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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David Boudia wins U.S. title, qualifies for worlds after break from diving

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David Boudia, after a year away from diving, two more children, a concussion and a goodbye to the platform, is back in familiar territory. He’s on the U.S. team for the world championships.

Boudia, a 30-year-old, four-time Olympic medalist, outscored fellow Rio Olympian Michael Hixon to win the springboard at the U.S. Championships on Saturday.

The top two per individual event by cumulative score at nationals go to July’s worlds in South Korea. Boudia was in third place going into the finals but had the top Saturday score by 23.35 to leap onto the team with Hixon.

“It’s relieving, but in my mind, as an athlete, there’s a lot of work to be done before 2020,” Boudia said on NBCSN. “I have to learn new dives if I want to contend with the best in the world.”

Later Saturday, Rio Olympian Amy Cozad Magaña and Delaney Schnell made the world team in the women’s platform, with Schnell helping knock out Rio Olympian Jessica Parratto. Competition concludes Sunday with the women’s springboard and men’s platform.

Boudia, whose 72 career Olympic dives all came off the platform, switched to the more forgiving springboard after a February 2018 concussion.

He considered retiring after a third Olympics in Rio, where he earned synchro silver and individual bronze after an individual gold at London 2012. He even began a real-estate job in Indiana. But he announced a diving comeback in September 2017, saying he didn’t want to have any “what ifs” later in life.

Boudia then beat Hixon at the 2018 Winter Trials, proving he could master the new event. The other Rio Olympian on the springboard, Kristian Ipsen, has retired.

Boudia has competed at every Olympics and world championships since 2005, except in 2017 of course, and is the only U.S. diver to earn a medal in an individual Olympic event at either meet since 2009.

“I don’t think I have been that nervous since 2005,” Boudia said, according to TeamUSA.org. “Hix and I are going to have a lot of training to do if we want to be even close to cracking that top five.”

Cozad Magaña, 28, placed seventh in synchro at the Rio Olympics and plans to retire after 2020. Schnell, 20, was sixth individually at the 2016 Olympic Trials and second at the 2017 world trials before placing 27th at her world debut two years ago.

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U.S. men’s rugby team qualifies for Tokyo Olympics

U.S. men's rugby sevens team
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The U.S. became the first men’s rugby team to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, clinching its spot Saturday during penultimate leg of this season’s World Series.

The Americans, ranked No. 1 in the world, mathematically secured a place in the top four of the World Series final standings by advancing out of pool play in London. The knockout rounds are Sunday, but a top-eight finish was all that was necessary for Olympic qualification.

Now the U.S. can focus on a goal it didn’t have at the start of the year: winning the nation’s first World Series season title. It entered London with a slim, three-point lead over Olympic champion Fiji, one that would be erased if Fiji and the U.S. advance to Sunday’s final and Fiji wins.

Regardless, the season champion will be decided at the 10th and final World Series stop in Paris next weekend.

The Americans held onto the standings lead despite being without two stars — two-time World Player of the Year Perry Baker and Danny Barrett — the last three World Series stops. Baker and Barrett returned from injuries for the London leg.

Four years ago, the U.S. needed to go to a continental qualifier to earn in its place in Rio. Rugby sevens made its Olympic debut in 2016, 92 years after the traditional 15-a-side rugby last appeared at the Games. The Americans ended up ninth in Brazil, missing the quarterfinals on a tiebreaker.

World powers Fiji, New Zealand and South Africa are in position to join the U.S. as Olympic qualifiers through the World Series.

Seven more nations will qualify via continental tournaments later this year and a last-chance event in June 2020. Japan received an automatic spot as host nation.

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