Sanya Richards-Ross

IAAF World Relays schedule, broadcast times, preview

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With no outdoor World Championships or Olympics this year, the IAAF will introduce a new international event, the World Relays, this weekend.

The world’s greatest track nations — from sprinting to middle-distance running — convene in Nassau, Bahamas for events Saturday and Sunday. The World Relays are scheduled to remain in the Bahamas in 2015 and likely to go on a two-year cycle after that, according to Reuters.

The U.S. and Jamaica will be the anticipated head-to-head matchups in sprints. The Bahamas, Russia, Kenya and Ethiopia enter the mix as the distances rise to 4x1500m relays.

Universal Sports will have live TV coverage at 6:30 each night and online coverage at 6:15.

Here’s the schedule (all times Eastern):

Saturday
5:30 p.m. — Men’s 4x200m heats
5:49 — Women’s 4x100m heats
6:15 — Men’s 4x800m FINAL
6:40 — Women’s 4x400m heats
7:12 — Men’s 4x400m heats
7:45 — Women’s 4x1500m FINAL
8:16 — Men’s 4x200m FINAL
8:42 — Women’s 4x100m FINAL

Sunday
5:30 p.m. — Women’s 4x200m heats
5:49 — Men’s 4x100m heats
6:26 — Women’s 4x400m FINAL
6:48 — Men’s 4x1500m FINAL
7:19 — Women’s 4X800m FINAL
7:52 — Men’s 4x400m FINAL
8:11 — Women’s 4x200m FINAL
8:37 — Men’s 4x100m FINAL

Here’s a look at each event:

Women’s 4x100m

Jamaica is the clear favorite here with a team that includes the reigning Olympic and world champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and 2008 Olympic 100m silver medalist Kerron Stewart. In fact, it could field the same quartet that won the 2013 World Championship in a meet-record time.

The U.S. holds the world record in the 4x100m from the 2012 Olympics, but only Tianna Bartoletta returns from that team. Olympic sprint medalists Allyson Felix and Carmelita Jeter are among the Americans not in Nassau.

Men’s 4x100m

Likewise, Jamaica is a favorite in the men’s 4x100m, even without Usain Bolt, since the U.S. is missing its top sprinters from last year’s World Championships and Olympics. The Jamaicans boast three-quarters of their world-record team from the 2012 Olympics — Yohan BlakeNesta Carter and Michael Frater.

The U.S. is without Justin GatlinTyson Gay and Ryan Bailey, who went three-four-five in the 2012 Olympic 100m final. However, they return the fourth man from the Olympic 4x100m final silver-medal team, Trell Kimmons, and three-quarters of the 2013 World Championships final team that won silver — Mike RodgersMookie Salaam and Charles Silmon. There’s also the rising Marvin Bracy, who won 60m silver at the World Indoor Championships in March.

Women’s 4x200m

Fraser-Pryce is also eligible for the 4x200m relay, and she says she’s focusing more on the half-lap distance this year after winning Olympic silver and World Championships gold the last two seasons. But the rest of the Jamaican 4x200m pool is not near her league (maybe nobody else in the world is, actually), giving the U.S. a chance.

Five different U.S. women made the Olympic and World Championships 200m finals over the last two years, but none of them are in the World Relays 4x200m pool. Still, the Americans boast reigning national champion Kimberlyn Duncan, proven veterans Bianca Knight and Shalonda Solomon and Tori Bowie, whose 22.57 this year is faster than any member of Jamaica’s pool who doesn’t have two hyphens in her name.

Men’s 4x200m

Jamaica must prove its depth here to beat the U.S., since Bolt is out and Blake is only in the 4x100m pool. That leaves Olympic bronze medalist and world silver medalist Warren Weir to carry the load, along with Nickel Ashmeade (fourth at worlds) and Jason Livermore (worlds semifinalist).

The U.S. put one man in the 200m final at each of the last three major outdoor championships. All of them are in the pool to challenge Jamaica — 2011 world silver medalist Walter Dix, 2012 Olympic fourth-place finisher Wallace Spearmon and 2013 world bronze medalist Curtis Mitchell.

Women’s 4x400m

This event has seen some close finishes between the U.S. and Russia over the last several years, but it shouldn’t be that way in Nassau.

The field is headlined by Olympic 400m champion Sanya Richards-Ross, who is working her way back from injury. The U.S. pool also includes Olympic 400m bronze medalist DeeDee Trotter and Natasha Hastings and Jessica Beard from last year’s World Championships silver-medal team.

Russia brings back zero members of its 2013 World Championships gold-medal-winning team. That opens the door for Great Britain, with reigning world 400m champion Christine Ohuruogu, and Jamaica.

Men’s 4x400m

This is the marquee event for the host nation, given the Bahamas won the Olympic 4x400m in London. Its entire team from London is back for this meet.

The U.S., a usual favorite in the 4x400m, boasts a group that includes reigning world 400m champion LaShawn Merritt and three-quarters of the team that won the 2013 World Championships final (which the Bahamas did not qualify for) and Olympic triple jump champion Christian Taylor.

Women’s 4x800m

This is another event Russia is deep in, but the top Russians over the last few years are not entered. The U.S. put three women in the 2013 World Championships 800m final, and two of them are in Nassau — bronze medalist Brenda Martinez and sixth-place Ajee’ Wilson — as well as World Indoor 800m champion Chanelle Price.

The U.S.’ top competition could come from Kenya, which is better in longer distances but fields reigning world 800m champion Eunice Sum and 2012 Olympic finalist Janeth Jepkosgei.

Men’s 4x800m

None of the reigning Olympic or world 800m medalists are in Nassau, opening up the field a little bit. The U.S. is led by Duane Solomon, who was fourth in the epic London Olympic final and sixth at the World Championships.

Kenya, with Ferguson Cheruiyot, challenges the U.S. in overall depth, but it is missing world-record holder David Rudisha. Ethiopia is home to the reigning world champion, but it does not have a 4x800m team entered in Nassau.

Women’s 4x1500m

The U.S. pool includes Morgan Uceny, who fell in the 2011 World Championships and 2012 Olympic 1500m finals, as well as the world 800m bronze medalist Martinez. It is missing 2011 world champion Jenny Simpson and the precocious Mary Cain.

Kenya looks like the favorite, with reigning world 1500m bronze medalist Hellen Obiri and the second fastest woman in the world last year, Faith Kipyegon.

Men’s 4x1500m

Kenya is loaded here with three men who made both the Olympic and World Championships 1500m finals the last two years, including world champion Asbel Kiprop. Kiprop and Silas Kiplagat were the world’s two fastest men over 1500m in 2012 and are again so far this year.

Ethiopia has long been Kenya’s distance rival, and this is the only relay distance it is contesting. The U.S. team includes Olympic silver medalist Leo Manzano but not world silver medalist Matthew Centrowitz.

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Iris Cummings, last living 1936 U.S. Olympian, has flown ever since Berlin

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Iris Cummings is one of the last living members of a historically significant, global group: athletes who competed at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. She is the only U.S. Olympian from those Games believed to still be alive.

Cummings, a 99-year-old who still swims regularly, was one of 46 U.S. women (along with 313 U.S. men) who competed at the Berlin Olympics, best known for Jesse Owens triumphing in the face of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany.

Since swimmer Adolph Kiefer‘s death in May 2017, the breaststroker Cummings and canoeist John Lysak were the last living 1936 U.S. Olympians. Olympic historians recently learned that Lysak died in January at 105 years old (which Lysak’s family confirmed this week).

Lysak, born in New Jersey, turned 4 years old when his mom died in 1918 due to the flu pandemic. He was orphaned by his father, overwhelmed with taking care of a farm and four children.

Lysak got a bike to handle a paper route as a boy. That allowed him to sneak down to the Hudson River and row with homemade boats with his younger brother, Steven, who became a 1948 Olympic gold and silver medalist.

“I couldn’t swim, but I floated with a log,” Lysak told NBC Sports for the 2016 film “More than Gold,” about Owens and the 1936 Olympics. “I grew up paddling.”

He specialized at the Yonkers Canoe Club, made the Olympic team and finished seventh in a 10km doubles event with James O’Rourke in Berlin. Lysak later became a Marine and served during World War II.

Lysak spent his last years in California, where Cummings learned to swim off the Pacific beaches as a girl around the time of the Great Depression.

Cummings credited an ability to become an Olympian and one of the first women to fly U.S. military aircraft to her parents, who met while serving in France during World War I. Her father was a medic and sports doctor. Her mother a member of the American Red Cross canteen service.

She said her father, an all-around athlete, gave up a chance to try out for the first modern Olympics in 1896 to attend Tufts University School of Medicine.

“My mother provided the intellectual and academic inspiration from her rare perspective as a woman college graduate and a high school language teacher when very few women ever went to college,” Cummings told NBC Sports in an interview for “More than Gold.”

In 1928, Cummings’ dad took her to her the National Air Races at what is now Los Angeles International Airport.

“I watched Charles Lindbergh at the peak of his fame fly in the air show,” she said.

In 1932, at age 11, Cummings was introduced to the Olympics in person. Her dad was a track and field official at those Los Angeles Games.

Iris Cummings
Iris Cummings (center) competed in the 200m breaststroke at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. (Courtesy Iris Cummings)

All of Cummings’ swimming up to age 13 came in the ocean due to a lack of pools. But from 1934 to ’36, she developed into an Olympian in the breaststroke. In 1936, a 15-year-old Cummings was offered a paid-for, round-trip, cross-country train ticket to swim at a national championships in Long Island, N.Y.

“My mother had to borrow money to buy her railroad ticket to accompany me,” she said.

In a telegraph after nationals, Cummings was told by a California club coach to stay back East for five weeks before Olympic Trials (also on Long Island) because they had no money to send her back and forth again.

“So my mother figured out how we could stay with my grandmother in Philadelphia with almost no place to swim,” Cummings said. They found a country club pool, where she swam after hours while a janitor cleaned.

Cummings placed third in the 200m breast at trials to make the team as its youngest member in an individual event. (Today, only the top two at trials per individual event make the Olympics.)

“They stated, ‘You have made the team, but we don’t have enough money to send all of you,'” Cummings said. “‘The S.S. Manhattan sails in five days. Get out and raise as much money as you can from your hometown.’ My mother and I telegraphed our local newspaper, and a small amount was sent in from Redondo Beach.”

Olympic team members took a 10-day trip on the ship to Germany. Swimmers had one 20-foot-by-20-foot pool in which to train while at sea.

“They pumped the saltwater into it, and it sloshed around as the ship rolled,” Cummings said in an LA84 Foundation interview.

After arriving in Hamburg, U.S. athletes took a boat train that had swastikas on it out of the port.

“Most of us were quite aware of the evolving difficulties or however you want to classify the rise of Nazism in Germany,” said Cummings, adding that U.S. swim coach Charlotte Epstein previously boycotted attending the Olympics. “We’d heard the same rumors [about a U.S. boycott]. We were all wondering if the Olympic committee was going to take action before the boat sailed. That had come up in most everyone’s minds.”

At the Opening Ceremony, Cummings was bored by speeches and instead said she took pictures of the Hindenburg flying above. She had no fear about being there.

“The concerns were from nations that had proximity to the situation like a Belgium, or Holland or Austria,” she said. “We’ve got this passport, I know Margie [Marjorie Gestring, a gold-medal diver at age 13] and I looked at this and said, we’ve got this special passport. They can’t touch us.”

Most of Owens’ events took place before Cummings was eliminated in the first round of the 200m breast. She nonetheless took advantage of passes for athletes to watch track and field at the Olympic Stadium. She saw all of Owens’ races, sitting in an athlete section about 15 or 20 rows above Hitler’s box.

“Whenever [Hitler] came in, we could see him down there,” she said. “He wasn’t very far away.”

Iris Cummings
(Courtesy Iris Cummings)

Eight decades later, Cummings still remembered the crowd cheering for Owens after his victories.

“The whole stadium was rooting for Jesse,” she said.

Soon after the team returned to the U.S., Cummings began attending the University of Southern California. She enrolled in a pilot training program in 1939, earned her license the next year and worked as a flight instructor during the war. Then she became a pilot for the AAF Ferry Command in the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron, later included in the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs).

“None of us thought there were going to be Olympics in ’40,” she predicted, correctly. Not in 1944, either.

She estimated that she’s flown more than 50 types of airplanes.

“There were only 21 of us [women] who ever flew the P-38,” she said, “and there were only four of us who ever flew the P-61 Black Widow.”

After the war, marriage to Howard Critchell and childbirths, Cummings continued to race planes. She developed curricula for the Federal Aviation Administration, founded an aeronautics program at Harvey Mudd College and was inducted into the National Flight Instructors Hall of Fame, among many honors.

“I’ve been flying 76 years, and it’s a privilege to just be around,” she said shortly before she stopped piloting in 2016.

Cummings still flies as a passenger with a former student.

“It’s a treat to be up there with the elements and appreciate it all,” she said. “It’s you and the air movement and the wind and what you can do with your airplane.”

MORE: Wyomia Tyus’ Olympic protest resonates 52 years later

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NBA participation in Tokyo Olympics could be limited, Adam Silver says

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NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the Tokyo Olympics’ effect on the league’s schedule planning for 2021 is unclear, but that it’s possible that Olympic participation may be limited.

“There are a lot of great U.S. players, and we may be up against a scenario where the top 15 NBA players aren’t competing in the Olympics, but other great American players are competing,” Silver told Bob Costas on CNN on Tuesday. “Obviously, there are many NBA players who participate in the Olympics from other countries. That’s something we’re going to have to work through. I just say, lastly, these are highly unique and unusual circumstances. I think, just as it is for the Olympic movement, it is for us as well. We’re just going to have to sort of find a way to meld and mesh those two competing considerations.”

Silver said his best guess is that the next NBA season starts in January with a goal of a standard 82-game schedule and playoffs. A schedule has not been released.

In normal NBA seasons that start in late October, the regular season runs to mid-April and the NBA Finals into mid-June.

The Tokyo Olympic Opening Ceremony is July 23. If an NBA season is pushed back two or three months to a January start, and the schedule is not condensed, the Olympics would start while the NBA playoffs are happening.

The current NBA season is in the conference finals phase in an Orlando-area bubble after a four-month stoppage due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is a factor in our planning,” Silver said of the Olympics. “It would be tough for us to make a decision in January based on the Olympics happening on schedule when that’s so unclear.”

The NBA has participated in every Olympics since the 1992 Barcelona Games. Monday was the 29th anniversary of the announcement of the first 10 members of the original Dream Team on an NBC selection show (hosted by Costas).

Before the NBA era, U.S. Olympic men’s basketball teams consisted of college players.

MORE: When Michael Jordan lost in wheelchair basketball to Paralympian

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