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

0 Comments

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

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!


Japanese pair edges Americans for historic Grand Prix Final figure skating title

Riku Miura, Ryuichi Kihara
Getty
0 Comments

Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the biggest title ever for a Japanese figure skating pair, taking the Grand Prix Final and consolidating their status as the world’s top active team.

Miura and Kihara, last season’s world silver medalists, barely outscored world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier in Turin, Italy, in both Thursday’s short program and Friday’s free skate to win the six-pair event that is a preview of March’s worlds.

The Japanese totaled 214.58 points, distancing the Americans by a mere 1.3 points after Frazier erred on both of their side-by-side jumping passes in the free skate. Italians Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii took bronze.

“We had a very late start to our season than initially planned, so as we have been performing at each event, I see us getting stronger, improving things,” said Frazier, who with Knierim had their best short program and free skate scores of the autumn.

Knierim and Frazier didn’t decide to continue competing together this season until July.

“I feel a little personally disappointed tonight just for myself for my jumps,” Frazier continued. “I was a little all over the place and, normally, I can execute better, so I feel a little bad, but I’m very proud of us overall. We’ve done a great job of improving each competition and looking forward to the second half of the season where we can start tapping into our best skating.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Miura and Kihara, who partnered in June 2019 and train in Ontario, both waited with trepidation for their final score to be posted, worried that each’s separate mistake on jumps might cost them the title. When they learned they won, both burst into tears.

“This was the first time in eight years that I made a mistake with a Salchow, so I thought we might not get a good score, and it would be my fault,” Kihara said.

Miura and Kihara entered the competition ranked No. 1 in the world by best scores this season ahead of Knierim and Frazier, who in March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979.

Last season, Miura and Kihara became the second Japanese pair to make a Grand Prix podium and to earn a world championships medal. Their ascension helped Japan win its first Olympic figure skating team event medal in February (a bronze that could be upgraded to gold pending the Kamila Valiyeva case).

In Grand Prix Final history, Japan had won 11 gold medals and 40 total medals, all in singles, before this breakthrough.

Knierim and Frazier, already the first U.S. pair to compete in the Grand Prix Final since 2015, became the first U.S. pair to win a Grand Prix Final medal. The Final has been held annually since 1996, though it was canceled the last two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Miura and Kihara and Knierim and Frazier ascended to the top of the sport while the top five teams from the Olympics from Russia and China have not competed internationally since the Winter Games.

All Russian skaters are ineligible for international competition due to the war in Ukraine. China’s pairs, including Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, didn’t enter last March’s worlds and did not compete in the fall Grand Prix Series.

Later Friday, world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan led the women’s short program with 75.86 points, 1.28 ahead of countrywoman Mai Mihara. American Isabeau Levito, the 15-year-old world junior champion, was fifth of six skaters in her Grand Prix Final debut.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier topped the rhythm dance with 85.93 points, edging Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates by .44. Both couples are bidding for the biggest international title of their careers. None of the Olympic medalists competed internationally this fall.

The Grand Prix Final ends Saturday with the men’s and women’s free skates and free dance, all live on Peacock.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

A Winter Olympic medal still being decided, 10 months later

Fanny Smith, Daniela Maier
It's still unknown whether Fanny Smith (green) or Daniela Maier (blue) is the Olympic ski cross bronze medalist. (Getty)
0 Comments

There is a second Winter Olympic medal result still in question, 10 months after the Games.

While the figure skating team event results are still unknown due to the Kamila Valiyeva case, the bronze medal in women’s ski cross is also in dispute.

Originally, Swiss Fanny Smith crossed the finish line in third place in the four-woman final at the Winter Games in February. Upon review by the International Ski Federation (FIS) jury, she was minutes later demoted to fourth place after making contact with German Daniela Maier near the end of the course. Maier, who originally was fourth, was upgraded to bronze.

“I tried to be OK with the fourth place. I was very disappointed, I have to say, [then] the jury was like this,” Maier said then. “I am really sorry for Fanny that it’s like this right now. … The jury decided like this, so accept it and be happy with the medal.”

Smith and the Swiss ski federation appealed. FIS reinstated Smith as the bronze medalist nine days after the race and six days after the Closing Ceremony. A FIS appeals commission met four times and reviewed video and written documentation for several hours before deciding that “the close proximity of the racers at that moment resulted in action that was neither intentional or avoidable.”

But that wasn’t the end. The case ended up reportedly going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), whose rulings are usually accepted as final. The CAS process is ongoing, European media reported this week.

CAS has not responded to a request for comment. A FIS contact said Friday, “There is currently no update to provide in regards to the bronze medal in ski cross. Should there be any update, we will inform you.”

Smith said there should be news soon regarding the case, according to Blick.

Maier still has the bronze medal at her home and enjoys looking at it, according to German media, which also reported that the German ski federation expects Maier to win the case and keep the medal. Smith and Maier spoke extensively about it in recent training sessions and cleared things up. Maier said the best outcome would be bronze medals for both of them, according to the report.

For now, FIS lists Smith as the bronze medalist. The IOC lists Maier as the bronze medalist.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!