Allyson Felix set for ninth world championships team, first as a mom

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DES MOINES — Allyson Felix finished sixth in the USATF Outdoor Championships 400m, which will likely put her in a ninth straight world championships. And her first as a mom.

But a fifth Olympics, not a ninth worlds, are at the front of her mind.

Felix made that clear after racing three times in as many days in her first meet since having daughter Camryn via emergency C-section at 32 weeks on Nov. 28.

The top three go to worlds in Doha in two months in the individual 400m. The top six are generally taken for the 4x400m relay pool.

This will be the first time in Felix’s 16-year pro career that she will not be going to the Olympics or worlds in an individual event. Unsurprising given she said before the meet, her first in more than a year, that she was “far from” her best.

Felix said she will talk with her coach, Bobby Kersee, and consider her fitness before deciding whether to accept a potential relay invitation.

“It’s bigger than world championships,” said Felix, who had four and a half months of good training before this meet, shorter than she would normally prefer. “I would love to be running for an individual spot at world championships, but where I’m at in my career — I’m grateful for all my experiences at world championships — I want to be back at the Olympics. I want that more than anything. I want to go out on my terms.”

Felix was sixth in 51.94 seconds, 1.73 seconds behind winner Shakima Wimbley. In three rounds here, she ran 52.50, 51.45 and 51.94, well off her personal best of 49.26 and her routine ability to get close to 50 flat, and usually break it, at major meets from 2011 to 2016.

Felix, the most decorated female Olympic track and field athlete with nine medals and six golds, has made every U.S. Olympic and world team dating to 2003, when she was 17 years old.

This was her toughest team to make yet. Camryn and husband Kenneth Ferguson wore “Felix the Cat” clothing in the Drake Stadium stands.

“I did this off very little training, so that gives me a lot of hope,” she said.

USATF Outdoors conclude Sunday with finals including the men’s and women’s 200m.

USATF OUTDOORS: TV Schedule | Full Results

In other events, Michael Norman was upset in the 400m by Fred Kerley, who clocked a personal-best 43.64 to become the sixth-fastest man in history. Norman, undefeated the previous two years, was second in 43.79 to make his first world team. Norman revealed afterward that he didn’t practice the previous two weeks because of an unspecified strain.

“Originally, I wasn’t supposed to run,” said Norman, has run 43.45 this year. “I made [the decision] the day of racing. I warmed up and said I could do it.”

Paralympian and double amputee Blake Leeper was fifth, which would normally be enough to make worlds in the relay (like Felix), but he is facing a legal battle with the IAAF.

World-record holder Keni Harrison won the 100m hurdles in 12.44 and will be joined on the world team by Olympic gold and silver medalists Brianna McNeal and Nia Ali.

Shelby Houlihan repeated as U.S. 1500m champion, clocking 4:03.18 to relegate Jenny Simpson to second place by overtaking the Olympic bronze medalist on the last curve. They’re joined on the world team by Nikki Hiltz. Simpson, 32, has made 10 straight Olympic/world teams.

Two American records fell: DeAnna Price broke her own mark in the hammer (78.24 meters). Sam Kendricks broke Brad Walker‘s 11-year-old mark in the pole vault, clearing 6.06 meters. Only Ukrainian legend Sergey Bubka has cleared a higher height outdoors.

Vashti Cunningham, daughter of retired NFL All-Pro quarterback Randall Cunningham, took her third straight high jump crown. Cunningham, who ranks third in the world this year, cleared 1.96 meters.

Hillary Bor won the men’s 3000m steeplechase that lacked Olympic silver medalist Evan Jager, who will miss worlds due to a foot injury.

Rio gold medalists Tianna Bartoletta (long jump) and Kerron Clement (400m hurdles) will not be going to worlds after finishing last in their finals. Bartoletta jumped off her opposite foot following an injury last year, NBC Sports’ Paul Swangard said. Clement’s streak of 10 straight Olympic/world teams ends.

In non-finals, Noah Lyles and Christian Coleman moved closer to a showdown in Sunday’s 200m by advancing to the semifinals. Lyles is the fastest 200m runner in the world for two straight years. Coleman is the fastest 100m runner in the world for three straight years.

Olympic bronze medalist Tori Bowie and two-time U.S. champion Jenna Prandini scratched their 200m first-round heats. Both Bowie and Prandini also scratched out of the 100m, meaning Prandini will miss worlds.

Bowie can still compete at worlds in the 100m, where she is defending champion, because she competed in the long jump later Saturday. Defending champions have byes into worlds if they compete in at least one event at nationals.

Sha’Carri Richardson, who last month won the NCAA 100m in 10.75 seconds to become the ninth-fastest woman in history, missed the 200m semifinals by .001. The 19-year-old will likely miss the world team after placing eighth in the 100m on Friday.

All the favorites advanced in the 110m hurdles (Grant Holloway, Daniel RobertsDevon Allen) and 400m hurdles (Dalilah MuhammadSydney McLaughlinShamier Little).

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Rafael Nadal wins Australian Open first round; Maria Sharapova exits

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Rafael Nadal says he’s thinking about his next opponent … and his next practice session … and trying to recreate the superb tennis he played in his straight-set victory in the Australian Open’s first round.

What he insists is not on his mind is the number 20 — as in Roger Federer’s record 20 Grand Slam singles titles, which Nadal would equal by claiming the trophy at Melbourne Park.

“I don’t care about 20 or 15 or 16. I just care about (trying) to keep going, keep enjoying my tennis career. It’s not like 20 is the number that I need to reach. If I reach 20, fantastic,” Nadal said Tuesday, raising his hands in the air. “If I reach 21, better. If I (stay at) 19? Super happy about all the things that I did in my tennis career, no?”

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

He must have been pleased with the way his 6-2, 6-3, 6-0 win over Hugo Dellien went.

That was built with a 38-15 edge in winners and breaks in eight of Dellien’s 11 service games.

Nadal, at age 33 the oldest No. 1 in ATP history, owns 19 major championships, but only one came in Australia, 11 years ago.

Twelve, of course, were collected at the French Open, four at the U.S. Open and two at Wimbledon.

“I won the U.S. Open a few months ago, and I was super happy in that moment. But today I’m happier than if I didn’t win the U.S. Open? Probably not,” Nadal said with a hearty laugh. “The only thing I can do is put all my efforts on (trying) to keep going the best way possible. The rest of the things, the future will see.”

Former No. 1-ranked Maria Sharapova’s run of first-round exits at the majors continued with a 6-3, 6-4 loss to 19th-seeded Donna Vekic.

Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam title winner, was given a wild card for the main draw at Melbourne Park after her year-end ranking slipped to 136 in 2019 after a season interrupted by injuries. Her ranking falls outside the top 300 now.

The 2008 Australian Open winner reached the fourth round here last year, missed the French Open and then lost in the first rounds at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.

A few young Americans were also eliminated Tuesday.

Russian Daniil Medvedev, seeded fourth after his U.S. Open runner-up, took out 2019 Australian Open quarterfinalist Frances Tiafoe 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.

Fast-rising teenager Amanda Anisimova played her first Grand Slam match since her father, who also coached her, died last year. His sudden passing came just before the U.S. Open, so she withdrew from that tournament.

Anisimova reached the semifinals of the French Open in 2019 at age 17, becoming the first player born in the 2000s to get that far at a major. She was ranked 51st at the time and unseeded.

Now 18, she was seeded 21st at Melbourne Park, but was beaten 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 by Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan.

Credit Fabio Fognini with a career Grand Slam of comebacks: His 3-6, 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (5) rain-interrupted victory across two days against Reilly Opelka of the U.S. gave the 12th-seeded Italian a total of eight wins in matches after dropping the opening two sets.

And now that he’s done it at the Australian Open, Fognini has a full collection, with at least one such reversal at each of the four major tournaments. According to the International Tennis Federation, only 11 other men have done it at each Slam, a group that includes Federer, Rod Laver and Boris Becker, but not Nadal or Novak Djokovic.

The most famous example of an 0-2 comeback by Fognini came against Nadal at the 2015 U.S. Open. Fognini said he doesn’t recall all of his turnaround victories, but he sure does remember that one.

So does Opelka, who rued the fact that play was halted against Fognini because of showers Monday after the initial game of the third set.

Opelka said that Nadal match wasn’t really on his mind, but “if anything, it was just more to have me prep to expect (Fognini) to want to win and believe in himself that he can win. Clearly, he did.”

Felix Auger-Aliassime is considered a future star of men’s tennis, a 19-year-old from Canada who was seeded 20th at the Australian Open — and is already out after a first-round loss against Ernests Gulbis, who once was a young up-and-comer himself.

Back when he was in his 20s, Gulbis reached the French Open semifinals and earned a spot in the top 10 of the ATP rankings. A series of injuries waylaid his career, including a back problem in 2019; he entered Tuesday ranked only 256th and needed to go through qualifying just to get into the main draw.

Made the most of it, though, beating Auger-Aliassime 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4.

“We saw the good Gulbis today,” Auger-Aliassime said.

The 31-year-old Gulbis, who is from Latvia, described himself as “emotional when I was walking back to the locker room, because it’s not easy. Its not easy to come back. It’s not easy to play Challengers. But these moments are really worth it.”

MORE: Top U.S. male tennis player to skip Tokyo Olympics

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40 years ago today: Jimmy Carter lays plan for Olympic boycott

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On Jan. 20, 1980, U.S. President Jimmy Carter said he would not support sending a U.S. team to the Moscow Olympics later that summer if the Soviet Union did not withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

Carter detailed his stance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” airing that Sunday. A transcript:

Bill Monroe: Assuming the Soviets do not pull out of Afghanistan any time soon, do you favor the U.S. participating in the Moscow Olympics, and if not, what are the alternatives?

Carter: No. Neither I nor the American people would support the sending of an American team to Moscow with Soviet invasion troops in Afghanistan. I’ve sent a message today to the United States Olympic Committee spelling out my own position that unless the Soviets withdraw their troops within a month from Afghanistan that the Olympic Games be moved from Moscow to alternate site or multiple sites or postponed or canceled. If the Soviets do not withdraw their troops immediately from Afghanistan — within a month — I would not support the sending of an American team to the Olympics. It’s very important for the world to realize how serious a threat the Soviets’ invasion of Afghanistan is. I do not want to inject politics into the Olympics, and I would personally favor the establishment of a permanent Olympic site for both the Summer and the Winter Games. In my opinion, the most appropriate permanent site for the Summer Games would be Greece. This will be my own position, and I have asked the U.S. Olympic Committee to take this position to the International Olympic Committee, and I would hope that as many nations as possible would support this basic position. One hundred and four nations voted against the Soviet invasion and called for their immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan in the United Nations, and I would hope as many of those as possible would support the position I’ve just outlined to you.

Monroe: Mr. President, if a substantial number of nations does not support the U.S. position, would not that just put the U.S. in an isolated position without doing much damage to the Soviet Union?

Carter: Regardless of what other nations might do, I would not favor the sending of an American Olympic team to Moscow while the Soviet invasion troops are in Afghanistan.

Three days later, Carter said in his State of the Union address, “I have notified the Olympic Committee that with Soviet invading forces in Afghanistan, neither the American people nor I will support sending an Olympic team to Moscow.”

The Soviets did not withdraw troops.

Though Carter did not have the authority to order a boycott, the U.S. Olympic Committee did decide on April 12 not to send a team.

The U.S. was among more than 60 nations that were invited to the Moscow Games and did not participate (for various reasons). Other notable absences included Canada, West Germany, Japan and China.

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