Alysia Montano

Pregnant runner Alysia Montano reflects on whirlwind week

1 Comment

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.

Obstacles for Tim Howard to return to Brazil for Olympics

Russian skiers banned from Olympics allowed to race World Cup opener

AP
Leave a comment

GENEVA (AP) — Russian cross-country skiers found guilty of doping at the Sochi Olympics can compete in World Cup races this weekend because the International Ski Federation (FIS) has been unable to prosecute its own cases in time.

Six Russians, including two Sochi medalists, were retroactively disqualified from the Winter Games this month and banned from the Olympics for life by the IOC.

FIS previously blocked all six from competing with interim suspensions, but those expired on Oct. 31. The International Olympic Committee judging panel then reached its verdicts this month.

However, FIS said Thursday that its own judicial body lacks key IOC documents to process cases.

“Consequently, the FIS Doping Panel is obliged to wait until the IOC Disciplinary Commission reasoned decisions are submitted with details of the evidence relied on,” said the governing body, which is responsible for imposing competition bans.

“As a consequence the active athletes are eligible to compete in FIS including World Cup competitions for the time being,” FIS said.

The World Cup season for men and women begins Friday in Ruka, Finland, with sprint and long-distance racing.

Organizers had not published starting lists Thursday for the three-day meeting and it was unclear which of the six intend to start.

Alexander Legkov and Maxim Vylegzhanin both won multiple medals in Sochi but were stripped by the IOC. The others suspended by the IOC were Evgeny Belov, Alexei Petukhov, Yulia Ivanova and Evgenia Shapovalova.

FIS said rules governed by the World Anti-Doping Agency meant it could not re-impose interim bans without “a specific allegation” plus evidence.

Attempting to assure cross-country skiers they will not be competing against doped rivals, FIS said an additional and independent testing program for Russians has been in operation since June and has taken about 250 blood and urine samples.

The three-man IOC disciplinary panel — chaired by Denis Oswald, a Swiss lawyer and member of the Olympic body’s executive board — has not issued detailed reasons for judgments in 10 cases from Sochi so far completed in cross-country skiing and skeleton.

Without positive doping tests, the panel used evidence of state-backed cover-ups and tampering of sample bottles in the Sochi laboratory first gathered last year by WADA investigator Richard McLaren.

At least 18 more Russian athletes are having their cases prosecuted in an ongoing series of hearings in Lausanne, Switzerland.

On Wednesday, the International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation said it would update “within the next days” action against four Russians, including the Sochi gold medalist Alexander Tretiyakov and bronze medalist Elena Nikitina.

Nikitina won a skeleton World Cup race last weekend in Park City, Utah — a result which may soon be overturned by the IBSF.

All the Russian athletes disqualified by the IOC can appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

On Dec. 5, IOC President Thomas Bach will announce after a board meeting if the Russian team will be banned from the Olympics, which open Feb. 9 in PyeongChang.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: IOC sets date, time to announce Russia Olympic decision

Aly Raisman shifts focus from 2020 Olympics to new role

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The people come forward to Aly Raisman almost daily now.

Random strangers. Men and women of various ages, races and backgrounds.

They see the six-time Olympic medal winning gymnast out in public and approach with a hug to give and a story to tell.

It was jarring at first, if Raisman is being honest.

When she pitched her autobiography “Fierce” to publishers last summer shortly after the 2016 Olympics, she intended to focus on her journey from tenacious prodigy to champion.

And while all of that is in there, the part of her experience that’s resonated the most since the book’s release earlier this month is the one she wasn’t sure she’d be able to share.

It’s Chapter 22, titled “The Survivors.”

In it, Raisman outlines how she was abused by former national team doctor Larry Nassar, how he “groomed” her by presenting himself as a friendly ear and how she feels he was empowered to continue over the course of years by those in charge at USA Gymnastics.

Raisman spent weeks working on the section, revisiting it again and again, trying to get it just right. Or at least as close to right as she can get.

“I put in a ton of thought whether how I wanted to come forward about this,” Raisman said. “What I realized at the end of the day is that I want change and I want people to understand what exactly abuse is. It’s very complicated. It’s very confusing. I didn’t know that I was being abused because I was manipulated so horribly.”

In the process, Raisman discovered the abuse Nassar committed against other female athletes — including allegations from Olympic teammates McKayla Maroney and Gabby Douglas — is a very small part of a much larger problem that extends far beyond the actions of just one man.

It’s why she took those painful memories and put them on paper, to share with the world that, as she said over and over again, “It’s not OK. It’s never OK.”

The 23-year-old’s new calling makes thinking about a return to competition in time for the 2020 Olympics seem trivial.

“This is the focus,” Raisman said.

A focus that has turned her into an unexpected symbol of strength for others who share their experiences.

“Unfortunately sexual abuse is far too common,” Raisman said. “I’ve realized how many people are affected by it and it’s disgusting. That’s why I want change.”

Raisman has become an increasingly outspoken critic of USA Gymnastics, blaming the governing body for a lack of oversight on Nassar’s conduct.

The 54-year-old spent nearly 20 years as the team doctor for the U.S. women’s elite program, often working with athletes one-on-one.

Raisman declined to get into specifics about the abuse she was subjected to but her experience falls in line with what many other have claimed against Nassar: that he touched them inappropriately while describing it as proper treatment.

Nassar pleaded guilty to multiple charges of sexual assault in Michigan on Wednesday and will face at least 25 years in prison.

He still faces additional criminal charges and has been named in more than 125 civil lawsuits filed by former athletes.

Nassar’s downfall began following reporting by the Indianapolis Star in 2016 that highlighted chronic mishandling of abuse allegations against coaches and staff at some of USA Gymnastics’ more than 3,500 clubs across the country.

Raisman has not taken any legal action yet against Nassar, though she’s not ruling it out.

Her larger concern is educating young athletes and their parents on the warning signs while also loudly clamoring for change.

She has seen a familiar pattern repeat itself over the last 18 months: another gymnast comes out claiming abuse by Nassar, and USA Gymnastics follows with a press release attributed to no specific individual that praises them for their courage.

One of the most decorated Olympic athletes of her generation doesn’t just want words. She wants action.

USA Gymnastics has taken several steps in recent months.

President and CEO Steve Penny resigned under pressure in March and was replaced by Kerry Perry, who takes over on Dec. 1.

The organization hired Toby Stark, a child welfare advocate, as its director of SafeSport over the summer.

Part of Stark’s mandate is educating members on rules, educational programs and reporting.

The federation also adopted over 70 recommendations by Deborah Daniels, a former federal prosecutor who oversaw an extensive independent review.

It’s not enough for Raisman.

She points out Penny wasn’t fired but instead forced out.

Though Nassar’s relationship with USA Gymnastics officially ended in 2015 after an athlete came forward about potential abuse, he was still allowed to continue working at Michigan State University while also volunteering at a USA Gymnastics-affiliated club.

“That is just unacceptable to me,” Raisman said. “(That gym) is a part of USA Gymnastics. USA Gymnastics is responsible for kids at that gym. Instead of doing their job, they let Larry keep working there.”

Raisman would like to see more extensive change in leadership at USA Gymnastics.

She never imagined being an agent for change as she dreamed of the Olympics while growing up in Needham, Mass., but she’s embracing the role as she comes to grips with her own victimhood.

Chapter 22 wasn’t the end, only the beginning.

“I’m still, as you see, processing it,” she said. “I’m still at a loss for words. I’m having so many people come up to me, telling me they had similar experience, that they filed a complaint and it was ignored. I will do everything I can to make sure those people are heard.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Gabby Douglas: ‘We were abused by Larry Nassar’