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USOPC, prioritizing athlete safety, focused on Tokyo Olympics

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The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee is collecting feedback from American athletes while prioritizing their health and safety as the Tokyo Games approach.

“It’s of course our deepest wish that athletes of the world can still travel to Tokyo,” USOPC chair Susanne Lyons said after a board of directors meeting Friday. “Our hearts literally ache with the fear and stress and uncertainty.”

Many U.S. Olympic hopefuls have said they are unable to train properly after facilities were closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. U.S. Olympic and Paralympic training centers in Colorado Springs and Lake Placid, N.Y., had to close due to government mandates, though athletes who are residents have been allowed to continue living there even without use of training facilities.

“As diverse as our athletes are, so, too, are their perspectives on this issue, which adds to the complication factor,” USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland said. “As you might imagine, there are athletes out there for whom this feels like their opportunity, their only opportunity, their one chance.

“It is our hope that our athletes have the ability to achieve their dreams in some capacity. Certainly, we are focused on Tokyo 2020 and will continue to be as long as that possibility stays ahead of us.”

Like the IOC, the USOPC has been planning scenarios for different potential outcomes. The Olympics remain scheduled to open July 24. Lyons said she had several conversations in recent days with IOC leaders, relaying the feedback the USOPC is receiving from American athletes.

USOPC leaders agreed with the IOC’s view that it’s too early to alter the Olympic plan with the amount of information and advice they have now from health officials.

“We don’t have to make a decision [now],” Lyons said. “Our Games are not next week or two weeks from now. They’re four months from now, and I think a lot may change in that time period. So we are affording the IOC the opportunity to gather that information and expert advice. At this point in time, we do not feel it is necessary for us to insist that they make a decision.

“The decision about the Games themselves does not lie directly with us. That lies with a combination of the World Health Organization, the Japanese government and the IOC. But I can assure you that there is no circumstance when the USOPC would send our athletes into harm’s way if we did not believe it was safe.”

Hirshland made a point to American athletes who may be struggling with the need to train versus safety.

“Let me ask for your [the media’s] help in making very clear to the athlete population, and this is to the elite athlete population, but all the way down to every club and pool and rink owner out there,” Hirshland said. “As Americans, right now, our No. 1 priority needs to be our health and safety and the containment of this virus, period, full stop. That should not conflict in any way with the decision someone is making about their training.”

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Bobby Joe Morrow, triple Olympic sprint champion, dies at 84

Bobby Joe Morrow
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Bobby Joe Morrow, one of four men to win the 100m, 200m and 4x100m at one Olympics, died at age 84 on Saturday.

Morrow’s family said he died of natural causes.

Morrow swept the 100m, 200m and 4x100m at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, joining Jesse Owens as the only men to accomplish the feat. Later, Carl Lewis and Usain Bolt did the same.

Morrow, raised on a farm in San Benito, Texas, set 11 world records in a short career, according to World Athletics.

He competed in one Olympics, and that year was named Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year while a student at Abilene Christian. He beat out Mickey Mantle and Floyd Patterson.

“Bobby had a fluidity of motion like nothing I’d ever seen,” Oliver Jackson, the Abilene Christian coach, said, according to Sports Illustrated in 2000. “He could run a 220 with a root beer float on his head and never spill a drop. I made an adjustment to his start when Bobby was a freshman. After that, my only advice to him was to change his major from sciences to speech, because he’d be destined to make a bunch of them.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Johnny Gregorek runs fastest blue jeans mile in history

Johnny Gregorek
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Johnny Gregorek, a U.S. Olympic hopeful runner, clocked what is believed to be the fastest mile in history for somebody wearing jeans.

Gregorek recorded a reported 4 minutes, 6.25 seconds, on Saturday to break the record by more than five seconds (with a pacer for the first two-plus laps). Gregorek, after the record run streamed live on his Instagram, said he wore a pair of 100 percent cotton Levi’s.

Gregorek, the 28-year-old son of a 1980 and 1984 U.S. Olympic steeplechaser, finished 10th in the 2017 World Championships 1500m. He was sixth at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials.

He ranked No. 1 in the country for the indoor mile in 2019, clocking 3:49.98. His outdoor mile personal best is 3:52.94, ranking him 30th in American history.

Before the attempt, a fundraiser was started for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, garnering more than $29,000. Gregorek ran in memory of younger brother Patrick, who died suddenly in March 2019.

“Paddy was a fan of anything silly,” Gregorek posted. “I think an all out mile in jeans would tickle him sufficiently!”

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