Yohan Blake

Yohan Blake ends Glasgow Diamond League wheeled off in chair (video)

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Yohan Blake fell behind and then fell to the track about halfway through a Diamond League 100m race in Glasgow, Scotland, on Friday.

Blake, the Olympic 100m and 200m silver medalist who missed most of last season with hamstring problems, was wheeled off in a chair. He said he did not finish the race due to a cramp, according to the BBC.

Jamaican Nickel Ashmeade won in 9.97 seconds against a field that did not include Usain Bolt, who hasn’t competed yet this season due to injury, nor top Americans Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay.

It may end a poor, shortened season for Blake. The man who beat Bolt at the 2012 Jamaican Olympic Trials stumbled out of the blocks in his only other Diamond League 100m this season, in New York on June 14 where he ran 10.21.

He also finished sixth in a 200m in Lausanne, Switzerland, on July 3.

In other events, Olympic decathlon champion Ashton Eaton thanked a group of 400m hurdles runners before racing with them. Then he went out and finished second, beating the Olympic gold and silver medalists in the event.

Eaton, who has focused on the non-decathlon 400m hurdles this season since there are no Olympics or World Outdoor Championships, clocked a personal best 48.69.

The decathlon world record holder beat the top two 400m hurdles runners from the London Olympics, the Dominican Republic’s Felix Sanchez and American Michael Tinsley.

“I can’t even believe that,” Eaton told the BBC on the track after the race. “I knew I had Tinsley on my inside, and I was like this guy is Olympic silver/World silver [medalist], I’m like this guy is just going to run up on me and take me out. When he came up on me, I was like, just use him to compete. Just compete. That’s what I did.”

Eaton said before and after the event that it was likely his last 400m hurdles race. He shaved .25 off his personal best.

“I told the [400m hurdlers] in the call room, I was like, you know what, it’s been fun, I thank you for treating me like an athlete, not a decathlete, because I’ve gotten a lot of respect, and I respect them a lot,” Eaton told the BBC. “My very last one, I wanted to go out well. So, I think I did.”

The only man to top Eaton was Olympic bronze medalist Javier Culson, who cruised in 48.35.

How good is Eaton in the 400m hurdles? He’s the sixth-fastest man in the world this year. His 48.69 would not have made the 2012 Olympic final, however.

Eaton may be done with the 400m hurdles, but he may also end his season by contesting another one-off event, the long jump, at a Diamond League meet in London on July 20.

He has his eyes on others, too.

“I’d love to try the triple jump,” he said before the meet, according to the IAAF. “I just don’t have the time, and I don’t have the greatest knees. There are a lot of events that are appealing. I think that’s why I’m a decathlete because I have a genuine curiosity about all the events. I just like to test them out.”

Francena McCorory passed Olympic champion Sanya Richards-Ross on the final straightaway to take the 400m in 49.93. McCorory also edged Richards-Ross at the U.S. Championships on June 28.

Panama’s Alonso Edward edged reigning World silver medalist Warren Weir in the 200m, 20.25 to 20.3. Americans Curtis Mitchell and Wallace Spearmon were third and fourth. Weir remains the fastest man in the world this year at 19.82, with Bolt and Blake’s mentioned setbacks.

American Tianna Bartoletta, an Olympic champion in the 4x100m relay as Tianna Madison, won the long jump with a leap of 6.98m. She beat rising British heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson, who jumped a personal-best 6.92m. Olympic and World champion Brittney Reese was not in the field.

In the 110m hurdles, Brit William Sharman upset the fastest man in the world this year, Jamaican Hansle Parchment. Sharman clocked 13.21 and Parchment was fifth in 13.31 and reportedly limped and touched his hamstring after. Olympic champion Aries Merritt and World champions Jason Richardson and David Oliver were not in the field.

American Gia Lewis-Smallwood, 35, won the discus with a personal-best throw of 67.59 meters. She handed Croatian Olympic champion Sandra Perkovic her first Diamond League defeat since before the London Games.

Ethiopian-born Dutch runner Sifan Hassan edged Ethiopian-born Swede Abeba Aregawi by .27 to win the women’s 1500m. Hagos Gebrhiwet, who was born in and competes for Ethiopia, took the men’s 5000m. Kenyan-born American Bernard Lagat was 12th.

The Glasgow Diamond League meet concludes Saturday with headliners Allyson FelixShelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and David Rudisha.

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Daniel Romanchuk’s ascent to marathon stardom accelerated at University of Illinois

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The rise of Daniel Romanchuk has been one of the major stories of this Paralympic cycle. The wheelchair racer was eliminated in the first round of all five of his races in Rio.

But now, he’s the world’s best marathoner with a 6-foot-10 wingspan, a world-record holder on the track and already qualified for the Tokyo Games.

Romanchuk, born with spina bifida, was profiled by NBC Sports Chicago as part of a series of NBC Sports Regional Networks pieces published this week — marking 150 days until the Tokyo Olympics and six months until the Tokyo Paralympics.

NBC RSN Olympic and Paralympic Profiles
NBC Sports Bay Area

Abbey Weitzeil (Swimming) — LINK

NBC Sports Boston
Margaret Bertasi (Rowing) — LINK
Abbey D’Agostino Cooper (Track and Field) — LINK

NBC Sports Chicago
Ryan Murphy (Swimming) — LINK

NBC Sports Northwest
Galen Rupp (Marathon) — LINK
Mariel Zagunis (Fencing) — LINK

NBC Sports Philadelphia
Vashti Cunningham (Track and Field) — LINK
Julie Ertz (Soccer) — LINK

NBC Sports Washington
Katie Ledecky (Swimming) — LINK
Kyle Snyder (Wrestling) — LINK

Romanchuk, 21, swept the Boston, London, Chicago and New York City Marathon titles in 2019. He attributes that success to his native Baltimore and his training residence of the University of Illinois.

At age 2, he was enrolled in Baltimore’s Bennett Blazers, an adaptive sports program for children with physical disabilities. Tatyana McFadden, a 17-time Paralympic medalist who dominated women’s wheelchair marathons, planted her athletic roots there.

“Their motto is to teach kids they can before they’re told they can’t,” Romanchuk said.

Things really blossomed for Romanchuk after he moved from Baltimore to the University of Illinois. Illinois was designated a U.S. Paralympic training site in 2014 and has produced McFadden, Jean Driscoll and other U.S. Paralympic stars.

“Without this program, I certainly would not be where I am,” Romanchuk said. “It’s a very unique combination of coaching and teammates.”

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MORE: Ten Paralympic hopefuls to watch for 2020 Tokyo Games

Chloé Dygert wanted to be Steve Prefontaine. Then Larry Bird. Now, her coach.

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Chloé Dygert is the U.S.’ top cyclist, an Olympic medalist and world champion in line to race on the track and the road at the Tokyo Games.

To get to this point — leading the American contingent at the world track cycling championships this week — Dygert was kicked off a soccer team, bribed by her father and, when she thought her career was over, enrolled in 5 a.m. classes to get back on the bike.

“I had no interest in being a cyclist. I did not want to be a cyclist,” she said. “The funny thing is, my dad kept getting me bikes.”

It began in Brownsburg, Ind., a 25,000-person town 15 miles northwest of Indianapolis. Dygert had an older brother, younger brother and a BMX dirt bike track on a 4.5-acre property.

She played soccer, but was moved from the girls’ team to the boys. Dygert developed physically earlier than the other girls. And, “I was a little too mean and aggressive,” she said.

She played basketball but broke too many bones — her own and those of other girls. “Not on purpose,” she said, “but I was just so much bigger and naturally so much stronger.”

Dygert ran cross-country, too, but none of those sports worked out.

“I was going to be Steve Prefontaine,” she said of the fabled 1972 Olympian. “I had some injuries, and I started playing basketball. I was going to be Larry Bird. I had some more injuries, and cycling was just kind of my go-to.”

Dygert, at first reluctant, picked up cycling at the urging of her father, David, a mountain biker. She received bikes for Christmas and her New Year’s birthday, but it wasn’t until later, when she was 15, that her father’s words changed her life.

That summer, when Dygert needed a shoulder surgery from a basketball injury, she went for a ride at a local park with her father. David marveled.

“He said, ‘Chloe, I don’t think a girl your age should be able to put out the power that you’re putting out,'” Dygert remembered. “That kind of stuck with me and got me into wanting to ride a little bit more and seeing where I could go with it.”

David lured her: a pair of Oakleys if Dygert won at her first major competition. She entered junior nationals and grabbed a victory.

“That’s kind of what gave me the motivation to keep going,” she said. “It took me a while to actually love the sport. It definitely was not an interest that I had. But I thrive on winning. I love to win.”

Dygert pursued cycling, but she didn’t stop basketball. Everything changed when she tore an ACL on the court at age 17, a nine-month injury. She never returned to competitive basketball, but she also lost motivation to get back on the bike. Again, David urged her. One last time.

She joined the cycling team at Marian University, a private Catholic school in Indianapolis. David signed her up for 5 a.m. classes.

“I’m still not happy about it,” she said. “I got really disciplined.”

And reinvigorated. The freshman Dygert noticed in a power booster class that her wattage was impressive.

“If it wasn’t for that and the structure and the discipline that I had gotten from that and my dad, I would not be here,” she said. “There’s not a day that goes by, I’m just so thankful for that and for him.”

Dygert dropped out after that first fall semester to focus on a cycling career. That winter, she won a world title with the U.S. team pursuit and was named to become the youngest female U.S. Olympic track cyclist in history.

“I see myself being a Kristin Armstrong, following in her footsteps, being a good all-around rider and a very good time trialist,” Dygert said before earning team pursuit silver at the Rio Olympics, according to The Associated Press.

Armstrong earned her third Olympic road time trial title in Rio, a day before turning 43. She retired and transitioned from Dygert’s mentor to her coach. Dygert recently moved to Armstrong’s native Idaho.

On the eve of September’s world road cycling championships time trial, Armstrong told Dygert to make sure she hurt more than any other rider on the 18-mile course. Dygert obeyed. She went out and won by 92 seconds, the largest margin in history, to become the youngest world champion ever in the event. She collapsed onto the pavement getting off her bike.

“I didn’t race with a power meter,” Dygert said that day, “and I think that really helped not restricting myself, just kind of going as fast as I could the entire time and not really have anything to gauge it off of.”

It qualified Dygert for the Tokyo Olympics on the road. The track team hasn’t been named, but Dygert will surely anchor a new team pursuit quartet. The U.S. has never won an Olympic women’s track title, but the pursuit has been its trademark event — world titles in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Olympic silver medals in 2012 and 2016.

The only woman on both of those Olympic teams retired (Sarah Hammer).

The cycling community was floored when Kelly Catlin, on all three world title teams with Dygert, committed suicide last March at age 23.

“It’s definitely hard not having her there, but we will carry her legacy on,” Dygert said. “She will be with us every step of the way when we win gold in Tokyo.”

The U.S. women’s team pursuit finished seventh at last year’s worlds without Catlin and without Dygert, who sat out nearly a year after a May 2018 concussion from a road crash. Dygert wondered if she might not be able to come back from the head injury. Expectations were tempered when she and a new team entered a November World Cup in Belarus.

A coach predicted nothing faster than 4 minutes, 17 seconds. They clocked 4:13 and won in what Dygert believed was the U.S.’ second-fastest time since the Rio Games.

“We’ve never raced together before,” Dygert said. “We didn’t really know what we would be able to do.”

Dygert is bidding to race in three events in Tokyo — road race (July 26), road time trial (July 29) and team pursuit (Aug. 3-4). People compare combining the road and the track to training for both the sprints and the marathon. The plurality of the focus will be on the time trial and to follow the path set by Armstrong to the top of an Olympic podium. Hopefully, road and track podiums.

“We’re going to be smart about which event that we choose to be full gas for so my fitness is still there for all the other events,” Dygert said. “Being fit for the time trial will also correlate for the track.”

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