English Gardner

Mother’s Day: Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Allyson Felix win historic golds at world champs

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Two years ago, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce went into labor while watching the women’s 100m final at the world championships. On Sunday, at the next edition of the biennial worlds, she became the first mom to win an Olympic or world 100m title in 24 years and the oldest woman (mother or not) to do it at age 32.

Fraser-Pryce and Allyson Felix made it an unforgettable night for athlete moms, each earning record-breaking gold medals in Doha.

Fraser-Pryce, a 32-year-old Jamaican with Superman ice cream-colored hair, became the oldest woman to win an Olympic or world 100m title, two years after having her first child, Zyon.

“The females keep showing up,” Fraser-Pryce said on the BBC while holding Zyon across her chest. “Hoping that I can give inspiration to all the women who are thinking about starting a family or currently starting a family and wondering if they can come back.”

Fraser-Pryce, up to six combined Olympic and world 100m titles, became the first mom to win the sport’s marquee sprint at an Olympics or worlds since Gwen Torrence in 1995. She clocked 10.71 seconds, fastest time in the world this year, beating Brit Dina Asher-Smith by .12. Ivorian Marie-Josee Ta Lou took bronze.

Rio gold medalist Elaine Thompson was fourth, losing a 100m final to her countrywoman for the first time.

TRACK WORLDS: Results | TV Schedule

It was in Rio that Fraser-Pryce took bronze in the 100m with an injured toe, after golds in 2008 and 2012. There was reason to doubt if she could remain a podium finisher going into her 30s. And that was before pregnancy meant she would take 20 months before her next meet in 2018.

“When I found out I was pregnant, I was sitting on my bed for like two hours, and I didn’t go to practice in the morning because I didn’t know what to do,” Fraser-Pryce said. “I made a vow that I was coming back.”

On Aug. 6, 2017, Fraser-Pryce watched the world women’s 100m final on TV. “I remember sitting there, and I went into labor because I was watching the race,” she said. “So I had my son the next day, like in the evening during the medal [ceremony]. So that was my gold medal.”

Zyon came via C-section on Aug. 7, 2017. Fraser-Pryce went three or four months before lifting a weight. Once she returned to the track, she skipped practices here or there due to pain.

“I wouldn’t trade it for anything else,” she said. “Because it has definitely made me tougher, and stronger and more committed.”

In her first meet back in 2018, Fraser-Pryce clocked 11.52 seconds, eight tenths off her best. She raced eight times before breaking 11 again, all while breastfeeding for the first 15 months.

This year, she’s run in the 10.7s a total of four times, becoming the fastest mom in history. Her coach told her earlier that she’s still not all the way back.

“Zyon has been my strength, my family, my husband, they have been my strength,” she said. “When everybody else doubted, they never did.”

The U.S. failed to put a woman in the top four at a worlds for the first time in history. National champion Teahna Daniels was seventh.

Defending champion Tori Bowie withdrew before the semifinals after struggling coming back from injury and dealing with a coaching change. Fellow Rio Olympian English Gardner pulled up with a leg injury in her semifinal, her latest poor luck with health. It’s very possible the U.S. could also miss the medals in the 200m and 400m, too, unprecedented for the world’s greatest track nation.

At least there is Felix.

At 33, she broke her tie with Usain Bolt for the most world titles, grabbing her 12th overall and first as a mom as part of the first mixed-gender 4x400m relay. More on that here.

Felix said she has spoken a lot with Fraser-Pryce.

“I got goosebumps watching her run,” she said. “She’s had a hard road, too, and really keeps encouraging me. Her first year wasn’t the best, but the second year, I mean, she’s better than ever. … She’s leading the way.”

In other events, American Christian Taylor earned his fourth world title in the triple jump, adding to his two Olympic golds.

Taylor fouled his first two jumps, registered a clean one on his third to stay alive and then posted the two best marks of 17.86 and 17.92 meters. Taylor relegated countryman Will Claye to silver and a lower podium spot for a sixth time. Claye owns seven total Olympic or world silver or bronze medals, but no golds.

Russian pole vaulter Anzehlika Sidorova cleared 4.95 meters on her third attempt to relegate American Sandi Morris to her third straight silver medal at a global outdoor championship. Sidorova will hear the IAAF anthem at her medal ceremony since Russia is still banned from sending teams to international track and field meets for its doping problems.

In semifinals, American contenders Donavan Brazier and Clayton Murphy advanced to Tuesday’s final. That final will lack two-time Olympic champion and world-record holder David Rudisha (out the last two years, partly due to injury), the defending world champion Pierre-Ambroise Bosse of France and the fastest man this year, Botswana’s Nijel Amos (Achilles).

Brazier, third-fastest in the world this year, won his semifinal in 1:44.87. Murphy, the Rio Olympic bronze medalist, advanced as a time qualifier after placing third in his semifinal in 1:44.48.

The 200m favorite Noah Lyles cruised in his world championships debut, easing up to take second in his first-round heat in 20.26 seconds and advancing to Monday’s semifinals. He ran in silver hair as an homage to Dragon Ball Z character Goku, whose hair turns silver at his final stage, Ultra Instinct.

Lyles owns the world’s fastest time this year — 19.50 seconds — which is .23 faster than anybody else in the field has clocked in 2019.

NBC Olympics senior researcher Alex Azzi contributed to this report from Doha.

MORE: No Christian Coleman-Noah Lyles showdown at track worlds

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English Gardner’s runner-up may have been her biggest victory yet

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English Gardner, by finishing second in the 100m at the recent USATF Outdoor Championships, marked yet another resurgent victory in a young career full of them.

“The most distinguished quality of a person that becomes great in this sport is that they never quit,” the 27-year-old said after qualifying for the world championships as one of the top three finishers in Des Moines on July 26. “I joke around with my dad and all my friends, I’m like Freddy and Jason in this sport. You can’t kill me.”

While Gardner was a high school freshman, her mom, Monica, was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. While she underwent treatment, Gardner’s father, Anthony, suffered a stroke. Both lived. Then Gardner, in her junior year, tore her ACL, MCL and meniscus in a powder puff football game. She came back and earned a scholarship to the University of Oregon.

Come 2016, Gardner entered the Rio Olympics as the world’s second-fastest woman for the year. She had won the U.S. Olympic Trials 100m in 10.74 seconds, making her the fourth-fastest American in history. She revealed that she overcame depression and anxiety to get there.

Gardner did not say it then, but she also ran that summer, and finished seventh in Rio, on a torn meniscus suffered while doing stadiums (Gardner said it happened in February; her father said closer to trials). Gardner did not get it diagnosed, but she knew immediately what the buckle meant, remembering that high school injury.

Anthony, her coach since age 8 (some full-time, some advisory), said Gardner moved out of the Olympic Village during the Games and stayed with her parents. The injury kept her from walking out for meals.

After the 100m final, Anthony remembered his daughter’s tears. And her punching a wall.

“She had no push out of the blocks,” he said. “It was by the grace of God that we didn’t do more damage [to the knee].” Gardner underwent surgery after the Games.

The most devastating setback of Gardner’s career would not come until July 21, 2017, father and daughter agreed.

She tore her ACL again — all of these injuries have been to the same right knee. It happened on a live stream and on slow-motion replay, that knee bending awkwardly as she passed a relay baton in Monaco. A third knee surgery followed.

Behind schedule in her recovery, Gardner considered the end of her track career.

“It was a small moment where I just knew that it could be a possibility that I just never do what I love again,” she said. “Quickly, the monster in me snapped back. I had to have a lot of conversations with myself. This was all mental.”

Anthony, a former hurdler and triple jumper, had made annual trips to Los Angeles to stay with Gardner, injury after injury to start her pro career. “She kept getting hurt, causing mental distress,” he said.

After Monaco, Gardner decided to move from California back home with her parents, a pastor and bishop at Life Giving Word Ministries in Mount Laurel, N.J. She joined the song and praise team on Sundays and helped in the youth department.

“She wanted to go back to her roots,” Anthony said. “I enjoy being her parent [rather than full-time coach], but she was persistent, insisted she go back home.”

Gardner raced twice late in the 2018 season — the sport’s fallow year of the four-year Olympic cycle, the only one with no Olympics or outdoor world championships. She trained to make a full-fledged return this season.

But in the winter she tore her right hamstring decelerating in practice. It benched her for a month. She returned on no training for Diamond League meets in Rome and Stanford, Calif., clocking 11.42 and 11.24 seconds. She ranked 57th in the world for 2019 and 24th among Americans at the end of June.

“I had to call my agents and tell them not to give up on me,” Gardner said, “because I just felt like I wasn’t performing the way I was supposed to perform.”

Then came USATF Outdoors, the key meet of the summer. Make the top three in the 100m, and your season continues through later-than-usual worlds in late September and early October in Doha. Miss the team, and it’s time to start thinking about 2020.

“My legs are there. I’ve just got to trust it,” she told Flotrack after finishing second in her first-round heat in 11.28 into a significant headwind.

The next day, Gardner won her semifinal in 11.16 into an even greater headwind, her most impressive time since the Olympics when factoring in wind.

In the two hours between the semis and final, Gardner saw the start list and noticed that she was the oldest of the eight-woman field. Back in 2013, Gardner became the youngest U.S. women’s 100m champion since 1980. She remains the fastest woman in history without an Olympic or world 100m medal.

The veteran ran an even final, staying with the leaders as younger women faded in the last strides. She took second to Teahna Daniels, 11.20 to 11.25 into a headwind, to qualify for worlds. Gardner, wearing a necklace with the words “No Matter What,” found her father.

“She said, ‘You’re a great coach,'” Anthony said. “I said, ‘You’re a great athlete.'”

Gardner looks forward to being able to train, hopefully uninhibited, for two months straight before flying to Qatar.

“I’m a little scared at what’s going to happen,” Gardner said, believing that amount of time to prepare can lead her to lower her personal best of 10.74 (the world’s fastest women this year, Jamaicans Elaine Thompson and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, have run 10.73). “My mom always says, you can eat a whole elephant, but you’ve got to eat it one bite at a time.”

MORE: Allyson Felix finds maternity protection with new sponsor

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Justin Gatlin, Tori Bowie win 100m at USATF Outdoor Championships

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Justin Gatlin isn’t relinquishing his U.S. sprint crown just yet.

The 35-year-old overtook young phenom Christian Coleman to win the 100m at the USATF Outdoor Championships, part of the TeamUSA Summer Champions Series, presented by Comcast, in Sacramento, Calif., on Friday night.

Gatlin, who took silver to Usain Bolt at the 2013 and 2015 Worlds and 2016 Olympics, came back to beat Coleman in 9.95 seconds. Coleman, 21, hung on for second in 9.98, well off his world-leading 9.82 from earlier this month.

Chris Belcher, 23, grabbed the last 100m spot on the London world championships team in 10.06.

“These two young guns trying to make a name for themselves, and I’m just trying to keep coming,” Gatlin told Lewis Johnson on NBCSN.

Gatlin was an underdog Friday, having not broken 10 seconds in four wind-legal races this year going into the final.

He missed weeks of training this season, slowed by a quadriceps/groin problem since February, according to The Associated Press.

If Bolt is anywhere near top form, Gatlin’s 9.95 won’t challenge for gold at worlds in August. It’s the slowest winning time at nationals in a championship year since Gatlin’s first title in 2005.

“It wasn’t spectacular times you see me run the last couple of years,” Gatlin told media in Sacramento. “It was a time where I needed to fight. … I’m balancing accomplishment and hunger, and I’ve got to be able to find that hunger again.”

USATF OUTDOORS: Broadcast Schedule | Full Results

Earlier Friday, Olympic silver medalist Tori Bowie won the women’s 100m easily in 10.94.

Bowie was followed by Rio Olympian Deajah Stevens (11.08) and Ariana Washington (11.10). Allyson Felix was eighth, but she wasn’t planning on racing the 100m at worlds anyway.

“The goal was to make the [world] team [by finishing top three],” Bowie told Lewis Johnson on NBCSN. “I’m using each race as a training cycle before I get to London.”

Meanwhile in Jamaica, Olympic 100m champion Elaine Thompson won her national title in 10.71 seconds, one hundredth off her shared national record. Bowie is as of now an underdog going into worlds in August.

Yohan Blake won the Jamaican 100m title in 9.90, his fastest time since 2012, when he became the second-fastest man of all time. Bolt skipped the Jamaican Championships as he has a bye into worlds as defending champion.

Gatlin, Coleman, Blake and Canadian Andre De Grasse are looking like the biggest threats to Bolt at the final meet of his career.

In other USATF Outdoors events Friday, Blake Leeper took Oscar Pistorius off the IPC athletics record book by running 45.25 in the 400m semifinals.

Though Leeper didn’t make Saturday’s final, he is the first double amputee to compete at a USATF Outdoor Championships. Leeper raced for the first time since the end of a cocaine ban earlier this week.

“I can remember back in 2008, when I was in my college dorm room [pre-med at the University of Tennessee], never run a track meet in my life, seeing [Pistorius] run for the first time,” Leeper said. “That inspired me.”

Trey Hardee completed his first decathlon in nearly two years and won the U.S. title with 8,225 points. That ranks him 10th in the world this year.

Hardee, 33, captured the 2009 and 2011 World Championships, beating the now-retired Ashton Eaton, plus a 2012 Olympic silver medal. He withdrew on the second day of the 2016 Olympic Trials decathlon after suffering a left hamstring injury on the first day and suffered a heel tear earlier this year.

“I’m worried about my foot every single event,” said Hardee, who was listed as retired on Wikipedia as of Friday evening. “I’m a snake in the grass right now. No one really knows what to expect.”

Vashti Cunningham, daughter of former NFL quarterback Randall Cunningham, won her first U.S. outdoor title in the high jump.

Cunningham, who finished 13th in Rio at age 18, cleared an outdoor personal best of 1.99 meters on Friday. She ranks No. 2 in the world this year.

“I want to win world championships, and I want to break 2.0 [meters],” Cunningham said.

London Olympic silver medalist Brigetta Barrett was fourth, just missing the world team.

Rio silver medalist Paul Chelimo and Olympian Shelby Houlihan won the 5000m titles.

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