Grant Holloway chose Florida track over Georgia football, then became a world champion

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Coming out of Grassfield High School in Chesapeake, Va., Grant Holloway was a talented enough wide receiver to earn an offer from the University of Georgia. One problem: He wanted to be an Olympian.

So Holloway chose the University of Florida, which didn’t want him for football. He went to Gainesville to join a more successful program — track and field. Holloway began competing for the Gators and coach Mike Holloway, whom he came to find out was a distant relative.

As a freshman, Holloway swept the NCAA 60m and 110m hurdles titles. He was fourth at the USATF Outdoor Championships, missing the world championships team by .05 of a second as a 19-year-old.

In 2019, he turned pro after his junior year, having swept the NCAA 60m and 110m hurdles all three seasons. In his last season, he also won the indoor 60m (no hurdles) and was part of a champion 4x100m relay team. From January to October, Holloway ran more than 40 races going into the world championships final in Doha.

Holloway is a hurdler of ritual. He writes “God’s will,” on his hand before every race. In Doha, he smiled before settling into the blocks and said “thank you,” a reminder to be grateful for his situation, going for a medal at age 21 against the globe’s best.

Holloway jumped the field from the start. As he cleared hurdles, after knocking the first one, he felt the man two lanes to his right. It was Omar McLeod, the Olympic and world champion from Jamaica.

“I call him Mr. Silk,” Holloway said, McLeod’s nickname. “He calls me Flamingo.”

McLeod’s hamstring grabbed. He hit a late hurdle and stumbled to last place.

“I could see Omar coming up. He’s coming. He’s coming,” Holloway told NBC Sports’ Leigh Diffey recently. “But then all of a sudden in a snap of a finger, he was out.”

Holloway endured, winning in 13.10 seconds and by .05 over Russian Sergey Shubenkov. It came one night after his roommate and friend since high school, Noah Lyles, won the 200m. Holloway and Lyles spent hours in a downstairs hospitality room in Doha, playing Super Smash Bros.

Next year, they could run in the same race. Holloway would cherish the chance to join the 4x100m at the Tokyo Olympics. The quartet with Lyles, Christian ColemanJustin Gatlin and Mike Rodgers prevailed in Doha, ending a 12-year drought.

“I would love to do it, but Team USA, it’s a lot of politics behind it,” he said. U.S. track and field carefully crafts relay pools, considering chemistry and the fact it hasn’t won an Olympic gold since the 2000 Sydney Games. “My goal this year was to get a [hurdles] gold medal at Doha. … At that point, if they needed me, they would have called me or they would have told me to come to practice the next day.

“I would love to be on a relay. It’s one of my dreams to hold that flag and take USA out of the drought, but I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to catch too much backlash.”

MORE: Joe Kovacs revisits epic shot put, months after career intervention

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Finn Christian Jagge, 1992 Olympic slalom champion, dies at 54

Finn Christian Jagge
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Finn Christian Jagge, the surprise 1992 Olympic slalom champion, has died at age 54, according to Norway’s Olympic Committee.

Jagge’s wife, Trine-Lise Jagge, posted on Facebook that he died of an acute illness.

Jagge, then 25, won the slalom at the Albertville Games in Savoie, France, stunning defending champion Alberto Tomba of Italy. Jagge had the fastest first run by 1.07 seconds and relegated Tomba to silver by .28 of a second after the second run. Tomba was going for his fourth straight Olympic gold medal.

Jagge’s father won a Norwegian record 42 national tennis championships. His mother competed in Alpine skiing at the 1960 and 1964 Olympics, according to Olympedia.org.

Jagge won his first Norwegian national title at age 18. After knee and back injuries, he won seven World Cup slaloms in the 1990s, retiring in 2000.

Vår største kjærlighet, vår største helt og klippe. Verdens beste Pappa og verdens beste MesterHubby, døde i dag, etter akutt sykdom❤️Det er ubeskrivelig vondt og vi er helt knust.

Posted by Trine-Lise Jagge on Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Alex ‘Chumpy’ Pullin, Olympian, world champion snowboarder, drowns in spearfishing accident

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Alex “Chumpy” Pullin, an Olympian and world champion snowboarder, drowned while spearfishing on Australia’s Gold Coast on Wednesday.

A police spokesperson said a 32-year-old man, later identified as Pullin, was unresponsive when taken from the water and died despite receiving CPR from lifeguards and emergency treatment from paramedics.

The accident happened at Palm Beach around 10:40 a.m. local time. Pullin had been diving on an artificial reef when he was found by a snorkeler.

“Another diver was out there and located him on the sea floor and raised the attention of nearby surfers who sought lifeguards to bring him in,” police said. “He didn’t have an oxygen mask. We understand he was free diving and spearfishing out on the reef.”

Pullin competed in Olympic snowboard cross in 2010, 2014 and 2018 with a best finish of sixth. He won back-to-back world titles in 2011 and 2013. He carried Australia’s flag at the Sochi Olympic Opening Ceremony in 2014.

“We are all in shock today as one of the most beloved members of our close snow sport community, Chumpy, has sadly lost his life in what appears to be a tragic accident,” Snow Australia CEO Michael Kennedy said in a statement. “He was a mentor to so many of our younger snowboarders, giving up his time to coach and provide advice to our future Olympians. His loss will be felt right across our community.

“We know it won’t just be here in Australia that Chumpy’s legacy will be remembered, but throughout the international snowboarding community. It wasn’t just his ability to deliver results that will be missed, but his leadership and the path that he laid for so many.”

His parents owned a ski and snowboard shop in the Australian Alps, where Pullin began riding at age 8. Older friends gave him the nickname “Chumpy,” and it stuck.

Pullin, who spent time as a frontman for the surf-reggae band love Charli, often brought a guitar with him while traveling for competitions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.