Allyson Felix

Donavan Brazier, after another U.S. 800m record, looks to David Rudisha

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NEW YORK — Donavan Brazier lowered the U.S. indoor 800m record again at the Millrose Games, but he’s hoping later this year to achieve a career first: line up in a race with David Rudisha.

Brazier, who won the world outdoor title in 2019 to stamp himself as Tokyo Olympic favorite, clocked 1:44.22 at the Armory in New York City on Saturday. He previously lowered a 26-year-old American record at last year’s Millrose Games, when he ran 1:44.41.

“When I saw the clock going 1:42, 1:43, I was like, oh, I have a chance,” Brazier said Saturday. “To get it by point-two seconds, there’s really not much room for error there.”

Brazier wasn’t the only American record-breaker Saturday. Ajee Wilson lowered her national 800m record from 1:58.60 to 1:58.29. Elle Purrier took down Mary Slaney‘s 37-year-old U.S. indoor mile record, clocking 4:16.85, the world’s second-fastest time in history.

Full Millrose Games results are here.

The indoor season wraps up with the USA Track and Field Indoor Championships in Albuquerque next weekend, airing on NBC Sports. The world indoor championships, traditionally in early March, were postponed due to the coronavirus in host nation China.

Indoor success is fantastic, but in an Olympic year the focus is outdoors. Last Oct. 1, Brazier broke a 34-year-old American outdoor record to become the first U.S. man or woman to win a world 800m title.

It came in the absence of Rudisha, the 2012 and 2016 Olympic champion and world-record holder who hasn’t competed since 2017, partly due to injury. Rudisha’s 2012 Olympic title, when he set the outdoor world record of 1:40.91, is considered by many the greatest race in the sport’s history as he carried the rest of the field to the fastest times in history for each placement.

Brazier, who was 15 in 2012, said he couldn’t remember watching that final live. But he said he’s watched it dozens of times on replay, more than any other race.

“It’s a work of art,” Brazier said. “He was probably in sub-1:40 shape.”

Brazier can’t fathom running as fast as Rudisha, whose world record is 1.43 seconds faster than Brazier’s American record. But he’s carried a simple mindset since being eliminated in the first round of the 2016 Olympic trials, when he was ranked third in the world for the season as a college freshman.

“If I can work as hard as I was the year before, I’ll just naturally get faster,” said Brazier, who last year ran the fastest indoor 600m in history, in addition to breaking the U.S. indoor and outdoor 800m records.

The success puts pressure on Brazier to become the first American to win an Olympic 800m title since Dave Wottle did so wearing a hat in Munich in 1972.

“I think the target’s on my back just because I won 2019, but it’s definitely not as big of a target as [Rudisha] had on his back post-2012,” Brazier said. “I’m not thinking that I’m like this David Rudisha takeover because I’m not really damn near close to his times, but I think, for now, I’ve got that small target on my back. I guess I’m just trying to make it as big as possible.”

Rudisha, if he returns to racing this year, looks questionable to defend his Olympic gold medals in Tokyo. Five of the nine fastest men in the world last year were Kenyans, and only three can go to the Games.

“He’s a hell of a racer,” Brazier said. “I don’t know how fast he’s going to be if he comes back.”

In other events Saturday, nine-time Olympic medalist Allyson Felix took sixth in a 60m won by American Javianne Oliver in 7.13. Felix’s time — 7.32 seconds in an off-event for her — was .03 faster than she ran last Saturday.

Felix is bidding to race the 200m and 400m at June’s Olympic trials, where her better chance is in the 400m, where at least six women will make the Olympic team due to the 4x400m relays.

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Biles, Felix, Rapinoe and Shiffrin nominated for World Sportswoman of the Year

Simone Biles
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Gymnast Simone Biles, sprinter Allyson Felix and Alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin, each staking a claim as the best ever in their sports, have been nominated for the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year award. The winner will be announced Feb. 17 in Berlin.

Soccer star Megan Rapinoe is also nominated, giving the U.S. four of the six nominees for the award. The other nominees are Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Naomi Osaka.

The U.S. women’s soccer team is also nominated for World Team of the Year, alongside two other World Cup champions — South Africa (men’s rugby) and Spain (men’s basketball). The NBA champion Toronto Raptors are also nominated, along with European and world champion Liverpool FC and perennial Formula 1 champion Mercedes AMG Petronas.

Tiger Woods, who won The Masters after several years with no major championships, is nominated for Sportsman of the Year. Argentine soccer great Lionel Messi (Barcelona FC) is also nominated, along with tennis player Rafael Nadal, two-hour marathon barrier breaker Eliud Kipchoge, and motorsports stars Lewis Hamilton (Formula 1) and Marc Márquez (MotoGP).

Two tennis players, Coco Gauff and Bianca Andreescu, are nominated for Breakthrough of the Year, along with U.S. swimmer Regan Smith, Colombian Tour de France champion Egan Bernal, Japan’s men’s rugby team and boxer Andy Ruiz Jr.

U.S. swimmer Nathan Adrian, who won his 15th and 16th world championships after a bout with testicular cancer, is nominated for World Comeback of the Year, along with Liverpool FC, tennis player Andy Murray, NBA champion Kawhi Leonard, German Formula 3 driver Sophia Flörsch and Australian rugby star Christian Lealiifano.

Skier/cyclist Oksana Masters is nominated for Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability, along with Dutch wheelchair tennis player Diede de Groot, Cuban sprinter Omara Durand, Dutch cyclist/triathlete Jetze Plat, Swiss track and field star Manuela Schär and British swimmer Alice Tai.

U.S. athletes Nyjah Huston (skateboard), Chloe Kim (snowboarding) and Carissa Moore (surfing) are up for Action Sportsperson of the Year, along with 11-year-old Brazilian skateboarder Rayssa Leal, Brazilian surfer Italo Ferreira and Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris.

Biles has already won this award twice, in 2017 and 2019. She’s nominated this time after taking five of a possible six gold medals in the world championships, running her career totals to 19 golds and 25 medals.

WORLDS: Biles breaks career record

Felix broke Usain Bolt’s record for world championship gold medals, winning two relays for her first two gold medals as a mom.

2020: Felix has everything on the table

Rapinoe won the Golden Ball and Golden Boot as the U.S. women won their second straight World Cup, and she was consistently in the spotlight for her outspoken views on LGBTQ rights and equal pay.

AWARD: Rapinoe takes Ballon d’Or

Shiffrin also had a record-setting year, winning 17 World Cup races to take her third straight overall title along with the season titles in slalom, giant slalom and super-G.

RECORD: Shiffrin wraps up fourth globe of 2019

Woods won The Masters, his first major victory in more than a decade. He won the Sportsman of the Year award in 2000 and 2001, along with the Comeback of the Year award last year.

2020: Woods contending for Olympic berth

Gauff became the youngest winner of a WTA Tour event since 2004, taking the Linz Open title at age 15, and defeated Venus Williams on her way to the fourth round at Wimbledon. Smith set a 200m backstroke world record in the world championship semifinals and went on to win the title, along with a medley relay gold, at age 17.

In his first world championship since undergoing surgery for testicular cancer, Adrian took gold in two relays, including a thrilling anchor leg in the 4x100m freestyle.

Masters won five gold medals in the cross-country skiing world championships and two silver medals in the cycling worlds. She won the U.S. Paralympic Athlete of the Year award in November.

Huston three-peated as world champion in the street skateboarding event. Kim swept the world championship and X Games halfpipe events before beginning her studies at Princeton. Moore won her fourth world title.

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Allyson Felix: Everything is on the table in 2020

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It was about this time last year that Allyson Felix received her first post-pregnancy workout instruction from longtime coach Bobby Kersee: a 30-minute power walk on a treadmill at the local fitness center.

It was a struggle for Felix, the most decorated female Olympic track and field athlete in history with nine medals and six golds. She questioned whether returning to form was realistic after an emergency C-section at 32 weeks with severe preeclampsia. Camryn, born at 3 pounds, 7 ounces, spent her first 29 days in the NICU.

The treadmill walk was “humbling, and it was hard and I was discouraged,” she said, “but it was the starting point.”

Five months later, Felix lined up for her first race as a mom. She distinctly remembers the announcer’s introduction at the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships. After reeling off accolades, the booming voice over the sound system crescendoed, “But her greatest victory came in November, the birth of daughter Camryn.”

“This moment that I wasn’t expecting,” Felix said. “So much love from everybody, and it was just really cool to be known as Camryn’s mom.”

She went on to finish sixth in the 400m at USATF Outdoors, qualifying for a record-breaking ninth world championships team (solely in relays this time).

At worlds in early autumn, she earned her 12th and 13th titles, breaking a record she shared with Usain Bolt. Felix’s split of 49.8 seconds in the 4x400m preliminary round was the fastest of the 64 women across all heats (which didn’t include any of the top five women from the individual 400m).

“I don’t think I was ever really in shape last season,” Felix said. “Well, I know I wasn’t because Bobby told me.”

Felix’s journey is expected to resume later this winter during the indoor season, then ramp up to June’s Olympic trials in Eugene, Ore. She can join Gail Devers as the only U.S. sprinters to compete at five Olympics.

Felix is not limiting herself to the 400m, the lone distance she contested on the oval last season. She was known as a 200m sprinter for the first decade of her career, plus earned two Olympic titles in the 4x100m.

She said in November that — if healthy — there’s no reason not to enter the 200m at trials given the first round is four days after the 400m final. If Felix makes the Olympic team in both sprints, she will choose between them.

“Everything’s on the table this year,” Felix said. “This year, I’m going to be getting back to sprinting. I think that’s really key for me to be myself, and that’s something that I didn’t even get to touch last year.”

Felix, the 2012 Olympic 200m champion and a two-time silver medalist at the distance, nearly made the Rio Olympic team in both the 200m and the 400m. She came .01 of a second shy in the 200m at trials, three months after partially tearing two ligaments in her right ankle landing on a medicine ball.

Felix has said nothing went to plan in 2016. From the injury to being edged out by a diving Shaunae Miller-Uibo in the Olympic 400m final to the oddity of re-running the 4x100m preliminary heats after a collision.

She thinks about Rio a lot. She thinks about Tokyo a lot, a chance to have her last Games be on her terms. Those terms changed since she became a mom, fighting for pregnancy protection in athlete contracts and raising awareness of racial disparities and social determinants in the maternal mortality crisis.

“When I think about legacy, I think before, I was always concerned with medals, and times. That’s what I wanted to leave behind,” she said. “In the space that I am now, I want to leave this world better than I found it. I want to have an impact on things like maternal rights, on issues of the sport, on change.”

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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