Speedster Green chasing rugby gold for Australia in Rio

Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images
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Ellia Green has been cutting her teeth as a rugby player for four years in the pursuit of an Olympic gold medal. It has cost her a couple of teeth along the way, too.

The so-called fastest woman in world rugby, for a long time Green trained in track and field and had competed at international level for Australia before making a sudden move into the rough-and-tumble sport.

Like so many players in the world series-winning Australian women’s squad, it was games of backyard rugby with a brother as a child that provided the only real hint about the physical demands of the game.

“He always tried to get me involved. He tried to tackle me in the backyard,” Green recalled of her brother, Mitchell, now 25 and still playing rugby union. “It helped. Growing up, we were sort of rough with each other. He told me `You should try rugby, you’d be so good at it.”‘

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That wasn’t exactly the unanimous family line. Her mother, Yolanta, wasn’t really sold on the idea at first.

“She was unsure about it – she was worried,” Green said. “`Ellia, can’t you pick a sport where you can’t get hurt?”‘

Four years later, by her reckoning, Green has had five operations.

“Finger surgeries, I’ve lost teeth, shoulder operations,” she said, running through her catalog of injuries. “That’s one thing (Yolanta) was worried about.

“But above all, she said opportunities like this don’t come often. If it wasn’t for her, I probably wouldn’t have gone on with it.”

Green’s initial contact with rugby sevens was as a driver – giving her cousin a ride to a “Pathway to Gold” talent identification tryout in Melbourne in 2012. There were women there from all kinds of sports, and from all over Australia.

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“I wasn’t planning on going at all. I was just taking my cousin,” Green recalled in an interview with The Associated Press. “It was spontaneous. There were 150-200 girls. They only picked two.”

One of those was Green, who was born in Fiji and raised in Australia.

The team has several players drawn from other sports, including Chloe Dalton, who earlier had aspirations to be in Australia’s women’s basketball team, field hockey players Shannon Parry and Sharni Williams, who was a full-time auto mechanic, and Charlotte Caslick and Alicia Quirk from touch football – a non-contact form of rugby.

Having a squad of full-time contracted players paid off in the women’s world sevens series when the Australians broke New Zealand’s dominance of the competition,

Green made more clean line breaks than anyone in the 2016 world series and scored 17 tries – fourth on the list for the season – lifting her career tally to 61. New Zealander Portia Woodman led the try-scoring for the season with 24, followed by Green’s Australian teammate Emilee Cherry with 22 and Ghislaine Landry of Canada with 19.

Australia won the first three titles in the five-event series and reached the final on the last stop to finish with 94 points, 14 clear of second-place New Zealand and 20 clear of Canada and England.

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The convincing series win make the Australians favorites for gold in Rio, but Green and her teammates are conscious that New Zealand timed its preparations to peak for the Olympic tournament which kicks off Saturday.

Speed is one of the Australian team’s biggest assets, and Green knows she’ll be in the targets of defenders for that reason. She looks inside and outside of the game for motivation, recalling the posters of sprinters she had on her walls in her track and field days, admiring the likes of Carmelita Jeter, Allyson Felix and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.

From a rugby sevens perspective, she looks to the likes of U.S. men’s players Carlin Isles and Perry Baker.

“I do look up to speedsters,” she said. “I just like the power.”

Rugby is returning to the Olympics for the first time in 92 years, in the modified sevens version rather than the traditional 15-a-side game. Women will be playing for rugby medals for the first time, and Green sees that as an opportunity to break down some stereotypes.

“I want to be a tough girl who can do anything,” she said. “I’m into my cars. I love building – I did some construction work last year. I don’t think there should be any boundaries to what girls should do.”

2023 World Alpine Skiing Championships TV, live stream schedule

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Every race of the world Alpine skiing championships airs live on Peacock from Feb. 6-19.

France hosts the biennial worlds in Meribel and Courchevel — six women’s races, six men’s races and one mixed-gender team event.

Mikaela Shiffrin is the headliner, in the midst of her most successful season in four years with a tour-leading 11 World Cup wins in 23 starts. Shiffrin is up to 85 career World Cup victories, one shy of Ingemar Stenmark‘s record accumulated over the 1970s and ’80s.

World championships races do not count in the World Cup tally.

Shiffrin is expected to race at least four times at worlds, starting with Monday’s combined. She earned a medal in 11 of her 13 career world championships races, including each of the last 10 dating to 2015.

Shiffrin won at least one race at each of the last five world championships (nobody has gold from six different worlds). Her six total golds and 11 total medals are American records. At this edition, she can become the most decorated skier in modern world championships history from any nation.

She enters one medal shy of the record for most individual world championships medals since World War II (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt) and four medals shy of the all-time record. (Worlds were held annually in the 1930s, albeit with fewer races.)

She is also one gold medal shy of the post-World War II individual record shared by Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson.

The other favorites at these worlds include Italian Sofia Goggia, the world’s top female downhiller this season, and the two leading men: Swiss Marco Odermatt (No. 1 in super-G and giant slalom) and Norwegian Aleksander Aamodt Kilde (No. 1 in downhill).

2023 World Alpine Skiing Championships Broadcast Schedule

Date Event Time (ET) Platform
Mon., Feb. 6 Women’s Combined Super-G Run 5 a.m. Peacock
Women’s Combined Slalom Run 8:30 a.m. Peacock
Tues., Feb. 7 Men’s Combined Super-G Run 5 a.m. Peacock
Men’s Combined Slalom Run 8:30 a.m. Peacock
Wed., Feb. 8 Women’s Super-G 5:30 a.m. Peacock
Thu., Feb. 9 Men’s Super-G 5:30 a.m. Peacock
Sat., Feb. 11 Women’s Downhill 5 a.m. Peacock
Highlights 2:30 p.m.* NBC, Peacock
Sun., Feb. 12 Men’s Downhill 5 a.m Peacock
Highlights 3 p.m.* NBC, Peacock
Tue., Feb. 14 Team Parallel 6:15 a.m. Peacock
Men’s/Women’s Parallel Qualifying 11 a.m. Peacock
Wed., Feb. 15 Men’s/Women’s Parallel 6 a.m. Peacock
Thu., Feb. 16 Women’s Giant Slalom Run 1 4 a.m. Peacock
Women’s Giant Slalom Run 2 7:30 a.m. Peacock
Fri., Feb. 17 Men’s Giant Slalom Run 1 4 a.m. Peacock
Men’s Giant Slalom Run 2 7:30 a.m. Peacock
Sat., Feb. 18 Women’s Slalom Run 1 4 a.m. Peacock
Women’s Slalom Run 2 7:30 a.m. Peacock
Highlights 2:30 p.m.* NBC, Peacock
Sun., Feb. 19 Men’s Slalom Run 1 4 a.m. Peacock
Men’s Slalom Run 2 7:30 a.m. Peacock
Highlights 3 p.m.* NBC, Peacock

*Delayed broadcast
*All NBC coverage streams on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app for TV subscribers.

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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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