Getty Images

Christian Coleman ponders record more than rivalry as Diamond League moves to Oslo

Leave a comment

Christian Coleman‘s sights are on gold medals and, perhaps as early this season, an American record. They’re certainly not on the men chasing him, usually the rest of the field, in the last half of 100m races.

Coleman, the world’s fastest man in this Olympic cycle, headlines a Diamond League meet in Oslo on Thursday (1 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold, and 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN). He is the clear favorite in the 100m against a field lacking his biggest recent foes.

One of those absentees is Noah Lyles. The world’s fastest 200m sprinter in this Olympic cycle dipped down to the 100m on May 18 in Shanghai and rallied to beat Coleman by .006. The photo finish and following social media posts sparked talk of a new rivalry in the post-Usain Bolt era.

“I don’t necessarily look at us as rivals,” Coleman said Monday. “I think I’ve done a lot of things in the sport. I’m just focusing on me and trying to be the best me that I can be. If the media wants to create whatever storylines, whatever, so be it. I just treat everybody the same way, all of my competition. I don’t single out one person and say this is my competition that I’m focusing on.”

What Coleman is targeting is a cleaner sprint in Oslo than his season opener in Shanghai. The goal is to better 9.86, which would make him the fastest man in the world this year.

“My start was decent [in Shanghai], but I feel like I can work on my acceleration being a lot smoother, my transition, standing up tall, holding my form, composure so I can finish out the race,” Coleman said of his first meet since Aug. 31. “When you come back, and it’s your first race in a while, it’s hard to reciprocate real-life competition in practice. You never know how your body’s going to react when you actually get in competition. It’s just old, bad habits I’ve been trying to fix in practice creeped up on me in the competition.”

Coleman’s start is unrivaled. He’s best known outside the track world for covering a 40-yard dash in 4.12 seconds, a tenth faster than the NFL Combine record. He’s also the fastest 60m sprinter in history.

In the biggest race of his life, Coleman had a step on Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin in the first 10 meters at the 2017 World Championships. He led until the last few strides, before Gatlin edged him by two hundredths. Then on May 18, Coleman again surged to the early lead and held it until Lyles, known more for his finish than his start, nudged ahead at the line.

“Track and field is an art,” Coleman said. “It’s a difficult sport to be able to say, just stay relaxed at the end of the race and just hold your form well. Whatever people like to say online about critiquing world-class athletes’ races, it is harder than it looks.

“It’s much easier to fix the back end of my race than to have a better start. Getting a better start and having that acceleration is more like strength and technique, and one of those things that you can’t just teach overnight and you can’t just think about mentally and get better at. I feel like I’m in a good spot.”

Coleman is certainly better positioned than a year ago, when he struggled in the spring with a hamstring injury.

Coleman, after running faster than the previous indoor 60m world record three times that winter, didn’t hit his summer stride until late August. He ran a personal-best 9.79 into a headwind in the Diamond League Final, arguably the most impressive sprint by anybody outside the Bolt era.

“Last year, I think just indoors I took my body to a place where nobody had ever been before,” Coleman said. “I think, maybe, if I had taken a little bit of time off before I started my outdoor season … I wasn’t doing the things properly off the track to be able to stay healthy.”

Still, the 9.79 put Coleman within a tenth of the American record set by Tyson Gay in 2009.

“It’s not necessarily a goal,” Coleman said, “but it’s something that’s been in the back of my head.”

Coleman may not be ready to approach that in Oslo, given he plans to peak for worlds in almost four months.

He hopes to qualify for the world team in both the 100m and the 200m at next month’s USATF Outdoor Championships. Next week, Coleman races a 200m for the first time since June 2017.

“I know what it feels like to be on that stage, and I know what it takes to get there,” he said, looking ahead to worlds in Doha. “I know how to set my season up to be at my best when it really matters. That’s all I’m focusing on. Everything else is irrelevant. The name of our sport and what we get paid to do is represent our countries and go out there and try and get gold medals.”

MORE: Russia’s top track and field athlete slams ‘never-ending disgrace’

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Too early to say whether virus threatens Olympics, WHO says

Getty Images
2 Comments

GENEVA (AP) — Despite a virus outbreak spreading from China, a top World Health Organization official said Tuesday it’s much too soon to say whether the Tokyo Olympics are at risk of being cancelled or moved.

Tokyo organizers and the International Olympic Committee have repeatedly said they have no contingency plans for the July 24-Aug. 9 Summer Games since the WHO declared a global health emergency last month.

The U.N. agency’s emergencies program director, Michael Ryan, said Tuesday the sporting event was “way too far” away to consider giving advice that would affect Tokyo’s hosting of the Olympics.

“We are not there to make a decision for that,” Ryan told The Associated Press on the sidelines of a news conference at WHO headquarters.

Geneva-based WHO has been in regular contact with the IOC in nearby Lausanne since the virus known as COVID-19 emerged in December.

“We don’t give them judgments,” Ryan said. “We assist them with their risk assessment. We will be working closely with them in the coming weeks and months.”

The death toll in mainland China due to the virus rose to almost 1,900 on Tuesday, with more than 72,000 confirmed cases.

The outbreak has caused numerous sports events in China to be canceled, postponed, or moved, including qualifying events for the Tokyo Olympics.

Chinese athletes and teams have also been unable to travel for some competitions. China sent a team of more than 400 athletes to the Rio Olympics. It won 70 medals, including 26 gold, to place second in total medal standings.

Around 11,000 athletes and many more team coaches and officials from more than 200 national teams are expected in Japan for the Olympics.

Japan has experienced the most significant outbreak of the virus outside of China, on the cruise ship Diamond Princess docked in quarantine at Yokohama in Tokyo Bay.

During a 14-day isolation that ends Wednesday, 542 cases have been identified among more than 3,700 passengers and crew.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Tokyo Marathon limited to elite runners due to coronavirus

For Mike Eruzione, Al Michaels, it’s no miracle that 1980 Olympics endure

Leave a comment

Mike Eruzione has been reminded on a daily basis about the Miracle on Ice for nearly four decades. While playing celebrity golf tournaments. At speaking engagements. Or that time he auctioned his jersey and stick from the Soviet game to a 9-year-old boy named Seven.

Eruzione, now 65, likes to open conversations with one anecdote about meeting strangers, which he repeated in a call with reporters last week.

“The stories I hear, 40 years later, it’s depending on their age — I remember where I was when Kennedy was assassinated, I remember where I was on 9/11. I remember where I was when the Challenger blew up. And I remember where I was when we won,” Eruzione said. “And I always say, ‘We? I didn’t know you were on the team.’

“But people felt a part of it. … It’s nice to know that people remember and share some great stories about what we did so long ago.”

The captain of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team owns a last name that means “eruption” in Italian. Eruzione scored the decisive goal in the U.S.’ 4-3 win over the Soviet Union en route to a shock gold medal during the Cold War in Lake Placid, N.Y.

NBCSN airs a 30-minute special marking the 40th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice on Wednesday at 11:30 p.m. ET. It will feature a conversation between Olympic primetime host Mike Tirico and Al Michaels, the play-by-play voice of the game dubbed by Sports Illustrated the greatest sports moment of the 20th century.

Eruzione has grandchildren now. Three of them skate at the Mike Eruzione Center in his hometown of Winthrop, Mass.

“They don’t even know who Mike Eruzione is,” Eruzione said of the 5-, 6- and 7-year-olds, “but they know about the Miracle.”

All credit to the U.S. Olympic team of 20 players between ages 19 and 25, back when the NHL did not participate in the Olympics. The Soviets were essentially a team of professionals. The nation won the previous four Olympics and throttled the U.S. 10-3 in a pre-Olympic exhibition at Madison Square Garden.

Enter Michaels, calling hockey at the Lake Placid Winter Games alongside Hall of Fame goalie Ken Dryden. Michaels, then 35, said he was assigned the sport because he had the most hockey experience on the ABC Olympic talent roster — one game. He called the 1972 Olympic hockey final by himself.

Feb. 22, 1980: As the U.S. led the Soviet Union 4-3 and the final seconds ticked down, one word came to mind: miraculous.

“It got morphed into a question and quick answer, and away we went,” Michaels said.

Eruzione said he didn’t learn of Michaels’ call — “Do you believe in Miracles? Yes!” — until two weeks after the Olympics. He didn’t watch the game broadcast until years later.

“I never thought it was a miracle, but it was a catchy phrase and it sounded right,” Eruzione said, noting he preferred Michaels’ call in the final comeback win over Finland to clinch the gold: “This impossible dream comes true.”

Team members since gathered often — to light the 2002 Olympic cauldron in Salt Lake City, for fantasy camps in Lake Placid and for coach Herb Brooks‘ 2003 funeral. Eighteen of the 20 players are scheduled to reunite this weekend in Las Vegas.

Absent will be Mark Pavelich, who was jailed last year on assault charges and ruled mentally incompetent to stand trial. And Bob Suter, who died in 2014 of a heart attack at age 57.

It was Suter’s death that motivated Eruzione and others to commemorate the 35th anniversary together in Lake Placid. It was believed to be the first time all living players were together in Lake Placid since the 1980 Winter Games.

Eruzione said that the 2004 film “Miracle” introduced the team to a new generation. Now at many of his speeches, the majority of Eruzione’s audience was born after 1980.

“I’ll say, how many people watched the movie ‘Miracle,’ and almost everybody raises their hand,” he said. “So I think what the movie did for us as a team was kind of rejuvenated our team as far as people knowing who we were and what we are and what we were about.”

NFL coaches set up “Miracle” viewings for their teams before games. Michael Phelps watched it for motivation at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Phelps told relay teammates, “This is our time,” before they beat rival Australia. An ode to Brooks’ pregame speech before the Soviet game.

Michaels, whose 13-year-old grandson won an October hockey tournament in Lake Placid, said he watched “Miracle” last week for the first time in about a decade. He helped do voiceovers in production more than 15 years ago, though the original Lake Placid audio was used for his signature call.

“The great thing is, in a way, when you watch it back or you watch highlights back, you almost become like in the third person, like somebody else is doing this and announcing this game,” Michaels said. “I exult the way I think most of the country did and do when they see highlights of it. So it’s kind of an out-of-body experience in a way, but it’s a beautiful thing.”

After Eruzione shared his tale of strangers’ memories, Michaels added one of his own.

“One of my favorite stories is Mike Eruzione calling me maybe eight to 10 years ago and saying, ‘The greatest thing about this is every time I come home and maybe I’m a little down, I need a little pick-me-up, I’ll put the tape in,'” Michaels said. “‘Every time I shoot, the puck goes in. It will forever.'”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Miracle on Ice reunion to include all but 2 players