Cheryl Miller’s cartwheel in front of Pat Summitt put 1984 Olympic hopes in peril

Pat Summitt
AP
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When Tennessee coach Pat Summitt lost her NCAA Championship Game debut in 1984 to USC, then-Trojans star Cheryl Miller did a cartwheel in celebration. Right in front of Summitt.

Summitt, then still known to Miller as Pat Head, would be the coach of the to-be-named Olympic team that summer.

The cartwheel might have been a mistake.

“My teammates were like, ‘You’re not going to make the Olympic team, you just did a cartwheel in front of Pat Head!'” Miller said in a phone interview Tuesday. “You just committed Olympic suicide right there.”

Miller appealed to her USC coach, Linda Sharp.

“So, I probably shouldn’t have done the cartwheel,” Miller said.

“That probably wasn’t the smartest thing,” Sharp replied.

Miller did end up making the Los Angeles 1984 team coached by Summitt to the first U.S. Olympic women’s basketball title.

But at one point leading up to the Olympics, before the team was named, Miller and the U.S. team had an awful first half in a game. And Summitt let them know about it in the locker room.

“She walked up to me and goes, ‘Cheryl Miller, I will win or lose a gold medal without you,'” Miller recalled. “And I got benched the second half.”

Two days later, Miller and Summitt had a one-on-one meeting in Miller’s room. This is how Miller remembered the conversation:

Summitt: How did you feel about what I said?

Miller: You won’t win a gold medal without me.

Summitt: Yeah, you might be right.

Miller: What do you want from me coach? I give you my everything.

Summitt: I need you to be the best player on the planet. You’re already the best player in the country. I need you to be the best player in the world.

“From that day forward, practices took on another level,” Miller said. “I was diving for loose balls, taking charges, doing everything she needed me to do.”

After Miller earned her place on the Olympic team, she remembered another exchange with Summitt.

Summitt: I don’t get you, and I sometimes don’t like you, but I know I can’t win without you.

Miller: Coach, I can’t win without you.

In the Olympic final, Miller paced the U.S. with 16 points, including leading a 14-0 run in the second half after South Korea had cut the lead to 10 points, according to The New York Times.

Miller’s post-game celebration at the Forum was far different than at the NCAA final at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion four months earlier.

Miller helped carry Summitt on the court after the U.S. beat South Korea 85-55. Her father has a photo of it, and Miller called him on Tuesday to retrieve it and then posted it on social media.

“We didn’t know if we should raise her up because we didn’t know if she would get angry,” Miller said. “Once we dropped her on the floor, she looked at me and said, ‘Well done, Miller, well done.’”

MORE: Summitt’s unprecedented U.S. Olympic basketball feat

Noah Lyles runs personal best and is coming for Usain Bolt’s world record

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Noah Lyles ran a personal-best time in the 60m on Saturday, then reaffirmed record-breaking intentions for the 100m and, especially, the 200m, where Usain Bolt holds the fastest times in history.

Lyles, the world 200m champion, won the 60m sprint in 6.51 seconds at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston, clipping Trayvon Bromell by two thousandths in his first top-level meet of the year. Bromell, the world 100m bronze medalist, is a past world indoor 60m champion and has a better start than Lyles, which is crucial in a six-second race.

But on Saturday, Lyles ran down Bromell and shaved four hundredths off his personal best. It bodes well for Lyles’ prospects come the spring and summer outdoor season in his better distances — the 100m and 200m.

“This is the moment I’ve been working, like, seven years for,” he said. “We’re not just coming for the 200m world record. We’re coming for all the world records.”

Last July, Lyles broke Michael Johnson‘s 26-year-old American record in the 200m, winning the world title in 19.31 seconds. Only Bolt (19.19) and fellow Jamaican Yohan Blake (19.26) have run faster.

Lyles has since spoken openly about targeting Bolt’s world record from 2009.

How does an indoor 60m time play into that? Well, Lyles said that his success last year sprung from a strong indoor season, when he lowered his personal best in the 60m from 6.57 to 6.56 and then 6.55. He followed that by lowering his personal best in the 200m from 19.50 to 19.31.

He believes that slicing an even greater chunk off his 60m best on Saturday means special things are on the horizon come the major summer meets — the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships in July (on the same Oregon track where he ran the American 200m record) and the world championships in Budapest in August.

After focusing on the 200m last year, Lyles plans to race both the 100m and the 200m this year. He has a bye into the 200m at world championships, so expect him to race the 100m at USATF Outdoors, where the top three are in line to join world champ Fred Kerley on the world team.

Lyles’ personal best in the 100m is 9.86, a tenth off the best times from Kerley, Bromell and 2019 World 100m champ Christian Coleman. Bolt is in his own tier at 9.58.

Also Saturday, Grant Holloway extended a near-nine-year, 50-plus-race win streak in the 60m hurdles, clocking 7.38 seconds, nine hundredths off his world record. Olympic teammate Daniel Roberts was second in 7.46. Trey Cunningham, who took silver behind Holloway in the 110m hurdles at last July’s world outdoor championships, was fifth in 7.67.

Aleia Hobbs won the women’s 60m in 7.02 seconds, one week after clocking a personal-best 6.98 to become the third-fastest American in history after Gail Devers and Marion Jones (both 6.95). Hobbs, 26, placed sixth in the 100m at last July’s world championships.

Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, the Olympic and world 400m hurdles champion competing for the first time since August, and Jamaican Shericka Jackson, the world 200m champion, were ninth and 10th in the 60m heats, just missing the eight-woman final.

In the women’s pole vault, Bridget Williams, seventh at last year’s USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships, upset the last two Olympic champions — American Katie Moon and Greek Katerina Stefanidi. Williams won with a 4.63-meter clearance (and then cleared 4.71 and a personal-best 4.77). Stefanidi missed three attempts at 4.63, while Moon went out at 4.55.

The indoor track and field season continues with the Millrose Games in New York City next Saturday at 4 p.m. ET on NBC, NBCSports.com/live, the NBC Sports app and Peacock.

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Birk Irving, last man on Olympic team, extends breakout season with Mammoth win

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One year ago, Birk Irving was the last man to make the four-man U.S. Olympic ski halfpipe team. Since, he continued to climb the ranks in arguably the nation’s strongest discipline across skiing and snowboarding.

Irving earned his second World Cup win this season, taking the U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain, California, on Friday.

Irving posted a 94-point final run, edging Canadian Brendan Mackay by one point. David Wise, the two-time Olympic champion who won his fifth X Games Aspen title last Sunday, was third.

A tribute was held to 2015 World champion Kyle Smaine, a U.S. halfpipe skier who died in an avalanche in Japan last Sunday.

“We’re all skiing the best we have because we’re all skiing with Kyle in our hearts,” Irving said, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “We’re skiing for him, and we know he’s looking down on us. We miss you Kyle. We love you. Thank you for keeping us safe in the pipe today.”

Irving also won the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, Colorado, on Dec. 17. Plus, the 23-year-old from Colorado had his best career X Games Aspen finish last Sunday, taking second.

The next major event is the world championships in Georgia (the country, not the state) in early March. Irving was third at the last worlds in 2021, then fifth at the Olympics last February.

The U.S. has been the strongest nation in men’s ski halfpipe since it debuted at the Olympics in 2014. Wise won the first two gold medals. Alex Ferreira won silver and bronze at the last two Olympics. Aaron Blunck is a world champion and X Games champion.

Irving is younger than all of them and has beaten all of them at multiple competitions this season.

New Zealand’s Nico Porteous, the reigning Olympic gold medalist, hasn’t competed since the Games after undergoing offseason knee surgery.

In snowboarding events at Mammoth, Americans Julia Marino and Lyon Farrell earned slopestyle wins by posting the top qualification scores. The finals were canceled due to wind.

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