Ashton Eaton

Ashton Eaton still the man in decathlon after year filled with dings, rings, swivel chairs

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Olympic decathlon champion Ashton Eaton enters the World Championships a new man, a married man, but with the same title he went into London with — clear favorite.

Eaton, who broke the two-day, 10-event world record at the 2012 U.S. Olympic trials, last lost a major international decathlon at the World Championships. He took silver to American teammate Trey Hardee in Daegu, South Korea, in 2011. Eaton looks for his first worlds gold in Moscow on Saturday and Sunday, the first two days of competition at Luzhniki Stadium.

“I feel just like I did going into Daegu, maybe a little bit more seasoned, a little bit more intelligent,” Eaton, 25, said in a phone interview from Moscow. “But other than that, I don’t really feel different. I feel older. I take longer to warm up. I guess I don’t really feel I have a target on my back or anything like that.”

There’s one big difference in Eaton if you’ve seen pictures of him in Moscow this week: that jewelry on his left ring finger. Eaton married Canadian heptathlete Brianne Theisen in July, a ceremony replete with a hashtag (#theiseneatonwedding). (a disappointment: “I can’t pole vault with the ring on,” Eaton said. “I tried.”)

Eaton’s finally grounded from a post-Olympic frenzy. He’ll never forget some of the activities. Asked to name a little-known highlight, he pointed to a first-class flight to the Netherlands.

“I’ve never flown first class transatlantic before,” he said. “The pilot came back and talked to us, Brianne and I. There was a line of stewardesses in line to get a picture (of us), right before takeoff. I’m like, ‘Wait a minute. What about the safety announcements?’ They’re like, ‘Oh, you’re fine.’ The chairs swiveled. We got ice cream, steak.”

Allyson Felix eyes 200 now; 400 later | World Track and Field Championships broadcast schedule

Eaton won the national championship in June with 8,291 points, well shy of his world record (9,039). That was to be expected in the year after the Olympics, which doesn’t often see too many personal bests in track and field.

Except Eaton did set two personal records in March (javelin, shot put), the same month that a javelin thrown by Theisen in training landed right next to him, grazing his face on the way down.

A minor leg injury from high jump practice forced Eaton out of a meet in Austria in May. Achilles soreness crept up after the National Championships in June. Then his knee gave him problems. Welcome to the life of a decathlete.

“The reason the world record happened last year was that I was in good shape,” he said. “I had literally no injuries.”

Eaton said he could score 8,800 points “without too much effort” on Saturday and Sunday. That would surely be enough to win. Only eight men have ever broken 8,800, and the other seven are not competing in Moscow.

Hardee is the closest rival at worlds. He won the 2009 title in Berlin with 8,790. Also keep an eye on Cuban Leonel Suarez, bronze medalist at the last two Olympics and in Daegu, though we’ve seen very little of Hardee or Suarez this season.

Eaton’s worlds will end Sunday, giving him a week to watch his teammates perform. First comes marriage, though. Theisen competes in the heptathlon Monday and Tuesday.

Theisen, a back-to-back NCAA champion at Oregon, where she met Eaton, could very well medal in the heptathlon. Olympic gold medalist Jessica Ennis-Hill and 2011 world champion Tatyana Chernova are both out with injuries. Theisen, who finished 11th at the Olympics, is ranked fourth in the world this year among heptathletes entered in Moscow.

“I think Brianne’s chances are really good to win gold, definitely medal,” he said. “She’s super pumped up. … If we both win and got the gold, it would be so cool.”

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Copenhagen withdraws as 2021 World Gymnastics Championships host, cites pandemic

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Copenhagen withdrew as host of the 2021 World Gymnastics Championships, citing financial strain as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Gymnastics worlds are usually not held in Olympic years, but the October 2021 edition remained scheduled when the Tokyo Games were postponed to summer 2021.

Denmark’s gymnastics federation board made the decision to not host worlds due in part to uncertainty about the global development of the coronavirus pandemic. That combined with financial losses already associated with the pandemic led to the bowing out.

The International Gymnastics Federation executive committee will “consider all consequences” from Copenhagen withdrawing, including launching a new bid process.

The 2022 Worlds are set for Liverpool, Great Britain, and 2023 in Antwerp, Belgium. Denmark will look into bidding to host in 2025.

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Allyson Felix, Noah Lyles headline Inspiration Games; TV, stream info

Allyson Felix, Noah Lyles
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In Allyson Felix‘s 17 years on the senior international level, she has never experienced anything like what Thursday will bring.

Felix, a nine-time Olympic medalist, will line up at a track in California to race 150 meters. Her opponents will be on the other side of the country — Bahamian Shaunae Miller-Uibo in Florida — and the other side of the Atlantic Ocean — Swiss Mujinga Kambundji in Zurich.

The Inspiration Games air live on Thursday from 2-3:30 p.m. ET on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app. The meet is a repurposed version of a Diamond League stop in Zurich, Switzerland.

“I’ve just been training and training and training, so anything to break it up. … this seemed like something great. I just loved the concept,” said Felix, who memorably raced alone in at the Rio Olympics in a re-run of the 4x100m first round. “I’m not really sure what to expect. I think [it’s] the first time that we’ve all done anything like this. I’m just approaching it to have fun and hopefully give people something to watch and to be entertained by. I think we all miss sports so much.”

Meet organizers had to get creative with the coronavirus pandemic limiting athlete travel and group events. The Impossible Games was first to go on June 11 — in an Oslo stadium with few spectators and even fewer athletes (and others competing in different countries).

The Inspiration Games takes virtual competition to another level. Felix, Miller-Uibo and Kambundji are all slated to sprint at the same time in different locations. As are world champion Noah Lyles, Frenchman Christophe Lemaitre and the Netherlands’ Churandy Martina in a later 200m.

It marks the first meet since the coronavirus pandemic for Felix, bidding to make her fifth Olympic team and first as a mom. The pandemic and restrictions in California forced her to train on streets.

“Everything is still pretty much locked down,” she said. “You can’t get onto a track without jumping a fence.”

Felix admitted she’s “definitely not sharp” going into her first race since February.

“Once we knew for sure that the Olympic Games would be postponed, we really had to think about being at our best a year from now,” said Felix, a 34-year-old bidding to break Michael Johnson‘s record as the oldest Olympic 400m medalist. “In my situation and where I’m at in my career, I had to make some adjustments, just with the level of impact on my body so that I could still be able to continue to train, but to save something and to have that one last time to be at my best next year. I definitely think things have shifted now.”

Lyles raced last Saturday at a small meet in Florida, outsprinting Justin Gatlin in a 100m heat (9.93 seconds to 9.99 with a hefty four meter/second tailwind).

The regular Diamond League calendar is scheduled to resume in August.

Here are the Inspiration Games entry lists. Here’s the schedule of events (all times Eastern):

1:35 p.m. ET — Men’s Pole Vault
1:35 — Women’s Pole Vault
2:05 — Men’s Triple Jump
2:10 — Women’s 150m
2:27 — Men’s 100 Yards
2:41 — Women’s 300m Hurdles
3:06 — Men’s 200m
3:20 — Women’s 3x100m Relay

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s Pole Vault — 1:35 p.m.
Greek Katerina Stefanidi, a Stanford grad, and American Sandi Morris renew their rivalry. Stefanidi will be in California. Morris will be in Florida. Swede Angelica Bengtsson rounds out the field. Stefanidi relegated Morris to silver at the 2016 Olympics and 2017 Worlds. But Morris snapped’ Stefanidi’s streak of eight straight wins in their head-to-head back in 2018 and has bettered Stefanidi in four of their last six meetings.

Men’s Triple Jump — 2:05 p.m.
Double Olympic champion Christian Taylor takes on longtime rival Pedro Pablo Pichardo, a Cuban-born Portuguese, and American Omar Craddock. Taylor bettered Pichardo in five of their last six meetings. In more than 30 meets together, Taylor has lost to Craddock just once (when Taylor has competed in full).

Women’s 150m — 2:10 p.m.
Felix and Miller-Uibo go head to head for the first time since the 2017 World Championships. Their most memorable duel came at the Rio Olympics, where a diving Miller-Uibo edged Felix by .07 for 400m gold. While Miller-Uibo and Felix primarily compete over a full lap, the 150m is closer to Kambundji’s wheelhouse. The Swiss earned 200m bronze at the 2019 World Championships, taking advantage of a depleted field.

Men’s 100 Yards — 2:27 p.m.
Triple Olympic medalist Andre De Grasse of Canada, Olympic 110m hurdles champion Omar McLeod of Jamaica and French veteran Jimmy Vicaut all train in Florida and will presumably be racing at the same venue on Thursday. The 100 yards is scantly contested in top-level meets. Nobody has broken nine seconds in a 100-yard (91.44-meter) race, according to World Athletics. But Usain Bolt‘s estimated 100-yard time en route to his 2009 world record in the 100m was 8.87 seconds.

Men’s 200m — 3:06 p.m.
Lyles has lost an outdoor 200m just once in this Olympic cycle and wouldn’t normally be pestered by Lemaitre or Martina, but these are unusual times and this an unusual competition. Lemaitre is the Olympic bronze medalist but was sixth at last year’s French Championships. Martina, 36, and, like Lemaitre, hasn’t broken 20 seconds in more than three years.

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