Allyson Felix breaks Usain Bolt record for world titles, gets first gold as a mom

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Allyson Felix‘s first gold medal as a mom came with this added significance, too — she broke her tie with Usain Bolt for the most gold medals in world championships history with 12.

“So special, to have my daughter here watching means the world to me,” Felix told Lewis Johnson on NBCSN. “It’s been a crazy year for me.”

Felix, 33 and the most decorated female track and field athlete at the Olympics with nine medals among four Games, was part of the winning U.S. quartet in the first world championships mixed-gender 4x400m relay, an event that makes its Olympic debut next year. She split 50.4 seconds.

Wil London III, Felix, Courtney Okolo and Michael Cherry combined to clock a world record 3:09.34 in the young event, prevailing by 2.44 seconds over Jamaica. Bahrain took bronze. Felix already had the record for world championships medals; she’s now up to 17 overall. As for beating Bolt?

“This is a different event, so I don’t really look at it in that way,” Felix said.

She had daughter Camryn on Nov. 28 via emergency C-section at 32 weeks. Felix had severe preeclampsia and, six weeks postpartum, began power walking (with difficulty). Camryn, born at 3 pounds, 7 ounces, spent her first 29 days in the NICU.

“This was my entire world. staying in the NICU all day & night watching my baby girl fight,” was posted on Felix’s social media in July. “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 also saw her Nike contract expire after seven years, ending in December 2017 without being renewed, at least in part over pay protection for pregnancy.

Felix announced after placing sixth in the 400m at the USATF Outdoor Championships in July (her first meet as a mom) that she signed a new apparel deal with Athleta. The contract and compensation is consistent whether Felix is or is not competing, including full protection during maternity, according to the company.

Felix made the world team solely in the relay pool. It’s her ninth world team, breaking her tie with Amy Acuff for the most for an American, according to the OlyMADMen. Next year, Felix goes for her fifth Olympics and to break Michael Johnson‘s record as the oldest Olympic 400m medalist.

Felix repeated in interviews Sunday night that this abbreviated season was “a stepping stone.”

“Making it through this year with so much going on, I think it’s going to make next year feel a lot easier,” she said.

Felix’s world titles
3 — 200m
1 — 400m
3 — 4x100m
4 — 4x400m
1 — Mixed 4x400m

Bolt’s world titles
3 — 100m
4 — 200m
4 — 4x100m

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Rewind: Australia’s Steven Bradbury gains gold and lasting fame after pileup takes out Apolo Ohno

Steven Bradbury
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Heading into the 2002 Winter Olympics, young American Apolo Ohno was a phenom with a legitimate shot at multiple medals in short-track speedskating.

The 1999 world junior champion and future “Dancing with the Stars” champion had finished first in the World Cup season standings in all three individual disciplines in the 2000-01 season. In the 2001 world championships, he took gold in the relay and the 3,000m (a non-Olympic event), silver in the 1,000m and fourth in the 1,500m.

Australia’s Steven Bradbury was at the other end of his career, enduring all sorts of misfortune in the years that followed — a 1995 accident in which he needed more than 100 stitches after a skate blade sliced his thigh, then a 2000 accident in which he broke two vertebra in his neck. 

The highlights of Bradbury’s career were relay world championships medals — gold in 1991, bronze in 1993, silver in 1994. He and his relay teammates also took Olympic bronze in 1994.

Bradbury barely advanced to one individual final, the 1,000m in 2002. He advanced from the quarterfinal when Canadian favorite Marc Gagnon was disqualified. He advanced from the semifinal when multiple skaters fell.

In the final, Bradbury was matched up against three outstanding skaters, including Ohno and Li Jiajun of China, who won this event and the overall title at the 2001 world championships. Ohno and Li had finished 1-2 in the 1,000m World Cup standings in 2001.

Bradbury couldn’t keep up. The other four skaters were in a pack, making dangerous passes among each other, while Bradbury fell further and further behind.

Those dangerous passes finally caught up to the rest of the field in the final turn. Li bumped into Ohno, which would lead to Li’s disqualification. After the lead pack jockeyed for position through the entire race, all four tumbled to the ice.

Bradbury, the last man standing, crossed the finish line first.

 

From the tangled pile-up, Ohno managed to fling himself, skate-first, across the finish line to take silver. Canada’s Mathieu Turcotte made it across for bronze.

Ohno wasn’t done in Salt Lake City. He won the 1,500m gold after the disqualification of Kim Dong-Sung, a controversial decision that made Ohno the object of South Korean derision.

Less controversially, Ohno won three more individual world championship events from 2005 to 2009, plus two relay golds, and the overall world title in 2008. In the Olympics, he took six more medals, including gold in the 500m in 2006 and silver in the 1,500m in 2010.

Bradbury missed the finals in the other two events in Salt Lake City, but his name lives on in the Urban Dictionary and elsewhere as a synonym for an improbable and even accidental victory. He embraced his unique place in history to carve out a career as a motivational speaker delivering more than 1,000 speeches in 19 countries, according to the International Skating Union and has even seen his win commemorated in Legos.

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Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier form new figure skating pair

Brandon Frazier
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A few weeks after her husband and skating partner, Chris Knierim, stepped away from competitive figure skating, Alexa Scimeca Knierim has a new partner.

Brandon Frazier, who was also looking for someone to form a new pair after longtime partner Haven Denney stepped away from competition, at least temporarily, will join Scimeca Knierim on the ice whenever they’re able to train and compete again.

Frazier is a longtime friend of Chris Knierem. Scimeca Knierim told U.S. Figure Skating’s FanZone that Frazier had played a pivotal role in kindling the Knierem’s off-ice romance.

Denney and Frazier won the U.S. championship in 2017 and finished 20th in the world championships that year. They finished third in their two Grand Prix assignments last fall — Skate America and the Internationaux de France. They were runners-up in the 2019 U.S. championships and fifth this year, when they revived their “Lion King” free skate.

The Denney-Frazier pair took an unusual path to figure skating, starting as roller skaters.

The Knierims won their third U.S. championship in January but handed their slot in the world championships to Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson when Chris Knierim, struggling with his form and depression, decided he was unable to continue beyond the Four Continents Championship. The world championships were later canceled due to the spread of the coronavirus.

READ: Resilient Knierims withdraw from world championships

The couple had earned attention for their romance and for their inspirational returns from illness and injury. Their U.S. championship win earlier this year was their third.

Skate America, the first event on the Grand Prix circuit, is scheduled to start Oct. 23 in Las Vegas.

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