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NCAA Track and Field Championships produce world leaders

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The U.S., already boasting its greatest bevy of young sprint talent in more than a decade, should anticipate another pair of new names on the international scene this summer.

LSU’s Sha’Carri Richardson and Florida’s Grant Holloway posted record-breaking performances at the NCAA Track and Field Championships in Austin over the weekend.

Richardson, a 19-year-old freshman, won Saturday’s 100m in 10.75 seconds, making her the ninth-fastest woman in history. About 45 minutes later, Richardson broke Allyson Felix‘s 14-year-old world junior record in the 200m, finishing second in 22.17.

Richardson, MileSplit’s No. 1 high school female sprint recruit last year, took a half-second off her 100m personal best since May 24. She’s now the fastest woman in the world this year and the second-fastest for this Olympic cycle, trailing only Jamaican Olympic champion Elaine Thompson.

In the 200m, Richardson ranks second in the world this year behind the woman who beat her at NCAAs — USC junior Anglerne Annelus.

Richardson didn’t commit to racing at next month’s USATF Outdoor Championships in a Saturday night media session. But should she compete in Des Moines, she would be favored to make the world championships team in the 100m, if not both the 100m and the 200m.

Come next summer, Richardson will still be younger than any previous U.S. Olympic 100m sprinter since 1976.

The emergence of not only Richardson, but also 2018 NCAA 100m champion Aleia Hobbs (also of LSU) puts 2017 World champion Tori Bowie on notice. Bowie has a bye into this year’s world championships as defending champion, which is all the more key as she returns from a torn quad.

Holloway, the son of a retired Naval officer and school teacher, came to NCAAs already sharing the fastest 110m hurdles time in the world this year with Kentucky rival Daniel Roberts. But Holloway, who swept the 60m and 110m NCAA titles in 2017 and 2018, had his best night ever on Friday.

In a 150-minute span, Holloway was part of a collegiate-record-breaking 4x100m, broke Renaldo Nehemiah‘s 40-year-old NCAA record in the 110m hurdles (12.98) and posted the only sub-44 split in the 4x400m (43.75).

“Grant has become kind of the face of the sport,” distant cousin and Florida coach Mike Holloway told media afterward, adding that it was time for his pupil to turn pro.

Holloway became the first American to break 13 seconds in the hurdles in nearly four years, ending the once-dominant hurdles nation’s longest drought since 1995. Remember, the U.S. failed to earn a 110m hurdles medal in 2016 for the first time in Olympic history (boycotted 1980 Games aside).

Holloway also became the third man worldwide to break 13 in this Olympic cycle. The others are Rio gold medalist Omar McLeod of Jamaica and 2015 World champion Sergey Shubenkov of Russia.

Holloway and Roberts (who tied Nehemiah’s old record) will make it all the more challenging for 2012 Olympic champion and world-record holder Aries Merritt to make another Olympic or world team.

Merritt, 33, missed the Rio Games by .01 at trials, 10 months after a kidney transplant. Merritt was the fastest American in 2017 but dropped to seventh last year and has raced just once since last July 22 due to knee surgery.

One other sprinter dazzled at NCAAs: Nigerian Divine Oduduru clocked 9.86 in the 100m and 19.73 in the 200m in a 45-minute span. Only Justin Gatlin has run faster 100m and 200m times on the same day.

Oduduru, the youngest of 10 children from a rural village, tied two of those young U.S. sprint stars, Noah Lyles and Christian Coleman, for the fastest 100m in the world this year. His 200m ranks behind only American Michael Norman and Lyles (who are both college age but turned pro).

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Richard Callaghan, figure skating coach, banned for life

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Richard Callaghan, a figure skating coach best known for helping Tara Lipinski earn 1998 Olympic gold, was ruled permanently ineligible for violations including sexual misconduct involving a minor.

Callaghan can still appeal the sexual misconduct violation, according to the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a watchdog for U.S. Olympic sports organizations that updated Callaghan’s status Wednesday.

He was first suspended in March 2018 pending an investigation into allegations first made against him more than 20 years ago.

Earlier this month, another former skater, Adam Schmidt, said in a lawsuit that he was sexually molested as a teenager by Callaghan starting in 1999.

Callaghan was previously accused of sexual misconduct in April 1999 by Craig Maurizi, one of his former students and later an assistant to him in San Diego and Detroit.

Maurizi told The New York Times that Callaghan had engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with him beginning when he was 15 years old. The alleged misconduct had begun nearly 20 years earlier. Callaghan denied the allegations.

In March 2018, Callaghan told ABC News: “That’s 19 or 20 years ago. I have nothing to say.”

Maurizi’s previous grievance against Callaghan with the U.S. Figure Skating Association, the precursor to U.S. Figure Skating, was dismissed on procedural grounds.

He was Callaghan’s assistant at the Detroit Skating Club until they split after Lipinski turned pro, left Callaghan and decided to train with Maurizi.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Pita Taufatofua, Tonga flag bearer, finishes last in kayak debut

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Pita Taufatofua, the Tonga Olympic flag bearer who went viral in Rio and PyeongChang, began his quest to make a third straight Olympics in a third different sport with a last-place finish in his opening-round heat at the world sprint kayak championships in Hungary on Wednesday.

The start of the heat appeared delayed as Taufatofua struggled to get his kayak into position in the water. He was left at the start as the other six kayakers raced out and finished between 33 and 40 seconds. Taufatofua took 58.19 seconds, the slowest of 53 finishers among seven total heats.

“Well that was slightly better than the first time I competed in Taekwondo or skiing,” was tweeted from Taufatofua’s account. “Would have liked to start facing the right way but that’s life.”

Taufatofua, 35, was the oldest athlete in the heat by nearly a decade. He is also entered in doubles races with Tonga canoe federation president Malakai Ahokava with heats Thursday and Friday.

Taufatofua hopes to compete at the Tokyo Olympics in taekwondo, where he competed in Rio, and in sprint kayak.

But he hasn’t competed in taekwondo in three years and just started training kayak this spring. At worlds, Taufatofua told the BBC he is still having trouble staying afloat in the water.

Taufatofua said in announcing the new sport in April that it would be “largely impossible” to qualify for Tokyo. He could be the first athlete to compete in a different sport in three straight Olympics (Summer and Winter) since the Winter Games began in 1924, according to the OlyMADMen.

“It’s certainly going to be the greatest challenge that I’ve ever had to embark on,” he said then.

Taufatofua’s results at worlds this week has little bearing on his Olympic qualifying prospects. Rather, he just needed to compete in Hungary to stay eligible for the Olympics.

The key will be an Oceania qualifying event early next year, where one Olympic bid is available. He will likely have to beat the best kayakers from Australia and New Zealand to grab it. Australian Stephen Bird placed eighth at the Rio Olympics and 11th at the 2018 World Championships.

If Taufatofua fails, he could receive a special tripartite invitation sometimes offered to smaller nations like Tonga.

Taufatofua became a social-media celebrity by marching into the Rio Olympic Opening Ceremony shirtless and oiled up. He then lost in the first round via mercy rule in his taekwondo tournament.

He made a quixotic bid for the PyeongChang Winter Games in cross-country skiing — and accomplished the feat, barely, in a sport that has lenient qualifying requirements for nations with a lack of Winter Games depth.

Taufatofua finished 114th out of 116 in his 15km Olympic cross-country skiing race, nearly 23 minutes behind the winner.

If Taufatofua is able to carry the Tongan flag at a third Opening Ceremony, he will definitely be shirtless again, in a similar outfit to what he wore in Rio and PyeongChang, he said last year.

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