‘The moment is now’: Michael Norman goes to 100m after winning 400m world title


Through Michael Norman‘s career as a 400m sprinter, from his pre-pandemic USC seasons through winning the world title last year, he stored what three acclaimed college coaches said while he was in high school.

Out of a multitude of suitors, Quincy Watts and Caryl Smith Gilbert of USC and then nine-time Olympic champion Carl Lewis of Houston separately shared the same verdict with Norman.

“We’re recruiting you for the 400m,” Norman recalled Thursday, “but looking at the way you run and your natural ability, we think you’re a 100m runner.”

He is ready to put that to the test.

Norman, 25, is shifting his focus from the 400m to the 100m and plans to race the shorter event at July’s USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Oregon, where three spots are at stake for August’s world championships in Budapest.

“We’ve always had this idea that once I develop and accomplish the goals that I want to do in the 400m, that the goal will be to drop down to the 100m,” he said. “I can comfortably say that I’ve achieved what I wanted to achieve in the 400m and I can start challenging myself and trying something new in attempting to medal and break records in the 100m.”

If all goes well, Norman could race the 100m at the Paris Olympics.

“The plan for 2023 is more of a setup for 2024,” he said. “Everything I’m doing now is setting good habits in preparation for the Olympics. So when it comes to Olympic year, I can just keep building.”

Norman has been a 100m prospect for years. Before the pandemic, he said that he had a deal with his then-coach Smith Gilbert (who has since moved to Georgia) that he could switch to the 100m if he won Tokyo Olympic gold.

In 2020, Norman had the freedom to run the 100m due to the Olympic postponement and cancellation of other major meets.

He clocked 9.86 seconds in Fort Worth, Texas, and it ended up being the fastest time in the world for the year. In 2021, Norman returned to the 400m and placed fifth in Tokyo as a medal favorite, if not the gold-medal favorite.

When Norman at last reached his goal by winning the 400m at worlds last July, the switch to the 100m was not top of mind. A banana was. That was his craving after enduring a zero-sugar diet to accomplish his goal.

Weeks after worlds, Norman had a season review with Watts, who suggested he give the 100m some thought. Watts is best known as the 1992 Olympic 400m champion, but he also won high school and Junior Olympic 100m titles.

Norman talked to his dad, who ran for L.A. Valley College, where he met Norman’s mom, also a sprinter.

“I was kind of torn because … I worked so hard to get back to where I wanted to be, got a world championship title, and I knew that moving onto the 2023 season it was going to be a continuation of that, like a build-up,” said Norman, who is tied as the fourth-fastest 400m sprinter in history. “I felt like I was heading towards world record territory [in the 400m].”

He also knew that he ran that 9.86, plus broke 10 in all three of his 100m races in 2021 (after Tokyo), without deviating from 400m training. If he wants to focus on the 100m, he must start now or wait until after the 2024 Olympics, he reasoned.

“If you’re 400m world champion, you don’t get that coveted title of the world’s fastest man,” he said. “[The 100m] is the race that the world watches. … I think the moment’s now.

“I feel like I’m reaching my prime.”

Norman’s move could set up a showdown at the world championships among the reigning world champions at 100m (Fred Kerley), 200m (Noah Lyles) and 400m.

That’s if Norman and Lyles can make the top three at nationals, where the field could also include 2019 World champion Christian Coleman and 2022 World silver and bronze medalists Marvin Bracy-Williams and Trayvon Bromell.

Kerley, the 2019 U.S. 400m champion who successfully transitioned to the 100m, has a bye into worlds as defending champion.

NBC Sports analyst Ato Boldon said he needs to see a sample of Norman in 100m races this spring to gauge his chances come nationals. But that Norman has run 9.86, the same time that Kerley ran to win last year’s worlds, is a good sign.

“[Sprinters in different events] all look at the 100m, and they go, ‘That’s where I really want to be,'” Boldon said. “Most of them can’t do it. Michael Norman is different in that he can.”

Norman’s goal this year is to win three gold medals at worlds — 100m, 4x100m and 4x400m. He hopes to run the 400m at least once before worlds to boost his case to 4x400m relay selectors, though it may not need any boosting.

If he doesn’t make the world team in the 100m, he can still go to worlds in the 400m given his bye as reigning champion in that event.

“In a world where things go absolutely terrible, then I will be defending my title in the 400m,” he said, “but if things go the way that I plan it to go, then I’ll be fighting for a new title.”

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Football takes significant step in Olympic push

Flag Football
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Football took another step toward possible Olympic inclusion with the IOC executive board proposing that the sport’s international federation — the IFAF — be granted full IOC recognition at a meeting in October.

IOC recognition does not equate to eventual Olympic inclusion, but it is a necessary early marker if a sport is to join the Olympics down the line. The IOC gave the IFAF provisional recognition in 2013.

Specific measures are required for IOC recognition, including having an anti-doping policy compliant with the World Anti-Doping Agency and having 50 affiliated national federations from at least three continents. The IFAF has 74 national federations over five continents with almost 4.8 million registered athletes, according to the IOC.

The NFL has helped lead the push for flag football to be added for the 2028 Los Angeles Games. Flag football had medal events for men and women at last year’s World Games, a multi-sport competition including Olympic and non-Olympic sports, in Birmingham, Alabama.

Football is one of nine sports that have been reported to be in the running to be proposed by LA 2028 to the IOC to be added for the 2028 Games only. LA 2028 has not announced which, if any sports, it plans to propose.

Under rules instituted before the Tokyo Games, Olympic hosts have successfully proposed to the IOC adding sports solely for their edition of the Games.

For Tokyo, baseball-softball, karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing were added. For Paris, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing were approved again, and breaking will make its Olympic debut. Those sports were added four years out from the Games.

For 2028, the other sports reportedly in the running for proposal are baseball and softball, breaking, cricket, karate, kickboxing, lacrosse, motorsports and squash.

All of the other eight sports reportedly in the running for 2028 proposal already have a federation with full IOC recognition (if one counts the international motorcycle racing federation for motorsports).

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Helen Maroulis stars in wrestling documentary, with help from Chris Pratt

Helen Maroulis, Chris Pratt

One of the remarkable recent Olympic comeback stories is the subject of a film that will be shown nationwide in theaters for one day only on Thursday.

“Helen | Believe” is a documentary about Helen Maroulis, the first U.S. Olympic women’s wrestling champion. It is produced by Religion of Sports, the venture founded by Gotham Chopra, Michael Strahan and Tom Brady. Showing details are here.

After taking gold at the 2016 Rio Games, Maroulis briefly retired in 2019 during a two-year stretch in which she dealt with concussions and post-traumatic stress disorder. The film focuses on that period and her successful bid to return and qualify for the Tokyo Games, where she took bronze.

In a poignant moment in the film, Maroulis described her “rock bottom” — being hospitalized for suicidal ideations.

In an interview, Maroulis said she was first approached about the project in 2018, the same year she had her first life-changing concussion that January. A wrestling partner’s mother was connected to director Dylan Mulick.

Maroulis agreed to the film in part to help spread mental health awareness in sports. Later, she cried while watching the 2020 HBO film, “The Weight of Gold,” on the mental health challenges that other Olympians faced, because it resonated with her so much.

“When you’re going through something, it sometimes gives you an anchor of hope to know that someone’s been through it before, and they’ve overcome it,” she said.

Maroulis’ comeback story hit a crossroads at the Olympic trials in April 2021, where the winner of a best-of-three finals series in each weight class made Team USA.

Maroulis won the opening match against Jenna Burkert, but then lost the second match. Statistically, a wrestler who loses the second match in a best-of-three series usually loses the third. But Maroulis pinned Burkert just 22 seconds into the rubber match to clinch the Olympic spot.

Shen then revealed that she tore an MCL two weeks earlier.

“They told me I would have to be in a brace for six weeks,” she said then. “I said, ‘I don’t have that. I have two and a half.’”

Maroulis said she later asked the director what would have happened if she didn’t make the team for Tokyo. She was told the film still have been done.

“He had mentioned this isn’t about a sports story or sports comeback story,” Maroulis said. “This is about a human story. And we’re using wrestling as the vehicle to tell this story of overcoming and healing and rediscovering oneself.”

Maroulis said she was told that, during filming, the project was pitched to the production company of actor Chris Pratt, who wrestled in high school in Washington. Pratt signed on as a producer.

“Wrestling has made an impact on his life, and so he wants to support these kinds of stories,” said Maroulis, who appeared at last month’s Santa Barbara Film Festival with Pratt.

Pratt said he knew about Maroulis before learning about the film, which he said “needed a little help to get it over the finish line,” according to a public relations company promoting the film.

The film also highlights the rest of the six-woman U.S. Olympic wrestling team in Tokyo. Four of the six won a medal, including Tamyra Mensah-Stock‘s gold.

“I was excited to be part of, not just (Maroulis’) incredible story, but also helping to further advance wrestling and, in particular, female wrestling,” Pratt said, according to responses provided by the PR company from submitted questions. “To me, the most compelling part of Helen’s story is the example of what life looks like after a person wins a gold medal. The inevitable comedown, the trauma around her injuries, the PTSD, the drive to continue that is what makes her who she is.”

Maroulis, who now trains in Arizona, hopes to qualify for this year’s world championships and next year’s Olympics.

“I try to treat every Games as my last,” she said. “Now I’m leaning toward being done [after 2024], but never say never.”

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