Coco Gauff into French Open final, youngest major finalist in 18 years

1 Comment

Coco Gauff will go from celebrating her high school graduation in front of the Eiffel Tower to playing for the French Open title in a span of two weeks.

Gauff, an 18-year-old American, beat Italian Martina Trevisan 6-3, 6-1 in Thursday’s semifinals to become the youngest Grand Slam finalist since Maria Sharapova won her first major at Wimbledon in 2004.

Her reward: A date with top-ranked Iga Swiatek, who is riding a 34-match win streak, tying the longest run in women’s tennis since 2000. NBC and Peacock Premium air live coverage Saturday at 9 a.m. ET.

“I have nothing to lose,” Gauff said. “She’s definitely the favorite.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Gauff became the first woman to make a major final without playing a top-30 opponent in more than 40 years, winning her six matches without dropping a set. She dispatched the 59th-ranked Trevisan in a matchup of first-time major semifinalists.

“I’m a little bit in shock right now,” Gauff said in an on-court interview. “I’m going to be happy regardless [of the final result]. I know my parents are going to love me regardless, so I’m just going to go into it like another match. Yeah, it’s a Grand Slam final, but there’s so many things going on in the world right now, especially in the U.S., a lot of stuff is happening right now, so I think it’s not important to stress over a tennis match.”

Gauff illustrated her grounded mindset moments after the match. She signed a video camera, “Peace End Gun Violence” and spoke about it in multiple interviews.

“Trying to spread that message of what’s going in the U.S. around the world,” she said on NBC, noting that she had two friends who were “part of” the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. “We definitely need some reform and some change to go on to control what’s happening in the United States. Now that I’m 18 and of the age to vote, I’ve been really paying attention to what’s going on so that when my time comes I can make the right decision, and I also want to use this moment to encourage people my age to vote locally because those are the people who can really effect your community.”

Gauff continued her steady progression from prodigy to tour pro.

Four years ago, she nearly played Swiatek in the French Open junior final, but Swiatek squandered a match point in the semifinals. Gauff instead beat her doubles partner, Caty McNally, in the final to become at 14 the youngest junior Grand Slam champion since Martina Hingis in 1994.

The next year, Coco Mania broke out at Wimbledon. She beat Venus Williams in the first round and became the youngest player to reach the fourth round of a major since Anna Kournikova in 1996.

In 2020, Gauff beat Naomi Osaka at the Australian Open, becoming the youngest player to defeat a defending champion at a major since Jennifer Capriati in 1991.

Last year, she made the French Open quarterfinals, becoming the youngest player to get that far in a major singles draw since Nicole Vaidisova in 2006.

Gauff’s strong play throughout the tour calendar has her at No. 23 in the world rankings. She will move to No. 13 with a runner-up on Saturday. Win, and she will be No. 8 in the world and the highest-ranked American.

“I’m definitely ready to win one, but I’m not putting pressure on myself to win one,” she said. “There’s a fine line between believing in yourself and almost pushing yourself too much.”

Swiatek has similar self-belief, which propelled her since Australian Ash Barty‘s shock retirement in March. Swiatek became the first Polish player to be No. 1 when Barty retired, and she hasn’t lost a match since the ascension.

In 2020, she came to Paris with no title expectations and marched to victory without dropping a set. This year, she entered as an overwhelming favorite and delivered while the rest of the top 10 lost before the quarterfinals.

In the semifinals, she swept Russian Daria Kasatkina 6-2, 6-1 in 64 mostly dominant minutes.

She tied the longest women’s win streak since Venus Williams won 35 in 2000. Serena Williams also won 34 in a row in 2013.

“This season everything clicked,” Swiatek said. “I couldn’t get rid of the expectations like fully, but I tried to accept that, that they are going to be there and it’s going to stress me a little bit more.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Luz Long’s Olympic silver medal for sale from Jesse Owens long jump duel

Jesse Owens, Luz Long
Getty
0 Comments

One of the most consequential Olympic medals ever awarded is on the auction block — the silver medal captured in 1936 by Germany’s Luz Long, the long jumper who walked arm in arm through the stadium with Jesse Owens to celebrate their triumphs while Adolf Hitler watched from the stands.

Long’s family has decided to auction the medal and other collectibles from the German jumper’s career. Long was killed in World War II in 1943.

The auction house selling the medal has labeled Long’s collection “The Beacon of Hope.”

“The story of Jesse Owens never seems to end,” said Long’s granddaughter, Julia Kellner-Long, in a phone interview from her house in Munich. “My grandfather has always been inspirational and influential in the way I choose to see the world, and this is something I think the world outside needs. Now more than ever. It gives us hope.”

Long cemented himself in Olympic lore during the Berlin Games when he was the first to congratulate Owens on his triumph in the long jump. Later they walked around the stadium together and posed for pictures.

There’s also the story Owens told of Long approaching him after he fouled on his first two attempts in the preliminary round. With only one more try to make the final, Owens said Long suggested he take off a foot in front of the board, to assure he wouldn’t foul on his last try. Owens took that advice and went on to win the title — one of four he captured in Berlin — with a then-Olympic record jump of 8.06 meters (26 feet, 5 1/2 inches).

Owens was Black, and his stirring success at those Olympics was said to have annoyed Hitler by puncturing the Nazi myth of Aryan racial superiority.

The camaraderie between Owens and Long, and the relationship that ensued between the men and their families, are often held up as the prime example of what the Olympics are supposed to be about — a peaceful coming together of people from different countries and cultures who set their differences aside in the spirit of competition.

“It took a lot of courage for him to befriend me,” Owens said, years later. “You can melt down all the medals and cups I have and they wouldn’t be a plating on the 24-karat friendship I felt for Luz Long at that moment. Hitler must have gone crazy watching us embrace.”

The decision to sell came shortly after Luz’s son (and Julia’s father), Kai, died at age 80. Kellner-Long said the great responsibility of preserving her grandfather’s memorabilia should be passed onto an individual, or museum, that has the time and resources to do so. The family also wanted to use the sale to rekindle the story of Long and Owens.

“Even 86 years later, shining a beacon of hope is an important and realistic value, especially in a time of increasing racism, increasing exclusion and hatred,” Kellner-Long said.

The auction house started the bidding for Long’s medal at $50,000, and estimated the value at somewhere between $500,000 and $1 million. The bidding runs through Oct. 15. The value of Olympic medals on the open market varies widely. One of Owens’ four gold medals from 1936 fetched $1.46 million. Bill Russell’s gold medal from the 1956 Olympics recently sold for $587,500.

David Kohler of SCP Auctions, which is conducting the sale, said the medal is about Long, but also “the story of the courageousness and the athlete and what he did there.”

Long didn’t live long enough to see his legacy play out. He was killed in 1943 in the battle of St. Pietro on the Italian island of Sardinia. Shortly before that, he wrote a letter to Owens, one he predicted would be “the last letter I shall ever write.”

In it, Long asked Owens to go to Germany after the war and find his son.

“Tell him, Jesse, what times were like when we were not separated by war,” Long wrote. “I am saying — tell him how things can be between men on this earth.”

Owens and Kai Long met several times over the years, including at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium in 1966. Owens later was a best man at Kai’s wedding.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Jenny Simpson, most decorated U.S. miler, shifts focus with new Puma sponsorship

Jenny Simpson
Puma
0 Comments

Jenny Simpson, the most decorated U.S. female miler in history, plans to return to racing on Sunday with a new shoe sponsor, Puma.

Simpson, whose last race was the Cherry Blossom 10-mile road race in Washington, D.C., in September 2021, according to World Athletics, will run what she called “a little rust-buster” at the Army Ten-Miler in Washington, D.C.

“My intention is to turn my focus to the roads,” Simpson, 36, wrote in an email. “I have some great PUMA spikes that I love so the track isn’t off the table. But my emphasis will be road racing.”

Last year’s Cherry Blossom was her first race longer than 5,000 meters, according to World Athletics. What are the chances she eventually moves up to the marathon distance?

“This new chapter is an exploration,” she answered. “I’m going to let the races, training, and coaching guide the next steps as they come. I know I can physically do it, it’s a matter of whether I can be great at it and my team and I will only go there if we think we can be competitive. So, let’s say for chances… 51% :)”

Simpson made her first Olympic team in 2008 in the 3000m steeplechase, then in 2012 and 2016 in the 1500m, earning a bronze medal in Rio. She is the lone U.S. woman to win a world 1500m title (2011) or an Olympic 1500m medal.

From 2007 through 2019, Simpson finished in the top three in one of the 1500m, 5000m or 3000m steeplechase at all 13 annual USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships. Last year, she was 10th in the Olympic Trials 1500m in a bid to become the oldest U.S. Olympic 1500m runner in history, according to Olympedia.org.

Simpson focused much of her time this year helping her Colorado community heal and rebuild from a late December fire. She did not enter the USATF Outdoors for the first time since 2006.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!