Yohan Blake

Yohan Blake is running scared, coach says

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NEW YORK — Yohan Blake must overcome a fear of injury, the coach of the Olympic 100m and 200m silver medalist said Saturday.

Blake, joint second-fastest man all time in the 100m and the only man other than Usain Bolt to break 19.30 in the 200m, is trying to come back from major hamstring injuries in 2013 and 2014.

The 25-year-old nicknamed “The Beast” reportedly competed Saturday for the second time since tumbling to the track July 11, tearing a muscle off the bone (video of the fall here).

On Saturday, Blake clocked 10.21 seconds in a 100m with a 1.2 meters/second tailwind at a small meet in Jamaica, according to TeamJA.org, which would rank tied for 13th among Jamaican men this year. Blake’s personal best, 9.69, was set two weeks after the 2012 Olympics, before the injuries.

“He has a problem to get over the fear of getting hurt again,” coach Glen Mills said earlier Saturday at the Adidas Grand Prix, where Blake was a headliner last year but did not race this year. “We just have to take our time. … I think once his confidence comes back, he’ll do well, because he’s in good physical shape.”

The previous Saturday, Blake won a 200m race in Jamaica in 21.57, which ranks outside the top 200 in the world this year.

“I wouldn’t call that running,” Mills said. “He went through the motion.”

Mills said he wasn’t sure of Blake’s plan for the Jamaican Championships in two weeks, after which the Jamaican team for the World Championships in Beijing in August will be announced.

Blake will enter the 100m at the Jamaican Championships, Mills said, which comes before the 200m.

“We’ll see how he does in the early rounds,” Mills said. “If he’s not really competing, I think then we don’t want him to go any further. We don’t want to push him. If he does really well, if he makes the team at the 100m level, we may decide not to do the 200m. We’ll do enough to lay a foundation for the Olympic year. That’s our main objective.”

Three men plus defending World champion Bolt are expected to make the Worlds team each in the 100m and 200m. The No. 3 Jamaicans, excluding Bolt, in the 100m and 200m this year clocked 10.01 in the 100m and 20.28 in the 200m.

Blake was Bolt’s biggest rival in 2011 and 2012. After Bolt false-started out of the 2011 Worlds 100m final, Blake went on to win. Blake defeated Bolt in both the 100m and 200m at the 2012 Jamaican Olympic trials before Bolt returned the favor in London.

Blake, at 25, is three years younger than Bolt and eight years younger than Justin Gatlin, the world’s fastest man in 2014 and 2015. Blake has said he wants to retire before 2020, which would make the Rio 2016 Olympics his second and final Games, should he qualify.

Also Saturday, Mills said Warren Weir, the Olympic 200m bronze medalist and World silver medalist, scratched earlier last week out of the Adidas Grand Prix 200m with Bolt due to a severe hamstring cramp in training.

Usain Bolt runs slowest 200m since 2006 at Adidas Grand Prix

Maria Sharapova wraps up tennis career after nearly two decades, career Slam

Maria Sharapova
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Maria Sharapova has announced her retirement after a professional tennis career that includes five Grand Slam wins, 36 singles titles and an Olympic silver medal.

Sharapova was only 17 when she won her first major in 2004 at Wimbledon. She won the U.S. Open in 2006 and the Australian Open in 2008 before completing her career Grand Slam in the 2012 French Open. She won the French Open again in 2014.

After moving from Russia to Florida at age 9 to train at the Bollettieri Academy, she made her professional debut just after her 14th birthday in 2001. She graduated to top-level events and majors within two years and reached the round of 16 at Wimbledon in 2003.

In 2004, she upset Lindsay Davenport and Serena Williams at Wimbledon and beat Williams again at the Tour Championships.

By 2005, the 6-foot-2 player had claimed the top spot in the world rankings. She remained in the top five for most of the next four years before suffering an injury to her right shoulder that limited her tournament schedule in 2008 and 2009. By 2011, she had reclaimed her status as a top-five player and remained there until 2016.

Her career declined after a positive drug test at the 2016 Australian Open. The substance in question, meldonium, had been given by Russian doctors to many athletes.

An initial suspension of two years was reduced to 15 months, but she wasn’t able to get back to her previous form. She won one more tournament in 2017 and reached the quarterfinals of the 2018 French Open, but she fared poorly in sporadic appearances in 2019. Her last match was a loss to Donna Vekic in the first round of the Australian Open in January.

SEE: Sharapova discusses reduced ban on TODAY

Her meldonium suspension also cost her commercial sponsorships and her role as a UN Development Program ambassador, which she earned with her work to help survivors of the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl.

She was involved in the Olympics as a silver medalist in 2012, losing to Williams in the final, and as one of the final torch bearers in the relay to the 2014 Olympics opening ceremony in her home country.

She’s also third on the all-time WTA earnings list behind Serena and Venus Williams, taking in more than $38m in her career on top of lucrative endorsement deals.

Federica Brignone hopes World Cup rival Mikaela Shiffrin will return soon

Shiffrin and Brignone
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Mikaela Shiffrin‘s prolonged absence from the World Cup Alpine skiing circuit has opened the door for Italy’s Federica Brignone to break the American’s grip on the season title, but Brignone hopes her friend and rival will be back in competition soon.

“I really do hope that she will return soon for herself so she can do again what she loves most,” Brignone said.

Brignone took the season lead from Shiffrin, who has won the last three World Cup overall titles, on Sunday and has a 73-point advantage with 11 of the season’s 40 races remaining. She also leads Shiffrin by 74 points in the giant slalom standings.

READ: Brignone moves into World Cup lead

No Italian woman has won the overall World Cup. Brignone was fifth in 2017 and won the Alpine combined discipline title last season.

Brignone will have a chance to clinch another Alpine combined discipline title and extend her overall lead in her home country this weekend. While some other sports events in Italy have been canceled or otherwise affected by the coronavirus outbreak, the host resort of La Thuile has so far been spared from the virus’ spread.

Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova, the only other skier with a realistic chance of winning the overall trophy, is dealing with a knee injury and might not be able to race this weekend. Vhlova leads Shiffrin by 20 points in the slalom standings.

Shiffrin has not competed since the death of her father Feb. 2, and she has not announced plans to return. She was not on pace to match her astounding 17-win 2018-19 season but still had six wins and had reached the podium in 13 of 19 races.

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