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USA Track and Field boosts athlete funding by $9 million

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Leaders of the U.S. track team designed a formula to distribute an extra $9 million in cash to top athletes and also took steps to clarify language in a much-debated form that runner Nick Symmonds refused to sign before this year’s world championships.

USA Track and Field worked with Olympians Dwight Phillips, Doc Patton and others over the weekend to create a funding model that will provide at least $10,000 for each athlete who qualifies for World Championships or the Olympics, with a chance for a $25,000 bonus for winning a gold medal. USATF said that, under the new formula, a top athlete who wins a national title and Olympic gold medal could earn up to $100,000 when all prize money is included.

That would not count money from other sponsorship contracts, which were at the heart of Symmonds’ boycott of this year’s world championships in Beijing.

Symmonds, sponsored by the Brooks shoe company, was unhappy with the language in USATF’s “statement of conditions” regarding when and where Nike-sponsored team apparel should be worn at World Championships. USATF CEO Max Siegel said the language of the contract will be changed, then reviewed and voted on at USATF’s annual meeting in December. He said Symmonds, who won the silver medal at 800 meters at the 2013 world championships, would have input into any changes if he attends the meeting.

At last weekend’s meeting, USATF brought in an attorney with ties to the NFL Players Association and other lawyers to discuss the contract.

“I commend Nick for building a platform, creating a dialogue,” Siegel said. “After the annual meeting, it will be absolutely clear what the requirements are.”

On the money side, Siegel has negotiated a long-term deal with Nike worth about $20 million per year through 2040. One of the CEO’s key initiatives is to increase funding for athletes. The additional $9 million in funding will be distributed over five years.

Siegel, who came to USATF after spending several years working in NASCAR, said he knows the value of sponsorships and trying to make a sport more lucrative.

“If there’s anybody who understands the need to pay athletes, it’s me,” he said. “But the money’s got to come from somewhere.”

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Olympian Derrick Mein ends U.S. men’s trap drought at shotgun worlds

Derrick Mein
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Tokyo Olympian Derrick Mein became the first U.S. male shooter to win a world title in the trap event since 1966, prevailing at the world shotgun championships in Osijek, Croatia, on Wednesday.

Mein, who grew up on a small farm in Southeast Kansas, hunting deer and quail, nearly squandered a place in the final when he missed his last three shots in the semifinal round after hitting his first 22. He rallied in a sudden-death shoot-off for the last spot in the final by hitting all five of his targets.

He hit 33 of 34 targets in the final to win by two over Brit Nathan Hales with one round to spare.

The last U.S. man to win an Olympic trap title was Donald Haldeman in 1976.

Mein, 37, was 24th in his Olympic debut in Tokyo (and placed 13th with Kayle Browning in the mixed-gender team event).

The U.S. swept the Tokyo golds in the other shotgun event — skeet — with Vincent Hancock and Amber English. Browning took silver in women’s trap.

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Mo Farah withdraws before London Marathon

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British track legend Mo Farah withdrew before Sunday’s London Marathon, citing a right hip injury before what would have been his first 26.2-mile race in nearly two years.

Farah, who swept the 2012 and 2016 Olympic track titles at 5000m and 10,000m, said he hoped “to be back out there” next April, when the London Marathon returns to its traditional month after COVID moved it to the fall for three consecutive years. Farah turns 40 on March 23.

“I’ve been training really hard over the past few months and I’d got myself back into good shape and was feeling pretty optimistic about being able to put in a good performance,” in London, Farah said in a press release. “However, over the past 10 days I’ve been feeling pain and tightness in my right hip. I’ve had extensive physio and treatment and done everything I can to be on the start line, but it hasn’t improved enough to compete on Sunday.”

Farah switched from the track to the marathon after the 2017 World Championships and won the 2018 Chicago Marathon in a then-European record time of 2:05:11. Belgium’s Bashir Abdi now holds the record at 2:03:36.

Farah returned to the track in a failed bid to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, then shifted back to the roads.

Sunday’s London Marathon men’s race is headlined by Ethiopians Kenenisa Bekele and Birhanu Legese, the second- and third-fastest marathoners in history.

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