Yao Ming, Lewis Johnson

Yao Ming reflects on Beijing 2008 at Youth Olympics (video)

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Yao Ming has been quite visible at the Youth Olympics, and not just because he’s one of the tallest Olympians ever.

The Chinese basketball star toured Nanjing as a Youth Olympic ambassador. He stopped for a sitdown chat with Lewis Johnson to look back on his Olympic experience and update on what he’s been doing since retiring in 2011.

Yao said he’s back in college to finish his studies in economic management, with one year left to get a degree.

“A different story now compared to my sports days,” he said. “A lot of paperwork. My neck is a little bit sore.”

He also said seeing the teenage athletes at the Games reminded him of childhood travel.

“Some people maybe for the first time are outside of their country,” Yao said. “I remember my first time outside of the country at 17 years old, heading to Paris. It’s a big change. It’s a big step and also changed a lot for my view.”

Finally, Johnson handed Yao a memorable image from the 2008 Beijing Olympic Opening Ceremony, when Yao led the host nation into the Bird’s Nest with Lin Hao, a 9-year-old survivor of that year’s Sichuan earthquake.

“It’s a lot of emotion,” Yao said, reflecting. “The kid, he saved two of his classmates after the earthquake happened. You can see the scar on his head right there. What kind of heart he had right at this age. … That represents the future of China.”

NBCSN coverage of the Youth Olympics continues Wednesday (7-8 p.m. ET) and concludes Thursday with the Closing Ceremony (6:30-8).

Youth Olympics broadcast schedule

Salwa Eid Naser, world 400m champion, provisionally banned

Salwa Eid Naser
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Salwa Eid Naser, the world 400m champion of Bahrain, was provisionally suspended for missing three drug tests in a 12-month span.

“I’ve never been a cheat. I will never be,” Naser, 22, said in an Instagram live video. “I only missed three drug tests, which is normal. It happens. It can happen to anybody. I don’t want people to get confused in all this because I would never cheat.”

Naser said “the missed tests” came before last autumn’s world championships, where she ran the third-fastest time in history (48.14 seconds) and the fastest in 34 years.

“This year I have not been drug tested,” she said. “We are still talking about the ones of last season before the world championships.”

The Athletics Integrity Unit, which handles doping cases for track and field, did not announce whether Naser’s gold medal could be stripped.

“Hopefully, it’ll get resolved because I don’t really like the image, but it has happened,” she said. “It’s going to be fine. It’s very hard to have this little stain on my name.”

Naser, the 2017 World silver medalist, upset Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas for the world title in Doha on Oct. 3.

The only women who have run faster than Naser, who was born Ebelechukwu Agbapuonwu in Nigeria to a Nigerian mother who sprinted and a Bahraini father, were dubious — East German Marita Koch (47.60) and Czechoslovakia’s Jarmila Kratochvilova (47.99).

“I would never take performance-enhancing drugs,” Naser said. “I believe in talent, and I know I have the talent.”

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When Laurie Hernandez winked at the Olympics

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Blink, and you may have missed one of the social-media-sensation moments of the Rio Olympics.

Laurie Hernandez, then 16, was the youngest woman on the U.S. Olympic team across all sports. She was about to start arguably the most important floor exercise routine of her life.

So, she winked.

“The amazing thing about the Olympics is that you feel so many different emotions in the span of a few days, and they are all intense,” she wrote in her 2017 book, “I Got This,” a nod to what she told herself before her balance beam routine earlier that night. “So it was nice to have at least one totally playful moment.”

The U.S., on its fourth and final rotation, already had the team gold all but locked up. Knowing she was nervous, Hernandez’s teammates confirmed to her that they were a few points ahead.

Then Hernandez heard the beep, and it was time to go. She was in the view of an out-of-bounds judge at the Rio Olympic Arena.

“Well, I looked straight at her and suddenly felt this surge of confidence to wink,” she wrote. “Later, a woman came up to me while I was watching Simone [Biles] and Aly [Raisman] compete in their all-around finals and she said, ‘Wow, I just want you to know that when you winked at the judge, it really worked.’ I didn’t know how to respond, so I just said, ‘Thank you. That’s very nice of you to say.’ That’s when she told me she was the out-of-bounds judge! All I could say was ‘Oh my goodness.'”

Hernandez, a New Jersey native, finished the Olympics with a team gold and balance beam silver.

She took more than two years off before making a comeback in earnest last year, announcing she planned to return to competition this spring under new coaches in California. Now that’s on hold given the coronavirus pandemic, which pushed the Tokyo Olympics to 2021.

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