Michael Johnson urges Allyson Felix to double at Rio Olympics

Allyson Felix
Getty Images
0 Comments

NEW YORK — Michael Johnson said he had not chatted with Allyson Felix about a potential 200m-400m double at the Rio Olympics, speaking on a red carpet before the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame induction at the Armory on Thursday night.

Two hours later, Felix introduced Johnson, who swept the 200m and 400m at the Atlanta 1996 Olympics as part of a highly decorated career, to receive a Legacy Award at the black tie and sneakers ceremony.

In the following six-minute speech, Johnson reflected on knowing track was his calling at age 10, how much he enjoys even talking about track and field since his 2000 retirement and thanked, among others, two athletes whom he considers heroes — 1968 Olympic 200m champion Tommie Smith and two-time Olympic heptathlon champion Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

“Lastly,” Johnson said to USA Track and Field royalty (video here at 2:45), “Allyson, you have to double next year. No pressure, but you’ve got to double next year, because that is something, as a true track fan, that I want to see. Thank you, thank you all.”

Last we left Felix, the Olympic 200m champion captured her first World title in the 400m in a personal-best 49.26 seconds, coming back from being carried off the track by brother Wes after tearing her right hamstring in the 2013 Worlds 200m final.

Felix, 29, opted not to race the 200m at this year’s World Championships because the 200m semifinals and the 400m final were about one hour apart on the same night, Aug. 27. Felix, a three-time World champion in the 200m, chose the 400m over the 200m at Worlds because she considered it a greater challenge.

The Rio Olympic schedule currently has the 200m first round and the 400m final about an hour apart. Slightly less demanding than Worlds, but still not ideal enough for Felix to say she will definitely attempt to race both the 200m and 400m at the Games, as Johnson did 20 years prior.

For 1996, the original Olympic schedule called for the men’s 200m semifinals and 400m final on the same day. Johnson reportedly said then that he would have chosen one individual race if the Atlanta 1996 schedule remained that way.

Johnson said he lobbied for the schedule to be changed in 1995, to no avail, and then helped his case by sweeping the 200m and 400m at the 1995 World Championships, with a schedule more conducive to the double.

The Atlanta Olympic track and field schedule was then revised in March 1996, allowing Johnson a full day of rest between the 400m final and the start of the 200m rounds. Johnson, in golden shoes, went on to become the first man to sweep the 200m and 400m at an Olympics.

Johnson, now a track and field analyst for the BBC, said it would be fantastic for the sport if the Rio Olympic schedule would be altered to give Felix a day off between the 400m and 200m.

“I would love to see it, and I think she’s more than capable,” he said. “It would bring something special to the Games.”

In July, Felix said that her longtime coach, Bob Kersee, would be “voicing his opinion” by “talking to whoever he needs to talk to” hoping to change the Rio Olympic track and field schedule.

On Thursday, Felix confirmed that talks are happening but didn’t know specifically with whom Kersee was speaking.

“He’s meeting again this coming week, so he’s going to give me an update on where things are,” said Felix, who recently returned from a Mozambique trip with Right to Play. “I’m just going to let him take control of the entire situation and see what happens.”

Is she confident?

“I guess I wouldn’t say I’m confident because I have no idea really,” she said. “I feel like it could definitely go either way. I think I’m more just hoping for the opportunity.”

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said before the World Championships in August that the Rio track and field schedule could be changed under “a special case.”

If the Olympic schedule remains as is, would Felix still consider trying to race both the 200m and 400m?

“Right now I don’t see why I would do them both,” Felix said. “I feel like if the schedule’s not going to change, I would take time to focus on one or the other, but that’s something I’d have to think about.”

At Worlds, Felix said she will plan to race the 200m at the Olympics for a fourth straight time if she sticks to one individual event. That is no longer the case, Felix said Thursday.

“The 200’s my favorite, clearly, but that’s not to say that I wouldn’t run the 400,” she said. Felix, who raced the 100m and 200m at the London Olympics, hasn’t raced the 400m at the Games outside of relays. “I haven’t ruled anything out if the schedule’s not changed.”

So that’s where Felix stands heading into 2016. She has said she may race in the winter indoor season, which concludes with the World Indoor Championships from March 17-20.

If not, we may not see the most decorated U.S. female track and field athlete in history compete until the spring. If 1996 is any indication, the Olympic schedule could look different by then.

“It’s a political situation,” Johnson said of the talks. “It takes you, as an athlete, outside of your normal zone of competing and getting results.”

MORE TRACK AND FIELD: Five memorable shoe malfunctions

Elena Fanchini, medal-winning Alpine skier, dies at 37

Elena Fanchini
Getty
0 Comments

Elena Fanchini, an Italian Alpine skier whose career was cut short by a tumor, has died. She was 37.

Fanchini, the 2005 World downhill silver medalist at age 19, passed away Wednesday at her home in Solato, near Brescia, the Italian Winter Sports Federation announced.

Fanchini died on the same day that fellow Italian Marta Bassino won the super-G at the world championships in Meribel, France; and two days after Federica Brignone — another former teammate — claimed gold in the combined.

Sofia Goggia, who is the favorite for Saturday’s downhill, dedicated her World Cup win in Cortina d’Ampezzo last month to Fanchini.

Fanchini last raced in December 2017. She was cleared to return to train nearly a year later but never made it fully back, and her condition grew worse in recent months.

Fanchini won her world downhill silver medal in Italy in 2005, exactly one month after her World Cup debut, an astonishing breakout.

Ten months later, she won a World Cup downhill in Canada with “Ciao Mamma” scribbled on face tape to guard against 1-degree temperatures. She was 20. Nobody younger than 21 has won a World Cup downhill since. Her second and final World Cup win, also a downhill, came more than nine years later.

In between her two World Cup wins, Fanchini raced at three Olympics with a best finish of 12th in the downhill in 2014. She missed the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics because of her condition.

Fanchini’s younger sisters Nadia and Sabrina were also World Cup racers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

USA Boxing to skip world championships

USA Boxing
Getty
0 Comments

USA Boxing will not send boxers to this year’s men’s and women’s world championships, citing “the ongoing failures” of the IBA, the sport’s international governing body, that put boxing’s place on the Olympic program at risk.

The Washington Post first reported the decision.

In a letter to its members, USA Boxing Executive Director Mike McAtee listed many factors that led to the decision, including IBA governance issues, financial irregularities and transparency and that Russian and Belarusian boxers are allowed to compete with their flags.

IBA lifted its ban on Russian and Belarusian boxers in October and said it would allow their flags and anthems to return, too.

The IOC has not shifted from its recommendation to international sports federations last February that Russian and Belarusian athletes be barred, though the IOC and Olympic sports officials have been exploring whether those athletes could return without national symbols.

USA Boxing said that Russian boxers have competed at an IBA event in Morocco this month with their flags and are expected to compete at this year’s world championships under their flags.

“While sport is intended to be politically neutral, many boxers, coaches and other representatives of the Ukrainian boxing community were killed as a result of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, including coach Mykhaylo Korenovsky who was killed when a Russian missile hit an apartment block in January 2023,” according to the USA Boxing letter. “Ukraine’s sports infrastructure, including numerous boxing gyms, has been devastated by Russian aggression.”

McAtee added later that USA Boxing would still not send athletes to worlds even if Russians and Belarusians were competing as neutrals and without their flags.

“USA Boxing’s decision is based on the ‘totality of all of the factors,'” he said in an emailed response. “Third party oversite and fairness in the field of play is the most important factor.”

A message has been sent to the IBA seeking comment on USA Boxing’s decision.

The women’s world championships are in March in India. The men’s world championships are in May in Uzbekistan. They do not count toward 2024 Olympic qualifying.

In December, the IOC said recent IBA decisions could lead to “the cancellation of boxing” for the 2024 Paris Games.

Some of the already reported governance issues led to the IOC stripping IBA — then known as AIBA — of its Olympic recognition in 2019. AIBA had suspended all 36 referees and judges used at the 2016 Rio Olympics pending an investigation into a possible judging scandal, one that found that some medal bouts were fixed by “complicit and compliant” referees and judges.

The IOC ran the Tokyo Olympic boxing competition.

Boxing was not included on the initial program for the 2028 Los Angeles Games announced in December 2021, though it could still be added. The IBA must address concerns “around its governance, its financial transparency and sustainability and the integrity of its refereeing and judging processes,” IOC President Thomas Bach said then.

This past June, the IOC said IBA would not run qualifying competitions for the 2024 Paris Games.

In September, the IOC said it was “extremely concerned” about the Olympic future of boxing after an IBA extraordinary congress overwhelmingly backed Russian Umar Kremlev to remain as its president rather than hold an election.

Kremlev was re-elected in May after an opponent, Boris van der Vorst of the Netherlands, was barred from running against him. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled in June that van der Vorst should have been eligible to run against Kremlev, but the IBA group still decided not to hold a new election.

Last May, Rashida Ellis became the first U.S. woman to win a world boxing title at an Olympic weight since Claressa Shields in 2016, taking the 60kg lightweight crown in Istanbul. In Tokyo, Ellis lost 3-0 in her opening bout in her Olympic debut.

At the last men’s worlds in 2021, Robby Gonzales and Jahmal Harvey became the first U.S. men to win an Olympic or world title since 2007, ending the longest American men’s drought since World War II.

The Associated Press and NBC Olympic research contributed to this report.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!