Phyllis Francis wins upset 400m title; Allyson Felix ties medal record

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Phyllis Francis disrupted the anticipated Allyson FelixShaunae Miller-Uibo rematch, surging in between the stars to win the world 400m title on Wednesday.

Miller-Uibo, who edged Felix by .07 in Rio, was poised to win her first world title through 350 meters. But the Bahamian stumbled with about 20 meters left and dropped back to fourth on a rainy, chilly night in London.

In came Francis, passing Felix to her left and Miller-Uibo to her right to grab gold in a personal-best 49.92 seconds, the slowest winning time in world championships history (that weather).

Qatar’s Salwa Eid Naser was second in 50.06, followed by Felix in 50.08 for bronze. Miller-Uibo slowed home in 50.49.

Francis, 25, improved on her fifth-place finish in Rio. The former University of Oregon standout from Queens, N.Y., was second at both the 2016 Olympic Trials and the USATF Outdoor Championships in June.

“At the finish line I was surprised. I thought I was second or third,” Francis said, according to The Associated Press. “But then they told me, ‘You are first.’ That is crazy.”

Felix, though she didn’t repeat as world champion, bagged her 14th career world championships medal, tying the record shared by Usain Bolt and Merlene Ottey. Felix can pass both of them with 4x100m and 4x400m medals this weekend.

“I cannot lie, I am disappointed to lose one gold tonight, but the championships is not over yet, so we keep going,” the 31-year-old Felix said, according to The New York Times. “But this was the race that mattered to me, the individual race. That is what it is about. So to come up short tonight is never fun.”

In other events, Botswana’s Isaac Makwala continued a whirlwind week by running a pair of 200m races, including one alone, to qualify for Thursday’s final. Makwala, the top-ranked 200m runner this year, qualified safely after being medically cleared to re-run following a stomach virus.

More from Makwala here.

Meanwhile, favorite Wayde van Niekerk squeaked into the final in the last qualifying spot, third in his semifinal in 20.28 seconds. Van Niekerk is trying to join Michael Johnson as the only sprinters to sweep the 200m and 400m at one world championships. The South African won the 400m on Tuesday.

Karsten Warholm became the first Norwegian man to win a world championships race, clocking 48.35 in the 400m hurdles. Also the slowest winning time in worlds history. Olympic champion Kerron Clement took bronze, .17 behind.

Mo Farah headlined the qualifiers into Saturday’s 5000m final, which will be the last championship track race of his career before moving to road racing. Farah has won all five Olympic and world 5000m titles since 2011.

China’s Gong Lijao dethroned American Michelle Carter in the shot put, throwing 19.94 meters. Gong, the 2012 Olympic silver medalist, took fourth in Rio behind Carter, who became the first U.S. Olympic women’s shot put champ.

Carter, who came into worlds ranked fifth in the world this year, took bronze behind Hungarian Anita Marton, repeating her finish from 2015 Worlds.

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Salt Lake City forms committee to weigh Olympic bid

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Salt Lake City has formed an exploratory committee to decide if the city will bid to host the Winter Olympics in either 2026 or 2030 — taking a key step toward trying to become a rare two-time host city.

The group made up of elected officials, business leaders and one key member of the organizing committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City said Monday that it plans to make a recommendation to state leaders by Feb. 1.

The announcement comes after the U.S. Olympic Committee board said Friday that it was moving forward with discussions about bringing the Winter Games to America for either 2026 or 2030.

Because Los Angeles was recently awarded the 2028 Summer Games, a bid for 2030 would make more sense, chairman Larry Probst said Friday.

The USOC has until next March to pick a city; those expressing interest include Salt Lake City, Denver and Reno, Nevada.

Innsbruck, Austria, said Sunday it wouldn’t bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics, taking one more city out of the running. The hosting rights are set to be awarded in July 2019.

The same country hasn’t hosted back-to-back Olympics since before World War II, though when the International Olympic Committee scrapped its traditional rules and awarded 2024 (Paris) and 2028 (LA) at the same time, it indicated it was certainly open to new ideas.

Since 2012, Salt Lake City has been letting Olympic officials know the city was ready and willing to host again with a plan based on renovating and upgrading venues that have been in use since the Games ended.

The city had previously estimated it could put on a Winter Olympics for about $2 billion, but the committee will come up with a new cost estimate, said Jeff Robbins, the president and CEO of the Utah Sports Commission.

Robbins is one of three co-chairs on the committee along with Utah Senate President Wayne Niederhauser and Fraser Bullock, a key player in Salt Lake City’s 2002 Olympics.

Robbins said he thinks the city has a great shot at winning a bid based on the relatively low cost and because it has demonstrated it knows how to maintain venues and keep them in use, putting the city in line with Agenda 2020, the blueprint that IOC President Thomas Bach created for future Olympics calling for less spending on new venues and infrastructure.

There’s an eight-lane interstate running from the Salt Lake airport, which was upgraded for the Olympics, to Park City, which is the home of U.S. Ski and Snowboard. Park City is the host for key U.S. training centers for freestyle skiing, speedskating and cross country skiing.

Overall, the area has hosted about 75 World Cup and world-championship events in winter sports since the Olympic cauldron was extinguished more than 15 years ago.

He said an expanded light rail train line grid around Salt Lake City and a $3 billion airport renovation already underway are two examples of how Salt Lake City is even better prepared now to host than in 2002.

But he and other organizers will also have to answer questions about a bidding scandal that marred the 2002 Games and resulted in several International Olympic Committee members losing their positions for taking bribes.

“You can’t control the past,” Robbins said. “The results of what happened I think would certainly speak volumes. While there was some challenges, we hosted arguably one of the best Olympics ever hosted.”

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Simone Biles announces new coach

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When Simone Biles begins her comeback in earnest next month, she’ll be training under a new coach — Laurent Landi — who coached one of her Olympic teammates, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Landi, a 39-year-old former French gymnast, guided Rio uneven bars silver medalist Madison Kocian at the Dallas-area gym WOGA, along with wife Cecile.

“[Landi] was in Dallas, which is not far away, and had recently left WOGA, and I had worked with alongside him and know how he is with athletes,” Biles said, according to the newspaper. “He does a good job not letting pressure get to the athletes. You can see some coaches get stressed but he doesn’t.”

Biles’ previous coach since she was 7, Aimee Boorman, left their Houston-area gym for a gymnastics job in Florida after the Rio Games.

Biles said last week she plans to return to full-time training Nov. 1 and return to competition next summer.

Kocian is now at UCLA and uncertain to return to elite gymnastics.

Two other Final Five members — Aly Raisman and Laurie Hernandez — have said they plan to return to training for a Tokyo 2020 run. But neither has announced a return to the gym like Biles.

The last member — 2012 Olympic all-around champion Gabby Douglas — has not said whether she will come back.

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