Mother of three/real estate agent set for track worlds debut

Leave a comment

DENVER (AP) — Her training runs involved pushing a jogging stroller loaded with enough snacks to keep her toddler content. Her core workouts featured exercises as her kids climbed on her back or even joined her. Her schedule sometimes got thrown off for potty training.

This is the program that allowed Sara Vaughn, mother of three daughters, real estate agent and burgeoning 1500m runner at 31 years old, to earn a spot for the world championships in London this week.

She even borrowed a line from her youngest daughter for inspiration at the USATF Outdoor Championships in June with the third and final spot on the line: “My turn.”

“My daughter doesn’t share very well, and when someone has a toy or something that she wants, she’ll say, ‘My turn,’” said Sara, who’s coached by her husband, Brent. “In that moment, it made so much sense. I saw a couple of women in front of me that had something I wanted, and I was tired of not finishing in the top three. It was my turn.”

A standout runner out of high school in Nebraska, Sara competed at Virginia before transferring to Colorado. She got pregnant with Kiki during her sophomore year and later became an All-American in cross-country. She and Brent — a former runner at Colorado — were married July 28, 2007.

They just celebrated their 10th anniversary while training in London. And soon, they will be joined by their three daughters — Kiki, 10, Calia, 7, and Cassidy, who turns 2 on Saturday — a day after the opening round of her mom’s event.

“This summer, a family trip to Europe — that’s something we never would’ve dreamed of without this running thing,” said Sara, who will head to Paris and Barcelona with the crew for some sightseeing after worlds.

To think, she almost stepped away. Heavy emphasis on almost.

With each pregnancy, resuming her running career became increasingly difficult. Last summer at the Olympic Trials — 11 months after giving birth to Cassidy — Sara finished seventh.

Enough almost seemed to be enough. She was largely unsponsored and constantly concerned about spending money for training out of the family’s finances, which, for years, were solely based off Brent’s running deal with a shoe company.

“I had a hard time performing well when our livelihood depended on that performance,” she said.

That motivated her to become a real estate agent in 2013, just to bring in extra funds. On top of that, Brent opened a construction business about 3 ½ years ago.

“Now that we have income and stability, for me, it brought a lot of the joy back into running,” Sara said as the couple recently bought their “forever home” in Boulder. “I can enjoy competing without stressing about whether we can pay the mortgage or for swimming lessons. I don’t have that guilt that goes with running.”

Brent’s noticed a difference, too, with her fitness at another level after not making the Olympic team. She ran a personal-best time of 4:06.64 on June 10.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Brent said. “She has plenty more space to improve over the coming years.”

Brent took over coaching his wife earlier this season. First, though, they had to establish ground rules. At home, he’s Brent. At the track, he’s coach — and what Coach Brent says, goes.

“If I start to complain or whine about a workout, he won’t let that charm work,” Sara said, laughing.

Frequently, Sara will load up Cassidy in the baby jogger to squeeze in between five and nine miles, when the other two are at school.

“I have a love/hate relationship with that stroller,” she said. “I would much prefer never to run with it, because it adds extra stress, and it changes my form a little bit. But it’s such a tool when in a pinch, which is half the time.”

Baby sitters, friends, family, DVDs — to entertain the kids as she stretches — and the drop-in sitter service at her gym have proven invaluable as well.

“It takes a lot of cooperation from my kids, too, to be understanding and forgiving and supportive of their parents,” Sara said. “I’m traveling a lot. I miss recitals every once in a while. They have been awesome and supportive of their mom, which is really helpful.”

At nationals, her game plan was elementary: Stay calm on the first few laps, stay alert in the middle and stay aggressive on the last lap. The mantra “my turn” popped into her mind with the finish line in sight. Her daughter’s saying was the perfect motivator.

“I was so happy for her. I didn’t know how to contain myself,” Brent said. “It was quite a moment.”

So was this: Calling home to tell their kids the news about mom. Each had a different reaction.

“My oldest, who’s been around the sport for a long time, she kind of understands the significance of finally making the team,” recalled Sara, who’s creating a fund to help undergraduate parents so they can earn their degrees. “My middle one, a little less so, but she does understand that it meant she got to go on a cool, exciting trip to London this summer.

“And my youngest one, she’s like, ‘Hey, that’s my mom on TV!’ She was pretty excited.”

Mom’s success wasn’t the only big news around the Vaughn household in recent weeks. Cassidy is getting the hang of potty training.

“Everything feels really settled,” Sara said. “We have life stress, normal stress, but not like we did when all we were doing was running. Not that life is easier — it’s just much less stressful.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Usain Bolt is down to his last, blazing curtain call

Yul Moldauer falls, still wins P&G Champs; world team named

Leave a comment

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Yul Moldauer is a grease monkey at heart. There’s something about having a tool in his hands and a problem to solve that speaks to him, a hobby he picked up from his father while growing up in Colorado.

So when the pressure rises at a gymnastics meet, Moldauer goes to what he calls his “peace zone.” To get there he takes 10 to 15 deep breaths and lets his mind drift away to a garage or a highway somewhere.

The thing is, Moldauer’s current car is pretty reliable and doesn’t require a ton of work. Kind of like Moldauer’s gymnastics.

Staked to a 1.95-point lead heading into second and final day of the P&G Championships on Saturday night, Moldauer overcame a shaky start to hold off Oklahoma teammate Allan Bower and capture the all-around title.

The 20-year-old posted a two-day total of 171.6, a full point better than Bower and nearly two points clear of Olympic alternate Donnell Whittenburg. He leads the six-man team for October’s world championships in Montreal.

“I’m definitely still a little shocked,” Moldauer said.

Joining Moldauer on the world team is Whittenburg, plus Olympians Sam Mikulak and Alex Naddour and other world rookies Marvin Kimble and Eddie Penev.

There is no team event at worlds. Just individual all-around and apparatus finals.

P&G CHAMPS: TV Schedule | Final Five Updates | Results

Maybe he shouldn’t be. Moldauer, who in 2016 became the second freshman to win the NCAA all-around, began the year with an impressive win over Olympic all-around silver medalist Oleg Verniaiev at the AT&T American Cup on March 4. Now he finds himself at the forefront of the next wave for the Americans after most of the core of the national team at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics retired.

Not bad for a kid who was so lean when he arrived at Oklahoma that head coach Mark Williams worried Moldauer wouldn’t be strong enough to handle the increased difficulty at the NCAA and senior elite levels.

“It hasn’t been an issue,” Williams said. “This has been earned.”

Akash Modi, the reigning NCAA champion who has developed a friendly rivalry with Moldauer during their collegiate careers, began the night with the best chance at chasing down Moldauer but ended up fourth thanks to significant form breaks on pommel horse and high bar.

“I wouldn’t say it was a terrible day,” said Modi, who professed his love for Taco Bell on NBCSN cameras after routines. “I just wasn’t really ‘on.’ I didn’t attack.”

Naddour, the Olympic pommel horse bronze medalist, locked up a world spot with a 15.25 on pommels. Naddour made an “I see you” gesture after nailing his dismount on pommels, a nod to the rest of the field that awaits in Montreal.

“Wanted to let them know I’m coming for them,” Naddour said. “It’s not going to be easy this year.”

Whittenburg went through another uneven night but finished with a flourish, posting 14.85 on still rings and a 15 on vault to surge past Modi into third. The importance of reaching the all-around podium wasn’t lost on Whittenburg, who was the top U.S. all-arounder at 2015 Worlds but then missed the five-man Rio squad. He’s finally ready to put the disappointment behind him.

“I definitely feel the confidence and the energy going up for me,” Whittenburg said.

Mikulak, recovering from an Achilles tear in February, finished second on pommel horse and third on high bar to make a compelling case to high-performance director Brett McClure that he’s healthy enough to contribute to the world team.

Mikulak’s injury, however, prevented him from competing in the all-around after winning the last four national titles. Mikulak ceded the stage to Moldauer and Modi.

Moldauer talked about the need to just focus on the little picture and not the big one after taking a substantial lead on the first night of competition Thursday. Maybe, but he appeared jittery during the start of finals. He sailed off the high bar on his first event, scoring a 12.8 that briefly opened the door for the rest of the field.

“I told myself it’s one event,” said Moldauer, whose lead dropped to .65. “I have five other events I can make points on.”

And he did, putting up a 14.95 on floor exercise that equaled the best of the night and put him firmly back in control. Needing only to avoid a total collapse on parallel bars to win, he could hear his teammates clapping as he neared his dismount. Moldauer nearly shorted it, his left leg hitting one of the bars on the way down. When his feet hit the mat and stuck, he raced to embrace Williams and celebrate a title that should make him a force in the program as he enters his prime.

While Williams, the Olympic team coach last summer, knows there’s another level for Moldauer to reach. A national championship is an important step in the process.

“He’s got a certain amount of cockiness,” Williams said. “He wants to show people he’s a performer and he can do really good gymnastics.”

The P&G Championships conclude Sunday with the final day of women’s competition (7 p.m. ET, NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

MORE: Danell Leyva on why he’s retiring

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Aly Raisman speaks out about USA Gymnastics scandal

Getty Images
1 Comment

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Aly Raisman is ready to talk about “the elephant in the room.” And the six-time Olympic medalist thinks it’s time USA Gymnastics joins in a conversation she feels is long overdue.

The 23-year-old is calling for sweeping change in the organization in the wake of dozens of allegations of sexual abuse against former national team doctor Larry Nassar, a scandal that has left one of the U.S. Olympic movement’s marquee programs scrambling and Raisman shaken.

Nassar spent nearly 30 years as an osteopath with the USA Gymnastics program and is now in prison in Michigan after pleading guilty to possession of child pornography. Nassar is still awaiting trial on separate criminal sexual conduct charges in addition to being sued by over 125 women in civil court who claim he sexually assaulted them under the guise of treatment.

Nassar has pleaded not guilty to the assault charges and the dozens of civil suits filed in Michigan are currently in mediation.

Raisman, who was around Nassar regularly at the team’s training facility in Texas and at meets around the globe, declined to talk about whether she was treated improperly by Nassar. She did agree to speak more generally and called Nassar “a monster” and blames USA Gymnastics for failing to stop him and spending too much of the fallout attempting to “sweep it under the rug.”

“I feel like there’s a lot of articles about it, but nobody has said, ‘This is horrible, this is what we’re doing to change,’” Raisman said Saturday after she and other Final Five members were inducted into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame.

Raisman served as a captain for both the Final Five and the Fierce Five that won gold in London in 2012. While several alleged Nassar victims have come forward, including 2000 Olympic bronze medalist Jamie Dantzscher, Raisman is the highest profile athlete yet to publicly reprimand the organization. Raisman said she kept quiet waiting after the initial allegations surfaced last summer, waiting for USA Gymnastics to own up to its mistakes.

While it is taking steps toward creating a safer environment for its athletes, she doesn’t believe it is doing nearly enough openly enough, adding she feels USA Gymnastics is trying to get on with business as usual.

“What people don’t realize is that this doctor was a doctor for 29 years,” Raisman. “Whether or not he did it to a gymnast, they still knew him. Even if he didn’t do it to you, it’s still the trauma and the anxiety of wondering what could have happened. I think that needs to be addressed. These girls, they should be comfortable going to USA Gymnastics and saying ‘I need help, I want therapy. I need this.’

USA Gymnastics launched an independent review of its policies in the wake of the allegations against Nassar and reporting by the Indianapolis Star that highlighted chronic mishandling of abuse allegations against coaches and staff at some of its over 3,500 clubs across the country.

In June, the federation immediately adopted 70 recommendations proffered by Deborah Daniels, a former federal prosecutor who oversaw the review. The new guidelines require member gyms to go to authorities immediately, with Daniels suggesting USA Gymnastics consider withholding membership from clubs who decline to do so.

The organization also named Toby Stark, a child welfare advocate, as its director of SafeSport. Part of Stark’s mandate is educating members on rules, educational programs, reporting and adjudication services.

Daniels said repeatedly that her review wasn’t designed to adjudicate the past, something that doesn’t fly with Raisman. She pointed to the reported $1 million severance package given to former president Steve Penny after he resigned under pressure in March as proof that the organization just doesn’t get it.

“I thought, ‘Wow, why couldn’t they create a program?’” Raisman said. “A million dollars is a lot of money. They could do a lot of things to create change. They could create a program. They could even contact all the families that have come forward and say ‘Can we help your kid with therapy?’”

Lynn Raisman, Aly’s mother, said USA gymnastics needs to “get rid of the people who knew and looked the other way.”

Raisman has used her celebrity and extensive social media reach as a platform to promote positive body image and anti-bullying. She’s currently living in Needham, Mass., working on her autobiography out in November while weighing whether to take a shot at the 2020 Games. (Raisman said last September that she planned to go for Tokyo 2020 after taking a year off from training)

Either way, she wants USA Gymnastics to evolve and stressed there’s a difference between her criticism of USA Gymnastics and the sport as a whole.

The sport is fine. It’s part of the fabric of her life. It’s the organization that needs to change. And she’s clear on the message she wants it to send.

“Everyone is important,” Raisman said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re the Olympic champion or you’re an 8-year-old that goes to gymnastics in Ohio, or wherever you are in the U.S. Every single kid is important and I want USA Gymnastics to do a better job with that.”

P&G CHAMPS: TV Schedule | Final Five Updates | Results

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!