The athlete with the oldest world record in men’s track wants it to fall

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The longest-standing world record in men’s track races, set at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, recently came under threat for the first time. It could go down this season, perhaps as early as Saturday. Ask the man who has owned it for nearly 27 years, and he’ll say it’s past expiration.

“My world record should have been broken years ago by Angelo Taylor, and then it should have been broken by Kerron Clement,” Kevin Young said of the winners of three of the last five Olympic 400m hurdles. “They’re supposed to be able to with their talent level.”

But they haven’t. Up until last June, nobody had run within two tenths of a second of Young’s 46.78 seconds since he clocked it atop majestic Montjuïc at the Barcelona Games.

American Rai Benjamin and Qatari Abderrahman Samba could better it on Saturday at a Diamond League meet in Shanghai (preview and TV/stream info here). They ran 47.02 and 46.98 in separate meets last June, the second- and third-fastest 400m hurdles in history.

“It might survive this week,” NBC Sports analyst Ato Boldon said, “but it may also get destroyed.”

Boldon, then an 18-year-old Olympic rookie for Trinidad and Tobago, was so eager to be around Young and Quincy Watts that he offered to carry their bags in Barcelona. He watched the 400m hurdles final at the stadium.

“The only record left that’s probably better is Mike Powell‘s long jump,” he said.

Young had to wait his turn in the 1980s behind Edwin Moses, who won the 1984 Olympics amid a 122-race win streak. In fact, he spent the five years before the Barcelona Olympics carrying a magazine article that called him Moses’ heir, NBC Sports’ Craig Masback said.

“Edwin’s the GOAT. I’m the FOAT,” the fastest of all time, Young said by phone from his home in Georgia, where he still teaches clinics and follows the pro scene closely. Young understands Moses may never lose that title, but that his own days are numbered.

“I’m OK with that,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of firsts. First one under 47 seconds. First one to win an ESPY in track and field. No one saw me coming but me.”

Young woke every morning in the Barcelona Olympic Village staring at the number 46.89, which he wrote in pencil near his headboard. It was .13 faster than Moses’ world record at the time.

When Young clocked a hand-timed 46.68-second 400m on the practice track, the first half without hurdles and the second half with the 36-inch-high barriers, he knew sub-47 was possible come the full event.

Young said he still remembers his step pattern between the 10 hurdles in the final — 13, 13, 12, 12, 13, 13, 13, 13, 13. Tall (6 feet, 4 inches) and leaner than Moses, he was born for this event and nicknamed “Spiderman.”

“I knocked over the last hurdle, set the world record, kept running around the track and everybody went home to go visit the president,” he said. “I had to stay in Europe to go to the rest of my meets.” Young met Prince Albert of Monaco and, reportedly, the King and Queen of Sweden.

Benjamin said in an interview last year that he’s messaged with Young, who congratulated him on winning the 2018 NCAA Championships in 47.02 seconds for USC (Benjamin transferred from UCLA, which was where Young walked on to the track team).

“I told Rai that he needs to get all the money he can from shoe companies,” Young said. Benjamin turned pro last June, forgoing his last year at USC. “Don’t take less than $5 or $6 million because he deserves it. Save your money, get an insurance policy and invest it now.”

Young believes Benjamin and Samba are primed to break the record. He noted Benjamin breaking 20 seconds in the 200m in his first professional, international race, after a long college season. Samba, who didn’t become a serious 400m hurdler until 2017, broke 47 seconds a total of nine times last year with a last 150 meters that put Young on notice.

“The two of them should just concentrate on racing and put the record thing in the back of their mind, don’t even think about it,” Young said. “If they focus on competing and run fast, the record will go down.”

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Leanne Smith leads U.S. gold medalists at para swim worlds

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Leanne Smith has never competed at a Paralympics. Came into this week’s world championships with zero world medals. But she leaves London with three individual golds, most for any American, one year before the Tokyo Games.

Smith, 21, won the 150m individual medley, 50m breaststroke and 100m freestyle in her classification, all in American record times. The last two titles came on the final day of the seven-day meet on Sunday.

Smith, diagnosed with a rare neurological muscle disease called dystonia in January 2012, began swimming in 2013. By 2017, she broke a world record and then debuted at the world championships with a best individual finish of sixth.

The U.S. finished with 35 total medals and 14 golds, ranking sixth in the overall standings. Ukraine, usually strong at the Paralympics, led the way with 55 medals. Full results are here.

Jessica Long, the second-most-decorated U.S. Paralympian in history with 23 medals, earned six this week — five silvers and a bronze — to give her 52 career world championships medals.

Two-time Paralympian Mallory Weggemann earned two golds this week, giving her 15 world titles in three appearances (her others being in 2009 and 2010).

She won 50m titles in the butterfly and freestyle. Weggemann won a 2012 Paralympic 50m free title but was fortunate just to make it back for Rio after a 2014 accident that she said was harder to come back from than her teenage paralysis. She left Rio with no medals but a resolve to return for a third Games in Tokyo.

“I’m two seconds away from bursting into tears,” Weggemann said after winning the first of her two golds in the 50m fly, according to U.S. Paralympics. “I had a really rough go these past three years since Rio, so to finally be back after busting my butt to be here, and to be here in London of all places, is absolutely incredible.”

Fellow Rio Paralympians McKenzie Coan and Robert Griswold added two golds a piece.

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Heimana Reynolds wins skateboard world title, nears an Olympic goal from age 10

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In February 2009, a 10-year-old Heimana Reynolds was profiled by his local NBC TV station on Oahu.

“My goal is to become a professional skateboarder and compete in the X Games and the Olympics,” he said, according to the report.

Skateboarding would not be added to the Olympics for another seven years. But here Reynolds is, age 21, having just won the world title in park, one of two skateboarding events that debut at the Games in Tokyo.

Reynolds, who wasn’t named to the four-man U.S. national team in March, consolidated his lead in the Olympic qualification rankings by prevailing over a pair of Brazilians in Sao Paulo on Sunday.

A shirtless Reynolds scored 88 points in the final, beating Luis Francisco (85.50) and Pedro Quintas (85).

No more than three Americans can make the Olympic team in the event, which will make it difficult if three-time Olympic halfpipe snowboarding champion Shaun White decides to continue his skateboarding pursuit. White was the sixth-best American, bowing out in the semifinals in 13th place on Saturday in just his second contest since returning to competitive skating last year.

Back to Reynolds. He grew up on the North Shore and attended the Punahou School, where Barack Obama is the most famous alum. His first name is Tahitian, reportedly referring to the power of Jesus’ crown of thorns.

Reynolds, the son of a surfer, proved a natural on land. After pre-teen media profiles, he blossomed into a world silver medalist last year. He won an Olympic qualifier in China in July to take the top spot in the Olympic rankings despite a best career X Games finish of sixth.

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