Michelle Carter has benign tumor removed, won’t defend Olympic shot put title

16th IAAF World Athletics Championships London 2017 - Day Six
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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — To find defending Olympic shot put champion Michelle Carter this week, cast a glance into the stands.

She won’t be in the competition. That hurts.

But the American record holder is thankful that a surgically removed tumor on her right ankle came back benign.

The 35-year-old is relegated to cheering on her friends and fellow competitors at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials as she heals from surgery on June 3 in Dallas.

“It’s a little rough to watch the Olympic trials knowing that I will not be participating,” Carter told The Associated Press in a phone interview. “I was really excited to compete this year.

“I’m doing pretty good. Just taking everything one day at a time.”

Not long ago, she began favoring her right ankle, which would flare up “really, really bad,” she said, “and we couldn’t figure out why.” Known for a high pain tolerance, Carter was set to push through the discomfort to make it to trials and, should she earn a spot, to defend her title at the Tokyo Games. As a precaution, though, she underwent an MRI, which uncovered a growth.

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

There was still a chance for doctors to remove the tumor so she could be ready for the shot put event, which begins Thursday. But her surgery turned out to be more complicated and took more than two hours. There also was a gumball-sized piece of bone that needed to be removed.

“I guess prior to surgery, I had already kind of prepared myself to hear something other than, ‘Oh, everything was OK. You’re good,’” said Carter, a three-time Olympian. “Because I knew there was a possibility there could be more. I guess I kind of felt it in my heart that there was a possibility that there was going to be more. And I kind of already was prepared. Because the worst place for me to be in is a position of not knowing.”

Last Wednesday, she heard the news she was hoping for — the tumor was benign.

“It helped so much, my friends and family checking in on me constantly, making sure that I’m good,” said Carter, who planned to arrive in Eugene on Monday. “It’s one feeling to know that your friends and family love you. But when they get a chance to actually really show you how much they love and care about you, that’s an amazing feeling. I’ve just been enjoying being loved on from them.”

She wanted to be in Eugene to show her support. For Raven Saunders, who made the 2016 Rio team and is among the favorites to make it to Tokyo. And for Magdalyn Ewen, another fellow Nike athlete. For all of them.

“I’m so excited for these young ladies to have a chance since now there’s an extra spot open,” Carter cracked. “I’m going to enjoy it, even though it’s going to be bittersweet. But I’m there to watch other people’s dream come true.”

Don’t jump to any conclusions: She’s not retiring.

She and her dad/coach Michael Carter — a 1984 Olympic shot put silver medalist and Super Bowl-winning nose-tackle for the San Francisco 49ers — envision a few more seasons. They for sure see world championships next summer in Eugene and are locked in on the 2024 Paris Olympics, where Carter will try to recapture the title she won’t get to defend this time.

To keep her busy, Carter will work on a few of her outside track ventures — a throwing camp for youth (”You Throw Girl”) and her nonprofit One Golden Shot, which empowers and encourages youth and communities in self-awareness and confidence-building.

This week, however, is for taking in some track and field from the stands.

“I’ve been doing this for so long and next year will be 25 years of me competing and throwing the shot put,” Carter said. “That’s a long time. And so, watching the young ladies that are coming up in my event, in the sport, and just watching them have the opportunity to experience what I’ve been able to experience three times, it’s special. You work so hard for this one dream.”

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Frances Tiafoe, Taylor Fritz exit French Open, leaving no U.S. men

Frances Tiafoe French Open

Frances Tiafoe kept coming oh so close to extending his French Open match against Alexander Zverev: 12 times Saturday night, the American was two points from forcing things to a fifth set.

Yet the 12th-seeded Tiafoe never got closer than that.

Instead, the 22nd-seeded Zverev finished out his 3-6, 7-6 (3), 6-1, 7-6 (5) victory after more than 3 1/2 hours in Court Philippe Chatrier to reach the fourth round. With Tiafoe’s exit, none of the 16 men from the United States who were in the bracket at the start of the tournament are still in the field.

“I mean, for the majority of the match, I felt like I was in control,” said Tiafoe, a 25-year-old from Maryland who fell to 1-7 against Zverev.

“It’s just tough,” he said about a half-hour after his loss ended, rubbing his face with his hand. “I should be playing the fifth right now.”

Two other American men lost earlier Saturday: No. 9 seed Taylor Fritz and unseeded Marcos Giron.

No. 23 Francisco Cerundolo of Argentina beat Fritz 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-5, and Nicolas Jarry of Chile eliminated Giron 6-2, 6-3, 6-7 (7), 6-3.

There are three U.S women remaining: No. 6 Coco Gauff, Sloane Stephens and Bernarda Pera.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

It is the second year in a row that zero men from the United States will participate in the fourth round at Roland Garros. If nothing else, it stands as a symbolic step back for the group after what seemed to be a couple of breakthrough showings at the past two majors.

For Tiafoe, getting to the fourth round is never the goal.

“I want to win the trophy,” he said.

Remember: No American man has won any Grand Slam title since Andy Roddick at the 2003 U.S. Open. The French Open has been the least successful major in that stretch with no U.S. men reaching the quarterfinals since Andre Agassi in 2003.

But Tiafoe beat Rafael Nadal in the fourth round of the U.S. Open along the way to getting to the semifinals there last September, the first time in 16 years the host nation had a representative in the men’s final four at Flushing Meadows.

Then, at the Australian Open this January, Tommy Paul, Sebastian Korda and Ben Shelton became the first trio of Americans in the men’s quarterfinals in Melbourne since 2000. Paul made it a step beyond that, to the semifinals.

After that came this benchmark: 10 Americans were ranked in the ATP’s Top 50, something that last happened in June 1995.

On Saturday, after putting aside a whiffed over-the-shoulder volley — he leaned atop the net for a moment in disbelief — Tiafoe served for the fourth set at 5-3, but couldn’t seal the deal.

In that game, and the next, and later on, too, including at 5-all in the tiebreaker, he would come within two points of owning that set.

Each time, Zverev claimed the very next point. When Tiafoe sent a forehand wide to end it, Zverev let out two big yells. Then the two, who have been pals for about 15 years, met for a warm embrace at the net, and Zverev placed his hand atop Tiafoe’s head.

“He’s one of my best friends on tour,” said Zverev, a German who twice has reached the semifinals on the red clay of Paris, “but on the court, I’m trying to win.”

At the 2022 French Open, Zverev tore ligaments in his right ankle while playing Nadal in the semifinals and had to stop.

“It’s been definitely the hardest year of my life, that’s for sure,” Zverev said. “I love tennis more than anything in the world.”

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2023 French Open women’s singles draw, scores

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At the French Open, Iga Swiatek of Poland eyes a third title at Roland Garros and a fourth Grand Slam singles crown overall.

The tournament airs live on NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel through championship points in Paris.

Swiatek, the No. 1 seed from Poland, can join Serena Williams and Justine Henin as the lone women to win three or more French Opens since 2000.

Having turned 22 on Wednesday, she can become the youngest woman to win three French Opens since Monica Seles in 1992 and the youngest woman to win four Slams overall since Williams in 2002.

FRENCH OPEN: Broadcast Schedule | Men’s Draw

But Swiatek is not as dominant as in 2022, when she went 16-0 in the spring clay season during an overall 37-match win streak.

She retired from her last pre-French Open match with a right thigh injury and said it wasn’t serious. Before that, she lost the final of another clay-court tournament to Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus.

Sabalenka, the No. 2 seed, is her top remaining challenger in Paris.

No. 3 Jessica Pegula, the highest-seeded American man or woman, was eliminated in the third round. No. 4 Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, who has three wins over Swiatek this year, withdrew before her third-round match due to illness.

No. 6 Coco Gauff, runner-up to Swiatek last year, is the best hope to become the first American to win a Grand Slam singles title since Sofia Kenin at the 2020 Australian Open. The 11-major drought is the longest for U.S. women since Seles won the 1996 Australian Open.

MORE: All you need to know for 2023 French Open

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2023 French Open Women’s Singles Draw

French Open Women's Singles Draw French Open Women's Singles Draw French Open Women's Singles Draw French Open Women's Singles Draw