Vashti Cunningham, daughter of Randall Cunningham, wins World Indoor high jump title

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Teenager Vashti Cunningham‘s upcoming to-do list includes prom, a trip to Disneyland and graduation.

Turning pro and making the American team in the high jump for the Rio Olympics rank pretty high up there, too.

The daughter of longtime NFL quarterback Randall Cunningham may even be one of the favorites this summer, especially after winning gold at the World Indoor Track and Field Championships on Sunday.

“I’m excited on the inside and keeping it calm on the outside,” said Cunningham, who cleared 6 feet, 5 inches to become the youngest female ever to capture a title at World Indoors. “It means a lot to be the world champion this young. I did not think that I would not be here right now at 18 years old.”

This is the latest honor in the rapid rise of Cunningham, who set the American high school record in the event at the U.S. Indoor Championships last weekend.

Randall Cunningham, who is also his daughter’s coach, leapt to his feet when she was pronounced the winner — along with the rest of the crowd at the Portland Convention Center.

“The people have been so supportive of her,” Randall Cunningham said in a phone interview afterward. “Vashti has never had people clap when she’s about to jump. And they know exactly when to clap. They’re like the Seattle Seahawks — the 12th man.”

The United States finished the event with a record 23 medals, including 13 golds, in a meet that didn’t include Russia, which was absent because of pending doping charges. Other American gold medalists on the final day of the championship included Matthew Centrowitz in the 1500m and Marquis Dendy in the long jump.

The U.S. also won both the men’s and women’s 4x400m relay.

Just like the week before at Nationals, Cunningham stole the show. Ruth Beitia of Spain, who is 18 years older than Cunningham, claimed the silver and Kamila Licwinko of Poland finished third.

Afterward, Cunningham announced she is strongly leaning toward going pro instead of college. She’ll now try to make the U.S. team for the Olympics this summer in Brazil. She would be younger than any U.S. Olympic track and field competitor since 1976, according to sports-reference.com.

But first she has to graduate from Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas — and no, her new title doesn’t get her excused from class.

“She has to go back to school tomorrow,” her father said.

Centrowitz celebrated his victory by pointing to the USA emblazoned across his jersey. He became the first American man to win the 1500m with a final-lap surge that pulled him in front of silver medalist Jakup Holusa of the Czech Republic. New Zealand’s Nick Willis poured it on down the stretch to finish with the bronze.

“Now it’s time to go get an Olympic medal,” Centrowitz said.

Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia, who holds the indoor world record in the 3000m, fell to the back of a conservative pack at the start of Sunday’s final, but pulled out in front about halfway through and defended her title easily in 8:47.43. Countrywoman Meseret Defar, coming off an extended break for the birth of her daughter, was second, and American Shannon Rowbury was third.

Rowbury, an Olympian who trains in Portland, won the U.S. indoor championship last week, moving up from her usual 1500m.

“The end of the race was tough, but the crowd carried me through to the finish,” Rowbury said.

On the men’s side, Ethiopian teenager Yomif Kejelcha won the gold in 7:57.21, but American Ryan Hill had a thrilling surge to move up from fifth on the final lap to finish with the silver. Kenya’s Augustine Kiprono Choge took the bronze.

Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi held off American Ajee’ Wilson to finish the women’s 800m in 2:00.01 for her nation’s first gold and the world’s best time in the event this year. Kenya’s Margaret Nyairera Wambui finished third.

Dendy, who also won last week at nationals, topped silver medalist Fabrice Lapierre of Australia and bronze winner Changzhou Huang of China with a leap of 27 feet, 1 1/4 inches.

Jamaica’s Omar McLeod topped the podium in the 60m hurdles in a world-leading 7.41 seconds, followed by France’s Pascal Martinot-Lagarde and Dimitri Bascou.

The event in a cavernous hall at the Oregon Convention Center was well attended, selling out Saturday night’s session and Sunday with more than 7,000 fans. But track has traditionally done well in Oregon, the home of the late track legend Steve Prefontaine and the birthplace of Nike.

The U.S. Indoor Championships in Portland last weekend before the worlds kicked off a busy year for the sport in Oregon. Eugene’s Hayward Field will host the U.S. Olympic Trials this summer, which will determine the Americans who make the team for the Rio Games. This year’s NCAA championships will also take place at Hayward.

But the timing — at least for an American audience — wasn’t the greatest for the international championship, bumped up against the NCAA basketball tournament.

Vin Lananna, president of meet organizer TrackTownUSA, acknowledged there’s no getting around the fact that the World Championships are held in March.

“I think we would have liked the emphasis to be just on this,” he said. “[But] I think in the United States March madness is a big deal. I think we have the opportunity to do both.”

MORE: Cunningham follows dad’s footsteps in high jump

UCI looks for new host for 2020 World Road Cycling Championships

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The International Cycling Union (UCI) is looking for a new host for the 2020 World Road Cycling Championships due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Switzerland can no longer host the week-long event in late September after a national decision to extend a ban on events with more than 1,000 people through next month.

Amid reports the competition has been canceled, the UCI clarified Wednesday that it still hopes to hold it in some form, perhaps without some of the junior or senior races.

It now seeks an “alternative project,” preferably still in Europe and on the same dates (Sept. 20-27).

Worlds were due to start in Switzerland on the same day that the rescheduled Tour de France ends, though the senior elite men’s races are typically not on the first three days.

The Tour de France is still scheduled to start Aug. 29.

Last year, American Chloe Dygert starred at road worlds, winning the time trial in dominant fashion. Other world champions in Olympic events: Annemiek van Vleuten (road race), Rohan Dennis (time trial) and Mads Pedersen (road race).

MORE: Chloe Dygert had the most dominant ride in history. It still drives her nuts.

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Michael Phelps qualifies for first Olympics at age 15 in 2000

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In the biggest race of his young life, a 15-year-old Michael Phelps turned for the last 50 meters in fourth place of the U.S. Olympic Trials 200m butterfly final on Aug. 12, 2000.

His mom, Debbie, couldn’t watch. She turned away from the Indianapolis Natatorium pool and stared at the scoreboard. Both Debbie and Phelps’ coach, Bob Bowman, mentally prepared their consolation speeches for the rising Towson High School sophomore outside Baltimore.

Then Phelps, fueled by nightly Adam’s Mark chicken sandwich-and-cheesecake room service and amped by pre-race DMX on his CD player, turned it on. He zoomed into second place, becoming the youngest U.S. male swimmer to qualify for an Olympics since 1932.

Phelps had “come out of nowhere in the last six months” to become an Olympic hopeful, NBC Sports swimming commentator Dan Hicks said on the broadcast. True, Phelps chopped five and a half seconds off his personal best that March.

“He doesn’t know what it means to go to the Olympics and how it’s going to change his life,” Tom Malchow, the 1996 Olympic silver medalist who held off Phelps in that trials final, said that night, according to The Associated Press. “He’s going to find out soon.”

Phelps, who did his trademark arm flaps before the trials final, made Bowman look like a prophet. Four years earlier, the coach sat Debbie down for a conversation she would not soon forget.

“Told me what he projected for Michael,” Debbie said, according to the Baltimore Sun‘s front-page story on a local 15-year-old qualifying for the Sydney Games. “He said that in 2004, he would definitely be a factor in the Olympics. He also said that he could be there in 2000, to watch out for him. At the time, he was only 11.”

The trials were bittersweet for the Phelps family. Whitney, one of Phelps’ older sisters, withdrew before the meet with herniated discs in her back that kept her from making an Olympics after competing in the 1994 World Championships at age 14.

After Phelps qualified for the Olympics, one of the first people to embrace him was Whitney on the pool deck.

The next week, Phelps, still with bottom-teeth braces, did his first live TV sitdown on CNN, swiveling in his chair the whole time, according to his autobiography, “Beneath the Surface.”

The next month, Phelps finished fifth in his Olympic debut, clocking a then-personal-best time that would have earned gold or silver at every previous Olympics.

Following the Olympic race, gold medalist Malchow patted Phelps on the back, according to “No Limits,” another Phelps autobiography. What did Malchow say?

“The best is ahead of you.”

MORE: Meet Arnie the Terminator, Katie Ledecky’s top rival

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