Adidas Grand Prix preview, schedule, broadcast info

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Two days before the last time Usain Bolt raced in New York, seven years ago when he owned zero Olympic medals, the Jamaican sat next to the reigning World 100m champion Tyson Gay at a Manhattan press conference while the reigning Olympic 100m champion Justin Gatlin spent the day across the city, in a court room.

On May 31, 2008, Bolt was to race in a top-level 100m for the fifth time in his career, according to The New York Times, against Gay, then the top threat to become the third straight U.S. man to win Olympic 100m gold in Beijing later that summer.

Gatlin, too, had flown to New York, for a hearing in front of the Court of Arbitration for Sport. He hoped to have a four-year ban for testing positive for testosterone in 2006 lessened so he could compete at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials and try to defend his title in Beijing.

In New York, Bolt would break the 100m world record for the first time at the 2008 Reebok Grand Prix, clocking 9.72 seconds on a wet track.

“That’s when I really blew up,” Bolt said Thursday, according to Reuters. “Everybody around the world started to watch.”

One month later, a judge denied Gatlin’s bid to compete at the U.S. Olympic Trials, where Gay crashed to the Hayward Field track and was wheeled off of it in the 200m quarterfinals with a left hamstring injury. Then in August 2008, Gay failed to reach the Beijing Olympic 100m final while Bolt broke the world record again.

Bolt and Gay will race in separate events in New York on Saturday, at the (renamed in 2010) Adidas Grand Prix. NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra will have coverage from 1-3 p.m. ET.

Gatlin again won’t be racing in New York, but his presence will be felt. He was the fastest man in the world in 2014 and is so far again this year, five years removed from that four-year doping ban.

Gatlin registered 9.74 seconds in the 100m this year, the fastest time in the world since 2012. He has also recorded 19.68 in the 200m twice in the last 11 months, the fastest time in the world since Bolt captured the 2013 World Championship.

On Saturday, Bolt will line up in a 200m and be measured more against Gatlin’s 19.68 than by any times from the sprinters in the lanes surrounding him.

Bolt raced a total of 400m in competition last year, a season shortened due to foot surgery that March, and clocked 20.13 in chilly rain in Ostrava, Czech Republic, on May 26.

“I’m not in the best of shape,” Bolt told media in New York on Thursday night.

With one year before his stated final Olympics, Bolt’s sprint supremacy is under its greatest threat since he became the 100m king in this city seven years ago.

Here are the Adidas Grand Prix start lists. Here’s the schedule (all times Eastern):

9:40 a.m. — Men’s javelin
10 — Women’s long jump
10:55 — Women’s discus
11:40 — Women’s pole vault
11:50 — Women’s high jump
12:18 — Women’s 100m
12:25 — Men’s 400m
1:04 — Men’s 400m hurdles
1:13 — Women’s 3000m steeplechase
1:25 — Men’s triple jump
1:31 — Women’s 400m
1:37 — Men’s 5000m
1:45 — Men’s shot put
1:58 — Women’s 100m hurdles
2:06 — Women’s 200m
2:16 — Men’s 100m
2:25 — Men’s 800m
2:36 — Men’s 110m hurdles
2:45 — Men’s 800m
2:54 — Men’s 200m
3:20 — Women’s 1000m

Five events to watch:

Women’s pole vault (11:40)

Olympic champion Jenn Suhr was upset by Brazil’s Fabiana Murer at this meet one year ago. But Suhr ought to be the favorite Saturday, given she cleared 4.81m on May 24, the best in the world since 2013.

Brazil’s top track and field athlete Murer returns, as does Olympic silver medalist Yarisley Silva of Cuba. Suhr’s longtime rival Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia is not in New York, having said in September she planned to sit out 2015 after having a baby girl last June.

Men’s triple jump (1:25)

Cuban Pedro Pablo Pichardo figures to romp, given he jumped 18.08m to become No. 3 in the event all time earlier this year and has jumped 17.94m or better four times in 2015. Olympic champion Christian Taylor is not in New York, but Olympic silver medalist Will Claye is, bringing a 17.38m season’s best.

Perhaps the most intriguing story is former New York Giants running back David Wilson, whose eyes are set on qualifying for the U.S. Championships in his first track meet in four years. Wilson must jump 16.30m or better to assure a berth in Nationals in two weeks.

Men’s 100m (2:16)

Gay will look to cement his status as favorite in the 100m at the U.S. Championships in two weeks (since Gatlin has a bye into the World Championships as reigning Diamond League champion, he doesn’t have to race the 100m at Nationals).

Gay’s competition leaves plenty to be desired. While the American ran 9.88 at the Prefontaine Classic on May 30, nobody else lined up for Saturday’s sprint has bettered 9.98 this season. Gay’s expected top rivals at the U.S. Championships where the top three make Worlds individually — Ryan BaileyMarvin BracyTrayvon Bromell and Mike Rodgers — are not in New York.

Men’s 800m (2:45)

Olympic champion David Rudisha will race for the first time since he pulled a right thigh muscle in Ostrava on May 26. The Kenyan world-record holder went more than one year between races in 2013 and 2014 due to a knee injury noticed while running in Central Park.

Rudisha, 26, now looks up at Ethiopian World champion Mohammed Aman, Djibouti’s Ayanleh Souleiman and Botswana’s Nijel Amos, all at least four years younger than Rudisha. None of them are in New York, where the Kenyan’s challenge could come from U.S. 1500m stars Leo Manzano and Matthew Centrowitz.

Men’s 200m (2:54)

Bolt’s competition is a little stronger than Gay’s, despite the loss of Olympic bronze medalist and World silver medalist Warren Weir, who was on the original start list. Bolt could be tested by Panama’s Alonso Edward, who took silver behind Bolt’s world record at the 2009 World Championships and ran 19.84 last year.

Remember, Bolt ran 20.13 in chilly, rainy Ostrava on May 26 in his only 200m since 2013.

Flashback Video: Usain Bolt at the Athens 2004 Olympics

2021 Burton U.S. Open snowboarding event canceled

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The Burton U.S. Open, snowboarding’s most storied event, canceled its 2021 competition due to uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

“The truth is, we just can’t be sure it will be safe from a public health standpoint for us to host the event in 2021,” a statement read.

The U.S. Open, held since 1982, is usually around the first weekend in March, making it the season-ending event for many riders. Halfpipe champions include Shaun WhiteChloe KimKelly Clark and Ross Powers, who also earned Olympic gold medals.

Other 2020-21 winter sports events affected by the coronavirus pandemic include figure skating’s Junior Grand Prix. The first two stops of that eight-event series, scheduled for late August and early September in Canada and Slovakia, have been canceled.

The Italian Winter Sports Federation, which is due to put on the February 2021 World Alpine Skiing Championships in Cortina d’Ampezzo, made a formal request on Monday to postpone the event until March 2022, one month after the next Winter Olympics in Beijing. The International Ski Federation (FIS) council will decide July 1.

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Kara Eaker eschews fear, back on balance beam to resume Olympic quest

Kara Eaker
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Kara Eaker hasn’t qualified for an Olympics yet, but she is already part of a historic club of U.S. gymnasts. The list goes, most recently, Eaker, Simone BilesKyla RossAly RaismanNastia LiukinShawn JohnsonShannon Miller and Dominique Dawes.

Those are the women who qualified for back-to-back balance beam finals at the sport’s highest level: Olympics or world championships. For Eaker (pronounced like acre), they came in her first two years as a senior gymnast in 2018 and 2019 (Biles and Johnson are the only other U.S. women to do that in the last 25 years.)

This was supposed to be Eaker’s Olympic year, but the coronavirus pandemic postponed the Games to 2021, after her Missouri high school graduation. It also kept her out of the gym for nearly two months until the GAGE Center reopened last week in Blue Springs, near Kansas City.

It was the longest Eaker had been off a regulation beam (and out of the gym) since she could remember. She began competing at age 5.

Eaker’s mom, Katherine, said her daughter never feared the four-inch-wide beam, but Eaker said the thought of returning last week “was definitely kind of scary at first.” That is, until one of her coaches eased her back with basics and work on a floor beam, one that’s not raised as high as the four feet you see in competition.

“By the time we were ready, and she was comfortable putting us back up there, it wasn’t scary,” Eaker said. “It felt normal.”

Eaker, adopted from a Chinese orphanage around age 1 in 2003 (her parents’ travel then delayed by SARS), excels on the senior elite stage with a level of normalcy.

Which is not entirely normal in this sport. She lives with her family, 10 minutes from her world-class gym. She still attends regular high school. She’s committed to continue gymnastics at the University of Utah after the Tokyo Olympics.

“I started out in dance, actually,” said Eaker, whose hobbies include robotics and calligraphy. “A little, little girl with the stuffed animal, twirling around in the dance room. And then we had our little recital and I just wasn’t … I couldn’t do the standing in front of an audience kind of thing.”

Her mom believes it was around Christmas. Eaker was 3 or 4.

“She just froze like a deer in the headlights, and all the other girls froze, too, because they were used to following her,” Katherine said. “Then she tried gymnastics. We had to drag her out [of the gym]. From then on, it was always, she’s first one in, last one out. Still is.”

The family, including Eaker’s father, Mark, retired Navy and a flight engineer, and younger sister, Sara, moved three times within Missouri in part to get Kara closer to GAGE to pursue what would eventually become an Olympic dream.

Gymnastics meets were appointment TV before Eaker entered kindergarten. She watched the Beijing Olympics, or perhaps an even earlier meet, while dancing around the living room in a leotard. Sometimes she mimicked the gold medalists by doing back bends. She continued to watch Beijing highlights, with Liukin and Johnson, on replay on YouTube.

Back at the gym, Eaker developed with the help of her coaches, plus future University of Nebraska gymnast Catelyn Orel, her “gym mom” under the GAGE program to pair older and younger athletes. Orel was a state champion on beam. Eaker proved a natural, too.

“A lot of the girls would get up there and have trouble balancing, but she just always seemed to do it just like she was on the floor,” her mom said. “She’s never really had a fear. Some girls get up there and are nervous. She just never seemed to be that way.”

In 2018, Eaker was 15, old enough to start competing on the senior level with the likes of Biles. Exactly 10 years after she would have watched Johnson win the Beijing Olympic beam title, Eaker finished second on beam at nationals behind Biles. She was invited to the world championships team selection camp, where she had the top beam score and placed sixth in the all-around. Six gymnasts would be chosen by a committee to travel to the world championships.

Eaker didn’t expect to make the team. In a large meeting with coaches and staff, the roster was announced. Eaker made it as the youngest member.

“It was a goal, but there were so many other girls and it was my first year as a senior,” she said. “I was very happy and surprised to make that team.”

Eaker again won beam at the 2019 World Championships selection camp. If Eaker endured adversity those first two years, it came at worlds.

In 2018, she fell on her mount in the beam final. The rest of her routine was medal-worthy gymnastics. She waited an eternal three minutes for her score, which placed her sixth. Eaker’s routine from the team final earlier that week would have earned silver.

In 2019, Eaker again qualified for the eight-woman beam final. The U.S. federation submitted an inquiry on her qualifying score, contesting a lower start value given to her. That backfired. Judges lowered Eaker’s score even more upon review, which took her out of the final. However, another gymnast who had qualified later withdrew due to injury. Eaker was back in the final, where she placed fourth.

She was asked afterward what she would take away from the meet.

“Just the experience of it all,” she said, composed. “How it makes me feel. How to use that [in the future].”

In 2021, Eaker will have to prove to a selection committee that she can be reliable on all four apparatuses. The Olympic team event size is four — with three gymnasts going per apparatus in the Olympic final — down from five in 2016, putting a greater emphasis on the all-around. Eaker could also be a candidate for one separate spot in individual events only.

“I definitely want to be seen as a great beam worker, but I also need to be a great all-arounder because they’re going to be looking at not just your one event,” said Eaker, who was third in the all-around at the 2019 Worlds selection camp. “You have to be able to benefit the team with your other events, even if they aren’t as strong as your [best] one.”

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