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Allyson Felix on skipping the double, traveling for LA 2024

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NEW YORK — Aside from her usual meet schedule, Allyson Felix hopes to make a large impact on her sport and the Olympic Movement with appearances around the world this summer.

It began here this week, when the nine-time Olympic medalist promoted the TrackTown Summer Series, a domestic tour of meets that culminated at Icahn Stadium at Randall’s Island on Thursday night. She didn’t compete, but she was captain of the New York team.

Felix left New York for London, where she plans to race Sunday for the last time before the world championships (also in London) next month.

From London, Felix heads to Lausanne, Switzerland, as part of LA 2024’s presentation team to the International Olympic Committee. The IOC could next week ratify a proposal to award both the 2024 and 2028 Olympics this summer, with one going to LA and the other Paris. Both cities prefer 2024, though.

If the Olympic bid process continues to a planned IOC vote in September, Felix will travel to the IOC session in Lima, Peru with the LA 2024 team.

On the track, Felix chose not to attempt a 200m-400m double at the world championships this year. She explained why and touched on other topics in a conversation Thursday.

OlympicTalk: What’s the single most interesting thing about the TrackTown Summer Series for casual track fans?

Felix: The team concept. It just makes it fun to follow. I think a lot of times, when you tune into track, and you’re not sure who to root for and all that stuff, this kind of brings it back to almost that college feel. You automatically are drawn to a team that you can follow. And also for the athletes to feel a part of that [NCAA feeling] again.

OlympicTalk: You pulled out of the 200m at the USATF Outdoor Championships, so your only individual world championships race will be the 400m. Why did you decide not to attempt the 200m-400m double this year, especially given how much it meant to you in 2016?

Felix: Just coming off of the kind of year that I had last year [severe ankle injury in the spring, missing the Olympic 200m team by .01], just physically and emotionally, it was just draining. I think the idea was to take our time this year and gradually get up to speed and to be able to focus in. Coming off of something that major and wanting to run for a little bit longer [in your career], you kind of have to be smart with the amount of intensity and the [number of] times of the year that we [race]. Just taking a more gradual approach this year.

OlympicTalk: Was your lead-up to this season affected at all by the ankle or anything health related?

Felix: I think there’s always residual effects, especially with ankle injuries. That was really slow healing. We kind of wanted to keep that in mind. I wouldn’t say it was affected too much. It was a different approach. I think I started moving around at the same time [as most seasons], but it was definitely a much slower build-up.

OlympicTalk: Somebody who is doubling at worlds is Wayde van Niekerk, with the 400m coming before the 200m. If you were doubling and in a situation where you were going to win the 400m, with a chance at a record time in the final, would you go all out or save something for the 200m?

Felix: You go for it, because I think the amount that you would save would be so little in the 400m that no matter how fast or slow, it’s so taxing. Also, how often do you have a chance to be that close to a record? I think you go for it and that adrenaline and anything else carries you through the 200m.

OlympicTalk: Next year is a non-championship year. Is there anything you would like to focus on, or maybe even take a break in 2018?

Felix: I haven’t really given it too much thought. It’s really getting through this year, and then I’ll kind of think about next year. It has been a very long time that I’ve been doing this and haven’t had a break at all. I’ll probably try to have some fun and figure it out after the season.

OlympicTalk: Do you want to run the 4x100m at world championships?

Felix: I would love to run the 4x100m if they need me. It’s the position I’ve always been is that I’m open if they need me. If not, I’m happy to focus on the 400m and 4x400m.

OlympicTalk: Do you consider yourself a 400m runner now?

Felix: I don’t know if I ever will. I guess I should. That’s what I’m running. I prefer the term “sprinter.”

OlympicTalk: It’s far out, but do you want to double in 2019 if everything is ideal?

Felix: I haven’t even thought of that. Long-term, I would love to do one more Olympics, but the breakdown of it and leading up into it, it’s kind of seeing what’s happening that year and how I’m feeling.

OlympicTalk: You were at Usain Bolt’s last home meet in Jamaica. What was that like?

Felix: I don’t think I’ve been in the stadium there where it was that full and everyone was that excited since [2002] World Juniors. It was amazing just to see the love for track and field and the love for him and what he’s done for the sport.

OlympicTalk: Was the excitement comparable to any other meet you’ve been to?

Felix: It has the kind of feel of a Penn Relays atmosphere, where it’s just fun. Everyone wasn’t so much concerned with performance, but let’s just go out and salute this great champion.

OlympicTalk: Did it make you think about how you want to go about your final meet(s)?

Felix: Not so much in the fashion, but it really made me think about it’s so much more than just trying to run fast times and win medals. You get to talk to people who you’ve actually had an impact on their life. As athletes, we get wrapped up in performances and statistics and all these things. You forget that this little girl runs track because of you, or this young man came out to the sport, and it’s made an impact on his life. Those are the things that I got to really pick up on with that meet.

OlympicTalk: Why is that so important for you to be at the IOC vote in Lima, and what message do you want to send to IOC members, assuming they’ll be voting between Los Angeles and Paris?

Felix: Being an LA native, it’s really important for me to see the Olympics back in LA. Just the impact that I know it can have on the city and also that the city can have the Olympics. It would be so, so special. I think it’s time. I think LA is ready.

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Too early to say whether virus threatens Olympics, WHO says

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GENEVA (AP) — Despite a virus outbreak spreading from China, a top World Health Organization official said Tuesday it’s much too soon to say whether the Tokyo Olympics are at risk of being cancelled or moved.

Tokyo organizers and the International Olympic Committee have repeatedly said they have no contingency plans for the July 24-Aug. 9 Summer Games since the WHO declared a global health emergency last month.

The U.N. agency’s emergencies program director, Michael Ryan, said Tuesday the sporting event was “way too far” away to consider giving advice that would affect Tokyo’s hosting of the Olympics.

“We are not there to make a decision for that,” Ryan told The Associated Press on the sidelines of a news conference at WHO headquarters.

Geneva-based WHO has been in regular contact with the IOC in nearby Lausanne since the virus known as COVID-19 emerged in December.

“We don’t give them judgments,” Ryan said. “We assist them with their risk assessment. We will be working closely with them in the coming weeks and months.”

The death toll in mainland China due to the virus rose to almost 1,900 on Tuesday, with more than 72,000 confirmed cases.

The outbreak has caused numerous sports events in China to be canceled, postponed, or moved, including qualifying events for the Tokyo Olympics.

Chinese athletes and teams have also been unable to travel for some competitions. China sent a team of more than 400 athletes to the Rio Olympics. It won 70 medals, including 26 gold, to place second in total medal standings.

Around 11,000 athletes and many more team coaches and officials from more than 200 national teams are expected in Japan for the Olympics.

Japan has experienced the most significant outbreak of the virus outside of China, on the cruise ship Diamond Princess docked in quarantine at Yokohama in Tokyo Bay.

During a 14-day isolation that ends Wednesday, 542 cases have been identified among more than 3,700 passengers and crew.

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For Mike Eruzione, Al Michaels, it’s no miracle that 1980 Olympics endure

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Mike Eruzione has been reminded on a daily basis about the Miracle on Ice for nearly four decades. While playing celebrity golf tournaments. At speaking engagements. Or that time he auctioned his jersey and stick from the Soviet game to a 9-year-old boy named Seven.

Eruzione, now 65, likes to open conversations with one anecdote about meeting strangers, which he repeated in a call with reporters last week.

“The stories I hear, 40 years later, it’s depending on their age — I remember where I was when Kennedy was assassinated, I remember where I was on 9/11. I remember where I was when the Challenger blew up. And I remember where I was when we won,” Eruzione said. “And I always say, ‘We? I didn’t know you were on the team.’

“But people felt a part of it. … It’s nice to know that people remember and share some great stories about what we did so long ago.”

The captain of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team owns a last name that means “eruption” in Italian. Eruzione scored the decisive goal in the U.S.’ 4-3 win over the Soviet Union en route to a shock gold medal during the Cold War in Lake Placid, N.Y.

NBCSN airs a 30-minute special marking the 40th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice on Wednesday at 11:30 p.m. ET. It will feature a conversation between Olympic primetime host Mike Tirico and Al Michaels, the play-by-play voice of the game dubbed by Sports Illustrated the greatest sports moment of the 20th century.

Eruzione has grandchildren now. Three of them skate at the Mike Eruzione Center in his hometown of Winthrop, Mass.

“They don’t even know who Mike Eruzione is,” Eruzione said of the 5-, 6- and 7-year-olds, “but they know about the Miracle.”

All credit to the U.S. Olympic team of 20 players between ages 19 and 25, back when the NHL did not participate in the Olympics. The Soviets were essentially a team of professionals. The nation won the previous four Olympics and throttled the U.S. 10-3 in a pre-Olympic exhibition at Madison Square Garden.

Enter Michaels, calling hockey at the Lake Placid Winter Games alongside Hall of Fame goalie Ken Dryden. Michaels, then 35, said he was assigned the sport because he had the most hockey experience on the ABC Olympic talent roster — one game. He called the 1972 Olympic hockey final by himself.

Feb. 22, 1980: As the U.S. led the Soviet Union 4-3 and the final seconds ticked down, one word came to mind: miraculous.

“It got morphed into a question and quick answer, and away we went,” Michaels said.

Eruzione said he didn’t learn of Michaels’ call — “Do you believe in Miracles? Yes!” — until two weeks after the Olympics. He didn’t watch the game broadcast until years later.

“I never thought it was a miracle, but it was a catchy phrase and it sounded right,” Eruzione said, noting he preferred Michaels’ call in the final comeback win over Finland to clinch the gold: “This impossible dream comes true.”

Team members since gathered often — to light the 2002 Olympic cauldron in Salt Lake City, for fantasy camps in Lake Placid and for coach Herb Brooks‘ 2003 funeral. Eighteen of the 20 players are scheduled to reunite this weekend in Las Vegas.

Absent will be Mark Pavelich, who was jailed last year on assault charges and ruled mentally incompetent to stand trial. And Bob Suter, who died in 2014 of a heart attack at age 57.

It was Suter’s death that motivated Eruzione and others to commemorate the 35th anniversary together in Lake Placid. It was believed to be the first time all living players were together in Lake Placid since the 1980 Winter Games.

Eruzione said that the 2004 film “Miracle” introduced the team to a new generation. Now at many of his speeches, the majority of Eruzione’s audience was born after 1980.

“I’ll say, how many people watched the movie ‘Miracle,’ and almost everybody raises their hand,” he said. “So I think what the movie did for us as a team was kind of rejuvenated our team as far as people knowing who we were and what we are and what we were about.”

NFL coaches set up “Miracle” viewings for their teams before games. Michael Phelps watched it for motivation at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Phelps told relay teammates, “This is our time,” before they beat rival Australia. An ode to Brooks’ pregame speech before the Soviet game.

Michaels, whose 13-year-old grandson won an October hockey tournament in Lake Placid, said he watched “Miracle” last week for the first time in about a decade. He helped do voiceovers in production more than 15 years ago, though the original Lake Placid audio was used for his signature call.

“The great thing is, in a way, when you watch it back or you watch highlights back, you almost become like in the third person, like somebody else is doing this and announcing this game,” Michaels said. “I exult the way I think most of the country did and do when they see highlights of it. So it’s kind of an out-of-body experience in a way, but it’s a beautiful thing.”

After Eruzione shared his tale of strangers’ memories, Michaels added one of his own.

“One of my favorite stories is Mike Eruzione calling me maybe eight to 10 years ago and saying, ‘The greatest thing about this is every time I come home and maybe I’m a little down, I need a little pick-me-up, I’ll put the tape in,'” Michaels said. “‘Every time I shoot, the puck goes in. It will forever.'”

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