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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U.S. Olympic women’s tennis qualifying already looks intense

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Serena Williams is in strong early position to make the 2020 U.S. Olympic team. For everyone else, including older sister Venus Williams, every set of ranking points could be crucial over the next 10 months, including at the upcoming U.S. Open.

The U.S. has seven women in the world top 36 — not including 52nd-ranked Venus — but only four singles players can go to an Olympics from any one country come the rankings cutoff next June.

Serena Williams leads the way for Americans in second place overall in Olympic qualifying — which counts WTA rankings points starting after the 2019 French Open and running through the 2020 French Open. She has 1,885 points despite playing just two events the last two months, taking runner-up at Wimbledon and the Canadian Open.

Only Wimbledon champion Simona Halep, who has already been named Romania’s Opening Ceremony flag bearer, has more Olympic qualifying points (2,395).

After Serena, three more U.S. women are in the top 10 in Olympic qualifying — Sonya Kenin (No. 5), Madison Keys (No. 8) and Alison Riske (No. 10).

Keys, a quarterfinalist or better at all four Grand Slams in her career, jumped from outside the top 20 among Americans to the No. 3 American by notching her biggest title in Ohio last week.

Notables who must improve their ranking start with Venus Williams, who moved from 18th on the U.S. list to eighth by reaching the Cincinnati quarterfinals. She turns 40 before the Tokyo Games and could become the oldest Olympic singles player since the sport returned to the Olympic program following a 64-year break in 1988. She already owns the modern-era record of five Olympic tennis medals from her five previous Games and could still get to the Olympics in doubles if she doesn’t qualify in singles.

Sloane Stephens, the 2017 U.S. Open champion, is 12th in U.S. Olympic qualifying, winning a total of three matches among four tournaments in the window.

The veterans Williams sisters, Keys and Stephens, who made up the 2016 U.S. Olympic singles team, must fend off an emerging class.

Kenin, 20, backed up her French Open upset of Serena Williams by winning a lower-level event in June and then beating the world Nos. 1 and 2 the last two weeks.

Riske is playing some of the best tennis of her career at age 29. She beat world then-No. 1 Ash Barty to make her first Slam quarterfinal at Wimbledon, a week before her wedding.

Then there are two of the phenoms of the year. Coco Gauff, 15, is ninth in U.S. Olympic qualifying after a run to the Wimbledon fourth round. Gauff was granted a wild card into the U.S. Open, after which she can’t play in more than five senior tournaments (and possibly no more than three) until her 16th birthday in March due to WTA age restrictions to keep young teens from burnout.

Amanda Anisimova, 17, is 13th in U.S. Olympic qualifying. Her best results this year — French Open semifinal, Australian Open fourth round — came before the Olympic qualifying window.

It’s looking like the toughest U.S. Olympic women’s singles team to make outright since 2004. Back then, the U.S. had Nos. 4 (Lindsay Davenport), 7 (Jennifer Capriati), 8 (Venus Williams), 11 (Serena Williams) and 18 (Chanda Rubin). Davenport, Capriati and Serena didn’t play at the Athens Games, opening the door for Lisa Raymond to play singles and doubles in Athens.

In 2000, Serena Williams didn’t make the Olympic singles field despite being ranked eighth in the world. A max of three players per nation were taken to Sydney, and the U.S. had Nos. 2, 3 and 6 in Davenport, Venus Williams and Monica Seles.

An Olympic rule mandating a minimum of Fed Cup appearances could affect Tokyo 2020 eligibility. However, the fine print allows for that to be bypassed in discretionary exceptional circumstances.

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U.S. Olympic Women’s Singles Qualifying Standings (Max. 4 can qualify)
1. Serena Williams — 1,885 points
2. Sonya Kenin — 1,081
3. Madison Keys — 972
4. Alison Riske — 802
5. Jennifer Brady — 356
6. Jessica Pegula — 348
7. Madison Brengle — 344
8. Venus Williams — 302
9. Coco Cauff — 298
10. Bernarda Pera — 280
11. Lauren Davis — 245
12. Sloane Stephens — 238
13. Amanda Anisimova — 230

U.S. athletes qualified for 2020 Tokyo Olympics

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The U.S. Olympic team roster for the 2020 Tokyo Games will eventually reach more than 500 athletes. It is currently at seven.

Qualifying competitions and Olympic Trials events dot the schedule from now into early summer 2020.

Athletes qualified so far:

Modern Pentathlon
Samantha Achterberg
Amro Elgeziry

Sport Climbing
Brooke Raboutou

Swimming
Haley Anderson
Ashley Twichell
Jordan Wilimovsky

Triathlon
Summer Rappaport

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