Henry Ellard

Henry Ellard, former NFL All-Pro receiver, competes at USATF Masters

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Henry Ellard triple jumped at the 1992 U.S. Olympic Trials during the prime of his 16-year NFL career. He’s back in track and field, at 52, for his first USATF Masters Outdoor Championships this weekend.

Ellard is entered in the long jump and triple jump at the Winston-Salem, N.C., meet, where a 65-year-old woman has already run 800m in 2:42 (video here).

A simple conversation sparked Ellard’s return to the sport.

“It’s funny, but my girls all run track, and one day I was out there, and I saw this older guy working on the pole vault, so I went over and started talking to him,” Ellard told the Winston-Salem Journal.

Ellard caught 814 passes for 13,777 yards and 65 touchdowns in a career with the Rams, Redskins and Patriots from 1983 through 1998. He made three Pro Bowls and was twice a first-team All-Pro.

Ellard made the 1992 U.S. Olympic Trials by triple jumping 54 feet, 1 inch, his first time competing since 1986, according to the Sporting News. He suffered a hamstring injury at trials and did not make the team for Barcelona.

“I’m just going to go out there [at Masters] and have a little fun with it,” Ellard told the Winston-Salem Journal. “I remember I was a little disappointed in 1992, so I want to kind of redeem myself a little bit in this meet.”

Ellard isn’t the first NFL wide receiver to take part in Masters Nationals. Chicago Bears Super Bowl champion Willie Gault is the American Masters record holder in the 100m and 200m for the 45-49 and 50-54 age groups.

(h/t @JohnDellWSJ)

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Italian curler roars after hitting shot to qualify for Olympics (video)

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Forgive Amos Mosaner for shouting, for he clinched Italy’s first Olympic curling qualification.

Mosaner’s double takeout in an extra end put Italy past Denmark 6-5 in the last-chance Olympic qualification tournament in Pilsen, Czech Republic, on Sunday.

He rushed down the ice after that last stone, tossed his broom aside, pumped his fist and roared into a group hug with teammates.

Skip Joël Retornaz returns to the Olympics after a 12-year absence. He skipped Italy’s team at the 2006 Olympics, where they earned an automatic berth as host nation.

“This has such a different taste,” the 34-year-old Retornaz said, according to World Curling. “Earning the right on the ice feels great. It feels like a dream for me.”

Denmark later did make the Olympic field as the last nation, beating the Czechs for the spot.

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The Pyeongchang Olympic curling fields:

Men
Canada
Sweden
U.S.
Japan
Switzerland
Great Britain
Norway
Italy
Denmark
South Korea

Women
Canada
Russia
Switzerland
Great Britain
U.S.
Sweden
Japan
China
Denmark
South Korea

Mixed Doubles
China
Canada
Russia
U.S.
Switzerland
Norway
Finland
South Korea

Russia says its athletes want to compete at Pyeongchang Olympics

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MOSCOW (AP) — Russian athletes are overwhelmingly in favor of competing at the Pyeongchang Winter Games despite a ban on the national team, the country’s Olympic committee said Monday.

Sofia Velikaya said the Russian Olympic Committee’s athletes’ commission, which she chairs, has heard from “all the athletes in all sports” on the Olympic program, with a majority in favor of competing.

Velikaya said no athletes have told the ROC they would rather boycott.

“At the current moment, everyone’s training and everyone’s hoping to take part in the Olympics,” Velikaya said.

The International Olympic Committee last week barred the Russian team from Pyeongchang because of doping offenses at the Sochi Olympics, but is allowing Russians to compete under a neutral flag as “Olympic Athletes from Russia.”

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the government won’t stand in their way.

ROC spokesman Konstantin Vybornov said teams from biathlon and snowboard had recorded videos affirming their desire to compete, while the men’s hockey team has written “a collective letter.”

Some Russian hardliners believe it is shameful for athletes to compete at the Olympics without their national flag. But Velikaya defended the athletes, saying everyone watching will know who is from Russia.

“The choice of competing at the Olympics is strictly individual,” Velikaya said. “I call on Russian society to treat athletes’ decisions with understanding and respect.”

With the IOC due to send out invitations to individual Russians over the next two months, Velikaya said Russian sports officials would put together lists of their preferred teams.

Those rosters, she said, would stop the IOC from inviting “numbers five and six” in the Russian team while leaving out genuine medal contenders.

Russia is pushing back against some IOC conditions, however, backing appeals by Russian athletes banned for doping at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Velikaya also said her commission will ask the IOC to remove a condition stopping athletes from being invited to Pyeongchang if they have been suspended for doping in the past.

That affects a few athletes with earlier offenses unconnected to the Sochi Olympics, including biathletes banned for using the blood-booster EPO and speed skating world champion Denis Yuskov, who was suspended in 2008 after testing positive for marijuana.

Forcing the Russians to compete as neutral athletes puts the IOC in the uncomfortable position of regulating how they celebrate.

The Russian flag won’t be flown at medal ceremonies, but what happens if a Russian winner accepts a flag or a gift from a spectator for a victory lap? Can Russian athletes fly the flag from their windows in the athletes village?

Those are on a list of questions Vybornov said Russia will ask of the IOC.

“A figure skater wins, let’s say, and they throw her a teddy bear in Russian uniform onto the ice,” Vybornov said. “She picks it up. Can she do that? Or is that an offense?”

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