John Fennell

Canadian men’s luger came out as gay during Sochi Olympics

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Canadian luger John Fennell had a moment of clarity in a training session two weeks before the Sochi Olympics. A man who had no reservations about lying on a sled and whirling down an icy chute at 85 mph finally felt compelled to face a very different fear.

“How in the world can I be brave enough to go down this hill and not be brave enough to be who I am,” Fennell said.

Fennell decided then he would be true to himself, beginning at his first Olympics. How he came to that decision was reported in the Calgary Herald on Wednesday.

He came out to teammates and Canadian Olympic Committee officials after the luge competition. Fennell’s act of bravery took place in what he called a tough environment. He traveled to Russia feeling like a basket case and very aware of the situation with the nation’s anti-gay legislation. He also knew there were no other openly gay male Olympians in Sochi.

“Of all places, I had to pick out that one [to come out],” Fennell joked in a phone interview on his 19th birthday on Wednesday. “There was quite a bit of hype going into it because of the gay rights issues in Russia, which wasn’t the case when I landed. Once I got there, it was a very safe environment. … Once I got to the Olympic Village, I felt like part of the family.”

Fennell, who started luge at 10 and was a 14-year-old spectator at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, finished 27th in his Olympic debut in Russia, before coming out.

He waited until after the team relay four nights later to tell the first person, Canadian luge captain and three-time Olympian Sam Edney. Fennell was so caught up in what he would say that he didn’t realize he was talking to a man who felt awful.

Edney had just missed perhaps his only shot at an Olympic medal by one tenth of a second hours earlier. Edney, 29, and three more of Fennell’s teammates had finished fourth in the luge relay.

Fennell confided in Edney, who responded with a big hug and told the teenager, “Nothing changes.”

“It was pretty relieving to hear that,” Fennell said.

The Calgary native then told more teammates and Canadian Olympic Committee members before leaving Russia. He told his family and friends when he arrived home in Calgary.

Fennell was one of three 18-year-olds to place in the top 30 of the Sochi men’s luge competition. He’s committed for another four years with an eye on the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. He says he feels perfectly confident to travel to compete again in Russia, or anywhere.

“I think it can be said when you have something eating at you and a lot of emotional stress and anxiety about something, especially in this nature, once that’s been resolved or dealt with, it’s a very liberating feeling,” Fennell said. “You can put 100 percent effort back into training and sliding, too. It will fundamentally shift the way I see my sport.”

Four-time U.S. Olympic Alpine skier switches to Mexico

Anna van der Breggen is first cyclist to sweep road world titles in 25 years

Anna van der Breggen
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Dutchwoman Anna van der Breggen added the road race crown to her time trial victory at the world road cycling championships, becoming the second rider in history to win both events at the same edition.

“This is, for me, pretty good so far,” she said.

Van der Breggen, the Rio Olympic road race champion, won after a solo attack with more than 25 miles left of an 89-mile course in Imola, Italy, on Saturday.

She prevailed after more than four hours of racing by 80 seconds over countrywoman Annemiek van Vleuten, the 2019 champion. Van Vleuten raced nine days after breaking her left wrist in a Giro Rosa crash.

Italian Elisa Longo Borghini took bronze in the same time as van Vleuten after losing a photo-finish sprint. Lauren Stephens was the top American in 11th.

Full results are here.

The race lacked American standout Chloé Dygert, who crashed out of the time trial while leading on Thursday and required leg surgery.

Van der Breggen joined Frenchwoman Jeannie Longo as the only male or female cyclists to sweep the time trial and road race at a single worlds. Longo did so in 1995 at age 36.

Van der Breggen, 30, said in May that she will retire after the 2021 Olympic season.

It will be the end of one of the great cycling careers. She is now a three-time world champion and nine-time world medalist to go along with her road race gold and time trial bronze in her Olympic debut in Rio.

Worlds conclude Sunday with the men’s road race. A TV and stream schedule is here.

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MORE: A more equal future for women’s cycling? Lizzie Deignan has high hopes

2020 French Open TV, live stream schedule

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Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams can each tie Grand Slam singles titles records at the French Open, with daily live coverage among NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel.

NBC coverage starts Sunday with first-round action at Roland Garros, its 38th straight year covering the event. Tennis Channel airs the majority of weekday coverage. Peacock, NBC Universal’s new streaming service, has middle weekend broadcasts.

All NBC TV coverage alo streams on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

Nadal is the primary men’s storyline, favored to tie Roger Federer‘s male record of 20 major titles and extend his own record of 12 French Open crowns. Federer is absent after knee operations earlier this year.

The Spaniard’s primary competition is top-ranked Novak Djokovic, the 2016 French Open champion whose only defeat in 2020 was a U.S. Open default for hitting a ball that struck a linesperson in the throat.

Williams bids again to match the overall Grand Slam singles mark of 24 held by Australian Margaret Court. Williams, a three-time French Open champion, lost in the third and fourth round the last two years and is coming off a U.S. Open semifinal exit.

The women’s field is led by 2018 champion Simona Halep but lacks defending champion Ash Barty of Australia, not traveling due to the coronavirus pandemic. Also out: U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka, citing a sore hamstring and tight turnaround from prevailing in New York two weeks ago.

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MORE: How Jay-Z, Beyonce helped Naomi Osaka come out of her shell

French Open TV Schedule

Date Time (ET) Network Round
Sunday, Sept. 27 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel First Round
12-3 p.m. NBC
Monday, Sept. 28 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel First Round
Tuesday, Sept. 29 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel First Round
Wednesday, Sept. 30 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Second Round
Thursday, Oct. 1 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Second Round
Friday, Oct. 2 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Third Round
Saturday, Oct. 3 5 a.m.-12 p.m. Tennis Channel Third Round
11 a.m. Peacock
Sunday, Oct. 4 5 a.m.-12 p.m. Tennis Channel Fourth Round
11 a.m. Peacock
Monday, Oct. 5 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Fourth Round
11 a.m. Peacock
Tuesday, Oct. 6 6 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tennis Channel Quarterfinals
Wednesday, Oct. 7 6 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tennis Channel Quarterfinals
Thursday, Oct. 8 5 a.m.-2 p.m. Tennis Channel Women’s Semis
11 a.m. NBC, NBCSN
Friday, Oct. 9 5 a.m.-4 p.m. Tennis Channel Men’s Semis
11 a.m. NBC, NBCSN
Saturday, Oct. 10 9 a.m. NBC Women’s Final
Sunday, Oct. 11 9 a.m. NBC Men’s Final