Nick Symmonds

Nick Symmonds, Duane Solomon look to end U.S. drought in 800 meters

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In London, the U.S. came thisclose to winning a medal in the men’s 800 meters at the Olympics for the first time since 1992.

Duane Solomon and Nick Symmonds ran personal bests in the 2012 Olympic final and finished fourth and fifth, respectively. It was one of the greatest overall Olympic races ever run — from first place all the way down to eighth. Kenya’s David Rudisha won in a world record, and seven of the eight men set personal bests.

“Duane and I were literally tenths of seconds off a medal,” Symmonds said in a phone interview from Moscow. “We both kind of still feel the sting of that. Even though we ran fast. It certainly haunts me a little bit that I didn’t bring a medal home last year. The only thing that picked me up from that disappointment was Moscow was a year away and that I could redeem myself. ”

The end of a 16-year drought is on the line in Moscow, a fact Symmonds is well aware of. The U.S. hasn’t grabbed a medal in the men’s 800 at a World Championships since Rich Kenah‘s bronze in 1997, and it’s never won a silver or a gold in the two-lap race.

That will likely change Tuesday, when Solomon and Symmonds run in the final in Moscow (1:10 p.m. Eastern time, Universal Sports). Yes, Solomon and Symmonds are running well this year, but the bigger factor is who won’t be competing at Luzhniki Stadium.

World Track and Field Championships broadcast schedule

Rudisha and Olympic silver medalist Nijel Amos of Botswana are out with injuries, and Kenyan bronze medalist Timothy Kitum simply wasn’t good enough to make the worlds team this year. Solomon and Symmonds are the top returnees from London in the eight-man final field.

Not only are medals there for the taking, but the gold is also totally up for grabs. The oustpoken Symmonds, who dated Paris Hilton and run a beer mile, says making the Moscow podium will not feel watered-down despite who’s missing.

“This sport is about so many more things than just running fast times and being defending champion,” Symmonds said. “It’s also about durability. Rudisha’s an incredible talent, and I may never come close to his world record, but in this case maybe I’m a bit more durable than he is.”

The U.S. champion Solomon, 28, owns the fastest time in the world this year (1 minute, 43.27 seconds). Symmonds, 29, is the fourth fastest man this year (1:43.67).

The Americans could be considered clear gold-silver favorites if not for the presence of Ethiopian Mohammed Aman, who placed sixth at the Olympics and owns the second- and third-fastest times of 2013.

Any medal would represent a landmark for Solomon and Symmonds, who both failed to advance out of the first round in their world championship debuts in 2007. Symmonds went on to make the worlds final in 2009 and 2011, finishing sixth then fifth. A greater leap may be in order this year.

“Some years when you have a guy like Rudisha, you say we’re kind of fighting for silver and bronze,” Symmonds said. “This year, everybody’s got their eye on the gold.”

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Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal rekindle record bids at French Open

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Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal will play on the same day at the French Open through the quarterfinals, assuming each advances that far and the weather doesn’t wreak havoc. Each time they walk on the crushed red clay, the legends move closer to tying all-time records.

Williams, in her 10th bid since returning from childbirth to tie Margaret Court‘s 24 Grand Slam singles titles, battled and then rolled past 102nd-ranked countrywoman Kristie Ahn 7-6 (2), 6-0.

“I just need to play with more confidence, like I’m Serena,” she said of the difference between a 74-minute first set and a 27-minute second set. “I love the clay, and I started playing like it, opening the court and moving and sliding.”

Nadal, in his second major since moving within one of Roger Federer‘s male record 20 Slam titles, swept 83rd-ranked Belarusian Egor Gerasimov 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.

“Six months without playing a single tennis match is not easy,” said Nadal, who skipped the U.S. Open and then lost his third match at his comeback tournament in Rome. “I had to stop playing tennis for more than two months, so situation is difficult.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Their pursuits are very different.

Williams is already the greatest player in history by many measures, especially considering most of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and some at the Australian Open without the world’s best players.

Williams has lost all four of her major finals since her life-threatening childbirth. But she is not the favorite in Paris, despite the absence of 2019 champion Ash Barty of Australia and recent U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka. Williams hasn’t made the quarterfinals at Roland Garros in four years and just went 16 months between competitive matches on clay.

She’s also battling an Achilles injury that affected her during a U.S. Open semifinal run three weeks ago. She’s spent most of her preparation time in France rehabbing.

“A ton of prayer,” she said, noting coming early to a post-match press conference to maximize her subsequent time handling the Achilles. “I’m doing so much for it.”

None of Williams’ potential first three opponents have ever beaten her. Next up: Bulgarian and fellow mom Tsvetana Pironkova, a rematch of their three-set U.S. Open quarterfinal three weeks ago.

Like Williams, Nadal next plays on Wednesday. He gets Mackenzie McDonald, one of six American men to so far reach round two, the most since 1998.

For more than a decade, followers have debated the greatest male player in history between Nadal and Federer (and now Novak Djokovic). But not until winning the 2019 U.S. Open did Nadal move within one Slam of Federer’s total.

Now, Nadal can tie Federer and pass the Swiss if he wins the next two French Opens (and Federer doesn’t win the next Australian Open).

Nadal is going for his 13th crown in Paris, as usual downplaying his favorite status. This time, he’s noting the cool, slow, autumnal conditions and a new brand of tennis ball that is disadvantageous.

“Conditions here probably are the most difficult conditions for me ever in Roland Garros,” Nadal said last week. “The conditions are a little bit extreme to play an outdoor tournament.”

Federer is not playing after two knee operations. Nadal, who at 34 is five years younger than Federer, has the opportunity in the coming matches and months to tip the scales in his favor. And help deny Djokovic, who is 33 with 17 Slams.

Nadal is not one to engage in that GOAT debate. Turns out, neither is Williams.

“You can’t compare two people that are equally great,” she said of Nadal and Federer. “I don’t understand why people want to pit who’s this, who’s that? They both have spectacular careers that 99 percent of people can only dream of and they both deserve.”

Earlier Monday, newly crowned U.S. Open champion Dominic Thiem rolled 2014 U.S. Open winner Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.

Thiem, the 2018 and 2019 French Open runner-up, next gets American Jack Sock, a former top-10 player now ranked No. 310.

Sock took out countryman Reilly Opelka 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 for his first main draw win at the French Open in four years.

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World silver medalist opts out of figure skating Grand Prix

Elizabet Tursynbaeva
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Elizabet Tursynbayeva, the 2019 World silver medalist, said she will not compete in figure skating’s upcoming Grand Prix Series, according to Kazakhstan’s Olympic Committee.

Tursynbayeva noted in stating her decision that world ranking points will not be awarded in the series, which starts with Skate America from Oct. 23-25.

Fields for the six Grand Prix events, held on consecutive weekends through November, have not been released.

Skaters will be restricted to one Grand Prix start — halved from the usual two — and to the event in their home nations or closest to their training locations.

Tursynbayeva trains in Russia, one of six nations to host Grand Prix events.

Previously, Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu announced he would not compete on the Grand Prix due to coronavirus pandemic-related travel risks.

Russian Olympic gold medalist Alina Zagitova, who announced an indefinite break from competition last December, is also not expected to compete. She is hosting a Russian skating-themed TV show but has not announced her future competition plans.

Tursynbayeva took silver behind Zagitova at the most recent world championships in 2019, a surprise given her 12th-place finish at the PyeongChang Olympics. Tursynbayeva withdrew before her 2019 Grand Prix events, reportedly after suffering an injury.

Last season’s top skaters were all first-year seniors — Russians Alena Kostornaya, Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova. The world championships were not held due to the pandemic.

Two-time U.S. champion Alysa Liu will not be old enough for the Grand Prix until the 2021-22 Olympic season.

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