Moms who could star at Tokyo Olympics

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Moms across sports are becoming more and more commonplace. A look at 15 moms who could be medal winners and news makers at the Toyko Olympics in 2021 ahead of “On Her Turf: Inspiring Greatness” on NBCSN on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET …

Nia Ali
Track and Field

Ali, who earned Rio Olympic 100m hurdles silver a year after having son Titus, won her first world title in 2019, a year after having daughter Yuri. At worlds, she lowered her personal best in the semifinals (12.44) and final (12.34) for the upset victory.

Oksana Chusovitina

Chusovitina’s son, Alisher, will be older than many of Chusovitina’s competitors at the Tokyo Games. He is 20. She is 44, set to break her own record with an eighth Olympic gymnastics appearance. Chusovitina, already the oldest female gymnast in Olympic history from her Rio participation, will next year become the oldest Olympic gymnast in 112 years. She has competed for the Soviet Union, Unified Team, Germany and (currently) Uzbekistan.

Chloe Esposito
Modern Pentathlon

The Australian gold medalist from Rio was due to miss Tokyo, as she’s expecting her first child in August. Now that the Games are postponed until 2021, she has a chance to return to defend her title. Esposito took a year off after Rio and returned to win the 2018 World Cup Final, taking the world No. 1 ranking that year. She missed 2019 competition after a hamstring operation.

Allyson Felix
Track and Field

Felix, the most decorated female U.S. Olympic track and field athlete with nine medals, looks to cap her Olympic career in Tokyo. She came back from life-threatening Nov. 28, 2018 childbirth — daughter Camryn — to make her ninth world championships team last year and break a record for career world titles that she shared with Usain Bolt.

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce
Track and Field

Fraser-Pryce, who is essentially Usain Bolt without the world records in the 100m, last year became the the oldest woman to win an Olympic or world title in the event at age 32. The Jamaican Pocket Rocket did so two years after having her first child, Zyon, going 20 months between meets. She had a statement 2019, running in the 10.7s a total of four times, becoming the fastest mom in history.

Sally Kipyego
Track and Field

Kipyego made her first U.S. Olympic team by placing third at the marathon trials on Feb. 29. She has Olympic experience, taking 10,000m silver for native Kenya in 2012. She gave birth to daughter Emma in summer 2017 and became eligible to represent the U.S. last August. Kipyego considered quitting while needing more than one year to return to form after childbirth. “A lot of women have children, they come back and they run and they’re fantastic,” she said. “That was not my story.”

Faith Kipyegon
Track and Field

The Rio Olympic 1500m champion from Kenya had daughter Alyn in 2018, taking nearly 22 months off competition. She returned last year, breaking her national record to take silver at the world championships. She also changed coaches to Patrick Sang, best known for guiding marathon world-record holder Eliud Kipchoge.

Alex Morgan

The star forward was among the biggest beneficiaries of the Olympic postponement. Morgan is due with her first child later this spring. She had intended on trying to make the 18-player Olympic roster for this summer, a monumental goal given the U.S. scoring depth. Now she gets a full year to regain fitness and impress new coach Vlatko AndonovskiJoy FawcettChristie RamponeCarla Overbeck and Kate Markgraf previously made U.S. Olympic soccer teams as moms.

MORE: Felix, Morgan, Williams featured on NBCSN’s “On Her Turf: Inspiring Greatness” on Sunday

Aliya Mustafina

Mustafina is a two-time reigning Olympic uneven bars champion and the most decorated active gymnast aside from Simone Biles. She had daughter Alina in 2017 and competed at the following year’s worlds but missed Europeans and worlds in 2019, putting her Olympic prospects in question.

Cat Osterman

Osterman, a stepmom to daughter Bracken, was named to the original 2020 U.S. Olympic softball roster on Oct. 6, 2019, and USA Softball confirmed Thursday it will keep that team for 2021. The pitcher came out of a 2015 retirement in a bid to return for softball’s first Olympic appearance since 2008. Osterman started the last Olympic softball game in Beijing in 2008, when the U.S. was stunned by Japan in the gold-medal game.

Svetlana Romashina
Artistic Swimming

One of the most dominant athletes of the last 15 years. Romashina is a five-time Olympic champion and record 21-time world champion in artistic swimming (formerly called synchronized swimming). She took a break after Rio, had daughter Alexandra in 2017 and won three more golds at 2019 Worlds. Romashina is the second-youngest Olympic artistic swimming champion and, if she prevails in Tokyo, is in line to become its oldest, according to Olympedia and the OlyMADMen.

Kerri Walsh Jennings
Beach Volleyball

Walsh Jennings has as many children as Olympic titles (three — Joey, Sundance and Scout) but would like to end her Olympic career with a sixth Olympic appearance and a fourth gold in Tokyo. She’s now partnered with Brooke Sweat. They were ranked second among U.S. teams in Olympic qualifying when sports were halted, with a maximum of two spots per nation per gender. Walsh Jennings, 41, was already bidding to break the Olympic beach volleyball age record before the pandemic postponed the Olympics by one year.

Isabell Werth

Germany’s Dressage Queen is the most decorated Olympic equestrian with 10 medals and six golds, her first coming at the 1992 Barcelona Games. Werth, now 50, had son Frederik in 2009. She owns the top two spots in the world rankings with two different horses.

Serena Williams

The 23-time Grand Slam singles champion came back from the life-threatening 2017 birth of daughter Olympia to all but wrap up her fifth Olympic berth when sports were halted. Now, she and other tennis stars must wait to see how Olympic qualifying will be amended. She owns four Olympic medals (all gold), one shy of the modern-era tennis record held by older sister Venus.

Mariel Zagunis

The most decorated U.S. fencer in history qualified for her fifth Olympics in March, and her first as a mom. She had daughter Sunday Noelle in October 2017. Zagunis, who owns four combined individual Olympic and world sabre titles, is, at 35, in line to become the oldest U.S. Olympic fencer since 1996.

MORE: Felix sees Tokyo Olympics as ‘time of healing’

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Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal rekindle record bids at French Open

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Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal will play on the same day at the French Open through the quarterfinals, assuming each advances that far and the weather doesn’t wreak havoc. Each time they walk on the crushed red clay, the legends move closer to tying all-time records.

Williams, in her 10th bid since returning from childbirth to tie Margaret Court‘s 24 Grand Slam singles titles, battled and then rolled past 102nd-ranked countrywoman Kristie Ahn 7-6 (2), 6-0.

“I just need to play with more confidence, like I’m Serena,” she said of the difference between a 74-minute first set and a 27-minute second set. “I love the clay, and I started playing like it, opening the court and moving and sliding.”

Nadal, in his second major since moving within one of Roger Federer‘s male record 20 Slam titles, swept 83rd-ranked Belarusian Egor Gerasimov 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.

“Six months without playing a single tennis match is not easy,” said Nadal, who skipped the U.S. Open and then lost his third match at his comeback tournament in Rome. “I had to stop playing tennis for more than two months, so situation is difficult.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Their pursuits are very different.

Williams is already the greatest player in history by many measures, especially considering most of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and some at the Australian Open without the world’s best players.

Williams has lost all four of her major finals since her life-threatening childbirth. But she is not the favorite in Paris, despite the absence of 2019 champion Ash Barty of Australia and recent U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka. Williams hasn’t made the quarterfinals at Roland Garros in four years and just went 16 months between competitive matches on clay.

She’s also battling an Achilles injury that affected her during a U.S. Open semifinal run three weeks ago. She’s spent most of her preparation time in France rehabbing.

“A ton of prayer,” she said, noting coming early to a post-match press conference to maximize her subsequent time handling the Achilles. “I’m doing so much for it.”

None of Williams’ potential first three opponents have ever beaten her. Next up: Bulgarian and fellow mom Tsvetana Pironkova, a rematch of their three-set U.S. Open quarterfinal three weeks ago.

Like Williams, Nadal next plays on Wednesday. He gets Mackenzie McDonald, one of six American men to so far reach round two, the most since 1998.

For more than a decade, followers have debated the greatest male player in history between Nadal and Federer (and now Novak Djokovic). But not until winning the 2019 U.S. Open did Nadal move within one Slam of Federer’s total.

Now, Nadal can tie Federer and pass the Swiss if he wins the next two French Opens (and Federer doesn’t win the next Australian Open).

Nadal is going for his 13th crown in Paris, as usual downplaying his favorite status. This time, he’s noting the cool, slow, autumnal conditions and a new brand of tennis ball that is disadvantageous.

“Conditions here probably are the most difficult conditions for me ever in Roland Garros,” Nadal said last week. “The conditions are a little bit extreme to play an outdoor tournament.”

Federer is not playing after two knee operations. Nadal, who at 34 is five years younger than Federer, has the opportunity in the coming matches and months to tip the scales in his favor. And help deny Djokovic, who is 33 with 17 Slams.

Nadal is not one to engage in that GOAT debate. Turns out, neither is Williams.

“You can’t compare two people that are equally great,” she said of Nadal and Federer. “I don’t understand why people want to pit who’s this, who’s that? They both have spectacular careers that 99 percent of people can only dream of and they both deserve.”

Earlier Monday, newly crowned U.S. Open champion Dominic Thiem rolled 2014 U.S. Open winner Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.

Thiem, the 2018 and 2019 French Open runner-up, next gets American Jack Sock, a former top-10 player now ranked No. 310.

Sock took out countryman Reilly Opelka 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 for his first main draw win at the French Open in four years.

MORE: Halep, Comaneci and the genesis of a Romanian friendship

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World silver medalist opts out of figure skating Grand Prix

Elizabet Tursynbaeva
Getty Images
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Elizabet Tursynbayeva, the 2019 World silver medalist, said she will not compete in figure skating’s upcoming Grand Prix Series, according to Kazakhstan’s Olympic Committee.

Tursynbayeva noted in stating her decision that world ranking points will not be awarded in the series, which starts with Skate America from Oct. 23-25.

Fields for the six Grand Prix events, held on consecutive weekends through November, have not been released.

Skaters will be restricted to one Grand Prix start — halved from the usual two — and to the event in their home nations or closest to their training locations.

Tursynbayeva trains in Russia, one of six nations to host Grand Prix events.

Previously, Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu announced he would not compete on the Grand Prix due to coronavirus pandemic-related travel risks.

Russian Olympic gold medalist Alina Zagitova, who announced an indefinite break from competition last December, is also not expected to compete. She is hosting a Russian skating-themed TV show but has not announced her future competition plans.

Tursynbayeva took silver behind Zagitova at the most recent world championships in 2019, a surprise given her 12th-place finish at the PyeongChang Olympics. Tursynbayeva withdrew before her 2019 Grand Prix events, reportedly after suffering an injury.

Last season’s top skaters were all first-year seniors — Russians Alena Kostornaya, Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova. The world championships were not held due to the pandemic.

Two-time U.S. champion Alysa Liu will not be old enough for the Grand Prix until the 2021-22 Olympic season.

MORE: Orser reacts to Medvedeva’s coaching switch

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