Dawn Harper Nelson calls off retirement after one year off

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Former Olympic 100m hurdles champion Dawn Harper Nelson says she will make a comeback after one year of retirement.

Harper Nelson won Olympic gold in 2008, overtaking Lolo Jones after her U.S. teammate clipped a hurdle near the end of the race. She also won Olympic silver in 2012, barely losing to Australia’s Sally Pearson in a thrilling final in which she set her personal best of 12.37 seconds.

In world championship finals, Harper Nelson took bronze in 2011 and took silver in 2017, again losing a close finish to Pearson in London’s Olympic Stadium.

Harper Nelson announced early in the 2018 season that she would retire at the end of the year. She knew she was pregnant for the last three races of the year and gave birth to her first child April 10.

FINALE: Harper Nelson reflects at final U.S. championships

But she had doubts all along about leaving the track.

“I wondered, would I miss it?” Harper Nelson told NBC Olympic Talk’s Nick Zaccardi. “Would I still want to do it? Then throughout my pregnancy, I still obviously had that pull. I trained during the whole nine months, but it was for two reasons. One was, it was literally the best I would feel all day, just with the changes in my body and stuff I was going through. The next one was if you just so happen to want to run, you cannot take nine months off. That’s just not an option. So I trained.”

She has remained available for drug testing through the year and talked about post-pregnancy competition with two-time Olympic shot put champion Valerie Adams of New Zealand, who was pregnant with her second child while Harper Nelson was pregnant.

But Harper Nelson was discouraged early on in her post-pregnancy training.

“That initial burst of speed to get off the line, it just was lacking,” Harper Nelson said. “I really had a moment where I sat down and kind of cried. I was thinking, do you ever really get that back? Is it possible? You’ve seen other ladies Nia (Ali), Allyson (Felix), Shelly-Ann (Fraser-Pryce), at world championships, they ran great. But you always find that moment, but is it different for me? Will my body not be the body that wants to come back? We slowly just gradually did things, resistance, mini plyos and gradually got myself back.”

She got encouragement, though, in speaking with her medical advisors: “My physio, he said, ‘Dawn, this is pretty much the best your body has felt in a long time because you allowed your body to rest.'”

Her husband, Alonzo Nelson, will be her coach while she trains on her high school track in East St. Louis, Ill.

Her comeback is likely only for one year: “I really do feel like this would probably be it because we want more kids.”

The competition in the 100m hurdles has only gotten stronger over the years. Harper Nelson’s fastest time of 2018 was 12.75 seconds, trailing 21 hurdlers internationally and seven U.S. athletes. Even when she took silver in the 2017 world championships, her season’s best of 12.63 seconds trailed six U.S. hurdlers. Kendra Harrison set the world record of 12.20 seconds in 2016.

Harper Nelson says she’s up for the challenge.

“In the 100m hurdles, we hold the definition of the hardest team to make,” Harper Nelson said. “From 2008 to now, it’s been different ladies that have lined up. The constant has been me and Sally [Pearson]. No one gives you anything. Everyone is out here hungry. It’s literally been the life that I’ve lived for the 12 years of my career. … All I’ve known is you put up or shut up. So I’m definitely OK with that. I really don’t want it any other way.”

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Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis eyeing Grand Slam record

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Serena Williams travels with “like 50 masks” and has been a little bit of a recluse since early March and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t have full lung capacity, so I’m not sure what would happen to me,” Williams said Saturday, two days before the start of the WTA’s Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky., her first tournament since playing Fed Cup in early February. “I’m sure I’ll be OK, but I don’t want to find out.”

Williams, 38, has a history of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms. She faced life-threatening complications following her Sept. 1, 2017, childbirth that confined her to a bed for six weeks. She said her daily routine was surgery and that she lost count after the first four.

More recently, Williams enjoyed “every part” of the last six months at home in Florida, her longest time grounded since her teens.

“I’ve been a little neurotic, to an extent,” on health and safety, she said. “Everyone in the Serena bubble is really protected.”

Williams is entered to play next week in Lexington and at consecutive tournaments in New York City later this month — the Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open, the latter starting Aug. 31.

Williams is the highest-ranked player in the Lexington field at No. 9. Others include 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, older sister Venus Williams and 16-year-old Coco Gauff.

She has been bidding ever since having daughter Olympia to tie Margaret Court‘s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, albeit many of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and, notably at the Australian Open, against small fields lacking the world’s best players. Williams reached the last two Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals, losing all of them.

She showed her seriousness in committing early to this year’s U.S. Open by installing a court at home with the same surface. Three of the top 10 female singles players already said they will skip the U.S. Open due to travel and/or virus concerns, including No. 1 Ash Barty.

“Tennis is naturally a socially distanced sport, so it was kind of easy to go back and just walk on my side of the court and have my hitter walk on his side of the court,” Williams said.

The French Open starts two weeks after the U.S. Open ends. Williams was asked if she will fly to Europe for tournaments this autumn.

“I see myself doing it all, if it happens,” she said.

The Tokyo Olympics are too far away to make plans.

“We’ll have to kind of wait to see what happens in the fall,” she said. “One thing I have learned with this pandemic is don’t plan.”

MORE: Past U.S. Open champions get wild cards

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Conseslus Kipruto tests positive for coronavirus, canceling world-record bid

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Conseslus Kipruto, the Olympic and world 3000m steeplechase champion, tested positive for the coronavirus without symptoms, which will keep him from a world-record chase on Friday, according to his social media.

The Kenyan was to race in the first in-person Diamond League meet of the year in Monaco on Friday.

“Our World is going through a challenging period and we all have to take our responsibilities,” was posted. “Unfortunately my covid-19 test, as part of the Monaco-protocol, came back positive and therefore I can’t be part of the Monaco Diamond League.

“I don’t have any symptoms and I was actually in great shape. I was planning to go for the WR: it has stayed too long outside Kenya. As the World & Olympic Champion I feel strongly its something I should go for as well.”

Kipruto, 25, is the 14th-fastest steepler in history with a personal best of 8:00.12. The world record is 7:53.63, set by Kenyan-born Qatari Saif Saaeed Shaheen in 2004.

Last year, Kipruto won the world title by .01, extending a streak of a Kenyan or Kenyan-born man winning every Olympic or world title in the event since the 1988 Seoul Games. He was sidelined by a stress fracture in his left foot until opening his season extremely late on Aug. 24.

MORE: Trayvon Bromell’s road back through destruction, death

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Our World is going through a challenging period and we all have to take our responsibilities. Unfortunately my covid-19 test, as part of the Monaco-protocol, came back positive and therefore I can’t be part of the Monaco Diamond League on August 14th. I don’t have any symptoms and I was actually in great shape. I was planning to go for the WR: it has stayed too long outside Kenya. As the World & Olympic Champion I feel strongly its something I should go for as well. Wish to thank Monaco for all the work they have done and I wish them and my colleagues a wonderful competition. Athletics is back and I will be back as well. Anyone willing to organise a steeple once I can be cleared? @diamondleaguemonaco #nike #quarantine #WR #Kenya

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