Summer Sanders

Summer Sanders returns to run Boston Marathon again

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Summer Sanders doesn’t usually wear hats when she races, but she fitted a blue Boston Strong cap over her head and set out to train before breakfast Tuesday.

“Everywhere I looked,” she said, “I saw Boston Strong.”

Sanders was running in Hawaii on the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings.

Sanders, 41, will ride a Friday night redeye to Los Angeles, connect to Salt Lake City, drive to Park City and spend some minutes with her family. She’ll grab a carry-on bag, drive back to the airport and fly to Boston, arriving at 4:19 Saturday afternoon.

She’ll take part in her second straight Boston Marathon two days later.

“I’m not complaining because I’m coming from Hawaii,” she said. “No one’s going to listen to any complaints.”

Sanders began running after her Olympic swimming appearance in 1992 — when she won four medals in Barcelona, including two golds.

“The day I retired, I went on a run around Stanford loop with a girlfriend, and I was hooked,” said Sanders, a Stanford alum. “I could have a conversation while exercising, which was totally new to me.”

She increased the distance while working for the NBA in the late 1990s, going for recreational runs on trips to different league team cities. (You may remember her as a host of “Inside Stuff”)

She put the Boston Marathon on her bucket list and, spurred by her 40th birthday, chose 2013 as the year to line up at the world’s oldest annual 26.2-mile race.

Sanders arrived in Hopkinton, population 15,000, best known as the race’s starting town on Patriots’ Day. Emotion enveloped her.

“You realized the significance of where you were when you looked around, and there were no pacers,” Sanders said. “Everybody had already paced themselves to get there. You had to run a qualifying time [to enter], so time was out the window at that point.”

She cried at the beginning. And at mile 17, when she saw her mother and a cousin in the crowd. And over the last six miles, due to the cramping pain brought on by rolling hills. And later recounting the experience on the fall 2013 HBO Sports documentary, “Sport in America: Our Defining Stories.”

“I focused on every moment on the course,” Sanders said. She remembered children along the route offering gummy bears baggies, icy pops and Dixie cups of water.

Boston Marathon security increased after backpack incident

Sanders could barely walk after she crossed the Boylston Street finish line in 3 hours, 33 minutes, 13 seconds. She visited a medical tent, found her mom holding an unmistakable neon green sign, and they walked into her hotel room — No. 911 on the ninth floor, she said — at the nearby Lenox on Exeter Street.

“That’s when we heard the first explosion,” Sanders said.

The first of two pressure-cooker bombs went off at 2:49 p.m. at the corner of Boylston and Exeter, across the street from The Lenox.

“I was already so emotional, every step of that day,” Sanders said. “I just lost it. I didn’t know what it was, but it didn’t sound good.”

The second explosion came 12 seconds later, on the opposite side of The Lenox, a little farther away on Boylston. But it felt stronger and sounded louder. She screamed and looked outside her window.

“I was freaking out,” Sanders said. “Everybody else around me had their wits about them and were calming me down.”

She said the hotel was quickly locked down, and she was told to turn off her cellphone. Are the bombers targeting hotels, she wondered. Sirens blared. A hotel evacuation began within an hour of the bombings.

“Scariest moments of my life, walking down nine flights of stairs,” Sanders said. “Every step, the words out of my mouth were, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God.’ My mom was saying, ‘It’s not our time. It’s not our time. It’s not our time.'”

She exited into a sea of people, estimating half of them had a semblance of what had happened. Military trucks arrived with men in full gear.

“This strange moment of trying to grasp it all,” Sanders said. “I was in and out of just completely out of it to bawling.”

She reached her husband, three-time U.S. Olympic Alpine skier Erik Schlopy, and the rest of her family on the phone. Her 5-year-old son, Spider, heard some of the news and asked if she “had any scrapes or scratches.”

Schlopy told her to find an airport other than Boston’s Logan to fly out, for safety reasons. She went to Logan anyway, determined to land in Utah as soon as possible.

“Erik,” she said, “I just want to get home to you guys. That’s it.”

Sanders was home by 9 o’clock that night.

***

On her Hawaii trip, Sanders recently struck up a conversation with folks who told her they were from Hopkinton. They offered her their bathroom and some water for Monday.

“That’s the Boston Marathon right there,” Sanders said. “That’s what I felt last year. We were in thousands of people’s living rooms as we were running. It felt like a massive, giant hug from Boston.”

Sanders’ daughter, Skye, turns on 8 on Monday. Sanders will run 26.2 miles wearing a “Happy 8th Birthday Skye!” shirt, one her daughter helped make.

She’ll cross the finish in the shirt, quickly she hopes. Her flight home was recently pushed up to 3:50 p.m. She will forgo a post-race shower to make it to Park City in time for Skye’s birthday dinner, because her family will not be with her in Boston.

“I can’t think of a worse day for [my kids] than cheering their mom on for 3 1/2 hours,” she joked.

Sanders said she decided four days after last year’s marathon to return for this year’s race. She had put on all of her Boston gear, including not a hat but a visor, and went out for a run.

“I noticed this strong sense to represent and show ourselves and the world, and most important show the people the hurt us that we are not afraid,” Sanders said. “We are a strong community.

“Absolutely, I had to come back and run Boston.”

Catching up with Bruce Jenner

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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