Nathan Adrian
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Nathan Adrian pledged to aid coronavirus relief. Olympians around the world joined him.

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For the last decade, Nathan Adrian proved a leader for U.S. swimming as its last man, the anchor on freestyle and medley gold-medal relays. Recently, outside of the pool, Adrian again became a magnetic force for the sport, domestically and on the other side of the world.

Adrian’s marketing agency, Octagon, helped start the website athletesrelief.org last month. Michael Phelps, Simone Biles and Chloe Kim are among more than 100 athletes and sports personalities who pledged items that will be raffled among donors who gave $25 or more.

All of the money goes to coronavirus relief, specifically earmarked for the Center for Disaster Philanthropy’s (CDP) COVID-19 Response Fund.

Adrian, who owns 15 Olympic or world championships gold medals, pitched in a signed Speedo racing suit.

“If any of my fellow athletes would like to join in, leave a comment below with a signed item you’d like to donate and we’ll add it,” Adrian posted on Instagram. The replies splashed in, including from Olympic champions Natalie Coughlin and Ryan Murphy, both Cal products like Adrian.

But also athletes with a degree or two of separation, water polo champion Maggie Steffens. And Summer Sanders, the 1992 Olympic swimming gold medalist who donated a signed “Figure it Out” board game, from the 1990s Nickelodeon show that she hosted. Both Steffens and Sanders went to Stanford, Cal’s archrival.

“Hopefully whoever wins the eventual prize will appreciate it because ‘Figure it Out’ was part of my childhood,” Adrian said. “Summer Sanders, before I even knew she was a swimmer, I knew she was the host of ‘Figure it Out.'”

In total, more than 20 people from the swimming community joined after Adrian’s post — including photographers, USA Swimming CEO Tim Hinchey III and longtime coach Mark Schubert, who donated a Porsche experience at a California test track.

Perhaps the most head-turning contributor: Kyle Chalmers, the Australian who succeeded Adrian as Olympic 100m freestyle champion in 2016. Chalmers also added a signed racing suit to the fundraiser.

“It’s cool that a guy, for instance, Kyle Chalmers reaches out from across the Pacific Ocean,” said Adrian, whose career dates to the tail end of the heyday of the U.S.-Australia swimming rivalry in the 2000s. “That’s something special. I mean, I’m friendly with Kyle. When we see each other, we’ll joke around, have a good time. But it’s not like I text him every day. So to have him reach out of the blue is pretty cool.”

Total donations combining items from all athletes were up to $196,000 as of this afternoon. The campaign was recently extended from May 1 to June 1.

“The cool part about was how the rest of the swim community started rallying around the cause,” Adrian said. “It’s really cool to be part of a community that wants to help, that wants to do something during this time. I’m not necessarily calling anybody else out by any means, but it’s nice to be a part of a community that felt the urge to want to help during this time.”

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Figure skating Grand Prix Series will be held as ‘domestic’ competitions

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Figure skating’s Grand Prix Series will go ahead as scheduled this fall, with modifications due to the coronavirus pandemic, the International Skating Union decided Monday.

Each of the series’ six tops around the globe will be “a domestic run event,” limited to skaters of the event’s host country, who regularly train in the host country and from a respective geographical area. The number of disciplines and skaters at each event are to be worked out.

The Grand Prix Series, held annually since 1995, is a six-event fall season, qualifying the top six skaters and teams per discipline to December’s Grand Prix Final. The annual stops are in the U.S., Canada, China, France, Russia and Japan, leading up to the Final, which is held at a different site each year.

The Final is the second-biggest annual competition after the world championships, which are typically in late March. The Final is still scheduled for Beijing, though whether or when it can be held will be discussed.

The series begins in late October with Skate America, which debuted in 1979 and has been held every year since 1988 as the biggest annual international competition in the U.S. Skate America’s site is Las Vegas, just as it was in 2019.

Skaters typically compete twice on the Grand Prix Series (three times if they qualify for the Final). ISU vice president Alexander Lakernik said skaters will be limited to one start in the six-event series before the Final, according to a Russian media quote confirmed by Phil Hersh.

The ISU has not confirmed or denied Lakernik’s assertion.

Most, if not all, top-level U.S. skaters train in the U.S. or Canada. That makes the first two Grand Prix stops — Skate America and Skate Canada — likely destinations. Grand Prix assignments have not been published.

“I appreciate the ISU is open to adapting competitive formats and is working to give athletes opportunities to compete,” Evan Bates, a U.S. ice dance champion with Madison Chock who trains in Montreal, wrote in a text message to Hersh. “This announcement gives reassurance that the ISU is doing their best to ensure a season will still take place. Of course, it’s hard to predict what will happen, and we’re not sure about what country we would compete in. It would probably depend on what the quarantine rules are at that time.”

The January 2021 U.S. Championships are scheduled for San Jose, Calif. The March 2021 World Championships are set for Stockholm.

In July, the ISU canceled the Junior Grand Prix Series for skaters mostly ages 13 to 18, including two-time U.S. champion Alysa Liu, who cannot enter the senior Grand Prix until 2021.

Other early season senior international competitions scheduled for September were also canceled or postponed.

U.S. Figure Skating said in a statement that it will have more details on the Grand Prix Series in the coming weeks after collaborating with an ISU-appointed group.

“This is a great example of the figure skating community coming together to ensure that the world’s premier figure skating series will continue during these challenging times,” the statement read. “Figure skaters want to compete and figure skating fans from all around the world want to see their favorite athletes skate, and this format will ensure just that.”

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Respectfully, Donavan Brazier believes he has a chance at legendary record

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On the night of the biggest race of his life, Donavan Brazier met the man whom he is trying to succeed and, perhaps, supplant.

David Rudisha, the two-time Olympic 800m champion and world-record holder, told Brazier before the Oct. 1 world championships 800m final that he believed in the 22-year-old American more than any other man in that night’s event.

Later that evening in Doha, Brazier proved the sidelined Kenyan prophetic, winning in a national record 1:42.34 and becoming the first American to win a world title in the event.

Brazier, in his first global championship final, also ran the fastest time by somebody that young since Rudisha’s 2012 Olympic title and world-record epic pulled that field to personal bests.

Rudisha’s mark of 1:40.91 — from a race Brazier has watched dozens of times — is still significantly faster. That hasn’t stopped followers from wondering if Rudisha’s days as world-record holder may be numbered.

Sounds like Brazier may be wondering, too.

“I think I definitely have the opportunity,” Brazier told NBC Sports’ Leigh Diffey in a watchback of his 2019 Diamond League and world titles. “If we’re looking at guys that are currently racing right now, I think I might have the best opportunity to do it.”

Brazier exercised caution. He was by no means predicting such a feat.

“David Rudisha, when he first broke it, he was a once-in-a-century athlete,” Brazier said. “For someone to break it so quick and just to say it so nonchalantly, I think it’s not really giving David Rudisha the respect that he deserves. A 1:40.91 is a really dangerous record to break.”

Brazier, who took up running in middle school in Michigan rather than football because he was “terribly skinny,” quickly became a dangerous prospect. In 2016, he went into the Olympic Trials ranked third in the world as a Texas A&M freshman.

Then came the obstacles. Brazier was eliminated in the first round of trials, three weeks after winning the NCAA title on the same Oregon track. In 2017, he won the U.S. title but failed to make the world final. He didn’t race at all outdoors in 2018 due to a foot injury.

Brazier looked at 2019 as a redemption year. He hit a series of successes: an American indoor 800m record, the world’s fastest indoor 600m in history, his first Diamond League win, a repeat national title and the Diamond League Final title.

Brazier said that last victory in Zurich took him from “not a well known guy, maybe a medal contender, maybe not,” to the world championships favorite. Rudisha hasn’t raced since 2017 due to injuries.

Brazier, after meeting Rudisha and former world-record holder Seb Coe, capped the season with his biggest title yet in Doha. The feeling was more relief than happiness. Brazier, after getting knocked down repeatedly in his first two seasons as a pro, noted that Muhammad Ali also won his first world title at age 22.

Brazier mouthed “thank you” after crossing the finish line, a salute to everybody who helped him reach that point.

“I’m thanking myself, too, because I’m the one who put in all the hard work to do it,” Brazier said. “I’m not saying that this is the end of my career, but it was definitely the peak of my career and the pinnacle of it. I never accomplished anything on a stage like that.”

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