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Matthew Centrowitz comes to New York for Millrose Games, dad’s tattoo

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NEW YORK — Matthew Centrowitz has his gold medal. Soon, his dad will be wearing one for the rest of his life, too.

Last summer, Centrowitz’s father, Matt Centrowitz, told his son out of the blue that if he won a medal in the Rio Olympic 1500m, he might get a tattoo to commemorate it. And if he won gold, he would definitely get inked.

Six months later, the promise is expected to be fulfilled in Manhattan.

Centrowitz is in New York as one of 12 Olympic champions and 57 Olympians competing in the Millrose Games, the most-ever in the event’s history dating to 1908.

The Millrose Games will air on NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app on Saturday from 4-6 p.m. ET.

When Centrowitz won surprise gold in Rio, he became the first American to do so in the Olympic 1500m since 1908. His father and sister both screamed in the stands. Centrowitz did an NBC broadcast interview shirtless, showing off his chest tattoo, “Like father like son.”

Centrowitz got that tattoo about three years ago, during a six-week stretch when he couldn’t exercise due to pericarditis, an inflammation of the lining surrounding the heart with heart-attack-like symptoms.

“I was kind of freaking out, this is it for me,” Centrowitz thought. “I’m going to die. I was like, you know what, screw it, I’m going to get a tattoo. I just wanted something to symbolize our relationship.”

The Centrowitz men share so much. They’re both two-time Olympians who majored in sociology in college. Matt raced in the first round of the 1976 Olympic 1500m and would have competed in Moscow in 1980 if not for the boycott.

When Centrowitz decided he would get a tattoo, he asked his dad for suggestions.

“He was like, ugh, that’s not my taste,” Centrowitz said. “My generation, we never did stuff like that. … He always jokes, a Hallmark card would have been just fine.”

It just came to Centrowitz one day to go with “Like father like son,” which was actually the headline of a 2007 New York Times story about the runner while he was in high school.

Centrowitz revealed the tattoo on Instagram, ending the post with an apology to his mother.

Centrowitz’s dad, a New York native, was scheduled to get his first tattoo on Friday afternoon in Manhattan, but a scheduling problem may delay it. The design is of Christ the Redeemer holding a gold medal, which will go on a shoulder.

“It’s to honor my son’s gold medal. It’s a tribute to him,” said Matt Centrowitz, who recently published a book, aptly titled “Like Father, Like Son,” about his life as an Olympic runner, NCAA track coach and parent of an Olympian. “I promised it a little hastily, and then, of course, he got a gold medal. There was no choice. Whenever he wanted to cash in his win, I’m ready. Today he wants to do it.”

The 62-year-old said he was half-anticipating, half-dreading sitting down in the artist’s chair.

“I just don’t want to cry,” he joked.

Neither Centrowitz has any immediate plans to get another tattoo.

“Yeah, they’re addicting, but not for a while,” Matthew Centrowitz said. “My mom would kill me.”

Matt Centrowitz added that he would only get another tattoo if his son wins another gold medal. That’s possible, as the 27-year-old has said he could race through the 2024 Olympics.

Matthew Centrowitz’s first tattoo was the word “CITIUS” on the back of his shoulder. It’s the Greek word for “faster,” and the first word of the Olympic motto, “Citius, Altius, Fortius” (Faster, Higher, Stronger).

The elder Centrowitz was at first disgusted with the “Like father like son” tattoo but quickly got over it. He has texted his son to send him a picture of it to share with his friends. He has asked Matthew to lift his shirt in public to show strangers.

Over Christmas break, Matthew Centrowitz hosted a young runner, Cam Sorter, who created social media buzz last year for getting a tattoo of Centrowitz’s upper body on the back of his left shoulder. They spent a day working out together at Centrowitz’s base in Portland, Ore.

Sorter, a college runner, has gone on to have a strong indoor season. Centrowitz would like to believe it was inspired.

“Maybe everybody should get tattoos of me on them,” Centrowitz said.

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Korea Olympic hockey coach takes high school job

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Sarah Murray, who coached the joint Korean Olympic women’s hockey team in PyeongChang, will coach the Owatonna High School girls team in her native Minnesota starting this fall.

Murray has not responded to a request for comment though the school on whether this means she is leaving the South Korean national team program.

Murray, 30, guided the joint Korean Olympic team to an 0-5 record. The tournament underdogs scored in three games and were within two goals of Switzerland.

Three weeks before the Olympics, the International Olympic Committee approved adding 12 North Koreans to the South Korean Olympic women’s hockey team, making it the first joint Korean team in any Olympic event.

Murray initially had mixed feelings.

“It’s exciting to be a part of something that’s so historic, to have two countries so divided come together through sports,” Murray said in January, according to Yonhap News Agency. “I think the story is great, and to be a part of it is important. But at the same time, it’s mixed feelings because it’s at the expense of, ‘We don’t get to play our full roster.’”

She expressed optimism after the Games.

“We have really enjoyed working with the North’s players and coaches, and we really do want to help them in the future,” Murray said, according to The Associated Press, adding that a possible “exchange game” was discussed to maintain the connection. “They want to get better, they want to keep learning from us and we want to help them. And there are things that we can learn from them, too.”

Murray won two NCAA titles as a player at Minnesota-Duluth. Her father, Andy Murray, spent 10 seasons coaching the Los Angeles Kings and St. Louis Blues in the 2000s.

She replaces an Otawonna coach who stepped down to focus on the girls lacrosse program and spend more time with his family.

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MORE: South Korea hockey team misses playing with North Koreans

Michael Phelps launches mental health campaign

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Michael Phelps was hanging at the pool on Tuesday.

No, he’s not planning another comeback.

He’s got a bigger goal to tackle.

Mental health.

After revealing the depths of his depression — and even thoughts of suicide after his second drunken-driving arrest — Phelps is hoping to make a difference for those who are dealing with similar issues.

The 23-time Olympic gold medalist announced a partnership with Talkspace, which provides online therapy, and said he considers it a higher calling than anything he ever did as a swimmer.

“Somebody told me yesterday about his daughter going through a very, very deep depression and not really wanting to be alive,” Phelps said in an interview with The Associated Press. “She read stories about me opening up. He told me how much that helped her. For me, that’s way bigger than ever winning gold medals. The chance to potentially save a life, to give that person an opportunity to grow and learn and help someone else, there’s nothing better in life.”

Despite his unprecedented success as an athlete, Phelps went through plenty of dark moments.

His first DUI arrest came when he was just 19, a few months after he won six gold medals at the 2004 Summer Olympics. He was briefly suspended after a picture emerged of him smoking from a marijuana pipe after his record eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Games. He struggled to get motivated heading into the 2012 Olympics.

But his low point came in 2014, after he abandoned retirement to compete in a fifth Olympics only to be arrested again for driving under the influence. He checked into an Arizona rehab clinic and finally realized just how much he was hurting — so much so, he wasn’t sure he wanted to go on living.

“I thought it would make things easier,” Phelps recalled. “I almost felt like it would be better for everybody if I wasn’t there. But the more I thought about it, I wanted to find a different route. I wanted to see if I could find some help. I wanted to see if I could get better.”

Phelps said he’s in a much better place these days. He’s happily married and living in suburban Phoenix with two small children, 2-year-old Boomer and 3-month-old Beckett. He’s satisfied with his career, saying there’s nothing left to accomplish at the pool.

But there are times that he struggles with depression and anxiety.

He figures it will be that way for the rest of his life.

“I still go through times that are very challenging. I do break down and maybe have a bad day, where I’m not in a good mental state,” Phelps said. “I understand that. It’s who I am. I guess that will always be something that’s a part of me.”

He hopes that his deal with Talkspace, which helps connect those in need with therapists through a variety on online conduits, will help to remove some of the stigma associated with mental health — especially for those who are reluctant to seek out help in person or may not have the financial means.

Phelps said mental health is especially important when suicide rates are on the rise and a rash of school shootings have rocked the United States.

“I feel like with all the issues we have in this world, this is something where I can truly make significant impact,” he said.

The 32-year-old Phelps has kept himself in good condition since Rio. He rides a bike nearly every day and still works out at the pool at least twice a week. When he stepped on the scales Monday, he weighed 192 pounds — 3 pounds less than he was at his last Olympics.

“Could I come back? Yes,” he said. “I think it would be even easier than it was in 2014 (when he officially ended his first attempt at retirement). I’m in better shape now than I was then.”

But, with those tantalizing words, Phelps quickly struck down any thought of returning to competitive swimming.

He simply doesn’t have any motivation to add to his record haul.

“Would I like to break a world record? Yeah, obviously,” Phelps said. “But I also know what I did to prepare for Rio. I thought I did a pretty damn good job of getting myself ready to go. I didn’t want any what-ifs 20 years down the road. Twenty years down the road, I won’t have that. I’ll be able to say I was happy with how I finished my career. I was happy to be able to have my family there, to have my first-born there to watch. I’ll have those memories forever.

“All good things must come to an end eventually. That was the best way to go out.”

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