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Tyson Gay added as U.S. fills out Olympic track and field roster

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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Consider this a second chance for Tyson Gay. Maybe his last one, too.

The 33-year-old sprinter was handed a spot on the U.S. Olympic track team as a relay runner Monday, more than two years after his doping positive cost the Americans their silver medal from the 2012 Games.

Gay dominated the sprints for a time before Usain Bolt burst onto the scene in 2008. The American is still ranked second all-time behind Bolt with a time of 9.69 seconds in the 100.

But the last several years have been a struggle, filled with injuries and setbacks – none bigger than a positive doping test in 2013 that cost him one year out of the sport and forced the relay team to surrender its medal.

Gay finished fifth in the 100 and sixth in the 200 at the recently completed Olympic trials, but coaches stuck to the order of finish for the 100 meters, taking Gay and sixth-place finisher Christian Coleman, along with Mike Rodgers, whose spot was locked in thanks to his fourth-place finish.

In Gay, the U.S. gets a two-time Olympian and 2007 world champion at both 100 and 200 meters – choosing him over high-schoolers Noah Lyles and Michael Norman, who finished 4-5 in the 200 at trials.

Asked before the trials what it would mean to make the team, Gay said: “A hell of a lot. I’m considered the old one of the bunch now. It definitely means a lot to me to still keep up with these young guys here, use some of my veteran skills to my advantage.”

Also added for relays on the 127-person team, which includes 84 first-time Olympians, were Arman Hall, Tony McQuay and Kyle Clemons (men’s 4×400), Ariana Washington (women’s 4×100) and Francena McCorory and Courtney Okolo (women’s 4×400).

Some other things to know about the U.S. track and field team:

LIKE A FINE WINE: At 41, Bernard Lagat is still going strong – making his fifth Olympic team. The ageless 5,000-meter runner showed just about everyone that age is merely a number. “I don’t believe I’m old,” Lagat said. “If you believe you’re old – I’m going to run like an old man.”

JUST A KID: For a few days, 18-year-old high jumper Vashti Cunningham was set to be the youngest to compete for the U.S. Olympic track team in four decades. That lasted until 16-year-old Sydney McLaughlin came along and made the team in the 400-meter hurdles and took that distinction. To think, she had a little case of stage fright to begin the trials. It hardly showed as she set the world junior record to finish third and earn her place in Rio. “This has to be the icing on the cake,” the prep star from New Jersey said. “Regardless of what happens in Rio, I made it here and I’m just so thankful for all of that.”

FEEL-GOOD STORY ENDS WELL: 800-meter runner Boris Berian made the team despite an uphill climb – working at McDonald’s after dropping out of college to earn extra money to train and recently winning a lawsuit over Nike over what gear he could wear that nearly kept him off the starting line.

FEEL-GOOD STORY ENDS NOT AS WELL: 110-meter hurdler and defending Olympic champion Aries Merritt finished fourth – missing the team by one spot less than a year after returning from a kidney transplant. He had a positive outlook, though. “For me to be where I am is a miracle,” said Merritt, who operated at 10 percent kidney function when he captured a bronze medal at the 2015 world championships last summer.

DOUBLE DIP: Why stop at one event when you can double? There are plenty of athletes doubling up in Rio, including Galen Rupp (marathon, 10,000 meters), LaShawn Merritt (200, 400), Tianna Bartoletta (100, long jump), Tori Bowie (100, 200) and Justin Gatlin (100, 200). But Molly Huddle, who qualified for the 5,000 and 10,000 meters, was entered only in the 10K. And Allyson Felix, who had designs on a 200-400 double, didn’t make the 200 lineup.

For the entire U.S. Olympic track and field roster, click here.

MORE: Justin Gatlin speeds up, but another gear needed vs. Usain Bolt

Bianca Andreescu to miss U.S. Open

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Bianca Andreescu withdrew from the U.S. Open, citing “unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic” compromising her ability to prepare to defend her Grand Slam title.

“I have taken this step in order to focus on my match fitness and ensure that I return ready to play at my highest level,” Andreescu, a 20-year-old Canadian, posted on social media. “The US Open victory last year has been the high point of my career thus far and I will miss not being there. However, I realize that the unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic, have compromised my ability to prepare and compete to the degree necessary to play at my highest level.”

Andreescu’s absence means the U.S. Open, the first Grand Slam tournament since tennis resumed amid the coronavirus pandemic, will be without both 2019 male and female singles champions.

Rafael Nadal previously announced he would not defend his title, saying he would rather not travel given the global situation. Roger Federer is also out after knee surgery. Women’s No. 1 Ash Barty didn’t enter, either, citing travel concerns.

Last year, Andreescu made her U.S. Open title run as the 15th seed, sweeping Serena Williams in the final. Ranked 208th a year earlier, she became the first player born in the 2000s to win a Slam and the first teen Slam winner since Maria Sharapova at the 2006 U.S. Open.

Andreescu then missed the Australian Open in January due to rehab from a knee injury that forced her to retire during a match at the WTA Finals on Oct. 30. She also missed the French Open and Wimbledon in 2019 following a rotator cuff tear.

MORE: Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis competition

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Noah, Josephus Lyles, after years of supporting each other, meet on track’s highest level

Noah Lyles, Josephus Lyles
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When Noah and Josephus Lyles first talked about turning professional out of high school — Josephus brought it up before their junior year — the goal was, of course, to sprint on the sport’s highest international level — together.

They will do that in Monaco on Friday (2 p.m. ET, Olympic Channel and NBC Sports Gold).

The Lyles brothers will compete in the same Diamond League meet for the first time, and in the same race to boot. Though Noah has long focused on the 200m and Josephus the 400m, they will both contest the shorter distance at Stade Louis II.

“This is going to be really special,” Noah said.

“It makes me more comfortable, just knowing me and my brother are in the same race,” said Josephus, at his first Diamond League meet since 2018.

Noah, when asked the significance of the race that’s coming more than four years after they turned pro, suggested a reporter ask their mom.

“She’s probably over the moon right now,” he said.

Josephus remembered their mom, Keisha Caine Bishop, screaming in excitement upon learning last week that he earned a lane in Monaco. Noah, the reigning world 200m champion, was already in the field.

“It is definitely harder to watch,” when they’re in the same race, Bishop said, “but not because you’re worried about who’s going to win and who’s going to lose, because I don’t look at track like that.

“My nervousness more comes from I just want them both to do their best, so that we can all celebrate as a family. Because if one has a great race and the other one doesn’t have a great race, then it’s kind of hard for everybody to celebrate. You have to compartmentalize your emotions a little more.”

Bishop, an NCAA 4x400m champion at Seton Hall in the 1990s, is familiar with the balance. Even though her two sons born one year and four days apart last raced against each other in January 2017 at their first professional meet.

“The only reason I run track is because of Noah, honestly,” Josephus, who is younger, said while sitting next to Noah in 2017, days before their pro debut. “When I first started track, I quit because I didn’t like it.”

Josephus, a 400m/800m runner before giving it up, returned to the sport in eighth grade. He had planned to try out for the basketball team. Noah, originally a high jumper, was still doing track and field at the time, so Josephus went out for it, too. This time, he focused on races one lap and shorter.

“Turns out I was really good,” Josephus said. (The Lyles’ sister, Abby, ran one track race around age 6 and didn’t care for it, later finding her passion in biochemistry.)

Throughout high school, the brothers tore up tracks while attending T.C. Williams in Alexandria, Va., best known for the film “Remember the Titans.”

Bishop recalled the times one brother supported the other through adversity. Such as when Noah prayed for Josephus’ success in 2014, when Josephus was on crutches with a twisted ankle. Josephus came back that season to win the 400m at the New Balance Nationals, where Lyles took second in the 200m.

“When they race, they are more concerned about the other person than they are themselves,” Bishop said.

Or in 2016. Josephus suffered a season-ending torn right hip flexor two months before the Olympic Trials. A year before, as a high school junior, Josephus ran a 400m time that would have made the Olympic Trials final, where the top six of eight men would qualify for the Olympics.

Josephus still watched his brother race at trials, in the 200m, from the Hayward Field stands.

“He was trying to be strong,” Bishop said, “but I knew, as a mom, that it was very painful.”

Josephus excitedly detailed the experience on camera after Noah broke the national high school record and nearly pulled off the incredible, coming .09 shy of the Olympic 200m team of three men.

“Sometimes it can get a little hard. If one of us is doing well and the other one is not doing well, it can be rough,” Josephus said. “On the other hand, it can be really good because it’s a lot of support. It’s almost like an accountabili-buddy.”

The brothers achieved their goal by signing with Adidas shortly after trials.

Then in 2017, Noah strained his right hamstring and withdrew from the USATF Outdoor Championships before the 200m final. The family gathered before leaving the stadium in Sacramento.

“I said, ‘OK guys, we have to walk out of this warm-up area, and we have to do it as a team,'” Bishop said. “‘At the end of the day, the only people left will be the three of us. And it’s not just the end of today. It’s going to be the end of your careers. When all the newspapers are gone, television cameras, nobody’s writing about us, we are still a family, and that is all that matters.”

Josephus continued to battle the hip injury, yet lowered his 400m personal best in 2017 (making his Diamond League debut during Noah’s absence) and 2018. At the 2018 USATF Outdoors, Noah won the 100m and Josephus placed sixth in the 400m.

If it had been an Olympic or world championships year, both would have made the U.S. team. Instead, they looked to qualify for their first biennial world outdoor championships in 2019.

That spring, Josephus began throwing up every time he ate. He left a European swing after just one race. He saw several doctors leading into nationals, where he was eliminated in the semifinals. He got an endoscopy and learned his diaphragm was restricted, affecting his eating and breathing. It was fixed after the meet.

“A rough year,” Josephus said.

Noah won the U.S. 200m title two days after Josephus’ 400m semifinal. Noah took gold at the world championships in Doha, after which his most meaningful interaction came by phone with his brother, who was back home in the States after dealing with those chest problems.

Support flowed from both ends of the line — congratulations from an inspired Josephus and excitement from Noah, amped for the upcoming Olympic year and the prospect of a Lyles in every flat sprint and men’s relay in Tokyo.

“I never try to forget that I can be in that same position of being injured, and he could be the one doing well,” Noah said last fall. “So I want to always be able to bring good support to him.”

Noah and Josephus live together in a house near their training base in Clermont, Fla.

The pandemic relegated them to grass fields when tracks were closed for nearly two months. When they returned to more normal training, their coach, Lance Brauman, started putting Josephus in groups with 100m and 200m sprinters, including his brother, regularly for the first time.

Josephus, who beat Noah and world 110m hurdles champion Grant Holloway for a Virginia high school indoor 55m title in 2016, raced a pair of 200m in July. He lowered a five-year-old personal best from 20.74 to 20.41 and then 20.24, which helped book the spot in Monaco.

“When I run 19 [seconds], that’ll be that next level,” said Josephus, while noting the 400m remains his primary event. “I still have a little bit ways to go. Hopefully, this weekend will be a game-changer.”

Here they are, the week after what would have been their first Olympics this summer. Noah and Josephus Lyles are in the same race at the most anticipated track meet of the year.

The Olympic cycle has been bittersweet, said Bishop, reminded of what she stressed to her sons through the ups and downs.

“Life comes in seasons, and your season might not come when you wanted it to come,” she said. “The lesson might not be the lesson you thought it would be, but your season will come.”

MORE: Four years later, life changes for runners who shared Olympic moment

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