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

Peter Sagan to retire from road cycling, eyes mountain bike at 2024 Paris Olympics

Peter Sagan
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Peter Sagan said 2023 will be his final year as a professional road cyclist and that he will target the 2024 Olympics in mountain bike.

The Slovakian made the announcement on his 33rd birthday in a social media video. He said he made the decision “quite some time ago.”

“I always said I would like to finish my career on the mountain bike, because I started my career on the mountain bike,” Sagan said in a press conference, according to Cyclingnews.com. “It gives me some pleasure at the end of my career because I’m doing something I really enjoy.

“It’s important for me to spend time with my son Marlon and to see life from different angles, and not just as a cyclist. It was never my dream to race or to be a professional rider until 40 or 50. I think it’s time now. And if I am going to be able to finish my career in Paris at the Olympics Games, that’s going to be something nice for me.”

Sagan is a record seven-time Tour de France green jersey champion as best sprinter. He has 12 individual stage wins (the last in 2019), second-most among active riders behind Mark Cavendish‘s record-tying 34.

At the Olympics, Sagan was 34th in the road race in 2012 and 35th in the mountain bike in 2016. He missed the Tokyo Games after surgery to treat an infection in his right knee stemming from a 2021 Tour de France crash.

Sagan won the world junior title in mountain biking at age 18 in 2008 before his road racing career, which included three consecutive world road race titles from 2015-17.

Of qualifying for Paris in the mountain bike, he said, “We’ll see whether it is even possible, but I think it can be another nice adventure.”

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2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships TV, live stream schedule

U.S. Figure Skating Championships
U.S. Figure Skating
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The U.S. Figure Skating Championships, in some ways marking a new era in the sport, air live from San Jose, California, on NBC Sports, USA Network and Peacock.

After last February’s Olympics, U.S. figure skating saw its greatest turnover from one season to the next in more than 20 years.

Nathan Chen and Vincent Zhou, the top two men last season, are not competing this season and may be done altogether. Alysa Liu and Mariah Bell, the top two women, retired. As did the top ice dance couple of Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue. Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc, last year’s national pairs’ champions, also left the sport.

So, for the first time since 1993, the U.S. Championships feature a reigning national champion in just one of the four disciplines.

Amid all that, U.S. skaters performed well in the fall Grand Prix Series and made the podium in all four disciplines at December’s Grand Prix Final for the first time. Note the absence of Russian skaters, banned from international events due to the war in Ukraine.

At nationals, skaters are vying for spots on the team — three per discipline — for March’s world championships in Japan.

Ilia Malinin, an 18-year-old from Virginia, is the headliner after becoming the first skater to land a quadruple Axel, doing so at all four of his events this season. He ranks second in the world by best total score, a whopping 38.28 points ahead of the next American (Camden Pulkinen).

Jason Brown is the lone Olympian in the men’s field, competing for the first time since placing sixth at the Games.

Isabeau Levito, 15 and a reigning world junior champion like Malinin, took silver at the Grand Prix Final against the world’s other top skaters. She enters nationals with a best score this season 18.13 points better than the next American, Amber Glenn. Bradie Tennell, a 2018 Olympian coming back from foot and ankle injuries, is also a threat to gain one of the three women’s spots at worlds.

Ice dancers Madison Chock and Evan Bates are the lone defending national champions and will likely make the podium for an 11th consecutive year, which would be one shy of the record.

Bates, who last year at 32 became the oldest U.S. champion in any discipline in decades, has made 12 career senior nationals podiums with Chock and former partner Emily Samuelson. It is believed that a 13th finish in the top three would break the U.S. record for a single discipline he currently shares with Michelle Kwan, Nathaniel Niles and Theresa Weld Blanchard.

In pairs, Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier return after missing nationals last year due to Frazier contracting COVID-19 the week of the event. Since, they posted the best U.S. pairs’ finish at an Olympics in 20 years, the first world title for a U.S. pair in 43 years and the first Grand Prix Final medal ever for a U.S. pair.

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2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships Live Broadcast Schedule

Day Event Time (ET) Platform
Thursday Pairs’ Short Program 3:30-5:45 p.m. Peacock | Skate Order
Rhythm Dance 6:30-9 p.m. Peacock | Skate Order
Rhythm Dance 7-9 p.m. USA Network | STREAM LINK
Women’s Short Program 9:10 p.m.-12 a.m. Peacock | Skate Order
Women’s Short Program 10 p.m.-12 a.m. USA Network | STREAM LINK
Friday Men’s Short Program 4:10-7 p.m. Peacock | Skate Order
Men’s Short Program 5-7 p.m. USA Network
Women’s Free Skate 7:45-11 p.m. Peacock
Women’s Free Skate 8-11 p.m. NBC
Saturday Free Dance 1:45-4:30 p.m. Peacock
Free Dance 2:30-4:30 p.m. NBC
Pairs’ Free Skate 7:30-10 p.m. Peacock | Skate Order
Pairs’ Free Skate 8-10 p.m. USA Network
Sunday Men’s Free Skate 2:30-6 p.m. Peacock
Men’s Free Skate 3-6 p.m. NBC

*All NBC and USA Network broadcasts also stream on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app for subscribers.