Noah Lyles raised his black-gloved fist. Tommie Smith and John Carlos saw it.


Noah Lyles showed his support for the Black Lives Matter movement last year by attending marches, posting on social media and by releasing a song, “A Black Life.” The world champion sprinter felt compelled to do more on the track over the last 10 months.

Since August, Lyles has worn a fingerless black glove at some meets. He raised a gloved fist at least once on the start line in an homage to Tommie Smith and John Carlos.

Lyles is a headliner at the U.S. Olympic Trials that start Friday in Eugene, Oregon. His first race is a 100m preliminary heat on Saturday (full broadcast schedule here).

The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee is allowing racial and social justice demonstrations, including raising a fist on a podium or start line, at Trials.

“There’s a feeling of, if you are silent, you are not helping and you never feel like you can do enough,” Lyles told NBC Sports earlier this year. “That’s the worst feeling that, even when you are doing stuff, you always feel like you’re never doing enough because you’re not seeing change. That’s the eating away part.”

He began thinking about what he could do on the track last summer, when meets started up again during the pandemic.

Before traveling to Europe for three August races, Lyles went for a five-minute drive to his local Dick’s Sporting Goods in Central Florida.

He walked into the store and to the golf section. He didn’t like the selection. So he shifted to the weightlifting apparel area. That’s where he saw a pair of black, finger-less gloves.

“This is the one I want,” he recalled in February. “Of course, it didn’t fit, and I had to go back and [get] another one, but, eh, the moment was there.”

Lyles later packed at least one of the gloves for his flight to a Diamond League stop in Monaco that airs globally.

“I just felt that since we didn’t have a lot of track meets to go to, and a lot of people will be watching this one, this was the one to do it at,” he said.

On the day of the meet, Lyles shared on Twitter the iconic image of Smith and Carlos raising black-gloved fists on the 200m medal stand at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.

He also posted an Instagram Story image of his race-day socks — plain, dark colored. It marked a change for Lyles. Inside his Adidas spikes, he usually wore flashy socks, from designs of Sonic the Hedgehog and Speed Racer to Dunder Mifflin.

In 1968, Smith and Carlos wore black socks without shoes on the podium to signify endemic poverty in the U.S. at the time.

Three hours after the social media posts, a camera panned to Lyles for his pre-race introduction before the 200m in Monaco. Lyles bowed his head and slowly raised his right arm. His right hand was in a fist, covered by one of those black gloves that he bought from the weightlifting section.

“You know where you’ve seen this before,” NBC Sports analyst Ato Boldon said on the broadcast. “That is the pose that was struck by Tommie Smith in the front and then John Carlos behind him 52 years ago.”

Lyles won comfortably in 19.76 seconds in a one-two with younger brother Josephus, who is also entered at Olympic Trials.

“As athletes it’s hard to show that you love your country and also say that change is needed,” was later posted on Lyles’ Instagram, along with hashtags including #blacklivesmatter. “This is my way of saying this country is great but it can be better.”

TRACK AND FIELD TRIALS: TV Schedule | Men’s Preview | Women’s Preview

Smith, now 77 years old and based in Georgia, was notified of Lyles’ moment by his “legacy team” that tracks any time a fist is used in such a way.

“I’ve seen [Lyles] run. I’ve seen him come out of the blocks. I saw him [standing] with his fist in the air,” Smith said in March. “I knew there was a reason for that … but I haven’t talked to him about the verbal explanation of why he did it. People use that fist for many different things, but I know because of athletics, which is track and field, and on the victory stand, it must be because of me in 1968, but I have not sat down with the young man and talked with him about the need for him to keep doing something which is righteous in his own way to propel the need for equality.”

Carlos, now 76, also saw the Monaco video.

“It seemed like it was a personal message to me and Dr. Smith to say, yes, I remember, and I understand,” Carlos said in March, adding that he had not spoken with Lyles about it.

The three 200m sprinters shared a stage in 2018. Smith and Carlos presented Lyles with the Jesse Owens Award as the U.S. male track and field athlete of the year.

“If he would give you and I a two-day head start, I think we could beat him in the 200m,” Carlos joked to Smith that night. “We’ve got to lean,” Smith replied.

Lyles’ personal best is 19.50 seconds, second on the U.S. all-time list behind Michael Johnson. Smith’s best was 19.83 and Carlos’ 19.92. They were the only American men to break 20 seconds until Carl Lewis came along in the 1980s.

“Wish [Lyles] all the luck in the world,” Carlos said in March. “Hope that he can take it to the highest level, get as much as you can get out of the sport because obviously he’s giving it his all to the sport.”

Lyles wasn’t asked in detail about the black-gloved fist on that day in Monaco, where there was limited media. He reflected on it earlier this year.

“It was one of those things where it’s like I needed to do this,” he said. “I felt like there was not a lot of things that I could do.

“When John Carlos and Tommie Smith put up that fist … they were basically shunned.”

Smith and Carlos were sent home before the end of the Mexico City Games for what was deemed an against-the-rules protest.

“Now that we’re able to go out there and say, yes, we love our country but we still are suffering, I just felt that I had to go out there and say something,” Lyles continued. “I felt like I couldn’t have all this influence and not use that to something I felt passionate about.”

The IOC executive board recently approved recommendations from its athletes’ commission regarding athlete demonstrations at the Olympics based on a global athlete survey. While increased opportunities for athlete expression are coming, one rule that remains in place is one disallowing certain Olympic athlete demonstrations, including hand gestures and kneeling, on medal podiums, in the field of play and at Opening and Closing Ceremonies.

Potential rule breaches are handled on a case-by-case basis. The IOC’s legal affairs commission is expected to come up with a range of possible sanctions “so that everyone knows going into a Games where and what everyone can and cannot do,” Kirsty Coventry, chair of the athletes’ commission, said in April.

Lyles was sad but not surprised that the rule is, for the most part, staying in place for now.

“I was talking to somebody recently, and they were saying just because you can’t do an action at that specific time doesn’t mean that people don’t know that you’re an activist,” he said earlier this spring. “You see LeBron James. Everybody knows he’s a huge supporter for Black Lives Matter, but he’s not always throwing on a Black Lives Matter T-shirt everywhere he goes.”

When Lyles released “A Black Life” last July, he said he was always thinking of how he can help spread the word of injustice. He is a man of artistic talents — also dancing and painting. In the last 10 months, Lyles stood on his most well-known canvas, a 400-meter oval track, to further a message.

“A lot of people basically think that as an athlete, you should just be an athlete. Just shut up and dribble. Shut up and run,” he said. “[Raising a black-gloved fist] was just one way that I felt that I could show that, yes, I am an American track and field runner, but I am also a Black man who is dealing with and scared of the same things that every Black human being in America is dealing with.”

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Jessica Pegula upset in French Open third round

Jessica Pegula French Open

Jessica Pegula, the highest-ranked American man or woman, was upset in the third round of the French Open.

Elise Mertens, the 28th seed from Belgium, bounced the third seed Pegula 6-1, 6-3 to reach the round of 16. Pegula, a 29-year-old at a career-high ranking, had lost in the quarterfinals of four of the previous five majors.

Down 4-3 in the second set, Pegula squandered three break points in a 14-minute game. Mertens then broke Pegula to close it out.

Pegula’s exit leaves No. 6 seed Coco Gauff, last year’s runner-up, as the last seeded hope to become the first U.S. woman to win a major title since Sofia Kenin at the 2020 Australian Open. The 11-major span without an American champ is the longest for U.S. women since Monica Seles won the 1996 Australian Open.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

Mertens, who lost in the third or fourth round of the last six French Opens, plays a Russian Anastasia in the fourth round: Pavlyuchenkova or Potapova.

Earlier, ninth-seeded Russian Daria Kasatkina became the first player to reach the fourth round. She won 6-0, 6-1 over 69th-ranked American Peyton Stearns, the 2022 NCAA champion from Texas.

Sloane Stephens, the 2017 U.S. Open champion, is the lone American woman left in the bottom half of the draw. She plays Kazakh Yulia Putintseva later Friday. Gauff, Bernarda Pera and Kayla Day remain in the top half.

Friday’s featured men’s matches: Top seed Carlos Alcaraz versus 26th seed Denis Shapovalov of Canada, and No. 3 Novak Djokovic against No. 29 Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain.

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Olympians, Paralympians get early look at Paris on ‘Top Chef’ World All-Stars


A year from now, they hope to vie for medals in the City of Light. But on this day, four U.S. hopefuls for the 2024 Paris Olympics and Paralympics competed on “Top Chef” World All-Stars at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, the first cross-promotional moment across NBC Universal’s One Platform for the Games.

As Parisians and tourists traversed the Champ de Mars, Olympic champions gymnast Suni Lee and sprinter Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone and Paralympic champion swimmer Mallory Weggemann and medalist sprinter Hunter Woodhall bundled and huddled and did everything possible to stay warm between rain showers.

Then came the 30-minute frenzy. Each athlete was paired with a cheftestant for what the Bravo series calls a wall challenge: the chef and the athlete each attempted to make the same dish while separated by a divider, unable to see what the other was doing. The duo whose dishes have the closest appearance and taste win.

It’s little surprise that Weggemann prevailed. At 33 on the day of filming, she’s a decade older than the rest of the athletes.

When she was 18, Weggemann lost movement from the waist down while receiving epidural injections to treat shingles. Four years later, she swam at her first Paralympics and won her first gold medal.

“I understand that when I go onto a [filming] set like today, and I’m rolling rather than stepping, that looks different,” she said. “Not everyone who’s going to watch ‘Top Chef’ is a sports fanatic, and so they maybe don’t watch the Olympics and Paralympics, but in that moment, we got to bring them into the movement in a way that we maybe otherwise wouldn’t. I’m not oblivious to the fact that as a woman with a disability in that moment, I also have the power to change perceptions because not everyone in our society has exposure to disability.”

Each of the athletes, flown in by Delta, the official airline of Team USA through the 2028 Los Angeles Games, came at a different point in their journeys.

Weggemann has already been to three Paralympics and earned five medals. She did the “Top Chef” competition while three months pregnant. Baby Charlotte arrived March 16. Her goal is to be on the podium in Paris and be able to see her husband and daughter in the stands.

Woodhall, who won three medals in Tokyo in his Paralympic debut, visited the French capital with his then-fiancée Tara Davis, who placed sixth in the Tokyo Olympic long jump. Their Texas wedding was a month after the “Top Chef” filming.

“In Tokyo, we weren’t able to be there for each other,” said Woodhall, referring to COVID-19 travel restrictions for those Games not allowing spectators. “Paris is so exciting because we’ll both be able to really be in the moment and support each other through both the Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

McLaughlin-Levrone had husband Andre Levrone Jr., a former NFL practice squad wide receiver, by her side in Paris. Before “Top Chef,” she had a whirlwind spring and summer, getting married in May and then twice breaking her world record in the 400m hurdles. At the top of her sport, McLaughlin-Levrone had a decision to make in the fall and winter offseason: continue in the hurdles, where she has accomplished everything, or venture into another event, the 400m without hurdles, to test herself.

“That world record has stood for so long, and no one’s come even close to it,” she said of the flat 400m, and its 37-year-old world record, while in Paris. “So we definitely want to be able to try that and see what we can do there as well.”

Now, McLaughlin-Levrone is set to return to Paris next week for her first outdoor race since August. It will be a flat 400m. She also plans to race the 400m at the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships in July, and possibly at August’s world championships in lieu of the hurdles.

Top Chef World All-Stars
Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone and cheftestant Sara Bradley meet after preparing their dishes during the “Top Chef” wall challenge. (Fred Jagueneau/Bravo)

The gymnast Lee became one of the unexpected golden stories of the Tokyo Games. After Simone Biles withdrew from the meet, the Hmong American from Minnesota seized the all-around title, the biggest prize in her sport.

She hasn’t performed in international gymnastics since. Lee matriculated at Auburn and competed for the Tigers. But NCAA gymnastics involves different routines, competitions and scoring than Olympic gymnastics. It’s such a contrast that, traditionally, joining a college team has often meant retirement from the Olympic level.

The afternoon before the “Top Chef” filming, Lee walked inside the Accor Arena in the Bercy neighborhood, the site of the 2024 Olympic gymnastics events. A competition was taking place that included the Brazilian who took silver behind Lee in Tokyo.

“I am a little nervous to get back out on the bigger stage,” Lee said then. “Going to that meet actually was really important to me because I think I needed the help of re-motivating myself and seeing what I’m getting back into, watching the competition, just getting used to that atmosphere again.”

Two months after that experience, Lee announced she would leave Auburn after her sophomore year to return to elite training for a 2024 Paris Olympic bid.

The “Top Chef” integration helps launch summer Paris Games-related fanfare, including national and world championships in many Olympic and Paralympic sports and events to mark the one-year-out dates from the Opening Ceremonies (July 26 for the Olympics, Aug. 28 for the Paralympics).

“Top Chef,” in its 20th season, previously featured Olympians before the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games and then again before Tokyo. Host Padma Lakshmi noticed a common trait.

“Their attention to detail is extraordinary,” she said. “Having that Olympic training, and really listening to what your coaches want, and what the parameters of the contest is, is something that they’re skilled at doing day in and day out.”

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