Carl Lewis
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Carl Lewis criticizes U.S. relay coaching

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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Nine-time Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis harshly criticized U.S. track and field relays on Tuesday.

U.S. 4x100m and 4x400m relays have struggled with coaching controversies and changes and declining results at recent major championships.

“USATF needs to stop the joking, stop the crap,” Lewis said at a U.S. Olympic Committee media summit. “What they need to do is get a retired college coach who is going to tell an agent that gets off, who is going to tell the athlete to get in line and know how to put together a 4×100 and know how to put together a relay. I don’t care if he’s 75. Get a retired college coach. And that’s it. Stop these little games with the people that are spinning. It’s crap. It’s embarrassing what’s happened with the relay program. It’s embarrassing we can’t even get a baton around.”

Lewis, now a coach where he used to sprint at the University of Houston, said he’s also coached athletes ages 6 to 18 and never seen a baton hit the ground at a meet.

“America can’t cross the line, so something’s going on here,” Lewis said. “Nine-year-olds never drop the stick.”

A U.S. relay hasn’t dropped a baton at an Olympics or Worlds since 2009, but other problems have led to defeats, in particular poor handoffs. Jamaica’s rise in the last decade hasn’t helped, either.

Last week, USA Track and Field said Lewis’ 1988, 1992 and 1996 Olympic teammate Dennis Mitchell resigned as a national team relays coach due to a new rule that prohibits the coach of an athlete likely to be part of the relay pool from coaching a relay.

Mitchell coaches the U.S.’ top male sprinter, Justin Gatlin.

“USATF’s High Performance Executive Committee revised the criteria for our relay coach selection in recent months,” USATF spokesperson Jill Geer said in an email. “Since that time, they have been active in leading the new process and direction for the relays, including coaching roles and responsibilities.”

USATF has not announced a replacement for Mitchell. Lewis said he’s never been interested.

“I don’t have the time to do it,” Lewis said, adding that USATF has never asked if he’s interested in coaching relays.

Lewis did not specifically mention Mitchell on Tuesday.

“The focus is not on being the best team,” Lewis said. “It’s all the drama. The agents in the middle. It’s a mess. Somebody needs to tell them all to go sit in the stands.”

Lewis said college coaches are a good option because “they’re not mixed in the middle of the mess.”

Mitchell coached the U.S. sprint relays at the IAAF World Relays in 2014 and 2015 and was the relays head coach at the August 2015 World Championships in Beijing.

In August, the U.S. earned one of a possible four gold medals in the 4x100m and 4x400m relays at the World Championships for a second straight time.

Mitchell’s original appointment as relays coach in 2014 was a controversial one, as during his sprint career he served a two-year ban for testing positive for testosterone in 1998.

In 2012, a U.S. Olympic relays coach was another of Lewis’ Olympic teammates — Jon Drummond. In 2014, Drummond was banned eight years after arbitrators found he assisted two-time Olympic sprinter Tyson Gay‘s use of banned substances.

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Ski jumping World Cup season kicks off in Poland

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The World Cup ski jump season opens Friday with men’s team and individual events in Wisla, Poland.

The host country had three of the top five jumpers in the overall standings last year. Defending champion Kamil Stoch placed third, Piotr Zyla was close behind in fourth, and Dawid Kubacki was fifth.

Japan’s Ryoyu Kobayashi dominated last year’s competition, finishing with 2,085 points to 1,349 for runner-up Stefan Kraft of Austria, the 2017 World Cup champion.

Kobayashi’s performance was a dramatic improvement over his previous season, when he finished no higher than sixth in any individual competition and was 24th overall. Last year, he had 15 wins and 23 podium finishes in 30 World Cup events, though he only managed fourth and 14th in the two world championship events.

The top American last season, Kevin Bickner, finished 51st overall, a drop from 39th the year before. He was 18th and 20th in the 2018 Olympic jumps.

Women’s World Cup action begins Dec. 6-8 in Lillehammer, Norway.

NBC Sports Gold will broadcast World Cup action throughout the season. This weekend, the qualifying jumps will air at noon ET Friday, the team event starts at 11:30 a.m. ET Saturday, and the individual competition is at 6 a.m. Sunday.

MORE: Full ski jumping broadcast schedule

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Snowboarding pioneer Jake Burton Carpenter dies at 65

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Jake Burton Carpenter, the pioneer who brought snowboarding to the masses and helped turn the sport into a billion-dollar business and Olympic showpiece, has died at 65.

He died Wednesday night in Burlington, Vermont, according to an email sent to the staff of the company he founded. Carpenter had emailed his staff this month saying, “You will not believe this, but my cancer has come back.” He had been diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011 but after several months of therapy had been given a clean bill of health.

Carpenter quit his job in New York in 1977 to form the company now known simply as Burton. His goal was to advance the rudimentary snowboard, then called a “Snurfer,” which had been invented by Sherman Poppen a dozen years earlier.

It worked, and more than four decades later, snowboarding is a major fixture at the Winter Games and snowboards are as common as skis at resorts across the globe.

“He was our founder, the soul of snowboarding, the one who gave us the sport we all love so much,” Burton co-CEO John Lacy said in his email to the staff.

It is virtually impossible to avoid the name “Burton” once the snow starts falling at any given mountain around the world these days. The name is plastered on the bottoms of snowboards, embroidered on jackets, stenciled into bindings.

At a bar in Pyeongchang, South Korea, not far from where snowboarding celebrated its 20th anniversary at the Olympics last year, there was a wall filled with Burton pictures and memorabilia — as sure a sign as any of the global reach of a company founded in his garage in Londonderry, Vermont.

The company sponsored pretty much every top rider at one time or another — from Shaun White to Kelly Clark to Chloe Kim.

Carpenter watched all his champions win their Olympic golds from near the finish line, never afraid to grind away in the mosh pit of snowboarders and snowboarding fans that he helped create.

In an interview in 2010, he said he was happy with how far his sport had come, and comfortable with where it was going.

“I had a vision there was a sport there, that it was more than just a sledding thing, which is all it was then,” Burton said. “We’re doing something that’s going to last here. It’s not like just hitting the lottery one day.”

Lacy said details about the celebration of Burton’s life would be coming soon but, for now, “I’d encourage everyone to do what Jake would be doing tomorrow, and that’s riding. It’s opening day at Stowe, so consider taking some turns together, in celebration of Jake.”

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