For DeAnna Price, hammer time starts with a head-butt and a Sharpie

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J.C. Lambert dropped off his wife and pupil, hammer thrower DeAnna Price, on Sept. 28 at Khalifa International Stadium in Doha and sent her off with a message.

Go get ’em. It only takes 76 meters to medal.

Price completed their pre-competition routine like she always does. She grabbed the sides of Lambert’s head and crashed craniums.

“We do not give good-luck kisses,” Price said. “We give good-luck head-butts.

“We don’t want to be mushy. We want to stay in a competitive mindset.”

Hours later, Price was in tears and on her knees in the throwing circle, seconds after the world championships final ended.

Price didn’t just become the first U.S. female hammer thrower to ever finish in the top five of an Olympics or worlds. She won gold.

Price recently relived that night in a watchback with NBC Sports track and field commentator Leigh Diffey — from the head-butt to Sharpie reminders on the inside of her left arm to the weight off her shoulders once it was all over, knowing that five months earlier she considered retirement.

“Why it meant so much is I didn’t even know if I was going to be able to throw,” she said.

In high school, Price was a .500-plus hitter in softball, the program home-run record holder and could have swung a bat rather than a hammer in college.

She played four sports at Buchanan High in Troy, Mo., including track and field. Initially an 800m runner (her mom had the school record), a 16-year-old Price was handed a hammer for the first time, even though only the shot put and discus were contested at that level.

She wound it around her head. The handle smacked her just above the eyes.

Price stuck with it. She shifted her priority to the throws after softball was cut from the Olympic program, taking a partial scholarship to Southern Illinois, two and a half hours away.

She won two NCAA hammer titles, earned a full scholarship and made the Rio Olympics, placing eighth. Her hometown raised money to send her parents to Rio, including, reportedly, a 12-year-old boy bringing in thousands by placing a hog for sale.

Price ranked second in the world in 2018. But, the following spring, she suddenly lost about 40 feet on her throws in training. The top throwers clear 250 feet. A drop off that drastic would take Price from medal contention to failing to qualify for a major final, if she made the U.S. team at all.

She wasn’t hurting physically — at first — and struggled for answers. She wondered if she was pregnant. After a month, she began feeling lower back and hip pain. Price, who had her left kidney removed at age 5, saw four chiropractors to no avail.

She tried massages, dry needling, acupuncture. Nothing. She was stuck in a funk in Carbondale.

Cory Martin, a friend, 2013 World Championships shot put finalist and throws coach at Indiana, recommended another specialist: Brian Murer, an elite hammer thrower from the 1990s who became a chiropractor. Price drove three hours to Murer’s base in Bloomington.

“He put me back together,” including with baling wire and duct tape, Price said last fall.

A day after treatment, Price threw 75 meters, just seven feet off her personal best. She brought Murer with her to the USATF Outdoor Championships in July, where she broke her own American record. Price launched the 8.8-pound hammer 78.24 meters, nearly 257 feet. It was the world’s best throw for the year by nearly five feet.

Price went to Doha as the gold-medal favorite, consolidated by the absence of Poland’s Anita Włodarczyk, the Olympic champion and world-record holder out after left knee surgery.

Price says she has an attention span of a squirrel. So, before major competitions, she scribbles in Sharpie, as legibly as she can, throwing cues. At the bottom, she pens three words in capital letters, “WHO, WHY, PURPOSE.”

“It changes every single day, but I believe for that day, I was doing it for my husband, I was doing it for women, to have women empowerment, that you can be strong and beautiful, and the purpose was to finally bring home a medal for my country,” Price said.

Price was second on the start list and won the competition with her first throw, 76 meters. The distance that her coach and husband mentioned at the drop off. She ended up with the top two throws and three of the best four from the 12-woman field.

“I didn’t even think I was going to compete this year,” Price told NBC Sports’ Lewis Johnson after her victory lap.

Price has one regret from that night. That she didn’t defy those on the sideline who discouraged her from climbing over a barrier to embrace Lambert, a former thrower. That leaves an unanswered question: Would they have celebrated with a head-butt?

“He likes that better than showing affection,” Price joked.

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

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Asher Hong leads U.S. men’s gymnastics world team selection camp after first day

Asher Hong
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Asher Hong, 18, posted the highest all-around score on the first of two days of competition at the U.S. men’s gymnastics selection camp to determine the last three spots on the team for the world championships that start in three weeks.

Hong, bidding to become the youngest U.S. man to compete at worlds since Danell Leyva in 2009, totaled 84.6 points in Colorado Springs. He edged Colt Walker by one tenth. Tokyo Olympians Shane Wiskus (84.15) and Yul Moldauer (83.95) were next. Full apparatus-by-apparatus scores are here.

Brody Malone, who repeated as U.S. all-around champion at August’s national championships, and runner-up Donnell Whittenburg already clinched spots on the five-man team for worlds in Liverpool, Great Britain. They did not compete Monday, though their results from the first day of nationals are shown in the official scores.

The three remaining team spots will not necessarily go to the top three all-arounders at this week’s camp, which is supposed to be weighed equally with results from August’s nationals. Hong was third at nationals, but if excluding difficulty bonus points from that meet that will not be considered by the committee, would have finished behind Walker and Moldauer in August.

A selection committee is expected to announce the team soon after the second and final day of selection camp competition on Wednesday evening. The committee will look at overall scoring potential for the world team final, where three men go per apparatus, and medal potential in individual events.

Stephen Nedoroscik, who last year became the first American to win a world title on the pommel horse, is trying to make the team solely on that apparatus. He wasn’t at his best at nationals and struggled again on Monday, hurting his chances of displacing an all-arounder for one of the last three spots.

The U.S. has reason to emphasize the team event over individual medals at this year’s worlds. It will clinch an Olympic berth by finishing in the top three, and its medal hopes are boosted by the absence of the Russians who won the Olympic team title. All gymnasts from Belarus and Russia are banned indefinitely from international competition due to the war in Ukraine.

In recent years, the U.S. has been among the nations in the second tier behind China, Japan and Russia, including in Tokyo, where the Americans were fifth.

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Ironman Kona World Championships return for first time in three years, live on Peacock

Ironman Kona World Championship
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The Ironman Kona World Championships return after a three-year hiatus with a new format, live on Peacock on Thursday and Saturday at 12 p.m. ET.

The Ironman, held annually in Hawaii since 1978, and in Kailua-Kona since 1981, was not held in 2020 or 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The world championships made a one-time-only stop in St. George, Utah, on May 7 to make up for the 2021 cancellation. The winners were Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt, the Tokyo Olympic triathlon champion, and Swiss Daniela Ryf, who bagged her fifth Ironman world title.

Both are entered in Kailua-Kona, where the races are now split between two days — Thursday for the women and Saturday for the men.

An Ironman includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and a marathon — totaling 140.6 miles of racing. It takes top triathletes eight hours to complete. Very arguably, it crowns the world’s fittest man and woman.

WATCH LIVE: Ironman Kona, Thursday, 12 p.m. ET — STREAM LINK

Ryf, 35 and a 2008 and 2012 Olympian, can tie retired countrywoman Natascha Badmann for second place on the women’s list at six Ironman world titles. Only Zimbabwean-turned-American Paula Newby-Fraser has more with eight.

The field also includes German Anne Haug, the 2019 Kona champ and only woman other than Ryf to win since 2015. Brit Lucy Charles-Barclay, the Kona runner-up in 2017, 2018 and 2019, returns after missing the St. George event due to a stress fracture in her hip.

Blummenfelt, 28 and in his Kona debut, will try to become the youngest male champion in Kona since German Normann Stadler in 2005. His top challengers include countryman Gustav Iden, the two-time reigning Half Ironman world champion, and German Patrick Lange, the 2017 and 2018 Ironman Kona winner.

Also racing Saturday is Dallas Clark, a retired All-Pro NFL tight end with the Indianapolis Colts, and Tony Kanaan, the 2013 Indy 500 champion who completed the 2011 Kona Ironman in 12 hours, 52 minutes, 40 seconds.

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