Allyson Felix, slowed by injury, finishes .01 shy of chasing Olympic goal set in 2005

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EUGENE, Ore. — Allyson Felix leaned forward while sitting on a folding chair under a tent, about 40 feet from the Hayward Field finish line, shielded from the drizzle. Her brother, Wes, sat to her right.

“I was right there,” she told him.

This was several minutes after Felix’s fourth-place result in the 200m at the U.S. Olympic Trials. Slowed by a serious ankle injury, she missed the Rio team in the event by one hundredth of a second and a chance at a 200m-400m double at the Olympics.

It’s the first time she failed to qualify for an Olympic or world championships team in the 200m since she was 15 years old in 2001.

“This whole year, that had been what I was working for, so for it to end here is disappointing,” said Felix, who clocked 22.54 seconds and has a personal best of 21.69. “Then when I look back, and I see everything that happened, I still think it’s quite amazing.”

An injured Felix previously made the Olympic team by winning the 400m in the fastest time in the world for the year seven days earlier. She will go to Rio and presumably compete in two events, the 400m and the 4x400m relay.

But she won’t get a chance to defend her Olympic 200m title, and maybe not be part of the 4x100m relay.

Since 2005, The Felixes have discussed a goal of wanting to win four gold medals at these specific Olympics.

“It’s going to hurt, and not just today or tomorrow, because you’re not going to get that back,” Wes said as his sister spoke to media about 20 minutes after the race.

Felix partially tore multiple right ankle ligaments when she landed on a medicine ball in an April 17 workout. That injury affected her 200m more than her 400m at Trials, though she expects one more month of healing will be an immense help for Rio.

“Her power was just not there,” said Wes, the 2002 World Junior Championships 200m bronze medalist (a race won by a 15-year-old Usain Bolt). “She was giving up three steps out of the blocks.”

Felix, after that slow start, made it back to fourth place coming around the curve, behind Tori BowieJenna Prandini and Deajah Stevens.

In the final strides, Felix uncharacteristically grimaced as she tried to close the gap on Prandini for third place and the last spot on the Olympic team (video here).

Felix’s right shoe crossed the finish before any part of Prandini’s body, but as everyone learned at the 2012 Olympic Trials, it’s the chest that stops the clock.

Prandini leaned too early and actually fell toward the line, putting her chest out but losing considerable momentum.

Allyson Felix

Felix ran through the line, then came to a stop around the curve. She doubled over, hands on knees, breathing heavily, staring at the south scoreboard.

“I wasn’t sure,” who got third, Felix said. “I just knew I gave all I had and leaned at the line. It just wasn’t there.”

For a 22-second race, the wait lasted nearly 20 seconds for the third-place result to flash on the screen.

The top half of the scoreboard showed Felix’s face. The bottom half showed the first two finishers’ names. Then the third came up. Prandini, in 22.53 seconds.

Felix showed little reaction, rising up and congratulating the others. Wes waited for her just off the track and accompanied her to the tent.

There were no tears. Just more heavy breathing, staring toward the track and exchanging short sentences with the brother who carried her off the track at the 2013 World Championships, when she tore a right hamstring in the 200m final.

There’s nothing to hang your head about, Wes told her.

“Just look at what life looked like 10 weeks ago,” he said later, “sitting in doctors’ offices and not knowing if she would run at all.”

Wes thought back to 2005, when Felix won the first of three straight world titles in the 200m. It was that year that they decided on the goal of four gold medals at one Olympics.

Even if Felix made the 200m team Sunday, she likely would have entered Rio an underdog in her trademark event. At the world championships last August, the Netherlands’ Dafne Schippers and Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson ran faster than Felix’s personal best in the 200m.

Last October, Michael Johnson, the last man to sweep the 200m and 400m at an Olympics (two women have done it), urged Felix to double in Rio at a USA Track and Field Hall of Fame induction.

In January, the IAAF amended the Rio track and field schedule at the petition of Felix’s coach, Bob Kersee, to give her more time between the 200m and 400m in Rio.

“She’s been training for this moment since she was 17,” Wes said. “You know you’re not 100 percent, and a hundredth away is heartbreaking.”

A few days before the 2013 World Championships in Moscow, Felix was passed a phone and asked by an American reporter about the Rio Olympics.

Felix expressed then, three years out, that she wanted to race multiple individual events for a second straight Olympics. But instead of the 100m-200m double that brought her a personal best and gold medal in London, Felix wanted to tackle the 200m-400m in Rio.

“I still have potential in it, unexplored potential,” said Felix, conjuring the 2011 World Championships, where she set a 400m personal best and lost by .03 to Botswana’s Amantle Montsho, who failed a drug test in 2014 and is banned through the Rio Games.

“I just feel like I haven’t come anywhere close in the 400m. I haven’t given it a true try.”

At least Felix still has that opportunity in Rio.

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A century later, Naomi Osaka, Kei Nishikori can bring Japan Olympic tennis to forefront

Naomi Osaka, Kei Nishikori
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When Naomi Osaka and Kei Nishikori take the courts at the Tokyo Olympics, perhaps together, they will be doing so 100 years after tennis players won Japan’s first Olympic medals in any sport.

Tennis is not usually one of the handful of marquee competitions at the Games, in part because it is one of the sports whose biggest event is not the Games themselves.

“We have been playing for these Grand Slams, and I think that’s why we train for,” Nishikori said at the U.S. Open in August, when asked to compare the meaning of winning one of tennis’ four annual majors to earning a medal at a home Olympics. “That’s going to be the biggest goal to winning Grand Slams.”

Yet the term “Grand Slam” had not been conceived — for golf or tennis — at the time of the 1920 Antwerp Games. There, Ichiya Kumagae earned silvers in singles and doubles with Seiichiro Kashio to become the first Japanese Olympic medalists.

Kumagae was Japan’s first notable international tennis player, reaching the 1918 U.S. Open semifinals (then called the U.S. National Championships) and beating Bill Tilden in the final of the 1919 Great Lakes Championships.

Kumagae, born in 1890, had not seen a tennis racket or ball until his 20s, according to Roger W. Ohnsorg‘s “The First Forty Years of American Tennis.”

“He came here to America in 1916, the possessor of a wonderful forehand drive and nothing else,” Tilden wrote in “The Art of Lawn Tennis.” Kumagae was listed by Ohnsorg as 5 feet, 3 inches, 134 pounds and requiring glasses at all times. Later in 1922, Kumagae’s engagement to the daughter of a wealthy politician was published as a news brief in The New York Times.

Nearly a century later, Nishikori and Osaka brought more Japanese tennis breakthroughs. Nishikori became the first Asian man to reach a Grand Slam singles final at the 2014 U.S. Open. Last year, Osaka became the first Japanese singles player to win a Grand Slam, also at the U.S. Open.

This past June, Japan’s annual Central Research sports survey (1,227 people, age 20+) put Nishikori and Osaka as its respondents’ fourth- and sixth-favorite athletes, past or present. Baseball players Ichiro (retired), Shohei Ohtani and Shigeo Nagashima (long retired) and figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu rounded out the top five.

Osaka’s U.S. Open title was voted the top sports moment of Emperor Akihito’s reign from 1989 to April 30, beating Ichiro’s retirement and Hanyu’s repeat Olympic crown in PyeongChang. Perhaps there was some recency bias.

Akatsuki Uchida, a tennis journalist from Japan, said that Nishikori’s U.S. Open final was a bigger moment for Japanese tennis than Osaka’s win over Serena Williams, though.

“Tennis at that time [in 2014] was not broadcast in Japan,” she said at the U.S. Open. “Media coverage of tennis was decreasing before Kei made that final. For most of Japanese, not tennis fans, but ordinary people, it came from out of nowhere. … He became like an overnight sensation. Since then, the situation of tennis in Japan changed dramatically.

“If [Osaka] wins the title before Kei won the title here, it could have been way bigger, but since Kei made the final before Naomi, it made Naomi’s achievement, still a big deal, less surprising.”

Another key difference: Nishikori spent the majority of his childhood in Japan, while Osaka’s family, with a Haitian father and Japanese mother, moved to the U.S. when she was 3 years old.

Osaka has dual citizenship, but Japanese law requires one to be chosen over the other by the 22nd birthday. Osaka turned 22 last month, before which she confirmed what most had assumed, that she picked Japan.

Uchida was unsure whether Osaka and Nishikori could propel tennis at the Tokyo Games into a greater spotlight among 33 total sports.

“But if Kei and Naomi played mixed doubles, that would be a big thing,” she said.

Nishikori has already reportedly said he plans to enter singles and doubles in Tokyo, the latter with Ben McLachlan, Japan’s top doubles player. McLachlan was born in New Zealand and in 2017 switched representation to Japan, his mother’s birth nation.

But Nishikori did not rule out adding mixed doubles.

“Very hot, very humid, playing singles and two doubles, I don’t know if I can,” he said before the U.S. Open. “I haven’t think too much yet, honestly. I don’t know. I will talk to Naomi later.”

Nishikori smiled as he brought up Osaka’s name at the end of his answer to a question that didn’t mention her. Later in the tournament, Osaka was told Nishikori’s thoughts.

“I would definitely play with him,” said Osaka, who in 2016 was the highest-ranked eligible player not to make the Rio Olympic field. “I just — I would actually need to practice doubles for the first time in my life. Because you cannot play mixed doubles with Kei Nishikori and lose in the first round of the Olympics in Tokyo. That would be the biggest — like, I would cry. I would actually cry for losing a doubles match. Yeah, definitely I think that that would be so, like, historic in a way. And I would love to do it, but I need to practice my doubles.”

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Another Jesse Owens Olympic gold medal being sold

Jesse Owens
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One of Jesse Owens‘ four 1936 Olympic gold medals will be put up for sale next week by Goldin Auctions.

Owens triumphed in the face of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany at the Berlin Games, taking the 100m, 200m, 4x100m relay and long jump.

This could be the second Owens gold to be sold in recent years, after one was auctioned in 2013 for $1,466,574, the highest price ever for a piece of Olympic memorabilia.

Two more were said to be put up for auction in 2017, but there are no widespread reports of sales actually happening.

This gold medal was gifted by Owens to John Terpak, a U.S. Olympic weightlifter in 1936 and 1948, after Terpak helped Owens garner speaking engagements, according to Goldin. The previous gold that sold for $1.4 million was gifted by Owens to a different friend.

Terpak died in 1993 and passed the medal on to his son and daughter, who consigned it to Goldin.

The medal is part of Goldin Auctions’ Holiday Auction from Monday through Dec. 7 on GoldinAuctions.com. The listings also include Tommy Lasorda‘s autographed lineup card from the 2000 Olympic baseball gold-medal game.

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Jesse Owens Olympic Gold Medal Jesse Owens Olympic Gold Medal