Alysia Montano

Pregnant runner Alysia Montano reflects on whirlwind week

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Alysia Montano is incredibly thankful for the support she’s received after competing while eight months pregnant, but she ceded the spotlight at her baby shower over the weekend.

“People went to my belly,” she said, “and told the baby, ‘Good job.'”

Montano, a five-time U.S. outdoor champion and Olympian, ran a preliminary 800m heat at the U.S. Championships in Sacramento, Calif., on Thursday, with her pink jersey stretching over her baby bump.

Her goals were to not get lapped and to raise awareness about the importance of exercising during pregnancy. She accomplished both, finishing 25 seconds behind the field and easily becoming the biggest story of the meet.

When her two laps were up, she remembered being the first competitor to receive a water bottle. Then, USA Track and Field medical staff quickly checked her heart rate, pulse and the baby’s well being.

“They cleared me, and everything was good,” Montano said. “I’m like, thank you, can I have some more water?”

Media gathered quickly, contacting her manager (who is also her husband), calling her parents and even showing up at her parents’ house.

“I have no idea how they got there,” Montano said. “I recognized that this is going to be a big thing.”

The reactions came first from track and field followers, then social media and in person, such as at her 10-year high school reunion over the weekend. They’ve been 90 percent positive, Montano said.

She was featured on “SportsCenter,” cable news shows, “Good Morning Sacramento” and “Good Day LA.”

“It’s been an amazing whirlwind, more than we expected or imagined,” Montano said. “I imagined that it would be among the running community and maybe a little bit the athletic community. I’m so happy that it went national and even touching a little bit globally.”

Media from the United Kingdom, Australia and Japan requested her time. She said she made the front page of a Swiss newspaper. She’s graciously granted requests, keeping in mind her Aug. 13 due date is approaching.

Fitness is key, too. She alternated walking, running and swimming before recently “coasting in” as she calls it with easier runs, walks and ElliptiGO work. Montano said Wednesday was her relaxing day — about an hour’s worth of circuit training.

She’s drawn inspiration from many, many sources, but track fans will recognize one name in particular — two-time Olympian Kara Goucher.

She asked questions of the distance runner before she competed in Sacramento. On Sept. 25, 2010, Goucher jogged five miles in the morning, lifted weights and gave birth to her first child in the evening.

“My doctor was a runner and she told me I could run through the pregnancy,” Goucher told Sports Illustrated in 2011.

“It was so nice to have a woman that has done it before me to help pave the way,” Montano said.

In the last week, Montano traveled up and down the California coast by plane, train and automobile, from her Bay Area residence to Sacramento to her hometown of Canyon Country in Los Angeles County and back to the Bay Area.

She made sure not to miss a specific appointment on Tuesday — watching the thrilling U.S.-Belgium World Cup match.

“I almost went into labor during the soccer game,” she joked.

She also laughed when asked what she’ll tell her first child about the last seven days.

“These are going to be the most amazing baby photos, pregnant bump photos for our child to have,” she said.

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U.S. figure skating could have its best world team since 2006

Nathan Chen performs during the men's free skate competition at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
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KANSAS CITY — U.S. figure skating has a shot at medals in three of four disciplines at the world championships in Helsinki in two months, which hasn’t happened in 11 years.

Before this year, the U.S. men and U.S. women hadn’t boasted simultaneous medal contenders in a decade. Johnny Weir and Evan Lysacek spent the 2010 Olympic cycle in the world elite, while the U.S. women faded. After they stopped competing, Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold moved into the women’s medal field while the U.S. searched for a new leading man.

He’s arrived. Nathan Chen confirmed he is one of the world’s best male skaters by landing a record seven quadruple jumps between two programs at Sprint Center this past week.

The 17-year-old already made the podium in an event that featured the world’s best, earning silver at the Grand Prix Final in December. Chen struggled with his short-program jumps at the Grand Prix Final and attempted one fewer quad overall yet still outscored everybody but Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu.

Of all of the U.S. medal hopes at worlds, Chen may face the stiffest trio of challengers. Not only is there Hanyu, but also two-time reigning world champion Javier Fernandez of Spain, plus Japan’s Shoma Uno, all of whom rank higher than Chen in best total scores in international competition this season.

MORE: Chen believes Olympic gold is possible after U.S. title

Wagner, who shares a coach with Chen, did not have her best nationals. She finished second to surprise winner Karen Chen (no relation to Nathan), who has yet to factor internationally.

But Wagner said before and after the U.S. Championships that her focus was to peak for the world championships. The goal for nationals was to make the world team, which required not winning but finishing in the top three. Mission accomplished.

The concern with Wagner is that she hasn’t produced a world medal-caliber result yet this season. Her best score from the fall ranks her sixth among women going to worlds. But Wagner has shown in the last few seasons that she can pull it together for major events. There’s her 2016 World Championships silver medal, plus her three straight Grand Prix Final medals from 2012-14.

At worlds, Wagner will have to deal with a Russian trio capable of sweeping the podium, three strong Japanese skaters, plus the revelation of this season, Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond.

VIDEO: Wagner passed Puffs in emotional press conference moment

The U.S.’ strongest discipline continues to be ice dance. Maia and Alex Shibutani and Madison Chock and Evan Bates finished second and third at the 2016 World Championships. They went one-two at the U.S. Championships this past week.

But two ice dance medals don’t appear to be in the cards in Helsinki. That’s because Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who earned gold and silver at the last two Olympics, came back this season after a two-year break.

Virtue and Moir broke international scoring records in the fall, sweeping their four starts. The two-time reigning world champions, Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France, also beat the U.S. couples at the Grand Prix Final.

The Shibutani siblings and Chock and Bates have never finished ahead of Virtue and Moir in competition. Neither has bettered the French since the December 2014 Grand Prix Final, either.

But all it takes is one dance medal, plus Chen and Wagner at their best in Helsinki, and the U.S. could go into the Olympic year in its best place since 2006.

MORE: Gracie Gold comments on split from coach Frank Carroll

Laurie Hernandez discusses life after Rio, new book on TODAY (video)

Laurie Hernandez
TODAY
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Laurie Hernandez‘s book, “I Got This: To Gold and Beyond,” is out Tuesday, and the Olympic champion gymnast stopped by TODAY on Monday to discuss its contents and life post-Rio.

An excerpt on Hernandez’s experience in Rio and the story of her floor-exercise wink to judges, is here.

On TODAY, Hernandez discussed another interesting anecdote from the book about tissues.

“Before Olympic Trials, we went out to eat, and I had a little breakdown because practice was really rough, and my routines weren’t coming the way I wanted them to,” she said. “This poor waitress kept bringing me over piles of tissues. … We were leaving, and my sister [Jelysa] told my dad, I’m going to save these tissues. I’m going to give them to her when she makes the team. I’m thinking to myself, you guys are crazy, this is not going to happen.”

Hernandez went on to finish second to Simone Biles at the Olympic Trials and make the five-woman Olympic team as the first U.S. female Olympian born in the 2000s.

The family celebrated the achievement, where Jelysa handed the tissues to Hernandez in a bag.

“Even when you fell, you couldn’t believe in yourself, we were there for you,” Jelysa told her.

“So it was a really defining moment,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez is away from gymnastics while promoting her book and touring with “Dancing with the Stars,” but she is expected to return to the sport at some point.

MORE: Hernandez explains 2017 goals: First date, driver’s license, Law & Order