Kaylin Whitney begins pro track career with global goals

Leave a comment

Kaylin Whitney, the sprinter who celebrated her 17th birthday by announcing a professional contract with Nike on Monday, wants to make this summer’s World Championships team and, the following year, become the youngest U.S. Olympic track and field competitor in 40 years.

“We already know there’s going to be a lot of people saying there’s no way she’s going to make the Olympics, that this is a crazy decision or whatever,” said her Orlando-area coach, three-time U.S. Olympic sprinter Dennis Mitchell. “We don’t pay attention to it.”

Whitney views the decision as another step toward those goals.

“My ultimate dream is to make an Olympic team, so for me to do that, I’d have to take my training to the next level, which would translate to training in the morning and switching to online school to accommodate,” Whitney said.

The Clermont, Fla., native doesn’t appear to have taken a wrong turn yet. Her father, a former University of Arkansas runner, put Whitney in track after watching her smoke the competition in a school field day potato sack race as a kindergartener.

At age 8, she swept the 100m, 200m and long jump at the AAU Junior Olympics and was profiled by the Orlando Sentinel.

Whitney’s first memories of watching track and field came at age 10, when Usain Bolt broke the 100m and 200m world records at the Beijing Olympics.

Mitchell, whose wife is the 2008 Olympic 100m hurdler Damu Cherry, began coaching Whitney at age 12.

And last year, Whitney ran the fastest official 100m and 200m sprints by a woman under the age of 18 — 11.10 and 22.49 at the U.S. Junior Championships — putting her in the top 10 for U.S. women of any age for 2014. The top three in those events at U.S. Championships earn individual spots at the World Championships and Olympics.

She ran more “pedestrian times,” for her, Mitchell said, in taking 200m gold and 100m bronze at the World Junior Championships in Eugene, Ore., in July.

“Her love is the 200m,” Mitchell said, while acknowledging the 100m is the sport’s marquee event and thus also very important.

At World Juniors, Whitney had to adapt to bleaker Oregon weather and what Mitchell called stresses of international meets — running multiple rounds and living with new teammates rather than sleeping in her own bed.

“There’s a lot of things physically that she’s still going to come into, both as a woman and as an athlete,” Mitchell cautioned. “You have to let that process happen. We’re battling a lot of different things outside of trying to run a sub-11 100 meters.”

She’s not the first of her kind. Distance runners Mary Cain and Alexa Efraimson turned pro at 17 in 2013 and 2014, respectively. Whitney’s transition is eased by familiarity with more experienced runners in Mitchell’s training group — Justin Gatlin, Churandy Martina, Charonda Williams and Alexandria Anderson among them.

“It’s definitely intimidating but encouraging at the same time,” Whitney said. “The sport’s evolving every year. Athletes are getting better.”

Whitney next plans to race in a couple of local meets and could be part of relay teams at the Texas Relays (March 25-28) and Drake Relays (April 22-26) or Penn Relays (April 23-25).

Mitchell said Whitney could compete individually at the Prefontaine Classic, a top-level international meet in Eugene, Ore., from May 29-30. Last year, reigning Olympic 100m and 200m champions Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Allyson Felix competed at the Prefontaine Classic.

Whitney looks up to Felix, who also turned pro at 17 and won Olympic 200m silver at 18. They met last year, and Felix gave Whitney a couple of Twitter shoutouts.

“She did say keep working hard, and your future will be bright,” Whitney said.

Whitney acknowledges she’s sacrificing the normal teenage life to be a pro athlete, heading to the track in the morning rather than Clermont East Ridge High for classes. That’s not to say education isn’t a priority. She hopes to finish online high school early, this year, and then probably sign up for virtual college.

Mitchell said people have told Whitney things like, “Good luck at the Olympics,” what the coach calls “outside noise” that he doesn’t want her to listen to.

“We all are going to have to wait and see,” Mitchell said. “Will she make mistakes at this level? Yes she will. But I say that for all of my athletes.”

Bernard Lagat cancels farewell tour with Rio in mind

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

Anna van der Breggen
Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

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

2020 French Open TV, live stream schedule

Leave a comment

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.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

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