As Winter Games loom, skier and skater were world's best in an odd 2017

As Winter Games loom, skier and skater were world's best in an odd 2017

The Olympic cycle, like the calendar, has odd years and even years.

The even years, like 2018, include an Olympics, in this case the Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

The odd years, like the one that just ended, are not devoid of big events in international sports.  And 2017 was full of them, but the overriding feeling was of a year that was just plain odd – and, at times, depressingly sad.

For the second annus horribilis in a row, athletes have saved Olympic sport from itself and its feckless leaders.  Celebrating their excellence is the best way to express hope for a better 2018.

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Why Two Runners, One From The U.S., One from New Zealand, Deserve A Gold Medal For Their Humanity


“In the Olympic preoccupation with winners and losers, in the mania for counting medals, it is easy to forget what really constitutes triumph.”

I wrote that in 1992, as the first sentence in my story about British runner Derek Redmond’s “excruciating and exhilarating” demonstration of the human spirit as he staggered to a last-place finish with a torn hamstring in the Olympic 400-meter final.

Those words came back to me immediately as I saw and heard and read about what befell U.S. runner Abbey D’Agostino and New Zealand runner Nikki Hamblin – and, more importantly, how they reacted to it – in a Tuesday morning heat of the 5,000-meter in Rio.

D’Agostino, like Redmond, will win no medal. USA Track & Field announced Wednesday that the serious knee injuries she sustained after a tangle with Hamblin will keep D’Agostino from running Friday’s final.

What D’Agostino has won is more important. She has gained the respect of the whole world because, at likely the saddest moment of her athletic career, she looked beyond herself.

And so did Hamblin.

Each deserves a gold medal for her humanity – and selfnessness that put a golden glow on humanity at large.

FOR MY WHOLE STORY ON TEAMUSA.ORG, CLICK HERE

‘Hurdle Nerd’ Harrison Defies The Clock In Night-And-Day Effort To Make This Her Time

Keni Harrison competing at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing.  (Getty Images)

Keni Harrison competing at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing.  (Getty Images)

It’s 2 a.m. A text message pops into Edrick Floreal’s phone. Whether Floreal is still awake when it arrives or sees it a few hours later, he doesn’t have to look at the message to know who sent it.

Who else would be seeking answers in the wee hours to questions about biomechanics and physics?

The Harrison family, which includes nine adoptees (including Keni, front row, 2d from left) among their 11 children, at Christmas 2015.  (Photo courtesy Harrison family.)

The Harrison family, which includes nine adoptees (including Keni, front row, 2d from left) among their 11 children, at Christmas 2015.  (Photo courtesy Harrison family.)

Who else would have just finished watching video of her latest workout and wondering what her coach has to say about takeoff angle and velocity?

Who else but Keni Harrison, the woman whom Floreal calls the “hurdle nerd,” no matter that attention deficit disorder has always made written instruction, especially in math, a struggle for her?

“When it comes time to talk hurdling, she turns into some kind of Einstein,” Floreal said.

It doesn’t seem to make any difference that Floreal has told her she should be sleeping rather than thinking and talking (in the virtual sense) about hurdles at 2 a.m. He tried pointing out to her that if Harrison were going to stay up worrying, he was going to go to sleep, so the responses still would have to wait until the next morning.

“When I’m up at night, I like to go through what I did that day,” Harrison said. “When I have a question, I don’t look at the time, I just text him. I love asking questions.”

Floreal can laugh about occasionally losing this argument. He knows that the way Harrison processes the answers about the best way to run 100 meters while hurdling ten 33-inch-high barriers has helped make her a global sensation this Olympic track and field season.

FOR FULL STORY, CLICK HERE

On Russia doping ban, it's an Olympic family feud

On Russia doping ban, it's an Olympic family feud

Is there really an internecine battle going on between the international federation that governs the flagship sport of the Olympics, track and field, and the International Olympic Committee, which governs the Olympics?

Or is that federation, the IAAF, just grandstanding?

Those are among the questions without answers – and there are many such questions – after the IOC once again expressed its support for the IAAF’s actions in the Russian doping mess but refused to accept the most symbolically significant of those actions.

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Will IOC back track federation's Solomonic decision to exclude Russia but allow some Russian athletes in Rio?

Will IOC back track federation's Solomonic decision to exclude Russia but allow some Russian athletes in Rio?

A baker’s dozen thoughts about the international track and field federation council’s unanimous and quasi-Solomonic Friday decision to extend its ban on Russian athletes in that sport through the 2016 Olympics yet leave a path for some to compete in those Rio Summer Games:

1.  The ultimate resolution of this issue was always going to be up to the International Olympic Committee, even if the Olympic Charter leaves eligibility issues up to each sport’s international federation. 

2.  In a Tuesday meeting, the IOC will discuss “collective responsibility and individual justice.”  Translated, that means IOC President Thomas Bach must weigh how much he is willing to anger Russian President Vladimir Putin, a great financial friend of the Olympics, against the avalanche of criticism that would follow a IOC action to water down the international track federation (IAAF) ruling.

And more....

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