Boris Berian, McDonald’s man turned 800m champ, may miss Olympics due to sponsor dispute

Boris Berian
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By day, Boris Berian took orders at the fast-food counter, flipped burgers and cooked fries to make ends meet.

By dusk, he trained to become one of the fastest 800m runners in the United States.

Now, he wonders if all that hard work will really pay off. Berian’s biggest opponent these days isn’t on the track, but in the courtroom. A lawsuit filed by Nike dealing with what sort of gear Berian wears threatens to derail what looked like a for-sure trip to the Rio Olympics this summer.

And to think, Berian used to daydream about big endorsement deals while working the 8 a.m.-to-2 p.m. shift at a McDonald’s inside a Walmart in Colorado Springs, Colo.

How times have changed: His coach said the 23-year-old Berian would consider retiring rather than race for Nike after this grievance, which could possibly keep him from the starting line on July 1 at the Olympic Trials.

“It’s just sad. You can’t do this to a kid who’s done nothing to you,” said Carlos Handler, who trains Berian at the Big Bear Track Club in California. “I’ve told people that when it’s all said and done, he will be the American record holder.”

Nike signed Berian on June 17, 2015, during a breakout season. The contract went through December 31 and gave the shoe and apparel company the right to match any other offers.

Berian signed a deal with New Balance, but Nike maintained that its sponsorship remained in effect since the company properly exercised its right of first refusal. Berian’s side feels certain terms of the New Balance deal were more favorable.

While the controversy has played out, Berian has continued to excel on the track, winning a World Indoor title in Portland, Ore., in March, against a field that lacked most Rio Olympic 800m medal favorites.

At a meet last month in Southern California, Berian was served a lawsuit by Nike that accused him of breach of contract. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Oregon on April 29.

In a statement, Nike said it “values its relationships with athletes and we expect them to honor their contractual commitments. Where necessary we’ll take steps to protect our rights.”

A judge has at least temporarily banned him from wearing the footwear of any Nike competitor including but not limited to New Balance. There’s another hearing set for June 21.

“Apparently myself alone can cause harm to a MULTI-BILLION dollar company Nike,” Berian posted on his Twitter account. He recently ended a tweet with the hashtag, “FreeBoris.”

A promising runner out of Widefield High School in Colorado Springs, Berian went to Adams State in Alamosa, where he won indoor and outdoor national titles as a freshman.

But he struggled with his eligibility because of grades. He practiced, just couldn’t race.

“It was annoying, because my fitness was getting crazy,” Berian said. “The workouts were getting easier and faster. But the fact I couldn’t compete was driving me crazy.”

He dropped out and embarked on his own in the spring of 2014. A friend offered him a couch to crash on and he found a job at McDonald’s.

Each day he would ride his bike or walk the nearly three miles to work the early shift, leaving him time to train in the evening.

“I was hoping to make enough money to train and travel to meets,” he said. “Hopefully run fast and get sponsored. It was a hard goal, but it was enough to keep me going.”

For weeks, that was his routine — completing workouts from a log book he kept.

“There were a few days working at McDonald’s that got me down — making a little bit of money, going back home tired and training at the track,” Berian said. “But just a couple of days like that.”

That’s when Hall of Fame coach Joe Vigil entered the picture. Vigil, the former coach at Adams State for three decades, kept tabs on Berian by following his track exploits and then lost track of him. Vigil got back in touch with Berian and recommended him to Handler, whose wife, Brenda Martinez, is also instructed by Vigil.

Handler offered Berian a place to live and train in Big Bear. Berian accepted and soon joined the training group — after submitting his two-week notice, of course.

Almost instantly, Handler knew there was something different about Berian. His speed and work ethic were impressive.

“He was just meant to be a runner,” Handler said. “It just took someone to get out of their own way to actually give him a chance.”

In July 2015, he turned in a blistering time of 1 minute, 43.34 seconds, which ranks among the fastest ever by an American.

Last month, Berian won the Prefontaine Classic — a meet sponsored by Nike.

Heading into Rio, he’s heard the cute comments about him going from fry cook to potential Olympian, such as “From ‘Golden Arches’ to a gold medal.” He appreciates it.

He just hopes he gets the chance to try.

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Faith Kipyegon breaks second world record in eight days; three WRs fall in Paris


Kenyan Faith Kipyegon broke her second world record in as many Fridays as three world records fell at a Diamond League meet in Paris.

Kipyegon, a 29-year-old mom, followed her 1500m record from last week by running the fastest 5000m in history.

She clocked 14 minutes, 5.20 seconds, pulling away from now former world record holder Letesenbet Gidey of Ethiopia, who ran 14:07.94 for the third-fastest time in history. Gidey’s world record was 14:06.62.

“When I saw that it was a world record, I was so surprised,” Kipyegon said, according to meet organizers. “The world record was not my plan. I just ran after Gidey.”

Kipyegon, a two-time Olympic 1500m champion, ran her first 5000m in eight years. In the 1500m, her primary event, she broke an eight-year-old world record at the last Diamond League meet in Italy last Friday.

Kipyegon said she will have to talk with her team to decide if she will add the 5000m to her slate for August’s world championships in Budapest.

Next year in the 1500m, she can bid to become the second person to win the same individual Olympic track and field event three times (joining Usain Bolt). After that, she has said she may move up to the 5000m full-time en route to the marathon.

Kipyegon is the first woman to break world records in both the 1500m and the 5000m since Italian Paola Pigni, who reset them in the 1500m, 5000m and 10,000m over a nine-month stretch in 1969 and 1970.

Full Paris meet results are here. The Diamond League moves to Oslo next Thursday, live on Peacock.

Also Friday, Ethiopian Lamecha Girma broke the men’s 3000m steeplechase world record by 1.52 seconds, running 7:52.11. Qatar’s Saif Saaeed Shaheen set the previous record in 2004. Girma is the Olympic and world silver medalist.

Olympic 1500m champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen of Norway ran the fastest two-mile race in history, clocking 7:54.10. Kenyan Daniel Komen previously had the fastest time of 7:58.61 from 1997 in an event that’s not on the Olympic program and is rarely contested at top meets. Ingebrigtsen, 22, is sixth-fastest in history in the mile and eighth-fastest in the 1500m.

Olympic and world silver medalist Marileidy Paulino of the Dominican Republic won the 400m in 49.12 seconds, chasing down Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, who ran her first serious flat 400m in four years. McLaughlin-Levrone clocked a personal best 49.71 seconds, a time that would have earned bronze at last year’s world championships.

“I’m really happy with the season opener, PR, obviously things to clean up,” said McLaughlin-Levrone, who went out faster than world record pace through 150 meters. “My coach wanted me to take it out and see how I felt. I can’t complain with that first 200m.”

And the end of the race?

“Not enough racing,” she said. “Obviously, after a few races, you kind of get the feel for that lactic acid. So, first race, I knew it was to be expected.”

McLaughlin-Levrone is expected to race the flat 400m at July’s USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships, where the top three are in line to make the world team in the individual 400m. She also has a bye into August’s worlds in the 400m hurdles and is expected to announce after USATF Outdoors which race she will contest at worlds.

Noah Lyles, the world 200m champion, won the 100m in 9.97 seconds into a headwind. Olympic champion Marcell Jacobs of Italy was seventh in 10.21 in his first 100m since August after struggling through health issues since the Tokyo Games.

Lyles wants to race both the 100m and the 200m at August’s worlds. He has a bye into the 200m. The top three at USATF Outdoors join reigning world champion Fred Kerley on the world championships team. Lyles is the fifth-fastest American in the 100m this year, not counting Kerley, who is undefeated in three meets at 100m in 2023.

Olympic and world silver medalist Keely Hodgkinson won the 800m in 1:55.77, a British record. American Athing Mu, the Olympic and world champion with a personal best of 1:55.04, is expected to make her season debut later this month.

World champion Grant Holloway won the 110m hurdles in 12.98 seconds, becoming the first man to break 13 seconds this year. Holloway has the world’s four best times in 2023.

American Valarie Allman won the discus over Czech Sandra Perkovic in a meeting of the last two Olympic champions. Allman threw 69.04 meters and has the world’s 12 best throws this year.

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Iga Swiatek sweeps into French Open final, where she faces a surprise


Iga Swiatek marched into the French Open final without dropping a set in six matches. All that stands between her and a third Roland Garros title is an unseeded foe.

Swiatek plays 43rd-ranked Czech Karolina Muchova in the women’s singles final, live Saturday at 9 a.m. ET on NBC,, the NBC Sports app and Peacock.

Swiatek, the top-ranked Pole, swept 14th seed Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil 6-2, 7-6 (7) in Thursday’s semifinal in her toughest test all tournament. Haddad Maia squandered three break points at 4-all in the second set.

Swiatek dropped just 23 games thus far, matching her total en route to her first French Open final in 2020 (which she won for her first WTA Tour title of any kind). After her semifinal, she signed a courtside camera with the hashtag #stepbystep.

“For sure I feel like I’m a better player,” than in 2020, she said. “Mentally, tactically, physically, just having the experience, everything. So, yeah, my whole life basically.”

Swiatek can become the third woman since 2000 to win three French Opens after Serena Williams and Justine Henin and, at 22, the youngest woman to win four total majors since Williams in 2002.

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Muchova upset No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus to reach her first major final.

Muchova, a 26-year-old into the second week of the French Open for the first time, became the first player to take a set off the powerful Belarusian all tournament, then rallied from down 5-2 in the third set to prevail 7-6 (5), 6-7 (5), 7-5.

Sabalenka, who overcame previous erratic serving to win the Australian Open in January, had back-to-back double faults in her last service game.

“Lost my rhythm,” she said. “I wasn’t there.”

Muchova broke up what many expected would be a Sabalenka-Swiatek final, which would have been the first No. 1 vs. No. 2 match at the French Open since Williams beat Maria Sharapova in the 2013 final.

Muchova is unseeded, but was considered dangerous going into the tournament.

In 2021, she beat then-No. 1 Ash Barty to make the Australian Open semifinals, then reached a career-high ranking of 19. She dropped out of the top 200 last year while struggling through injuries.

“Some doctors told me maybe you’ll not do sport anymore,” Muchova said. “It’s up and downs in life all the time. Now I’m enjoying that I’m on the upper part now.”

Muchova has won all five of her matches against players ranked in the top three. She also beat Swiatek in their lone head-to-head, but that was back in 2019 when both players were unaccomplished young pros. They have since practiced together many times.

“I really like her game, honestly,” Swiatek said. “I really respect her, and she’s I feel like a player who can do anything. She has great touch. She can also speed up the game. She plays with that kind of freedom in her movements. And she has a great technique. So I watched her matches, and I feel like I know her game pretty well.”

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