Kenworthy said. “I feel proud to be from a country where we have the right to be able to kind of say what we feel, speak up for what we believe in. I feel that people kneeling before a game is actually quite admirable.”

Kenworthy didn’t rule out a personal demonstration at the Olympics, should he qualify again, but knows he could be stripped of a medal for doing so.

“I’m not saying that I would want to be dictated by fear, and if I was to get a medal and be too scared that it would be taken away from me,” he said. “I think that there’s a way to do things in a way that’s not going to sabotage yourself. You can stand up for something and not throw yourself under the bus.”

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

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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.

USA Hockey confirmed that other players in the potential Olympic pool — at some 100 players at the moment — include Nathan Gerbe. Gerbe, a 30-year-old forward, played 394 NHL games between the Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes from 2008-16 before joining the Swiss League.

Another is goalie Ryan Zapolski, who ranks third in the KHL in goals-against average this season.

John-Michael Liles, a 2006 Olympic defenseman and unsigned NHL veteran, is not interested in continuing his career in a non-NHL league to be considered for the Olympics, USA Hockey said.

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.

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