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Athletes to watch in the World Para Track and Field Championships

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World championships and Paralympic berths will be at stake Nov. 7-15 at the World Para Track and Field Championships in Dubai.

The top four athletes in each event will win Paralympic qualification berths for their countries, with the exception that no athlete may earn a spot in more than one event.

Athletes are split into multiple classifications based on the type and level of impairment, and some disciplines offer many medal events. The men’s 100 meters will have 17 classifications — three for visual impairment (T11-T13), six for athletes with cerebral palsy or other coordination impairments (T33-T38), one for those with upper-limb impairment (T47), four for wheelchair athletes (T51-T54), two for runners with prosthetic legs (T63-T64), and one for the new world championship discipline of RaceRunning, in which athletes compete in three-wheeled devices similar to walkers. Other events include classifications for intellectual impairment (T20) or short stature (T40-T41).

Field event athletes are given “F” classifications rather than “T.”

One of the best-known wheelchair athletes in the world, Tatyana McFadden, will not be competing in Dubai, having just raced in the New York City Marathon. She has already qualified for the 2020 Paralympics in the marathon.

The athletes competing include the first autistic runner to break the four-minute mile, the daughter of a 1976 Olympic silver medalist, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering who holds multiple world records, and an athlete who posed in ESPN’s Body Issue.

Among the athletes to watch in Dubai:

VISUAL

David Brown (U.S., T11, 100 meters): 2016 Paralympic gold medalist and two-time defending world champion at 100. Runs with guide Jerome Avery. Also took silver in 2017 at 200, which won’t be contested this year. Holds world records at 100 (10.92) and 200 (22.41). Lost vision throughout his childhood due to Kawasaki disease and was blind by age 13.

Isaac Jean-Paul (U.S., T13, high jump): Set a still-standing high jump world record (2.17 meters) in the 2017 championships and took bronze in the long jump. Won the 2015 NCAA Division II national championship while competing at Lewis University. Placed 16th in the USA Track and Field Championships.

INTELLECTUAL

Mikey Brannigan (U.S., T20, 1,500): 2016 Paralympic gold medalist and two-time defending world champion at 1,500. Also won 800 and took silver in the 5,000 in 2017, but those two events will not be on the 2019 program. The first T20 athlete to break the four-minute mark in the mile. Holds the T20 world record at 1,500 (3:45.50) and 5,000 (14:09.51). Diagnosed with autism at an early age and was non-verbal until age 4.

Breanna Clark (U.S., T20, 400): 2016 Paralympic gold medalist and 2017 world champion. Set the 400 world record in the 2017 championships and lowered it to 55.99 seconds in 2018. Her mother, Rosalyn Clark, took silver in the 1976 Olympics in the 4×400 relay.

COORDINATION

Walid Ktila (Tunisia, T34, sprint/middle distance): Three-time defending four-event champion (100, 200, 400, 800), though this year’s championships will not include the 200. Also swept the 100 and 200 in the 2012 Paralympics and took another gold in the 100 and silver in the 800 in 2016. World record holder in the 100, 200 and 400.

Jaleen Roberts (U.S., T37, 100/200/long jump): Took three medals (long jump silver, 100 and 200 bronze) in 2017. Won all three of her events and a relay gold medal in the 2019 Parapan American Games.

UPPER BODY

Roderick Townsend (U.S., T46, 100/jumps): 2016 Paralympic gold medalist in high jump and long jump. Two-time defending world champion and world record holder in high jump.

Tobi Fawehinmi (U.S., T47, long jump): Won gold in the 2017 triple jump, which won’t be contested this year. Also took bronze in the long jump. Youngest man on the 2012 Paralympic team. Has underdeveloped left arm due to shoulder dystocia.

Deja Young (U.S., T47, 100/200): 2016 Paralympic gold medalist in 100 and 200. Defending world champion in both sprint events. Also took gold in the 100 and silver in the 200 in 2015. Ran track at Wichita State. Has limited mobility in right shoulder due to brachial plexus.

WHEELCHAIR

Cassie Mitchell (U.S., F52, discus/club throw): Set the discus world record (13.23 meters) in the 2017 championships, a mark that still stands as the record, and took silver in the shot put. Earned a college track scholarship upon graduating from high school in 1999 but then developed a neurological condition that left her paralyzed from the waist down. Made her Paralympic debut in 2012, then returned in 2016 to earn silver in the discus and bronze in the club throw. Also competed in swimming in 2016 and won two world championships in cycling in 2011. Holds F51 world record in discus and T52 records at every distance from 100 to 1,500. Assistant professor of biomedical engineering at a joint program between Georgia Tech and Emory.

Brent Lakatos (Canada, T53, sprint/middle distance): Swept the 100 through 800 in 2017 and won the 100 in the 2016 Paralympics. Like Ktila in the T34, he won’t have the opportunity to defend his 200 title, but he’s entered in the 100, 400 and 800 at T53 and will compete at T54 in the 1,500 and 5,000. Married to British Para athlete Stefanie Reid, who has been on reality TV in her home country. World record holder at every distance from 100 to 1,500.

Hannah McFadden (U.S., T54, 100/800): Younger sister of seven-time Paralympic gold medalist Tatyana McFadden. Youngest member of the 2012 Paralympics at age 16. Bronze medalist in the 100 and 200 in each of the last two world championships.

Daniel Romanchuk (U.S., T54, 800 and up): World champion in the marathon and already qualified for Tokyo in that event. In 2018, won Chicago Marathon and became first American man to win the New York City Marathon, also tying the record for youngest winner (20). In 2019, became the youngest winner (still 20) and first American man to win Boston Marathon since 1993. Also won 2019 London Marathon to clinch world title and defended title in Chicago, then won again in New York. World record holder in 800 and 5,000.

Susannah Scaroni (U.S., T54, 400 and up): Already qualified for Tokyo in the marathon, clinching her third Paralympic appearance in that event.

PROSTHETIC

Scout Bassett (U.S., T63, 100/long jump): 2016 Paralympian posed in ESPN’s Body Issue, where she shared her story of being adopted from a Chinese orphanage at age 7. Holds U.S. record in T42 100 and took bronze in both of her events in 2017.

Markus Rehm (Germany, T64, long jump): Was denied the opportunity to compete in the 2016 Olympics because organizers said he failed to prove that his prosthesis offered no advantage. Has won every Paralympic or world championship long jump competition since 2011. Also took gold in men’s 4×100 relay in 2016. World record holder with a leap of 8.48 meters, which would rank third on the list of 2019 performances among able-bodied jumpers.

The Olympic Channel will have coverage of the World Para Track and Field Championships starting at 10 a.m. ET Thursday and then every day of the championships (ending Nov. 15) at 9 a.m. ET.

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Weightlifting investigation finds doping cover-ups

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DÜSSELDORF, Germany (AP) — An investigation into the International Weightlifting Federation has found doping cover-ups and millions of dollars in missing money, lead investigator Richard McLaren said Thursday.

McLaren said 40 positive doping tests were “hidden” in IWF records and that athletes whose cases were delayed or covered up went on to win medals at the world championships and other events. The cases will be referred to the World Anti-Doping Agency.

“We found systematic governance failures and corruption at the highest level of the IWF,” McLaren said.

The International Olympic Committee said it was studying the report “very carefully,” adding that “the content is deeply concerning.”

McLaren said former IWF president Tamas Ajan was “an autocratic leader” who kept the board in the dark about finances and left officials fearing reprisals if they spoke out. Ajan received cash payments on behalf of the IWF as doping fines from national federations or sponsors, the report said, but what happened to some of the money is unclear.

McLaren said $10.4 million was unaccounted for, based on his team’s analysis of cash going in and out of the IWF over several years. Ajan denies any wrongdoing.

The largest fine recorded in the report was $500,000 paid by Azerbaijan. It’s unclear how that payment was made. On one trip to Thailand for a competition and conference, Ajan collected more than $440,000 across 18 cash payments, according to the report.

“Everyone was kept in financial ignorance through the use of hidden bank accounts (and transfers),” McLaren said. “Some cash was accounted for, some was not.”

McLaren said that the investigation found information which law enforcement “might be interested in,” and that he would cooperate with any later investigations. That was echoed by Ajan’s successor at the IWF.

“The activities that have been revealed and the behavior that has occurred in the years past is absolutely unacceptable and possibly criminal,” IWF interim president Ursula Garza Papandrea said.

She added that the IWF will pass on information to law enforcement if it indicates there were “potential crimes.”

McLaren said Ajan “permitted the (federation) elections to be bought by vote brokers” as he kept the presidency and promoted favored officials. Large cash withdrawals were made ahead of federation congresses, McLaren said, adding that voters were bribed and had to take pictures of their ballots to show to brokers.

The 81-year-old Ajan stepped down in April, ending a 20-year reign as president and a total 44 years in federation posts. A month before that he also gave up his honorary membership of the International Olympic Committee.

In a statement to Hungarian state news agency MTI, Ajan said the IWF’s finances were managed in a “lawful” manner with oversight from the board.

“All my life, I’ve abided by the laws, the written and unwritten rules and customs of the sport,” he said.

Ajan accused McLaren’s team of not giving him enough information to respond to the allegations about his conduct.

Ajan was a full IOC member between 2000 and 2010, voting to select Olympic host cities. A previous complaint about IWF finances in 2010 was closed by the IOC.

McLaren’s investigation was sparked in January when German broadcaster ARD reported financial irregularities at the federation and apparent doping cover-ups.

The focus of the investigation was on the period from 2009 through 2019. McLaren said he heard allegations of misconduct dating back as far as the 1980s, but chose to prioritize more recent matters with stronger evidence.

The World Anti-Doping Agency said it welcomed McLaren’s findings.

“Once WADA has had the opportunity to review that evidence as well as the report in full, the Agency will consider the next appropriate steps to take,” it said in a statement.

Some allegations regarding doping misconduct around the 2019 world championships in Thailand and involving athletes from Moldova were passed to the International Testing Agency, which is still investigating.

McLaren, a Canadian law professor, was WADA’s lead investigator for Russian doping and has judged cases at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Weightlifting’s reputation under Ajan had already been hit by dozens of steroid doping cases revealed in retests of samples from the Olympics since 2008.

Since he left office in April, the IWF has begun moving its headquarters from Ajan’s home country of Hungary to the Swiss city of Lausanne, where the International Olympic Committee is based.

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Gwendolyn Berry gets apology from USOPC CEO after reprimand for podium gesture

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Olympic hammer thrower Gwendolyn Berry said USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland apologized to her Wednesday “for not understanding the severity of the impact her decisions had on me,” after Berry was put on probation last August for one year after raising her fist at the end of the national anthem at the 2019 Pan American Games.

“I am grateful to Gwen for her time and her honesty last night,” Hirshland said in a statement. “I heard her. I apologized for how my decisions made her feel and also did my best to explain why I made them. Gwen has a powerful voice in this national conversation, and I am sure that together we can use the platform of Olympic and Paralympic sport to address and fight against systematic inequality and racism in our country.”

Berry and fencer Race Imboden were sent August letters of reprimand by Hirshland, along with each receiving probation, after each made a podium gesture at Pan Ams in Peru.

This week, Berry tweeted that she wanted a public apology from Hirshland. That tweet came after Hirshland sent a letter to U.S. athletes on Monday night, condemning “systemic inequality that disproportionately impacts Black Americans in the United States.”

Then on Wednesday night, Berry said she had a “really productive” 40-minute phone call with Hirshland, USATF CEO Max Siegel and other USATF officials.

“I didn’t necessarily ask for [an apology] from [Hirshland],” Berry said Thursday. Berry said she lost two-thirds of her income after Pan Ams, that sponsors dropped her in connection to the raised fist fallout.

“We came to some good conclusions,” Berry said of the group call. “The most important thing were figuring out ways to move forward. [Hirshland] was aware of things that she did and how she made me feel about the situation, and I was happy that I was able to express to her my grievances and she was able to express to me how she felt as well about the situation.”

Berry said her probation, which is believed to still be in effect, wasn’t discussed. She made a point to say that USATF has always been on her side.

“The conversation was more for awareness purposes, and we’ll probably have more conversations this week,” said Berry.

Berry also plans to participate in a U.S. athlete town hall Friday.

“First and foremost, we should and we will discuss how people are just feeling and how people are holding up because athletes in general, because of the pandemic and because of everything that’s been going on, I know a lot of people are in distress, they’re sad, they’re confused,” she said. “I think that’ll be the main point of the discussion. Just to make sure everybody’s OK. Just to see how everybody’s holding on.”

On Aug. 10, Berry raised her fist at the end of the national anthem after winning the Pan American Games title.

The next morning, Berry said the gesture, which drew memories of Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Mexico City Games, wasn’t meant to be a big message, but it quickly became a national story.

“Just a testament to everything I’ve been through in the past year, and everything the country has been through this past year,” she said then. “A lot of things need to be done and said and changed. I’m not trying to start a political war or act like I’m miss-know-it-all or anything like that. I just know America can do better.”

Berry said then that the motivation behind her gesture included the challenges overcome of changing coaches and moving from Oxford, Miss., where her family resides, to Houston.

“Every individual person has their own views of things that are going on,” she said. “It’s in the Constitution, freedom of speech. I have a right to feel what I want to feel. It’s no disrespect at all to the country. I want to make that very clear. If anything, I’m doing it out of love and respect for people in the country.”

Berry also said that weekend, according to USA Today, that she was standing for “extreme injustice.”

“Somebody has to talk about the things that are too uncomfortable to talk about. Somebody has to stand for all of the injustices that are going on in America and a president who’s making it worse,” Berry said, according to that report. “It’s too important to not say something. Something has to be said. If nothing is said, nothing will be done, and nothing will be fixed, and nothing will be changed.”

NBC Olympics senior researcher Alex Azzi contributed to this report.

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