Allyson Felix eyes USATF Outdoor Champs in return from childbirth

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NEW YORK — Allyson Felix has returned to full training and plans to compete at the USATF Outdoor Championships in July in Des Moines, Iowa, she said Monday, following her emergency C-section childbirth on Nov. 28.

“It’s going, and, right now, I’m fully committed,” she said. “Nationals is going to be my focus. I’ll probably compete a little bit before then, but I’m not exactly sure.”

Felix, the most decorated female track and field athlete with nine Olympic medals, plans to race the 400m at nationals.

She’s the 2012 Olympic 200m champion but has since shifted to the full lap. Felix, the reigning Olympic silver medalist and world bronze medalist at 400m, didn’t contest a 200m in her abbreviated 2018 season for the first time in her nearly two-decade career.

Felix is one Olympic medal shy of Carl Lewis‘ record for any U.S. track and field athlete and three shy of the most medals for a U.S. woman in any sport.

She could tie the record for U.S. Olympic track and field appearances in Tokyo. But Felix will be 34 in 2020, and the U.S. is deep in the 400m with 20-somethings.

Felix believes this Olympic qualifying quest will be more difficult than her last one, when she was .01 shy of making the team in both the 200m and 400m less than three months after partially tearing two ligaments in her right ankle.

“I could dedicate every single second of 2016 to being back,” said Felix, whose 400m personal best from 2015 is still two tenths faster than any other active U.S. woman. “I have so much more on my plate now.”

Daughter Camryn will accompany Felix to Des Moines and most meets overall. At nationals, the top three in the 400m qualify for the world championships (aside from the already qualified Phyllis Francis, defending world champ) and likely the top six for the 4x400m relay.

The U.S. had six of the nine fastest women in the world last year, with the four fastest born at least nine years after Felix. Felix ranked 44th overall, but those times were two months into her pregnancy.

“This year will be good to get momentum going, to get back and see,” she said. “Then next year I’ll be able to have a better idea.”

What’s clear is that Tokyo would be her last Olympics, though she’s not ruling out trying for the 2021 World Championships in Eugene, Ore.

“2016, with the injury and everything, it wasn’t on my terms,” Felix said. “So I would love to leave on my terms and to have it in control.”

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MORE: Allyson Felix: I stand with Caster Semenya

Novak Djokovic wins 10th Australian Open, ties Rafael Nadal for most men’s Slam titles

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Novak Djokovic beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5) to win his record-extending 10th Australian Open title and tie Rafael Nadal for the men’s record of 22 Grand Slam singles titles.

Djokovic regained the world No. 1 ranking, one year after being deported from Australia over his refusal to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

He can pass Nadal, and take sole possession of the men’s Slam titles record, at the French Open, where Nadal has won a record 14 titles, starting in late May.

Djokovic celebrated match point by pointing to the side of his head and then to his heart inside Rod Laver Arena, where he is 20-0 in semifinals and finals.

Moments later, he lie on his back, sobbing, surrounded by his team members in their box in the stands.

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Chock/Bates, Knierim/Frazier futures unclear after clear-cut wins at figure skating nationals

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SAN JOSE, California – They have both begun the new Olympic cycle as the undisputed national leaders in their figure skating disciplines, cementing that status with U.S. titles Saturday – the fourth for ice dancers Madison Chock and Evan Bates, the second for the pairs’ team of Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier.

At this point, their respective paths to the 2026 Winter Games seem free and clear of challengers.

The question for the dancers and the pair is how far down that road they intend to go.

“I don’t know what the next four years will hold,” Chock said. “But we’re committed to each other and our goals, and we’ll decide when the time comes.”

Chock, 30, and Bates, 33, engaged to be married in the summer of 2024, have been at this a long time. And their trophy case is packed to the gills, with the only gaps a world title and an individual Olympic medal.

They have competed together at the senior level in the U.S. Championships for 12 seasons, winning medals at the last 11. They have been to nine world championships, winning three medals, and three Olympics (four for Bates), winning a yet-to-be-awarded team medal last year in Beijing.

(The unresolved doping case involving Russian skater Kamila Valiyeva has delayed the awarding of the 2022 team event medals. Maybe it will become a wedding present for Chock and Bates. Or a fifth anniversary present…)

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Scores | Broadcast Schedule

Until this year, Chock and Bates had faced formidable rivals on the national scene – 2014 Olympic champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White; 2018 Olympic bronze medalists Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani; and 2022 Olympic bronze medalists Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, with whom Chock and Bates traded gold medals over the previous four seasons. All have retired from competition.

Saturday, they cruised to the gold medal by 22.29 points over Caroline Green and Michael Parsons, the largest ice dance victory margin at nationals since 2006. In a discipline where established hierarchy weighs heavily, Chock and Bates find themselves in the unfamiliar position of being on a metaphorical easy street to the top step of the U.S. podium.

“We – at least I – felt nervous today,” Bates said. “We (still) felt compelled to skate well. The lack of maybe the Hubbell-Donohue back and forth did not mitigate the specialness today.”

Knierim, 31, and Frazier, 30, have similar longevity at nationals, even if they did not team up until 2020, taking the U.S. title in their first season together.

Knierim skated at seven nationals with her husband, Chris, winning three titles, Frazier at seven with Haven Denney, winning once.

Knierim and Frazier had expected to retire after last season, when they missed nationals because Frazier contracted Covid but went on to place sixth at the Olympics and unexpectedly became the first U.S. team to win a pairs’ world title since 1979. Their experiences on the Stars on Ice Tour led them to reconsider.

“It made sense on our timeline to move on,” Knierim told me in September. “We had done everything we could in two years.

“Yet it felt like it could be sad or disappointing to end a really talented career together so soon. Being on tour had opened our eyes to how in synch and unified we were on the ice. So there was a little bit of curiosity, a feeling of ‘What else are we capable of?’”

Their personal circumstances have changed during the course of this season. Chris Knierim starts work Thursday as skating director of a rink in the Chicago suburbs, and the Knierims recently bought a house in that area.

Knierim and Frazier have been training at a rink in Irvine, California. Should they decide to continue as competitors after this season, it would almost certainly entail a move to Chicago for Frazier.

Knierim insisted her house purchase was not an indication of what her plans with Frazier are.

“Right now, we are staying the course, based in Irvine through the world championships (in late March),” Knierim said before winning her fifth U.S. title.

“We do have some changes ahead of us. But I’d hate to jump ahead and say yes or no to next season. We learned that last season.”

Frazier spoke Saturday of reflecting throughout this season about their personal journeys and their partnership, the kind of reflection that often accompanies doing something for the last time.

“We just are trying to soak it in as if it could be your last, but the future is unknown,” Frazier said.

Knierim and Frazier prevailed Saturday with the largest winning margin, 31.11 points, in the 18 years that the International Judging System has been used at nationals.

They saved several points due to her quick thinking.

After Frazier put his hand to the ice on the triple toe loop that was to open a triple-double-double-jump combination, Knierim saw that her partner was going to follow with only a single jump and followed suit. It led to the delightful oddity of side-by-side single toe loops.

Nicely executed ones, too.

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at every Winter Olympics since 1980, is a special contributor to NBCSports.com.

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