Allyson Felix, admittedly far from her best, advances in first race as a mom

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Allyson Felix, at a professed far from her best, finished fourth in her 400m first-round heat at the USATF Outdoor Championships, her first race in more than one year and since having daughter Camryn via emergency C-section at 32 weeks on Nov. 28.

Felix, the most decorated female Olympic track and field athlete with nine medals and six golds, clocked 52.20 seconds. She reached Friday’s semifinals with the 11th-fastest time of 16 qualifiers. Her personal best is 49.26 from 2015.

“It felt rusty. Kind of to be expected,” Felix, who ran unsponsored but in Nike shoes, told media in Des Moines. “It’s not quite up to my standards.

“Even though it wasn’t a great result for me, it’s a starting point. My biggest goal is next year. I know that I’m capable. Now I have time on my side. I can get where I need to go.”

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Before the race, Felix posted on Instagram that making it to the start line was “a huge victory.”

“Almost 8 months ago this was my entire world. staying in the NICU all day & night watching my baby girl fight,” she wrote. “I can still hear the beeping and alarms of the machines. the uncertainty. The fear. There were a lot of days i wasn’t sure this was going to be possible. I worked harder than i even knew i could. there were tears, frustration and doubt. At times it felt like everything was against me.”

Felix must likely finish in the top six in Saturday’s 400m final, should she advance from Friday’s semifinals, to make her ninth straight world championships team. That should get her on the 4x400m relay. A top-three finish is required to make the individual 400m at worlds in Doha in two months.

Later Thursday, Molly Huddle captured her fifth straight 10,000m national title by holding off training partner Emily Sisson. In the men’s 10,000m, 2008 Olympic Opening Ceremony flag bearer Lopez Lomong won by more than 17 seconds.

Others winners included Sam Mattis (discus), Ariana Ince (javelin) — edging American record-holder Kara Winger — and Keturah Orji, who captured her fourth straight triple jump crown.

Earlier Thursday, the favorites advanced in the men’s and women’s 100m, which have semifinals and finals Friday. That includes Christian Coleman, the world’s fastest man this Olympic cycle, Justin Gatlin, who has a bye into worlds as defending champion and defending U.S. champion Aleia Hobbs.

Same went for the women’s 800m (Ajee WilsonRaevyn Rogers) and 1500m (Jenny SimpsonShelby Houlihan) and men’s 400m hurdles (Rai BenjaminKerron Clement) and 800m (Donavan BrazierClayton Murphy).

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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

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today i’ll step on the starting line for the first time in over a year. it might sound cliche, but making it there for me is a huge victory • almost 8 months ago this was my entire world. staying in the NICU all day & night watching my baby girl fight. i can still hear the beeping and alarms of the machines. the uncertainty. the fear • there were a lot of days i wasn’t sure this was going to be possible. i worked harder than i even knew i could. there were tears, frustration and doubt. at times it felt like everything was against me • so today i’m far from my best, but i’m grateful for this opportunity and to experience the joy of competing again • more than anything i thank God we are healthy.

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Collin Morikawa jumps into projected Olympic golf field

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Collin Morikawa would not have qualified outright for the Tokyo Olympics had they been held this summer. Now, after winning the PGA Championship, he is third overall in global qualifying for the Tokyo Games in 2021.

Morikawa, a 23-year-old who took the same number of PGA Tour starts to win his maiden major as Tiger Woods (29), went from an alternate for the expected four-man U.S. Olympic team to No. 2 among Americans in the early qualifying standings, according to golf rankings guru @VC606 on Twitter.

Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed are the other Americans in qualifying position, according to @VC606.

Morikawa, whose father is of Japanese descent, turned professional in June 2019 and made his first 22 cuts, a feat bettered only by Woods.

The 23-year-old could become the youngest U.S. Olympic male golfer since 1904 (important note: golf was not part of the Olympic program from 1908 through 2012). Come next summer, he will still be younger than all but seven men from the Rio Olympic golf field of 60, according to Olympedia.org.

Olympic golf qualifying standings will fluctuate significantly. There are five major championships left in the qualifying window, starting with the U.S. Open in September and finishing with next summer’s U.S. Open, both airing on NBC Sports.

How tough will it be to make the U.S. Olympic team? Consider that the three Americans to win majors in 2019 — Woods, Brooks Koepka and Gary Woodland — are currently not in Olympic qualifying position.

The U.S. has seven of the top nine in the Official World Golf Ranking, which is calculated differently than Olympic qualifying.

MORE: Nosferatu is golf’s Olympic rankings guru. Who is he?

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He controversially beat Roy Jones Jr. for Olympic gold. He wishes he had silver.

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The last South Korean boxer to win an Olympic gold medal has spent the past 32 years wishing it was a silver.

Entering the men’s light-middleweight final against an American teenager named Roy Jones Jr. on the last day of the 1988 Games in Seoul, Park Si-Hun fantasized about etching his name in the pantheon of South Korean sports legends in front of a delirious home crowd.

He did get his gold three rounds later, but not the way he envisioned.

Park’s win by a 3-2 decision remains as one of the most controversial moments in boxing history, as Jones had seemed to dominate the fight from start to finish.

The outcome drew instant criticism and disdain, even from South Koreans, who heckled Park at the podium and bombarded local TV stations with phone calls protesting that the country’s home advantage had gone too far.

Jones went on to have a phenomenal professional career, retiring in 2018 with a 66-9 record that cemented him as one of the sport’s all-time greats. He is now a boxing commentator and is planning to fight Mike Tyson in an exhibition of retired greats later this year.

Deeply shaken and scarred, Park quietly retired at the end of the Seoul Games and spent the next 13 years as a middle- and high-school teacher in a rural seaside town before making a return to competitive boxing as a coach.

In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Park said his dream was to see one of his boxers pull off a convincing gold-winning performance in a future Olympics, which he said would possibly give him some sense of redemption and closure.

After three decades, it still stings that his gold is seen as a smudge on the image of the Games his country still glorifies as its coming-out party to the world.

“There’s hardened resentment built up in me that I will probably carry for the rest of my life,” said Park, 54, who now coaches the small municipal boxing team of Seogwipo City in the island province of Jeju.

“I didn’t want my hand to be raised (after the fight with Jones), but it did go up, and my life became gloomy because of that.”

Park still grimaces when talking about his match with Jones.

Desperate for Olympic glory, Park had gutted out the tournament with a broken right hand he suffered during training. He said it didn’t really matter until he met Jones, the one opponent in Seoul who was quicker than him.

With the injury taking away his right-hand, Park simply had no chance at slowing Jones, who was coming at him with “excellent speed, power and technique.”

“I was pretty quick for a middleweight, but Jones was at a different level,” Park recalled. “A boxer just knows whether he had won or lost a match. I thought I lost because I didn’t put up a fight deserving of a win.”

Park said he felt “confused” when the referee raised his hand. Wearing a stunned look on his face, Park awkwardly embraced and held up an expressionless Jones into the air.

He said he couldn’t wait to get off the podium, where he smiled weakly and slowly waved a bouquet of flowers toward the stands as fans let out hesitant cheers and scattered boos.

An even more humiliating moment came when a South Korean national broadcaster invited all of the country’s 12 gold medalists to a live TV celebration shortly after the Games. The host treated Park like he wasn’t there while interviewing each of the other 11.

There was an outpouring of media criticism and what Park described as “unspeakable” insults, which included derisive public calls for him to forfeit his medal.

The emotional distress “was like being hit with a hammer on the back of your head, again and again.”

“I keep thinking how my life would have been happier had I finished second,” Park said. “A gold medal is important, but isn’t any Olympic medal satisfying and glorious?”

Park said the sense of defeat and depression sometimes led to suicidal urges. He credits his wife for helping him navigate out of his darkest moods. The couple contemplated moving to a different country before deciding to stay after they had children.

Their youngest child, Rei, now a 20-year-old college student in Louisiana, has his own athletic ambitions, training as a javelin thrower with dreams of competing in the 2024 Olympics.

Park said he keeps his Olympic gold framed on a wall at his home in mainland South Korea, along with other awards he won in amateur competition. He doesn’t recall ever bringing it out of the house.

While Park doesn’t have many regrets about never going pro, saying he probably wouldn’t have gone far with an evasive style built for efficiency and avoiding hits but not for initiating pain, he still watched Jones’ post-Olympic triumphs with envy.

He wondered whether the public would ever forget the fiasco surrounding his gold medal, which the South Korean media brought up after almost every Jones fight or whenever there was controversy in any Olympic sport. He would try to laugh it off whenever students asked about his gold at school.

After overlooking him for years, South Korea’s boxing association reached back to Park in 2001, asking him to coach the national team following years of disappointing performances in international events, which reflected a dearth of talent in the sport.

During his on-and-off coaching stints with the national team since then, Park trained several boxers who performed decently in various events, but they never came close to an Olympic gold.

Park had the highest hopes for Lee Ok-Song, who won the men’s 51kg division in the 2005 World Championships. But Lee failed to reach the quarterfinals of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and retired after the Games.

Park said he had occasionally kept in touch with Jones, including a brief telephone conversation with him in 2004 while visiting Atlanta for an international event.

The International Olympic Committee in 1997 concluded it had found no evidence to support bribery allegations against the judges who voted in favor of Park in the Seoul Games.

The U.S. Olympic Committee had called for an investigation in 1996 after documents belonging to East Germany’s Stasi secret police revealed reports of judges being paid to vote for South Korean boxers.

While Park left South Korea’s national team after the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, he hasn’t given up on his goal of winning an Olympic gold as a coach.

Among the four boxers he trains in Seogwipo, Park is most impressed with Kang Hyeon-Bin, who competes in the men’s 64kg division, and Cho Hye-Bin, a woman in the 51kg category.

“I am constantly looking for a raw stone I could polish into a jewel,” he said. “I want to sculpt a true Olympic gold medalist with my own hands and see that fighter take the highest spot on the podium. That would restore my honor and allow me to leave the boxing ring for good.”

MORE: Top U.S. Olympic boxing hopeful cleared of doping violations caused by sex

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