Allyson Felix begins first Olympic quest as a mom, her toughest yet

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Allyson Felix posed at the airport departures entrance with three large suitcases, wearing a pink shirt that read “The Future is Female” and holding a baby stroller.

This week’s USATF Outdoor Championships will be unlike any of Felix’s others since her 2003 debut.

She is expected to compete in Des Moines starting Thursday in her first meet in 13 months, since having daughter Camryn via emergency C-section at 32 weeks on Nov. 28 (TV schedule here).

The most decorated female Olympic track and field athlete with nine medals and six golds is entered solely in what has become her primary event, the 400m.

The first round is Thursday, semifinals Friday and final Saturday. Felix likely must finish in the top six to make her ninth straight world championships team. That should be enough to get her on the 4x400m relay. Top three is required to make the individual 400m.

“This year will be good to get momentum going, to get back and see,” a cautious Felix, eyeing her fifth straight Olympics, said in May. “Then next year I’ll be able to have a better idea.”

NBC Sports analyst Ato Boldon is all-in.

“I’m not concerned about her form because I have inside information that Allyson Felix right now could probably win U.S. Nationals,” Boldon, a four-time Olympic sprint analyst, said last week. “If you really want to set up that last hurrah, we assume that next year’s going to be her last Olympics, then you have to get back on that horse and get back out there. I get what she’s trying to do. Her thing is, look, I’m not really focused on winning worlds this year. It would be unrealistic, but if I get back in there and get those competitive juices flowing, then I’m sort of using 2019 to set up 2020.”

Felix turns 34 on Nov. 18. She is already the oldest Olympic women’s 400m medalist in history, from taking silver behind diving Bahamian Shaunae Miller-Uibo in Rio. Next year, she can break Michael Johnson‘s age record for male or female 400m medalists.

Last we saw Felix at a major meet, she took 400m bronze at the 2017 World Championships behind countrywoman Phyllis Francis, an Oregon Duck who was at home on a wet track, and Bahraini Salwa Eid Naser. Felix clocked the second-fastest time over the entire year, a 49.65 from the month before worlds.

Three Americans at least nine years younger than Felix emerged last year — Shakima Wimbley (49.52), Lynna Irby (49.80) and Kendall Ellis (49.99). But none of them have broken 51.3 this season, and no U.S. woman has broken 50.6. The world’s fastest this year hail from the Bahamas, Bahrain, Niger, Jamaica and Botswana.

Plus, Francis has a bye into worlds as defending champion, giving the U.S. four individual 400m entrants in Doha in two months.

“I don’t expect that if [Felix] shows up at nationals that three people are going to beat her,” Boldon said.

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MORE: Olympic champions, world-record holder to miss USATF Outdoors

2022 Pan Pacific Championships canceled as swimming calendar shifts

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The Pan Pacific Swimming Championships, a quadrennial major international meet, will not be held in 2022 “out of respect for the recent changes to the international sporting calendar,” according to a press release.

The Pan Pacs’ charter nations — the U.S., Australia, Canada and Japan — agreed to the move. The 2026 event will be held in Canada, which was supposed to be the 2022 host.

The decision came after the 2021 World Championships were moved to May 2022, following the Tokyo Olympics moving from 2020 to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The quadrennial multi-sport Commonwealth Games — which includes Australia and Canada, but not the U.S. or Japan — are scheduled for July 27-Aug. 7, 2022.

“Organizing a third major championships in that window presented several challenges,” according to the Pan Pacs release.

Pan Pacs mark the third-biggest major international meet for U.S. swimmers, held in non-Olympic, non-world championships years.

MORE: Caeleb Dressel co-hosts a podcast. It’s not about swimming.

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Boston Marathon canceled for first time after 123 years; virtual event planned

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The Boston Marathon, held every year since 1897, has been canceled as an in-person event for the first time. It will be held as a virtual race instead due to the coronavirus.

“While we cannot bring the world to Boston in September, we plan to bring Boston to the world for an historic 124th Boston Marathon,” Boston Athletic Association (BAA) CEO Tom Grilk said in a press release.

The world’s oldest annual marathon had been postponed from April 20 to Sept. 14, it was announced March 13.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said he first considered canceling the postponed marathon during a coronavirus surge in April.

“We were maxed out in our hospital emergency rooms,” Walsh said Thursday. “I realized that the downside of the curve, which we were on, the backside of the curve, is going to be going for some time. The concern of a second surge made me have some real reservations about can we have the marathon or not.”

Walsh said experts said a potential second surge would be between August and October. He held out hope to hold the race until talking with the BAA last week.

All participants originally registered for Boston will be offered a full refund of their entry fee and have the opportunity to participate in the virtual alternative, which can be run between Sept. 7-14.

More details, including entry information, will be announced in the coming weeks.

It’s the biggest alteration to the Boston Marathon, which was inspired by the marathon’s debut at the first modern Olympics in 1896. Previously, the biggest change came in 1918, the last year of World War I. The marathon was still held on Patriots’ Day in April but as a 10-man military relay race.

The original 2020 Boston elite fields included two-time U.S. Olympian Des Linden, the 2018 Boston winner who was fourth at the Feb. 29 Olympic Trials, where the top three earned Olympic spots.

London is the world’s other major spring marathon. It was rescheduled from April 27 to Oct. 4. Its original fields for April were headlined by the two fastest men in history — Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge and Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele. It’s unknown if they will remain in the field, should London happen.

The fall major marathon schedule

Boston — Sept. 7-14 (virtual event)
Berlin — TBD (will not be held as planned on Sept. 27)
London — Oct. 4
Chicago — Oct. 11
New York City — Nov. 1

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MORE: U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials results