Noah Lyles breaks Michael Johnson’s American record; U.S. sweeps world 200m

0 Comments

For Noah Lyles, this season wasn’t merely about improving his bronze-medal finish from the Olympics. It wasn’t only about suppressing 18-year-old phenom Erriyon Knighton, whose electrifying 19.49-second run on a Saturday afternoon in April caused Lyles to stop driving, turn around from his dinner plans (Thai food) and dive back into his craft.

From the start, it was about running 19.31 seconds in the 200m (or faster) to break Michael Johnson‘s American record. At the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Johnson ran 19.32 seconds in golden shoes in the 200m final, lowering his world record by an astonishing .34 of a second in one of the most famous sprints in history.

When Lyles crossed the finish line in the world track and field championships 200m final in Eugene, Oregon, on Thursday night, the clock read 19.32. Lyles, whose previous personal best was 19.50, turned to the crowd and noticed another roar, a supplement to the one moments earlier reacting to his blowout victory.

Lyles knew something was up. He peered to another scoreboard showing what the fans had noticed — his winning time changed to 19.31, the number that he had worked for all season. (It’s common in track and field for initial, unofficial finishing times to change slightly as electronic timing processes.)

“I didn’t want it to say 32,” Lyles said. “I wanted my own time. Nobody wants to share a record.

“All me and my coach have been talking about was like, ‘We’re going after that record.'”

Lyles, 25, repeated as world champion and led a U.S. sweep of the men’s 200m medals with Kenny Bednarek (19.77) and Knighton (19.80). That came 15 minutes after Jamaican Shericka Jackson won the women’s 200m in 21.45 seconds, the second-fastest time in history behind Florence Griffith-Joyner‘s world record of 21.34 from the 1988 Olympics. On Her Turf has more on the women’s 200m here.

TRACK WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule | Results | U.S. Roster | Key Events

For the men’s 200m, only Jamaicans Usain Bolt (19.19) and Yohan Blake (19.26) have run faster than Lyles, who had been expected to take gold at the Tokyo Games.

Lyles said the difference between 2021 and 2022 was that he put no pressure on himself this year.

“You can go through a dark storm and come out of it better than you were before,” he said.

The final was billed as a showdown between budding rivals Lyles and Knighton, but Lyles put it away before the straightaway by running the best curve of his life.

“It was always there. I was just waiting for it to hit,” said Lyles, who didn’t run the 100m, his complementary event, this year because he was focused on Johnson’s record (and, to a degree, beating Knighton). “It was always going to come, as soon as I got the start I wanted and was able to get a race where I get my [first] 100 [meters].”

Johnson, at Hayward Field working for the BBC, went on the track and hugged Lyles, whose dad, Kevin, raced against Johnson in the 1990s.

“I knew that he was going to run faster than 19.32 some day,” said Johnson, who met Lyles for the first time. “To be honest, when you’ve held the world record, you don’t really focus on the national record. … For Noah, I don’t think he really cares about the American record. He wants a world record. It might be within his reach.”

Bednarek came back from a broken toe to repeat his silver from Tokyo.

Knighton, fourth in Tokyo, became the youngest individual sprint medalist in world championships history, according to Bill Mallon of Olympedia.org. Knighton was expected to lead off the turn but did not, in part because he mistakenly hit the side of a starting block with his right foot reacting to the gun.

“I was on the podium,” he said, “so I can’t be mad.”

Three other Americans swept the 100m medals last Saturday — Fred KerleyMarvin Bracy-Williams and Trayvon Bromell.

In the women’s 200m, Jackson became the only person to win a world medal in the 100m, 200m and 400m in their career. Afterward, she responded “definitely” to a pair of questions — did you think you would run that fast? And, can you run faster?

She found redemption from the Olympic 200m, when she was eliminated in the heats due to a lackluster effort.

“Last year was a disaster,” she said. “I wanted redemption.”

Countrywoman Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce took silver, four days after winning her fifth world title in the 100m at age 35. Fraser-Pryce, who already has the same number of Olympic medals as Bolt (eight), will match Bolt at 14 world championships medals with a 4x100m relay medal on Saturday.

Abby Steiner was the top American in fifth. The U.S. got zero medals out of the women’s flat sprints (100m, 200m and 400m) for the first time in world championships history.

In non-finals Thursday, Christian Taylor, a six-time gold medalist between the Olympics and worlds, failed to make Saturday’s triple jump final. Taylor, a 32-year-old who missed the Tokyo Games after rupturing an Achilles, was 18th in qualifying.

Olympic champion Emmanuel Korir of Kenya headlined the qualifiers into Saturday’s men’s 800m final. All four Americans, including injured reigning world champion Donavan Brazier, were previously eliminated in the first round.

Olympic champion Athing Mu advanced to Friday’s women’s 800m semifinals along with countrywomen Raevyn Rogers (Olympic bronze medalist) and Ajeé Wilson (two-time world bronze medalist).

Advancing to Sunday’s men’s 5000m final: reigning Olympic champions in the 1500m (Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen), 5000m (Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei) and 10,000m (Ethiopia’s Selemon Barega).

Worlds continue Friday with five finals, including the men’s and women’s 400m and the women’s 400m hurdles with Olympic gold medalist and world record holder Sydney McLaughlin.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

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)
0 Comments

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.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

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

Alexandra Trusova, Eteri Tutberidze
Getty
0 Comments

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.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!