Drake Relays

Inika McPherson high jumps as Power Ranger at Drake Relays

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Olympian Inika McPherson took her first high jumps at the Drake Relays on Friday night dressed as a “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” character.

She finished the competition in more normal attire, taking runner-up to Rio teammate Vashti Cunningham in Des Moines, Iowa. McPherson, 31, cleared 1.91 meters and missed three attempts at 1.94.

“Every time I teach kids, I tell them to get an alter ego, think of a super hero they really like,” McPherson told media. “I grew up watching Power Rangers. I always wanted to have something to say, hey, thank you.”

McPherson, a 5-foot, 4-inch jumper who made the Olympic team after a 21-month cocaine suspension, said she chose the Black Ranger costume over the Pink Ranger because “he was the leader of the group.”

“I tell kids, you can’t be the same person you are at home when you’re just so, like, hella-cool,” she said. “You’ve got to be your alter ego.”

McPherson had difficulty seeing the bar behind the full body suit that covered her face. She also struggled with breathing, so she took it off for the later rounds.

The 10th-place finisher in Rio said she might bring the costume back for the USATF Outdoor Championships in Des Moines in June.

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Inika McPherson
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Weekend Gymnastics Roundup: Carey and McCusker on World Cup podium

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World medalists Jade Carey and Riley McCusker headlined gymnastics action over the weekend as the World Cup circuit continued with an all-around competition in Birmingham, England, and an apparatus event in Doha, Qatar.

Carey won both the vault and floor events in Doha, pushing her to the top of the standings on both apparatus (she also won the vault and floor competitions the previous weekend at the World Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan).

Doha marked the halfway point of apparatus World Cups, putting Carey in a promising position to qualify for the Tokyo Games heading into the next four events. The apparatus World Cup series includes a total of eight competitions spread over two seasons, and one gymnast per apparatus will qualify for the Olympics based on his or her top three results across the eight events.

Carey, 18, was the 2017 world silver medalist on vault and floor. But she opted not to try for a spot on the 2018 World Championships team due to the International Gymnastics Federation’s rules that active team members who help their countries qualify team spots for Tokyo (as the U.S. women did in November) cannot earn individual spots. Carey, an apparatus specialist rather than an all-around gymnast, chose the World Cup route to keep open her options of qualifying individually.

McCusker, who was part of the U.S. team that won the world title last year, finished second at the all-around World Cup in Birmingham, posting the top scores on the uneven bars and floor. Russia’s Aliya Mustafina, a seven-time Olympic medalist, won the event. Mustafina bounced back from a shaky showing last weekend at the World Cup in Stuttgart, where she finished fifth in an event won by Simone Biles. Mustafina, 24, is trying to qualify for her third Olympics after giving birth to daughter Alisa in June 2017.

The all-around World Cup circuit continues on April 7 in Tokyo, Japan, where two-time world all-around medalist Morgan Hurd and two-time Olympian Sam Mikulak are expected to compete.

First Olympic women’s aerials champion Cheryazova dies at 50

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MOSCOW — Lina Cheryazova, the first woman to win an Olympic aerials skiing gold medal, has died. She was 50.

Officials in the Russian city of Novosibirsk, where Cheryazova was living for the last two decades, said she died “following a lengthy illness,” without giving further details.

Competing for Uzbekistan, Cheryazova won gold with a triple flip when aerials skiing debuted on the Olympic program in 1994 in Lillehammer.

Shortly after winning, she learned her mother died three weeks before.

Cheryazova’s career was derailed later that year when she suffered a serious head injury while training in the United States, and spent days in a coma. She retired after failing to qualify for the 1998 Winter Olympics.