Five for Friday: What we missed from Moscow


When Russia hosted the 1980 Moscow Olympics, they were part of a Soviet Union waging a war in Afghanistan that later inspired “Rambo III” (and arguably sewed the seeds for other international conflicts). The U.S. and the U.S.S.R. didn’t get along too well back then, so America took its ball home and refused to play (oh, and 64 other countries also boycotted the Games). So, in case you weren’t alive or couldn’t watch because geopolitics got in the way, here are five possibly notable things that happened at the 1980 Summer Olympics:

1. In one of the most legendary moments in British Olympic history, middle distance runner Sebastian Coe narrowly lost to fellow countryman Steve Ovett in a dramatic 800m, an event in which Coe held the world record. Six days later in the 1,500m, Ovett’s signature event, Coe held off Ovett in the final lap to win gold in the 1,500m while Ovett finished settled for bronze. Coe went on to head the British commission that oversaw the 2012 London Games.

2. Russian fencer Vladimir Smirnov won gold in the men’s individual foil competition. Smirnov died two years later when, at the World Championships in Rome, his opponent’s foil snapped and the jagged blade punctured Smirnov’s mask and drove through his eye and into his brain. His death prompted tighter safety regulations of the sport, including of helmets – until then, players often gained a competitive edge by secretly removing some of the heavy protective steel bars in the facemask so they could move more quickly.

3. Much of the competition was diluted due to the 80-country field, the fewest participating countries since 1956. As a result, Russia’s Aleksandr Dityatin became the first Olympian to win eight medals in a single Games when he finished on the podium in every men’s gymnastics competition. He probably loves those medals no less, despite whatever people may say about that year’s competitive field.

4. East German kayaker Birgit Fischer won gold in the women’s K-1 500m competition. That achievement gained more significance when she went to win gold medals in the 1988, ’92, ’96, 2000 and ’04 Olympics as well. She missed out on the 1984 Los Angeles Games when the U.S.S.R. retaliated with their own boycott.

5. In probably another of many examples of what happens when many of the world’s best athletes can’t compete in the Olympics, Spain and Bulgaria earned their first-ever medals in men’s track, while Britain’s Allan Wells won a photo finish in the 100m to bring home his country’s first Olympic title in the event since 1924. His 10.25 seconds wouldn’t have even put him on podium four years earlier in Montreal.

Diana Taurasi returns to U.S. national basketball team

Diana Taurasi

Diana Taurasi is set to return to the U.S. national basketball team next week for the first time since the Tokyo Olympics, signaling a possible bid for a record-breaking sixth Olympic appearance in 2024 at age 42.

Taurasi is on the 15-player roster for next week’s training camp in Minnesota announced Tuesday.

Brittney Griner is not on the list but is expected to return to competitive basketball later this year with her WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury (also Taurasi’s longtime team, though she is currently a free agent), after being detained in Russia for 10 months in 2022.

Taurasi said as far back as the 2016 Rio Games that her Olympic career was likely over, but returned to the national team after Dawn Staley succeeded Geno Auriemma as head coach in 2017.

In Tokyo, Taurasi and longtime backcourt partner Sue Bird became the first basketball players to win five Olympic gold medals. Bird has since retired.

After beating Japan in the final, Taurasi said “see you in Paris,” smiling, as she left an NBC interview. That’s now looking less like a joke and more like a prediction.

Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve succeeded Staley as head coach last year. In early fall, she guided the U.S. to arguably the best FIBA World Cup performance ever, despite not having stalwarts Bird, Griner, Tina Charles and Sylvia Fowles.

Taurasi was not in contention for the team after suffering a WNBA season-ending quad injury in the summer. Taurasi, who is 38-0 in Olympic games and started every game at the last four Olympics, wasn’t on a U.S. team for an Olympics or worlds for the first time since 2002.

Next year, Taurasi can become the oldest Olympic basketball player in history and the first to play in six Games, according to Spain’s Rudy Fernandez could also play in a sixth Olympics in 2024.

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Mo Farah likely to retire this year

Mo Farah

British track legend Mo Farah will likely retire by the end of this year.

“I’m not going to go to the Olympics, and I think 2023 will probably be my last year,” the 39-year-old Farah said, according to multiple British media reports.

Farah, who swept the 5000m and 10,000m golds at the Olympics in 2012 and 2016, was announced Tuesday as part of the field for the London Marathon on April 23.

Last May, Farah reportedly said he believed his career on the track was over, but not the roads.

London might not be his last marathon. Farah also said that if, toward the end of this year, he was capable of being picked to run for Britain again, he would “never turn that down,” according to Tuesday’s reports.

It’s not clear if Farah was referencing the world track and field championships, which include a marathon and are in Budapest in August. Or selection for the 2024 British Olympic marathon team.

The fastest British male marathoner last year ran 2:10:46, ranking outside the top 300 in the world. Farah broke 2:10 in all five marathons that he’s finished, but he hasn’t run one since October 2019 (aside from pacing the 2020 London Marathon).

Farah withdrew four days before the last London Marathon on Oct. 2, citing a right hip injury.

Farah switched from the track to the marathon after the 2017 World Championships and won the 2018 Chicago Marathon in a then-European record time of 2:05:11. Belgium’s Bashir Abdi now holds the record at 2:03:36.

Farah’s best London Marathon finish in four starts was third place in 2018.

Farah returned to the track in a failed bid to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, then shifted back to the roads.

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