Fred Kerley leads U.S. medals sweep of men’s 100m at track worlds

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Fred Kerley is the world champion in the 100m, completing an extraordinary journey to the title of world’s fastest man.

Kerley, the 27-year-old American who took silver at the Tokyo Olympics, won the crown jewel men’s event of the world track and field championships in Eugene, Oregon, on Saturday night. He prevailed in 9.86 seconds, leading a U.S. medals sweep ahead of Marvin Bracy-Williams and Trayvon Bromell, who each ran 9.88.

It marked the U.S.’ first medals sweep in the world men’s 100m since 1991 and the first in any event at worlds since 2007.

Kerley overtook Bracy-Williams to his left in the final 10 meters.

The same Fred Kerley who was considered a 400m sprinter up until the start of last year. The same Fred Kerley who nine years ago walked onto the track team at South Plains community college. The same Fred Kerley who might never have pursued sprinting had he not broken his collarbone in the last football game of his high school career in Texas.

“I said I was going to do some great things at the junior college,” Kerley said Saturday night. “I speak crazy things. I think I’m still speaking crazy things.”

The same Fred Kerley who has the words “Aunt” and “Meme” tattooed inside his biceps.

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“I was two when I first moved in with her, a toddler who didn’t know what was happening around him,” Kerley wrote in 2019. “My Dad ended up in jail, my Mom took wrong turns in life, which meant Aunt Virginia was the only one who could take care of me and my four siblings. Meme – as she is better known – brought up her kids, her brother’s kids and us, with 13 children all living under the same roof. She also brought up the two or three generations after me, and she’s still raising them now – 25 children in total.”

Kerley said that great-aunt Virginia sometimes went without food to make sure he and his siblings ate. ‘Thirteen of us in one bedroom,” he said Saturday night, “on a pallet.”

Kerley experienced physical setbacks as he transformed into a world-class sprinter. As a South Plains sophomore, he felt leg pain midway through anchoring a relay.

“I carried on before falling over the finish line when I realized I’d tore my quad,” he said, according to World Athletics. “I had a hole in my leg, and I could put my finger in the hole.”

Kerley still made it to Texas A&M as a transfer. He broke through as a senior in 2017, lowering his 400m personal best from 45.10 to 43.70, making the world championships team and finishing the year as the world’s second-fastest man in the event.

“I became elite by working my ass off,” Kerley said, according to Olympics.com.

Last year, Kerley raised eyebrows by primarily racing the 100m and 200m. He ultimately chose those two events at Olympic Trials, reportedly dropping the 400m because of an ankle injury.

“My ankle was swollen,” he said, according to Athletics Weekly. “I decided at the last minute to run the 100m and 200m, knowing that I couldn’t go ’round the turns [in the 400m] the way I wanted to.”

It paid off. Kerley took 100m silver at the Olympics in his global championships debut at the distance. He began 2021 with a 100m personal best of 10.49 from his South Plains days. He finished it running 9.84 in the Olympic final.

This year, he ran 9.76 and 9.77 within a two-hour span at the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships last month. On Friday at worlds, he ran 9.79, the fastest-ever first-round time at a global championship.

Kerley was asked if this gold medal will change his life.

“Track and field already changed my life,” he said.

Like Kerley, training partners Bracy-Williams and Bromell have their own yearslong stories to this moment.

In 2013, Bracy-Williams left the Florida State football program after his redshirt freshman season to turn pro in track, one year before the Seminoles won their last national title.

He unexpectedly made the 2016 Olympic team, eliminated in the semifinals in Rio, then gave football one more shot. He worked out for the Indianapolis Colts and Carolina Panthers in 2017 but did not play a regular season game. He was briefly a member of the Seattle Seahawks in 2018 and the Orlando Apollos of the AAF in 2019, playing in one game and breaking his arm in a league that eventually folded. “I realized right then and there, yeah, my football dream might be over,” he said.

He returned to track competition in 2020, going nearly three years between races. Then he had an appendix rupture and an intestinal blockage, getting eight staples from his belly button on down. Now, he’s on the podium at a global outdoor championships for the first time at age 28.

“My perseverance,” drives me, Bracy-Williams said. “I battled some things that I don’t talk about. I just go away quietly, and I just keep fighting.”

Bromell last year ran the world’s fastest 100m times before and after the Olympics, but in Tokyo was eliminated in the semifinals. Had he won any medal in Japan, it would have marked an all-time rebound. Bromell was wheeled out of the Rio Olympics in a chair. He completed three total races in 2017, 2018 and 2019 due to injuries and was considered finished.

Bromell said that, in 2018, he had a retirement letter written up that he planned to give to his agent.

“I didn’t see no hope,” Bromell, who estimated he spent $300,000 traveling across the U.S. and Europe for medical treatments for his Achilles, told LetsRun.com. “I could barely run.”

Italian Marcell Jacobs, the surprise Olympic gold medalist, withdrew before Saturday’s semifinals due to injuries in both legs. Jacobs has been set back by illness and injuries since winning the world indoor 60m title in March.

Worlds continue Sunday with finals in the women’s 100m and American gold-medal favorites in the men’s 110m hurdles and shot put and women’s pole vault and hammer throw.

Also Saturday, Chase Ealey became the first U.S. woman to win a world title in the shot put. Ealey bounced back from a fifth-place finish at Olympic Trials to notch the second-best throw in American history this season. On Her Turf has more on Ealey here.

Ethiopian Letesenbet Gidey, the world record holder at 5000m, 10,000m and half marathon, earned her first global gold by taking the 10,000m. Gidey, expelled from school as a teen for refusing to run in P.E. class, held off world 5000m champion Hellen Obiri of Kenya in a furious, five-woman fight on the final lap of the 25-lap final.

Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan was fourth, a year after taking gold in the 5000m and 10,000m and bronze in the 1500m in an unprecedented Olympic triple and then took an eight-month offseason. On Her Turf has more on the women’s 10,000m here.

“I really needed a break after the Tokyo Olympics,” Hassan said. “I was mentally crashed. I didn’t even care about running.”

Wang Jianan of China won the men’s long jump, overtaking Olympic champion Miltiadis Tentoglou of Greece by four centimeters by leaping from sixth place to first on his sixth and last jump.

Poland hammer thrower Paweł Fajdek became the third person to win five world outdoor titles in an individual event, joining Ukrainian pole vaulter Sergey Bubka (six titles) and German discus thrower Lars Riedel.

All of the favorites advanced into the women’s 100m semifinals, including Jamaica’s two-time Olympic 100m champions Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (10.87) and Elaine Thompson-Herah (11.15).

Elsewhere in qualifying, notables who were eliminated included 2019 World high jump bronze medalist Vashti Cunningham, U.S. 110m hurdles champion Daniel Roberts, who crashed while leading his first-round heat, and U.S. Olympic Trials 1500m champion Elle St. Pierre.

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Ilia Malinin’s quadruple Axel sheds light on first figure skater to land triple Axel

Vern Taylor
Vern Taylor, the first figure skater to land a triple Axel in competition. (Getty Images)
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Vern Taylor arrived at the Riverside Skating Club in Windsor, Ontario, on Sept. 15 to do what he has done at that rink for the last three decades: coach figure skaters. But this day was different.

Taylor, who in 1978 became the first man to land a ratified triple Axel in competition, was told that 17-year-old American Ilia Malinin performed the first quadruple Axel the previous night.

“When we heard that he landed it, I said, ‘Oh my goodness, that’s terrific,'” Taylor said by phone.

He was then shown video of Malinin’s feat.

“Anything’s possible,” Taylor said. “43 years [later], that’s something. It’s knowing that you can perform the jump that makes it challenging.”

Malinin, the world junior champion, landed the most difficult jump in skating and checked off the only remaining quad yet to be performed.

At the 1978 World Championships in Ottawa, a 20-year-old Taylor broke through a similar barrier in hitting the last remaining unchecked triple jump. But while Malinin’s senior career seems to be just getting started, and many medals appear in his future, Taylor is largely a forgotten man outside of ardent figure skating followers.

He finished 12th at those 1978 World Championships. Taylor’s 1980 Olympic prospects were dimmed by the fact that Canada had just one men’s singles spot, and he had taken runner-up at nationals in 1978 and 1979 to Brian Pockar, who also outscored Taylor at those years’ world championships. So Taylor stopped competing a year before the Lake Placid Games.

“I didn’t have a reason,” he said. “I just decided to take a break.”

Taylor will always have that day at the world championships in Ottawa. He can still remember the nervousness, knowing that two other skaters also planned to attempt a triple Axel. They were unsuccessful, though Taylor didn’t know it.

“I didn’t see their jumps,” he said. “I didn’t want to know what was ahead of me.”

American David Jenkins landed a triple Axel in Movietone newsreel footage reported to be from 1957, but that was not in competition.

Taylor, skating to music from “Rocky,” put the triple Axel as the third jump of his program, according to reports at the time. The one YouTube video of it, published two years ago, has 32,000 views. It shows Taylor landing the three-and-a-half revolution jump on one foot and spinning out of it while managing to stay on that single skate blade amid a crowd roar.

“During that program, it was like a rock concert,” Taylor said. “I got the energy from the audience.”

The Montreal Gazette reported at the time that the jump was ratified three hours later. Italian Sonia Bianchetti, the men’s referee at the 1978 Worlds, said she met with the assistant referee, the ISU president and a technical delegate.

“During this short meeting it was recognized that Vern had completed the first triple Axel Paulsen jump [Norwegian Axel Paulsen was the skater who landed the first Axel jump in 1882, getting it named after him] in an officially recognized figure skating competition,” she wrote in an email last month. “The triple Axel was fully rotated and landed on one foot.”

One of the people inside the Ottawa Civic Centre that day was 16-year-old Canadian Brian Orser. Orser, inspired by Taylor, later became synonymous with the jump — labeled “Mr. Triple Axel” and landing it en route to silver medals at the Olympics in 1984 and 1988 and the 1987 World title.

Orser remembered Taylor visiting his skating club for an exhibition. Orser saw Taylor doing an Axel takeoff exercise off the ice, incorporated it into his own routine and began teaching it to his skaters after becoming a coach.

Yet another Canadian, Kurt Browning, was the first man to land a ratified quadruple jump of any kind in competition — a toe loop at the 1988 World Championships.

“For me, personally, it was huge,” he said, “because I was promised a car if I could land it.”

Through an agreement with an Edmonton car dealership, Browning was handed the keys to a Quattro — quad/Quattro — after hitting the toe loop. The skater was unaware that the dealer was merely leasing it to him. About six months later, Browning received a call asking to bring the car back.

Browning was inspired by American Brian Boitano, whom he previously saw land a quad outside of competition. Taylor motivated him, too.

“[Taylor] gave me permission, even at a young age, to start thinking bigger,” he said.

Browning also pointed to Jozef Sabovčík, a 1980s skater for then-Czechoslovakia who many believe was the first man to land a quad in competition, Browning included. Sabovčík was initially given credit for a quad toe loop at the 1986 European Championships, but weeks later it was invalidated because he touched down with his free foot, according to reports.

“I never want to come off as arrogant, but despite what ISU [International Skating Union] decided in the end, I do know that I landed the jump on that day,” Sabovčík, who said he performed a quad jump on his birthdays through age 44, wrote in an email. “The fact that most of the people in the skating world believe the same thing, it means everything to me that Kurt is one of them. It would have been nice to have my name in the Guinness Book of Records, but I am also not trying to change history.”

Sabovčík, now 58 and coaching in Salt Lake City, attended March’s world championships in Montpellier, France, where Malinin finished ninth. There, he spoke with Malinin’s parents, Russian-born Uzbek Olympic skaters Tatyana Malinina and Roman Skornyakov, whom he calls friends.

“They told me that he was already doing a quad Axel on a fishing pole harness [in practice], and that it was coming,” Sabovčík said.

Less than two months after that talk, the first video surfaced of Malinin landing a clean quad Axel — at a U.S. Figure Skating jump camp.

“I did not think [a quad Axel] was possible,” Sabovčík said. “It really has to be an athlete that can combine the technical ability with jumping ability with the speed of rotation. When Kurt and I jumped, we had a relatively speaking slow rotation, but we jumped really big compared to these kids. But Ilia, he has the vertical lift, but he [also] has an unbelievably fast rotation.”

The recent proliferation of quads in men’s and women’s skating can be attributed to several factors, including better boots, better ice conditions and improvements in technology that can aid coaching. Still, there are concerns about if and how the pounding of training quads can wear down a skater physically.

“It’s a lot of pain you don’t feel at first, but you know it comes later,” said Frenchwoman Surya Bonaly, who started training a quad in 1989 and attempting it through the mid-1990s. Bonaly had two hip surgeries after her competitive career.

Even Taylor faced those questions.

“People said, ‘Aren’t you worried about injuring yourself?'” he said. “I would say, ‘No, I want you to know it can be done.'”

Sabovčík never tried a quad Axel in his skating days, but Browning did for less than a week in the early 1990s after winning four consecutive world titles.

“Just playing with it,” said Browning, who never tried it in competition. “Ilia has that special ability to not only get up in the air, but then he has that beautiful rotation that doesn’t look hurried. It’s fast, it’s quick as lightning, but it doesn’t look hurried. It’s so easy. Like a good golfer swings easy, and the ball goes 400 yards.”

Browning recalled a conversation he had with two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, who in recent years made the quad Axel his quest. Hanyu attempted it in competition last season but did not land it cleanly before retiring in July. He said upon retirement that he still hoped to master the jump for his non-competitive show career.

“I asked Yuzu one day, ‘When you do quad Axel, does it just feel like you’re up there forever?'” Browning said. “And he kind of looked at me funny, and he goes, ‘Yeah, like it never ends.'”

The skating world awaits the reserved Hanyu’s thoughts on Malinin’s quad.

“Knowing Yuzu, I would think he’d be very supportive,” said Orser, who coached Hanyu for nearly a decade. “He appreciates that kind of athleticism.”

Orser also noted what comes with being the first — and so far only — skater to land a rarefied jump. Malinin, who headlines Skate America in two weeks, will be asked about the quad Axel in just about every interview for the foreseeable future. For some skaters, they may feel a responsibility to land it all the time.

“But I don’t think [Malinin] thinks too much about it,” Orser said. “His technique is perfect, so he’ll be fine.”

The inevitable topic after that is the next progression in skating: the first quintuple jump. Orser said that Hanyu did five-rotation Salchows in practice with the aid of a harness.

“It’s just a little bit more rotation than the quadruple Axel, so it’s not that far off,” said Sabovčík, whose unratified quad toe loop came eight years after Taylor’s triple Axel. “Now that I’ve seen the quad Axel, I don’t think it’s impossible.”

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Aleksandra Trusova splits from coach Eteri Tutberidze, months after Olympic tears

Alexandra Trusova, Eteri Tutberidze
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Olympic figure skating silver medalist Aleksandra Trusova reportedly split from coach Eteri Tutberidze‘s group, eight months after a tearful scene after the Olympic free skate.

Trusova, 18, will now be coached by Svetlana Sokolovskaya, according to Russian media reports dating to Saturday. All Russian skaters are ineligible to compete internationally indefinitely due to the national ban over the war in Ukraine, but Russia is still holding domestic events.

At the Beijing Winter Games, Trusova became the first woman to land five quadruple jumps in a free skate. She had the highest score that day, but it wasn’t enough to make up the gap to fellow Tutberidze pupil Anna Shcherbakova from the short program.

Moments after the competition ended, Trusova was seen crying and yelling at Sergey Dudakov, a member of Tutberidze’s coaching team.

“Everyone has a gold medal! Everyone has! Only I don’t! I hate figure skating! I hate! I will never step on the ice again! Never!” she said in Russian.

Shcherbakova had the individual gold, and the other Russian women’s singles skater at the Games, Kamila Valiyeva, skated both programs of the team event. The Russians placed first in the team event, but medals will not be awarded until Valiyeva’s doping case is adjudicated. It’s possible that Valiyeva gets retroactively disqualified, the Russian team gets disqualified and the other nations all move up with the U.S. going from silver to gold.

Trusova performed at the Russian test skates last month, withdrawing after her short program due to a back injury.

Trusova previously left Tutberidze in 2020 for two-time Olympic champion turned coach Yevgeny Plushenko‘s group, then moved back to Tutberidze’s group after the 2020-21 season.

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