Allyson Felix
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Allyson Felix: Everything is on the table in 2020

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It was about this time last year that Allyson Felix received her first post-pregnancy workout instruction from longtime coach Bobby Kersee: a 30-minute power walk on a treadmill at the local fitness center.

It was a struggle for Felix, the most decorated female Olympic track and field athlete in history with nine medals and six golds. She questioned whether returning to form was realistic after an emergency C-section at 32 weeks with severe preeclampsia. Camryn, born at 3 pounds, 7 ounces, spent her first 29 days in the NICU.

The treadmill walk was “humbling, and it was hard and I was discouraged,” she said, “but it was the starting point.”

Five months later, Felix lined up for her first race as a mom. She distinctly remembers the announcer’s introduction at the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships. After reeling off accolades, the booming voice over the sound system crescendoed, “But her greatest victory came in November, the birth of daughter Camryn.”

“This moment that I wasn’t expecting,” Felix said. “So much love from everybody, and it was just really cool to be known as Camryn’s mom.”

She went on to finish sixth in the 400m at USATF Outdoors, qualifying for a record-breaking ninth world championships team (solely in relays this time).

At worlds in early autumn, she earned her 12th and 13th titles, breaking a record she shared with Usain Bolt. Felix’s split of 49.8 seconds in the 4x400m preliminary round was the fastest of the 64 women across all heats (which didn’t include any of the top five women from the individual 400m).

“I don’t think I was ever really in shape last season,” Felix said. “Well, I know I wasn’t because Bobby told me.”

Felix’s journey is expected to resume later this winter during the indoor season, then ramp up to June’s Olympic trials in Eugene, Ore. She can join Gail Devers as the only U.S. sprinters to compete at five Olympics.

Felix is not limiting herself to the 400m, the lone distance she contested on the oval last season. She was known as a 200m sprinter for the first decade of her career, plus earned two Olympic titles in the 4x100m.

She said in November that — if healthy — there’s no reason not to enter the 200m at trials given the first round is four days after the 400m final. If Felix makes the Olympic team in both sprints, she will choose between them.

“Everything’s on the table this year,” Felix said. “This year, I’m going to be getting back to sprinting. I think that’s really key for me to be myself, and that’s something that I didn’t even get to touch last year.”

Felix, the 2012 Olympic 200m champion and a two-time silver medalist at the distance, nearly made the Rio Olympic team in both the 200m and the 400m. She came .01 of a second shy in the 200m at trials, three months after partially tearing two ligaments in her right ankle landing on a medicine ball.

Felix has said nothing went to plan in 2016. From the injury to being edged out by a diving Shaunae Miller-Uibo in the Olympic 400m final to the oddity of re-running the 4x100m preliminary heats after a collision.

She thinks about Rio a lot. She thinks about Tokyo a lot, a chance to have her last Games be on her terms. Those terms changed since she became a mom, fighting for pregnancy protection in athlete contracts and raising awareness of racial disparities and social determinants in the maternal mortality crisis.

“When I think about legacy, I think before, I was always concerned with medals, and times. That’s what I wanted to leave behind,” she said. “In the space that I am now, I want to leave this world better than I found it. I want to have an impact on things like maternal rights, on issues of the sport, on change.”

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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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.

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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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