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Allyson Felix talks Donald Trump election in Los Angeles 2024 bid speech

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DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Los Angeles sought to allay concerns over Donald Trump‘s election, Paris played up its glamorous venues and Budapest set itself apart as a mid-sized alternative as the three cities made their first public pitches Tuesday in the bid race for the 2024 Olympics.

With 10 months before the vote, the three candidates had a chance to deliver their message in 20-minute presentations to the general assembly of the Association of National Olympic Committees, a gathering of more than 1,000 delegates from around the world.

The meeting occurred exactly after a week after Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton in the American presidential election, a result that could have an impact on Los Angeles’ hopes of bringing the Summer Olympics back to the U.S. for the first time since Atlanta hosted in 1996.

Trump’s comments during the divisive campaign about Muslims and Mexicans and some of his foreign policy views may not help the California city’s chances with some of the IOC’s 98 members, who represent a range of nationalities, cultures and religions.

It was American sprinter Allyson Felix, a Los Angeles-born African-American sprinter and six-time Olympic gold medalist, who addressed those concerns during the presentation. Without mentioning Trump by name, her message was clear.

“We just finished our presidential election, and some of you may question America’s commitment to its founding principles,” Felix said. “I have one message for you: Please don’t doubt us. America’s diversity is our greatest strength.”

Felix said America “needs the games to help make our nation better, now more than ever.”

She raised the issue of race and slavery in explaining the history and diversity of the country.

“We’re also a nation with individuals like me, descendants of people who came to America, not of their own free will but against it,” Felix said. “But we’re not a nation that clings to our past, no matter how glorious — or how painful. Americans rush toward the future.”

“I believe L.A. is a perfect choice for the 2024 Games, because the face of our city reflects the face of the Olympic Movement itself,” she said.

IOC vice president John Coates, of Australia, was among the delegates in the audience and said Felix’s words hit the mark.

“I did think Allyson addressed the Trump issue very well,” he told The Associated Press. “I think the question was hanging. I thought it was very, very well-crafted.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, a Democrat who was a prominent Clinton supporter, also took up the theme of diversity and openness, saying his city can deliver “transformative” games.

“I see an America that remains actively engaged in the world,” he said. “I see an America that is outward-looking, ready to play its role alongside the community of nations to address our world’s most pressing challenges.”

Speaking afterward, Garcetti said an Olympic bid stands on a city’s own merits and does not depend on who is the president of the country.

“Today we just reminded people that any nation is made of its people, not one person,” he said. “We think that is something that, whether it’s Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, transcends all of us as Americans. I don’t think that the Hungarians or the French or the Americans are making their bid plans based on what the national leader says.”

Los Angeles hosted the games in 1932 and 1984. New York and Chicago failed in bids for the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, respectively.

“This is our third attempt to host the Olympic Games in the past 10 years and for many reasons … I must say this is the most remarkable U.S. bid I have ever seen,” U.S. Olympic Committee President Larry Probst said. “We have learned many lessons from our previous bids, and failure can be a great teacher.”

Paris, which hosted the games in 1900 and 1924, has been considered in a tight race with Los Angeles. The French team stressed the bid’s compact nature, with 85 percent of athletes housed within 30 minutes of their venues.

“In Paris in 2024, we will swim in the River Seine,” Mayor Anne Hidalgo told the delegates. “We will travel in driverless vehicles. We will celebrate the games on the Champs Elysees, with the Eiffel Tower and all along the Seine from the Grand Palais to Saint Denis.”

The Spanish-born Hidalgo cited her own background as an example of what Paris offers.

“To be an immigrant, to be a woman, to have dual nationality and to be able to be mayor of Paris, this city has brought me opportunity and freedom,” she said. “Paris has an incredible force.”

Budapest, which has never hosted the Olympics and is making its seventh bid, has been seen as the outsider in the race. The Hungarians said they only need to build three new venues and will harness the city center for the games.

Most of all, they said Budapest offers something different.

“A Games for one mid-sized global city is a Games for all mid-sized global cities, across the world,” bid chairman Balazs Furjes said. “A Games in Budapest sends the message that the Olympic Games are not simply for the mega-city, but for mid-size cities, too.”

The Doha audience included officials from 205 national Olympic committees, dozens of international sports federations and, most importantly, dozens of members of the International Olympic Committee, which will vote on the host city next September in Lima, Peru.

Under tighter IOC rules, these are the first of only three presentations during the two-year bid race. The second will be at a private technical briefing for IOC members in Switzerland in July, and the third will be the final presentations on the day of the vote in Lima.

MORE: 2024 Olympic bidding news

Lin Dan, badminton legend, retires: ‘It is very difficult to say goodbye’

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Lin Dan, arguably the greatest badminton player in history, announced retirement Saturday, citing “pain and injuries” in bowing out a year before the postponed Tokyo Olympics.

“I have been with the national team from 2000 to 2020, and it is very difficult to say goodbye,” 36-year-old Lin wrote to his four million Weibo fans, according to Badminton World Federation (BWF) translation. “Pain and injuries no longer allow me to fight with my teammates. I have gratitude, a heavy heart and unwillingness.”

Lin, nicknamed “Super Dan,” won Olympic singles titles in 2008 and 2012, plus five individual world titles. It’s the greatest resume for any badminton player from China, which owns twice as many medals as any other nation in the sport that debuted at the 1992 Barcelona Games.

He competed at the last four Olympics, won the sport’s Super Grand Slam (nine major titles) and had his own wax figure at Madame Tussauds in Shanghai.

Lin’s outbursts on and off the court led to some calling him the John McEnroe of badminton, but he is revered. In 2015, he was the second athlete on Forbes China‘s most popular celebrities list behind tennis player Li Na.

Lin’s pursuit of a fifth Olympics in Tokyo was looking out of reach. He dropped to No. 26 in the Olympic qualifying rankings, trailing four countrymen, including No. 5 Chen Long (Rio Olympic champion) and No. 11 Shi Yuqi (2018 World silver medalist). A nation can qualify a maximum of two individual players per gender for the Games.

“From where came his mastery? In short, his prowess was essentially due to the completeness of his game – in skill, physical ability and mental strength,” the BWF wrote in a press release. “Such was his craft that even well into his 30s, normally considered an advanced age for men’s singles, he could outplay younger and fitter opponents.”

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

MORE: Who is China’s greatest Olympian?

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MyKayla Skinner’s motivation for Tokyo: her Rio Olympic experience

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MyKayla Skinner remembers the little room at the SAP Center in San Jose. She remembers the wait, somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes.

After the 2016 U.S. Olympic Women’s Gymnastics Trials, the competitors (14 total performed) assembled while a selection committee convened in another space.

The committee finalized the five-woman Olympic team (plus three alternates), marched into the athletes’ room and delivered the verdict.

“They say the first four names, and then there’s that one spot left,” Skinner recalled. “I’m like, is it going to be me? You’re so tense just waiting there. All of us holding each other’s hands in the room. We’re all sitting there. It’s just, like, frozen dead silent. Then they say that fifth spot.”

Skinner doesn’t remember who was the fifth name. Just that it wasn’t her.

“I just broke down crying,” she said in a recent interview. “All that hard work I put in still wasn’t good enough. Even though it was. It’s just who they needed for the team.”

Skinner placed fourth in the all-around at those Olympic Trials, the highest finisher who was not named to the Olympic team. She was one of three alternates. If the Olympic team was chosen by all-around standings, a selection committee would not be necessary. Instead, gymnasts are puzzle pieces, chosen as who best fits the Olympic format: three gymnasts per apparatus in the team final and up to two per nation per individual final.

Skinner’s mind raced while she waited for the committee’s decision. She eventually settled on a gut feeling, that she would not make the team.

“I thought that it should be enough, but at the same I didn’t think that it would be,” said Lisa Spini, Skinner’s coach at Desert Lights Gymnastics in Chandler, Arizona. “I thought the team was already decided before the Olympic Trials.”

Spini said it was her toughest night as a gymnastics coach.

“Being an alternate is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in gymnastics,” said Skinner, who traveled to Brazil and, with fellow alternates Ashton Locklear and Ragan Smith, trained separately from the Olympic team. “The whole time I was in Rio, I probably cried every single night

“The Olympics should be something so special, but I feel like it was definitely miserable at times. It was really hard to enjoy being an alternate. With this comeback, that has pushed me so hard just because I was so close.”

You may have read about Skinner back in the spring, after the Tokyo Olympics were postponed to 2021.

It’s a devastating delay for a female gymnast, whose peak often lasts for one Olympic cycle (sometimes even shorter). Skinner is an exception, excelling for the better part of a decade on different levels.

She made her first world championships team in 2014. After Rio, she matriculated at the University of Utah, where she was twice an NCAA all-around runner-up and hit an NCAA record 161 straight routines without a fall. In 2019, she decided to come back to international competition — for an Olympic run — with one year left of NCAA gymnastics.

She is 23, the oldest of the 16-woman U.S. national team. She is trying to become the oldest woman to make a U.S. Olympic gymnastics team since 2004. And the first with NCAA experience to do so since Alicia Sacramone in 2008.

“The reason why a lot of college gymnasts couldn’t come back and do it is they’ve been so injured over the years,” Spini said. “Their body wouldn’t hold up. She’s been really lucky that way.”

Skinner could have easily followed the path of so many other stars who signaled the end of an elite career by going to college, where training and routines are less demanding.

She questioned herself often after the Tokyo postponement whether it was worth it to return to elite training. The Olympic team event roster size has been cut from five to four. Simone Biles is an overwhelming favorite to earn one spot. In the face of those odds, Skinner can’t shake a memory from Rio.

“I just go back to the moment of when I was sitting in the stands,” watching the Final Five earn gold, Skinner said. “I was so close to making the team. This has been my dream ever since I went to Desert Lights when I was 12.”

Skinner’s comeback is already a success. Last year, on three months of elite training, she placed eighth at the U.S. Championships. She was convinced to accept an invitation to the world championships selection camp, where six women would make the traveling team (one later named an alternate).

Like in 2016, Skinner placed fourth in the all-around competition before the roster was chosen.

Again, the gymnasts gathered for the announcement. This time, Skinner made the cut as the sixth woman named. Biles, the other 20-something at the camp and a friend, jumped in excitement.

The team traveled to Germany in late September. After training, one woman had to be designated the alternate. High performance team coordinator Tom Forster took Skinner aside one day on the way to lunch. She knew what was coming and broke down in tears, flashing back to 2016.

“Simone was like, hey, let’s go to the bathroom. She helped talk me through it and helped me calm down and definitely made me a feel a lot better,” said Skinner, who supported Biles and the U.S. team that competed in Stuttgart. She then wed Jonas Harmer in November and decided what must be done to make the Olympic team.

“We’re going to try to add in some big skills, which will put her difficulty level, probably, second only to Simone,” Spini said.

Skinner is documenting her last year-plus in elite gymnastics on a YouTube channel with 29,000 subscribers. She has been fortunate during the coronavirus pandemic to train at her gym if no more than 10 people were present. Many other gymnasts — and athletes across Olympic sports — spent weeks or months out of their facilities.

“I definitely don’t think I would have been able to have that much time off,” she said. “That’s really hard with gymnastics because you feel like, you take two days off, and it’s like you had a year off.”

One day this spring, Skinner’s mom called, in tears, fearing for her life with an illness that turned out to be the coronavirus. Both of her parents, in their 60s, had it and briefly lost their senses of taste. Her mom had breathing problems, but they recovered.

One night last month, Skinner had a dream about next year’s Olympic Trials. The Final Five all came back to compete, and Skinner was again named an alternate. She woke up. Skinner doesn’t know how she would handle that kind of disappointment in real life, again.

“So it’s kind of scary,” she said. Then Skinner thinks back to Rio, and that burning she felt while watching the Final Five win gold medals.

“This is what I’m supposed to do. This is what I’m meant to do is elite gymnastics,” said Skinner, who was born via life-threatening, early-labor C-section, needing to be revived by doctors. “I think it’s cool that I can have this opportunity to go and push myself one last time so I can reach that end goal.”

MORE: Gymnast Grace McCallum won a coin flip to become world champion

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