American Track League debuts in Indiana with Lolo Jones

Lolo Jones
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The new American Track League bills itself as “a track meet within a rock concert.”

The show starts Friday with the first of at least five scheduled meets, highlighted by Lolo Jones, a house band and a 40-yard dash in Bloomington, Ind.

The league, which also has dates set in Charlottesville, Va.; Atlanta and Austin and Houston in Texas, provides more opportunities for home fans to watch athletes from the greatest track and field nation in the world.

“I’m just tired of the U.S. fans saying, ‘Hey, when can I see you run?'” Jones said in a press conference. “I’m like, well, every four years at the Olympics, on TV. Having track races in the U.S. on a regular basis allows our fans to not only watch us every four years. That’s huge.”

Jones is scheduled to make her season 100m hurdles debut after losing more than 20 pounds since placing 11th in bobsled at the Sochi Olympics in February. Jones participated in a shuttle hurdles relay at the Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa, last Friday.

She’ll be joined in Bloomington by Olympic 400m hurdles silver medalist Lashinda Demus, 400m bronze medalist DeeDee Trotter, 4x100m relay silver medalist Trell Kimmons and 1500m runner Morgan Uceny, among others.

Olympic champions Sanya Richards-Ross and Ashton Eaton are slated for league meets later this spring, and Usain Bolt may run in a league meet in August, The Associated Press reported.

”Usain wants to figure out how to be involved,” agent Paul Doyle, the league creator, told the AP. ”We’re discussing different ways to get him in.”

The league was designed to bring more fan interaction to track and field, with fans allowed down on the track, and to cut lag time between events and fit the entire competition in a two-hour window. There will be a house band — The Velveteen Playboys — and a dance team.

“If we can get people to fill the seats, and us on the other end perform at the top of our capability, I think it will work brilliantly,” Demus said.

The U.S. has led the medal table in track and field at the last six Olympics. The American Track League gives the world’s best athletes a chance to regularly compete at home, if it can be sustained through initial hurdles such as a fraction of prize money compared to European meets and the search for a title sponsor.

There are other track meets in the U.S., such as Diamond League competitions in New York and Eugene, Ore. Many stars also enter open college meets in the spring before heading to Europe in the summer.

“We can basically have a platform to stand on outside of just being a lot of individual athletes running in circles,” Trotter said. “This is a great opportunity for us to actually expand and bring a lot of visibility to everyone here in the States.”

One of the intriguing facets of the Bloomington meet will be a 40-yard dash open to anybody to qualify for the men’s 100m, creating a chance to upstage an Olympian in a race.

“It blows my mind,” Jones said. “If they get beat by a regular Joe Schmoe off the couch, their pride is going to be so damaged.”

Sprinters say they’re often asked what their 40-yard dash time is. Kimmons, who owns a 100m personal best of 9.95 seconds, said he has never been clocked in the 40 before.

“I’m going to prove to the world … that [NFL running back] Chris Johnson‘s not the fastest 40,” Kimmons said.

Johnson set the NFL Combine 40 record of 4.24 seconds in 2008.

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12-year-old skateboarders earn medals at world championships

Chloe Covell
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At the world skateboarding championships, 12-year-olds Chloe Covell from Australia and Onodera Ginwoo from Japan earned silver and bronze medals, respectively, in Sunday’s street finals.

In the women’s event, Covell took silver behind Brazilian 15-year-old Rayssa Leal, who was a silver medalist herself at the Tokyo Games.

Frenchman Aurélien Giraud, a 25-year-old who was sixth in skateboarding’s Olympic debut in Tokyo, won the men’s final in the United Arab Emirates. Ginwoo was third behind Portugal’s Gustavo Ribeiro.

The top Americans were Olympic men’s bronze medalist Jagger Eaton in sixth and 15-year-old Paige Heyn in seventh in the women’s event.

Nyjah Huston, a six-time world champion who placed seventh in Tokyo, missed worlds after August surgery for an ACL tear.

Up to three men and three women per nation can qualify per event (street and park) for the 2024 Paris Games. World rankings come June 2024 determine which Americans qualify.

In Tokyo, four of the 12 skateboarding medalists were ages 12 or 13.

Japan’s Kokona Hiraki, then 12, won silver in women’s park to become the youngest Olympic medalist since 1936, according to Olympedia.org. Japan’s Momiji Nishiya, then 13, won women’s street and became the youngest gold medalist in an individual event since 1936.

Worlds conclude this week with the men’s and women’s park events. The finals are Saturday.

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Francesco Friedrich, most decorated bobsledder in history, rebounds for 12th world title

Francesco Friedrich
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A week after his first major championships defeat in seven years, German Francesco Friedrich returned to his winning ways to close the world bobsled championships on Sunday.

Friedrich’s four-man sled won the world title by 69 hundredths of a second over British and Latvian sleds that tied for silver, combining times from four runs over the last two days in St. Moritz, Switzerland. It marked Great Britain’s first world championships men’s bobsled medal since 1966.

Geoff Gadbois drove the lone U.S. sled in the field, finishing 18th.

Friedrich, the most decorated bobsledder in history, extended his records with a fifth consecutive world four-man title and 12th world championship between two- and four-man events.

Germany swept all four titles at bobsled worlds with four different drivers taking gold.

Friedrich had won 12 consecutive Olympic or world titles before taking two-man silver at worlds last week in St. Moritz, Switzerland. He was dethroned in that event by countryman Johannes Lochner.

Friedrich has been hampered recently by a muscle injury from sprint training in late December. Going into worlds, Lochner had won four consecutive World Cup two-man races, while Hall won the last two World Cups in four-man.

Friedrich, 32, said before this season that he plans to make the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games his final competition. Friedrich and push athlete Thorsten Margis can break the record of four career Olympic bobsled gold medals that they currently share with retired Germans Andre Lange and Kevin Kuske.

The World Cup season concludes with stops in Igls, Austria, and Sigulda, Latvia, the next two weekends.

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