U.S. Olympic hopefuls train for Tokyo inside abandoned Macy’s

Olympic Macy's
USA Boxing
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U.S. Olympic hopefuls in boxing and shooting began training inside an abandoned Macy’s in the last month, the latest adaptive move by athletes ramping up preparation for the Tokyo Games that open in less than six months.

“It kind of feels like you’re in a ‘Rocky’ movie,” said Richard Torrez Jr., a super heavyweight boxer who knows a thing or two about unorthodox training setups. His youth gym in Tulare, Calif., was converted by his grandfather from a broken-down fire station in 1975.

USA Boxing and USA Shooting made deals to use the space at The Citadel mall in Colorado Springs in part because the nearby U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Center isn’t fully reopened to athletes amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We have not been able to be there since March 16,” USA Boxing executive director Mike McAtee said of the training center, which phased athletes in some sports back in over the summer and fall, then closed again from Dec. 10 until Jan. 15. “The Games are going to happen, or we must prepare that they are.”

USA Boxing held national team camps last year under a tent on a tennis court at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., and inside ballrooms at Hotel Eleganté in Colorado Springs.

It also considered fitness centers that went out of business because of the pandemic and other vacant spaces in The Citadel. The national governing body (NGB), seeking 20,000 square feet, ended up getting a favorable financial deal with the former Macy’s adjacent to a Hooters.

The owner of the Hotel Eleganté, which previously hosted a youth continental boxing championships, also owns the abandoned space that was a Macy’s until about 11 years ago. During USA Boxing’s current monthlong training camp, the hotel accommodates boxers who under normal circumstances stay at the training center.

The Macy’s has been filled with four rings and heavy bags brought over from the training center, plus strength and conditioning equipment such as stationary bikes.

“It’s our new home away from home,” McAtee said.

A total of 13 U.S. boxers are training for international Olympic qualifying tournaments in the spring. Torrez and fellow Olympic hopeful Ginny Fuchs appreciated the creative adaptation to the circumstances.

“You can tell it used to be a Macy’s,” Fuchs said. “Obviously all the furniture and everything is out, but you can still see the shoe racks [sixth image in this series], price checks [signs].”

The amount of ventilation is such that the space can get a little chilly, but the stench of sweating athletes hasn’t displaced the previous residing odor.

“You know that musk smell of an old department store? That’s kind of what it smells like,” said Fuchs, who was, pre-pandemic, open about struggles with obsessive compulsive disorder and, more recently, developed panic attacks while in quarantine.

USA Shooting also sought out the Macy’s last month, when a virus surge signaled to Matt Suggs, the NGB’s CEO, that the training center would shutter at least temporarily.

USA Shooting looked at other locations in the autumn, including an indoor facility for baseball batting cages. The Macy’s space ownership reached out, mentioned USA Boxing’s arrangement, and USA Shooting joined them.

“It’s a good stopgap, but it is not a good long-term solution,” Suggs said. “It’s a lot better than nothing, but the place we really need to be is here on complex at the Olympic and Paralympic Training Center.”

The Macy’s can accommodate two of the five Olympic pistol or rifle events — the air pistol and air rifle, where targets are 10 meters (33 feet) away from the shooter. The other three events, where targets are 25 meters or 50 meters away, can only be done at the training center.

Ginny Thrasher, a 2016 Olympic champion in the 10m air rifle, is trying to make the Tokyo Olympic team in the 50m event at upcoming trials. She practices at the training center, now that it reopened to some athletes, but still drives over to the Macy’s.

“It’s beneficial to actually go to different places to train,” she said. “It can help you build your ability to adapt.”

About 30 total shooters have been using the Macy’s. USA Shooting is prepared to keep the space through the Olympics.

“It may not be the perfectly ideal situation, but it is a solution,” Thrasher said, “and if I’m able to train in any capacity, no matter how challenging or different it is, it doesn’t matter.”

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Noah Lyles runs personal best and is coming for Usain Bolt’s world records

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Noah Lyles ran a personal-best time in the 60m on Saturday, then fired a warning shot when it comes to the 100m and 200m, where Usain Bolt holds the world records.

Lyles, the world 200m champion, won the 60m sprint in 6.51 seconds at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston, clipping Trayvon Bromell by two thousandths in his first top-level meet of the year. Bromell, the world 100m bronze medalist, is a past world indoor 60m champion and has a better start than Lyles, which is crucial in a six-second race.

But on Saturday, Lyles ran down Bromell and shaved four hundredths off his personal best. It bodes well for Lyles’ prospects come the spring outdoor season in his better distances — the 100m and 200m.

“This is the moment I’ve been working, like, seven years for,” he said. “We’re not just coming for the 200m world record. We’re coming for all the world records.”

Last July, Lyles broke Michael Johnson‘s 26-year-old American record in the 200m, winning the world title in 19.31 seconds. Only Bolt (19.19) and fellow Jamaican Yohan Blake (19.26) have run faster.

Lyles has since spoken openly about targeting Bolt’s world record from 2009.

How does an indoor 60m time play into that? Well, Lyles said that his success last year sprung from a strong indoor season, when he lowered his personal best in the 60m from 6.57 to 6.56 and then 6.55. He followed that by lowering his personal best in the 200m from 19.50 to 19.31.

He believes that slicing an even greater chunk off his 60m best on Saturday means special things are on the horizon come the major summer meets — the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships in July (on the same Oregon track where he ran the American 200m record) and the world championships in Budapest in August.

After focusing on the 200m last year, Lyles plans to race both the 100m and the 200m this year. He has a bye into the 200m at world championships, so expect him to race the 100m at USATF Outdoors, where the top three are in line to join world champ Fred Kerley on the world team.

Also Saturday, Grant Holloway extended a near-nine-year, 50-plus-race win streak in the 60m hurdles, clocking 7.38 seconds, nine hundredths off his world record. Olympic teammate Daniel Roberts was second in 7.46. Trey Cunningham, who took silver behind Holloway in the 110m hurdles at last July’s world outdoor championships, was fifth in 7.67.

Aleia Hobbs won the women’s 60m in 7.02 seconds, one week after clocking a personal-best 6.98 to become the third-fastest American in history after Gail Devers and Marion Jones (both 6.95). Hobbs, 26, placed sixth in the 100m at last July’s world championships.

Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, the Olympic and world 400m hurdles champion competing for the first time since August, and Jamaican Shericka Jackson, the world 200m champion, were ninth and 10th in the 60m heats, just missing the eight-woman final.

In the women’s pole vault, Bridget Williams, seventh at last year’s USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships, upset the last two Olympic champions — American Katie Moon and Greek Katerina Stefanidi. Williams won with a 4.63-meter clearance (and then cleared 4.71 and a personal-best 4.77). Stefanidi missed three attempts at 4.63, while Moon went out at 4.55.

The indoor track and field season continues with the Millrose Games in New York City next Saturday at 4 p.m. ET on NBC, NBCSports.com/live, the NBC Sports app and Peacock.

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Birk Irving, last man on Olympic team, extends breakout season with Mammoth win

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One year ago, Birk Irving was the last man to make the four-man U.S. Olympic ski halfpipe team. Since, he continued to climb the ranks in arguably the nation’s strongest discipline across skiing and snowboarding.

Irving earned his second World Cup win this season, taking the U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain, California, on Friday.

Irving posted a 94-point final run, edging Canadian Brendan Mackay by one point. David Wise, the two-time Olympic champion who won his fifth X Games Aspen title last Sunday, was third.

A tribute was held to 2015 World champion Kyle Smaine, a U.S. halfpipe skier who died in an avalanche in Japan last Sunday.

“We’re all skiing the best we have because we’re all skiing with Kyle in our hearts,” Irving said, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “We’re skiing for him, and we know he’s looking down on us. We miss you Kyle. We love you. Thank you for keeping us safe in the pipe today.”

Irving also won the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, Colorado, on Dec. 17. Plus, the 23-year-old from Colorado had his best career X Games Aspen finish last Sunday, taking second.

The next major event is the world championships in Georgia (the country, not the state) in early March. Irving was third at the last worlds in 2021, then fifth at the Olympics last February.

The U.S. has been the strongest nation in men’s ski halfpipe since it debuted at the Olympics in 2014. Wise won the first two gold medals. Alex Ferreira won silver and bronze at the last two Olympics. Aaron Blunck is a world champion and X Games champion.

Irving is younger than all of them and has beaten all of them at multiple competitions this season.

New Zealand’s Nico Porteous, the reigning Olympic gold medalist, hasn’t competed since the Games after undergoing offseason knee surgery.

In snowboarding events at Mammoth, Americans Julia Marino and Lyon Farrell earned slopestyle wins by posting the top qualification scores. The finals were canceled due to wind.

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