Gabby Thomas wins Olympic Trials, becomes Tokyo favorite after health scare

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EUGENE, Ore. — Gabby Thomas could be sprinting toward a title she never imagined: World’s Fastest Epidemiologist.

World’s Fastest Woman is a possibility, too.

The newly crowned American 200m champion, who majored in neurobiology at Harvard, is currently working on a master’s degree in epidemiology/health care management at Texas.

First, though, the Tokyo Olympics. At the track and field trials Saturday night, Thomas finished the 200m in 21.61 seconds.

It doesn’t take an Ivy League education to recognize that’s fast. Her time broke not only the meet record held by her idol, Allyson Felix, but also made her the second-fastest woman ever in the event, trailing only two times posted by the late Florence Griffith Joyner.

All of which is coming as a blur to Thomas.

“I blacked out during that race,” the 24-year-old said with a laugh. “I know beforehand I wanted to focus on accelerating through the first 100 and keep the momentum — come off the turn feeling really good.”

She followed that plan to perfection.

TRACK AND FIELD TRIALS: Results | TV Schedule

It’s hard to blame her for not seeing this coming. The former NCAA indoor champion had a health scare just before the trials and wondered if she would even run at all. She was dealing with a hamstring injury and had it checked out. Doctors ordered an MRI on her lower back, where they discovered what turned out to be a benign tumor in her liver.

“At first I wasn’t too worried about it, but the more I kept talking to doctors they kept saying cancer,” Thomas recounted. “Fortunately, they found out it was benign just a couple of days before I left. I remember telling God that if I am healthy, I am winning trials.”

Now, her road to a possible gold medal could also be combined with a quest for a record that has long been out of reach. Flo-Jo’s world record is 21.34. She also ran 21.56 on her way to gold 33 years ago, at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

“I am still in shock. I can’t believe I put up that time,” Thomas said. “Definitely has changed how I view myself as a runner.”

About chasing one of the most iconic records in the book: “I don’t want to say no,” Thomas said. “I don’t want to put a limit on myself. I’m not going to say it’s unattainable.”

For fueling her track passion, she can thank Felix, the five-time Olympian who was a lane over from her in the 200m final. (Felix finished fifth.)

ON HER TURF: Thomas’ atypical trip to Tokyo

Thomas is from Florence, Massachusetts. Once, when she was at her grandmother’s home, her mother suggested she put the Olympic Trials on TV to watch Felix run.

“She saw someone who reminded her of me,” Thomas said. “That’s the person who has been in the back of my head for so many years.”

Felix gave her a shoutout.

“I think it was amazing,” said Felix, who qualified for Tokyo in the 400m. “She has been getting better and better every single round.”

Now, they’re Olympic teammates.

“Her humility and grace and how good she is at what she does, she’s really the one that has been inspiring,” Thomas said. “To be on team with her makes me want to cry.”

Thomas has been building toward this sort of success for a while. She won the 2018 NCAA 200m indoor championship while running for Harvard. She rewrote the school’s record book, too, setting top marks in everything from the 60m to 300m.

After graduating from Harvard and turning pro, she moved to Austin, Texas, to work with the “ Bailey Bunch.” It’s a group led by Tonja Buford-Bailey, a 400m hurdles bronze medalist at the 1996 Atlanta Games, and features the likes of Morolake Akinosun, who won a gold medal in 2016 as part of the 4x100m relay.

“I was pretty much OK with going anywhere where people would push me to run fast,” Thomas said.

At some point, Thomas plans to finish her epidemiology degree — a useful topic as the world deals with the COVID-19 pandemic. Her goal is to one day work in health care.

Her timing for that endeavor, though, may have just changed.

“Now I’m just going to have to map out a different trajectory for my life,” she said. “My dream was to make the Olympic team, not to even win the Olymptrials — not even to break the meet record. Now that I’ve accomplished those as well, I’m just going to set higher goals and I’m excited about that.”

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IOC gives more time to pick 2030 Olympic host, studies rotating Winter Games

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The 2030 Winter Olympic host, expected to be Salt Lake City or Sapporo, Japan, is no longer targeted to be decided before next fall, the IOC said in announcing wider discussions into the future of the Winter Games, including the possibility of rotating the Games within a pool of hosts.

The IOC Future Host Commission was granted more time to study factors, including climate change, that could impact which cities and regions host future Winter Olympics and Paralympics. The 2030 Winter Games host is not expected to be decided before or at an IOC session next September or October.

Hosts have traditionally been chosen by IOC members vote seven years before the Games, though recent reforms allow flexibility on the process and timeline. For example, the 2024 and 2028 Games were awarded to Paris and Los Angeles in a historic double award in 2017. The 2032 Summer Games were awarded to Brisbane last year without a traditional bid race.

Italy hosts the 2026 Winter Games in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo.

There are three interested parties for the 2030 Winter Olympics, the IOC said Tuesday without naming them. Previously, Salt Lake City, Sapporo and Vancouver were confirmed as bids. Then in October, the British Columbia government said it would not support a Vancouver bid, a major setback, though organizers did not say that decision ended the bid. All three cities are attractive as past Winter Games hosts with existing venues.

U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee officials have said Salt Lake City is a likelier candidate for 2034 than 2030, but could step in for 2030 if asked.

The future host commission outlined proposals for future Winter Olympics, which included rotating hosts within a pool of cities or regions and a requirement that hosts have an average minimum temperature below freezing (32 degrees) for snow competition venues at the time of the Games over a 10-year period.

The IOC Executive Board gave the commission more time to study the proposals and other factors impacting winter sports.

The IOC board also discussed and will continue to explore a potential double awarding of the 2030 and 2034 Winter Olympic hosts.

Also Tuesday, the IOC board said that Afghanistan participation in the 2024 Olympics will depend on making progress in safe access to sports for women and young girls in the country.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch urged the IOC to suspend Afghanistan until women and girls can play sport in the country.

In a press release, the IOC board expressed “serious concern and strongly condemned the latest restrictions imposed by the Afghan authorities on women and young girls in Afghanistan, which prevent them from practicing sport in the country.” It urged Afghanistan authorities to “take immediate action at the highest level to reverse such restrictions and ensure safe access to sport for women and young girls.”

The IOC board also announced that North Korea’s National Olympic Committee will be reinstated when its suspension is up at the end of the year.

In September 2021, the IOC banned the North Korean NOC through the end of 2022, including banning a North Korean delegation from participating in the Beijing Winter Games, after it chose not to participate in the Tokyo Games.

North Korea, formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, was the only one of 206 National Olympic Committees to withdraw from Tokyo. The country made its choice in late March 2021, citing a desire “to protect our athletes from the global health crisis caused by the malicious virus infection.”

The IOC said in September 2021 that it “provided reassurances for the holding of safe Games and offered constructive proposals to find an appropriate and tailor-made solution until the very last minute (including the provision of vaccines), which were systematically rejected by the PRK NOC.”

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Olympic champion Justine Dufour-Lapointe leaves moguls for another skiing discipline

Justine Dufour-Lapointe
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Justine Dufour-Lapointe, the 2014 Olympic moguls champion, is leaving the event to compete in freeriding, a non-Olympic skiing discipline.

“After three Olympic cycles and 12 years on the World Cup circuit, I felt that I needed to find a new source of motivation and had to push my limits even more so I can reach my full potential as a skier,” the 28-year-old Montreal native said in a social media video, according to a translation from French. “Today, I am starting a new chapter in my career. … I want to perfect myself in another discipline. I want to connect with the mountain differently. Above all, I want to get out of my comfort zone in a way I’ve never done before.”

Dufour-Lapointe said she will compete on the Freeride World Tour, a series of judged competitions described as:

There‘s a start gate at the summit and a finish gate at the bottom. That’s it. Best run down wins. It truly is that simple. Think skiers and snowboarders choosing impossible-looking lines through cornices and cliff-faces and nasty couloirs. Think progressive: big jumps, mach-speed turns and full-on attack. Think entertaining.

Dufour-Lapointe has retired from moguls skiing, according to a Freeride World Tour press release, though she did not explicitly say that in social media posts Tuesday.

At the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, Dufour-Lapointe denied American Hannah Kearney‘s bid to become the first freestyle skier to repeat as Olympic champion. Older sister Chloé took silver in a Canadian one-two.

Dufour-Lapointe also won the world title in 2015, then Olympic silver in 2018 behind Frenchwoman Perrine Laffont.

Chloé announced her retirement in September. A third Dufour-Lapointe Olympic moguls skier, Maxime, retired in 2018.

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