Sydney McLaughlin
Getty Images

Sydney McLaughlin, youngest U.S. track and field Olympian, in whirlwind summer

Leave a comment

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Sydney McLaughlin is running with a fast crowd these days. The 16-year-old sprinter and hurdler heads to the Rio Olympics as the youngest member of the U.S. track and field team. First, though, she wants to get home, hug her dog and eat some junk food before taking on the world.

McLaughlin caps a whirlwind few weeks with a stroll down the red carpet at the ESPY Awards on Wednesday night. She’s attending as winner of the girls’ national prep athlete of the year trophy she picked up Tuesday night.

She arrived in Los Angeles directly from making her first Olympic team by finishing third in the 400-meter hurdles at the U.S. trials last Sunday in Oregon. Her time of 54.14 seconds was a world junior record.

“I don’t think it’s hit me yet,” she said.

After mingling with some of the world’s best professional athletes, McLaughlin goes home to Dunellen, New Jersey, for a brief visit. She’s missing Gamble her cockapoo dog, whom she hasn’t seen in three weeks.

Her parents, Willie and Mary, are scrambling to join her in Rio.

“There’s no way we’re going to let our baby girl go to another country without us being there,” said Willie, who works from home as a network engineer for AT&T. “Besides, how many times do you get to see your kids in the Olympics?”

Mary joked, “We’ll just be buying a lot of bug spray.”

Willie McLaughlin qualified for the 400-meter semifinals at the 1984 U.S. trials, but didn’t make the Olympic team. Mary McLaughlin, who works at Rutgers University, is a former runner, too. The couple met at Manhattan College in New York City.

“We planned for it for years,” Willie said of his daughter’s Olympic qualification, “but it’s actually here and it’s hard to believe.”

Her sister and two brothers will watch from the couch “and party at the house,” Sydney joked.

McLaughlin couldn’t have predicted she would be in Rio. Her high school track season began with a diagnosis of mononucleosis that kept her out 1 ½ months. Her mother had a heart attack.

“Every Olympian has two or three major struggles before they make it,” she told the crowd at the prep awards. “I didn’t know if I was going to make it and somehow I did.”

At trials, McLaughlin had what she called “a mental breakdown” before her first event. She called her dad in full freak-out mode, panicked at the prospect of being a teen running against grown women.

Her coaches calmed her down and “three races later I’m an Olympian,” she said.

“When you put her on the track, you’re not running against a 16-year-old,” Willie McLaughlin said. “You’re running against a very talented, seasoned athlete. That’s what these women are finding out the hard way. I told her, ‘They’re more scared of you than you are of them. They’ve got more to lose than you and that’s the attitude you need to take into it.'”

McLaughlin has a modest goal for her first Games.

“I’m just going to get the experience. There’s so many more years to try again and so many more races to run,” she said. “I don’t even think I’m thinking about place or time. I’m going to hang out with the girls on the team. It’s kind of like vacation and work at the same time.”

From a dad’s perspective, Willie McLaughlin hopes his daughter gains confidence and hones the ability to interact and talk with anyone at the Olympics.

“She’s been really blessed with talent that other people simply don’t have,” he said.

McLaughlin told Sydney that because of her track talent she can go places and do things that others can’t.

“Don’t be afraid of that,” he told her. “Don’t be afraid of doing things new.”

From his perspective as a track coach, Willie is encouraging his daughter to step up her nutrition and embrace the lifestyle of a high-level athlete. That means cutting out junk food and some of “the 16-year-old baggage,” as he calls it.

“We had the boys, going to the mall, all that other stuff,” he said, smiling. “She needs to mature into that woman that’s really going to take care of her body and take care of her instrument of success.”

Sydney, named for her dad’s favorite actor Sidney Poitier, is already showing her stuff in the nail art department. McLaughlin’s long fingernails were decked out in sparkling silver polish, a popular trend among female sprinters.

She turns 17 on Aug. 7, days before the track competition begins in Rio. She’ll be a senior this fall at Union Catholic High in Scotch Plains with some wild stories to tell.

MORE: Ashton Eaton, Neymar highlight new ‘Unstoppable’ video

Anna van der Breggen is first cyclist to sweep road world titles in 25 years

Anna van der Breggen
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Dutchwoman Anna van der Breggen added the road race crown to her time trial victory at the world road cycling championships, becoming the second rider in history to win both events at the same edition.

“This is, for me, pretty good so far,” she said.

Van der Breggen, the Rio Olympic road race champion, won after a solo attack with more than 25 miles left of an 89-mile course in Imola, Italy, on Saturday.

She prevailed after more than four hours of racing by 80 seconds over countrywoman Annemiek van Vleuten, the 2019 champion. Van Vleuten raced nine days after breaking her left wrist in a Giro Rosa crash.

Italian Elisa Longo Borghini took bronze in the same time as van Vleuten after losing a photo-finish sprint. Lauren Stephens was the top American in 11th.

Full results are here.

The race lacked American standout Chloé Dygert, who crashed out of the time trial while leading on Thursday and required leg surgery.

Van der Breggen joined Frenchwoman Jeannie Longo as the only male or female cyclists to sweep the time trial and road race at a single worlds. Longo did so in 1995 at age 36.

Van der Breggen, 30, said in May that she will retire after the 2021 Olympic season.

It will be the end of one of the great cycling careers. She is now a three-time world champion and nine-time world medalist to go along with her road race gold and time trial bronze in her Olympic debut in Rio.

Worlds conclude Sunday with the men’s road race. A TV and stream schedule is here.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: A more equal future for women’s cycling? Lizzie Deignan has high hopes

2020 French Open TV, live stream schedule

Leave a comment

Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams can each tie Grand Slam singles titles records at the French Open, with daily live coverage among NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel.

NBC coverage starts Sunday with first-round action at Roland Garros, its 38th straight year covering the event. Tennis Channel airs the majority of weekday coverage. Peacock, NBC Universal’s new streaming service, has middle weekend broadcasts.

All NBC TV coverage alo streams on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

Nadal is the primary men’s storyline, favored to tie Roger Federer‘s male record of 20 major titles and extend his own record of 12 French Open crowns. Federer is absent after knee operations earlier this year.

The Spaniard’s primary competition is top-ranked Novak Djokovic, the 2016 French Open champion whose only defeat in 2020 was a U.S. Open default for hitting a ball that struck a linesperson in the throat.

Williams bids again to match the overall Grand Slam singles mark of 24 held by Australian Margaret Court. Williams, a three-time French Open champion, lost in the third and fourth round the last two years and is coming off a U.S. Open semifinal exit.

The women’s field is led by 2018 champion Simona Halep but lacks defending champion Ash Barty of Australia, not traveling due to the coronavirus pandemic. Also out: U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka, citing a sore hamstring and tight turnaround from prevailing in New York two weeks ago.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: How Jay-Z, Beyonce helped Naomi Osaka come out of her shell

French Open TV Schedule

Date Time (ET) Network Round
Sunday, Sept. 27 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel First Round
12-3 p.m. NBC
Monday, Sept. 28 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel First Round
Tuesday, Sept. 29 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel First Round
Wednesday, Sept. 30 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Second Round
Thursday, Oct. 1 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Second Round
Friday, Oct. 2 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Third Round
Saturday, Oct. 3 5 a.m.-12 p.m. Tennis Channel Third Round
11 a.m. Peacock
Sunday, Oct. 4 5 a.m.-12 p.m. Tennis Channel Fourth Round
11 a.m. Peacock
Monday, Oct. 5 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Fourth Round
11 a.m. Peacock
Tuesday, Oct. 6 6 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tennis Channel Quarterfinals
Wednesday, Oct. 7 6 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tennis Channel Quarterfinals
Thursday, Oct. 8 5 a.m.-2 p.m. Tennis Channel Women’s Semis
11 a.m. NBC, NBCSN
Friday, Oct. 9 5 a.m.-4 p.m. Tennis Channel Men’s Semis
11 a.m. NBC, NBCSN
Saturday, Oct. 10 9 a.m. NBC Women’s Final
Sunday, Oct. 11 9 a.m. NBC Men’s Final