Wayde van Niekerk wants World Championships schedule change for double

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Wayde van Niekerk wants the schedule for the World Track and Field Championships in London in August to be changed so he can better attempt to sweep the 200m and 400m.

The South African won the Rio Olympic 400m in 43.03 seconds, breaking Michael Johnson‘s world record.

Many track and field fans hope to see Van Niekerk race Usain Bolt for the first time this year, in what is expected to be Bolt’s last season before retiring.

That race doesn’t appear likely at the world championships. Bolt is not expected to contest the 200m at worlds or perhaps at all this season.

“[Coach Glen Mills] still wants me to do the double, but I’ve told him I would really like to just do the 100m, so at the start of the season we’ll decide exactly what, but that’s what’s on my mind,” Bolt said on Jamaican TV in September, according to Reuters.

Van Niekerk’s agent said Friday that there’s no chance the South African races the 100m or the 4x100m relay at worlds if he’s able to race the 200m and 400m.

“Wayde wants to try and double … but currently the program at world champs in London is not conducive to that,” Van Niekerk’s agent said. “We’re in conversations with the IAAF to see if there is any possibility to alter the program.”

The IAAF said later Friday that it hasn’t received any request to change the world championships schedule from South Africa’s track and field federation.

The current worlds schedule has the 200m first round taking place about two and a half hours before the 400m final. Van Niekerk said he plans to double regardless of if the schedule is changed, according to South Africa media.

Last year, the Olympic track and field schedule was changed to give Allyson Felix more time between the 200m and 400m. She ended up qualifying for only the 400m, missing the U.S. team in the 200m by .01 after an ankle injury.

Van Niekerk said he will enter 200m races during the spring and/or early summer to prepare. His personal best, 19.94 seconds from 2015, would have earned the silver medal behind Bolt’s 19.78 in Rio.

“I’ve made up my mind, that’s really what I want to do for this year,” Van Niekerk said in a South African TV interview published Thursday. “I’ve achieved so much in the 400m these last two years. I feel I want to put a new element or aspect into my athletics. I feel I want to invest a bit more in the 200m and the 100m without totally neglecting the 400m. So I want to continue improving myself in the 400m, but at the same time I want to get back to why I started track and field, and that was the 100m and 200m.”

Van Niekerk said it’s “bittersweet” that he “probably” won’t race the 4x100m relay at worlds, assuming South Africa qualifies a 4x100m team.

“We’ll see how many body feels, and if I’m willing to take that risk,” he said. “At the moment, I’m already trying a new challenge with the 200m and 400m. So I don’t believe I should take that extra bit of pressure for myself. Let’s first see how I do this year, and how I handle that, and we’ll decide about the 4x100m. But right now I really need to make up my mind on how I would like to take this year.”

As for his goals in 2017? Van Niekerk wants to set a personal best.

“It’s really just about that growth, that continuous growth,” he said. “I’d love to do better than what I’ve done last year. So, whatever times I’ve set up, or whatever times is under my name right now, it needs to fall.”

MORE: Bolt ’50-50′ on competing in 2018

Mikaela Shiffrin, three gates from gold, skis out of world championships combined

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Mikaela Shiffrin was three gates from a record-tying seventh world championships gold medal when she lost her balance and straddled a gate, skiing out of the first race of worlds on Monday.

Italian Federica Brignone won the women’s combined instead, prevailing by 1.62 seconds over Swiss Wendy Holdener, the largest Olympic or world championships men’s or women’s margin of victory in the event since it switched from three runs to two in 2007.

Austrian Ricarda Haaser took bronze in an event that is one run of super-G followed by one run of slalom.

At 32, Brignone, the 2020 World Cup overall champion, won her first global title and became the oldest female world champion in any event.

“What was missing in my career was a gold medal,” she said. “So I’m old. No, I’m just kidding.”

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Shiffrin was sixth fastest in the opening super-G run, 96 hundredths behind Brignone. She skied aggressively in the slalom in a bid to beat Brignone. Shiffrin cut the gap to eight hundredths by the last intermediate split with about 10 seconds left on the course in Meribel, France.

Shiffrin looked set to overtake Brignone until tripping up slightly with five gates left. It compounded, and Shiffrin couldn’t save the run, losing control, straddling the third-to-last gate and skiing out. The timing system still registered her finish — 34 hundredths faster than Brignone — but it was quickly corrected to the obvious disqualification.

Asked on French TV if she lost focus, Shiffrin said, “People are going to say that no matter what.”

“The surface changed a little bit on these last gates, so [on pre-race] inspection I saw it’s a bit more unstable on the snow,” she added. “I tried to be aware of that, but I knew that if I had a chance to make up nine tenths on Federica, or more than that, like one second, I had to push like crazy. So I did, and I had a very good run. I’m really happy with my skiing.”

It marked Shiffrin’s first time skiing out since she did so in three races at last February’s Olympics, where her best individual finish was ninth in five races. At the Olympics, she skied out within the first 13 seconds in each instance. On Monday, she was more than 40 seconds into her run.

“I was thinking, now I’m going to go through the mixed zone. and everyone’s going to ask, ‘Oh, is this Beijing again?'” Shiffrin said. “I didn’t really think about that for myself, but more for the people asking. But I also said before, coming into this world champs multiple times, I’m not afraid if it happens again. What if I don’t finish every run? What happened last year, and I survived. And then I’ve had some pretty amazing races this season. So I would take the season that I’ve had with no medals at the world championships. If it’s either/or, then I would take that. I’m happy with it. But I’m going to be pushing for medals, because that’s what you do at world champs. You wear your heart on your sleeve, and you go for it. I’m not afraid of the consequences, as long as I have that mentality, which I had today.”

NBC Sports analyst Steve Porino said what happened Monday was “completely different” from the Olympics, calling it “an error of aggression.”

“It certainly wasn’t nerves that sent her out,” Porino said on the Peacock broadcast. “This was Shiffrin knowing that she had to have a huge run to get the gold medal.

“The way she went out this time, I think she can brush that one off.”

Shiffrin was bidding to tie the modern-era records for individual world championships gold medals (seven) and total medals (12). Coming into Monday, she earned a medal in her last 10 world championships races dating to 2015.

Her next chance to match those records comes in Wednesday’s super-G, where she is a medal contender. Norway’s Ragnhild Mowinckel is the world’s top-ranked super-G skier through five races on the World Cup this season, though she was 71 hundredths behind Brignone in Monday’s super-G run.

Shiffrin has raced two super-Gs this season with a win and a seventh place.

She is expected to race three more times over the two-week worlds, which is separate from the World Cup circuit that she has torn up this season.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup wins in 23 starts across all disciplines since November, moving her one shy of the career victories record of 86 accumulated by Swede Ingemar Stenmark in the 1970s and ’80s. Again, world championships races do not count toward the World Cup, which picks back up after worlds end in late February.

Worlds continue Tuesday with the men’s combined.

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Shaunae Miller-Uibo, Olympic 400m champion, announces pregnancy

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Bahamian Shaunae Miller-Uibo, the two-time reigning Olympic 400m champion, announced she is pregnant with her first child.

“New Year, New Blessing,” she posted on social media with husband Maicel Uibo, the 2019 World Championships silver medalist in the decathlon for Estonia. “We can’t wait to meet our little bundle of joy.”

Miller-Uibo’s agency said she plans to return to sprinting, but they don’t yet have a timeline of her plans.

Miller-Uibo, 28, followed her repeat Olympic title in Tokyo by winning her first world indoor and outdoor titles last year.

Also last year, Miller-Uibo said she planned to drop the 400m and focus on the 200m going into the 2024 Paris Games rather than possibly bid to become the first woman to win the same individual Olympic running event three times.

She has plenty of experience in the 200m, making her world championships debut in that event in 2013 and placing fourth. She earned 200m bronze at the 2017 Worlds, was the world’s fastest woman in the event in 2019 and petitioned for a Tokyo Olympic schedule change to make a 200m-400m double easier. The petition was unsuccessful.

She did both races anyway, finishing last in the 200m final, 1.7 seconds behind the penultimate finisher on the same day of the 400m first round.

She did not race the 200m at last July’s worlds, where the 200m and 400m overlapped.

Notable moms to win individual Olympic sprint titles include American Wilma Rudolph, who swept the 100m, 200m and 4x100m at the 1960 Rome Olympics two years after having daughter Yolanda.

And Dutchwoman Fanny Blankers-Koen, who won four gold medals at the 1948 London Olympics, when the mother of two also held world records in the high jump and long jump, two events in which she didn’t compete at those Games.

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