Last week, we said Donavan Brazier’s story best illustrated the do-or-die nature of the trials. Five years ago, in 2016, Brazier won the N.C.A.A. 800-meter title in 1 minute 43.55 seconds, the second-fastest time in the world that year. A few weeks later, he failed to qualify for the Rio Games.
So he approached this year’s trials with the hope of changing that narrative. And he was expected to do so. The question wasn’t if Brazier would qualify — it was who would come in second and third place.
Instead, he suffered a devastating upset, leaving spectators, athletes and members of the media in shock.
“WHAT HAPPENED TO THE CHAMPION?” a broadcaster asked as the 24-year-old crossed the finish line in last place in the finals.
The reigning world champion was once again denied his chance at the Olympic Games in one of the most notable upsets of the trials.
Clayton Murphy, the 2016 Olympics bronze medalist, won the event in 1:43.17, followed by the N.C.A.A. champion Isaiah Jewett and Bryce Hoppel.
In interviews after the race, Brazier did his best to hold his head up. One off day can be just that, he said.
“I’m still going to feel like I’m the best 800-meter runner in the world when I go into meets,” he said. “Today, just, I obviously wasn’t.”
Summer Olympics Essentials
- Olympics Guide: It’s been an unusual lead-up to this year’s Olympics. Here’s what you need to know about the Games.
- Athletes: These are the competitors you’ll be hearing a lot about. Pick a few to cheer for!
- Sports: New sports this year include karate, surfing, skateboarding and sport climbing. Here’s how every Olympic sport works.
- Schedule: Mark your calendars for your favorite events to watch.
Here are some more notable performances from Eugene:
Erriyon Knighton: The 17-year-old Knighton pointed at the clock as he flew through a 200-meter heat in first place. His time, 20.04, broke the high school record that Noah Lyles set at the 2016 U.S. track and field Olympic trials. Lyles learned his record had fallen while both he and Knighton were participating in a news conference: “Hey Erriyon, you broke my record, bro,” he shouted across the room. In a separate video, Knighton is seen learning that he beat Lyles’s record: “I did? What was it?” he said, cheering.
Abbey Cooper: To qualify for the Olympic Games, runners need to finish in the top three of their event and have hit an Olympic standard. Cooper did not have the Olympic standard when she lined up for the first round of the 5,000 meters, and the forecast for the final of the event called for blistering heat, which could result in a slower race.
So she made a bold choice — racing the clock not just to qualify for the next round, but also to hit the Olympic standard. She ran alone and finished in 15:07:81, just under the requisite 15:10 standard. It was a wise move, even if she finished fourth in the final. The winning time, by Elise Cranny, was 15:27.81.
Trayvon Bromell: Bromell, the fastest man in the world this year, pulled away from a field including Noah Lyles and Justin Gatlin to win the 100 meters in 9.80. While Tokyo will be his second Olympics, he qualified for these Games on the heels of a cycle of injuries, surgeries and rehabilitation that threatened his career. It’s a comeback that’s hard to believe when you think of the full two-year break Bromell was forced to take.
Joining him are the second-place finisher, Ronnie Baker, and the third-place finisher, Fred Kerley, who made the extraordinary leap from a 400-meter runner to a 100-meter runner.
Raven Saunders: The shot-put athlete set a personal best and beat the previous Olympic trials record by throwing 19.96 meters … while wearing a Hulk mask. That record stood for a few minutes, before Jessica Ramsey threw 20.12 meters. (For what it’s worth, Saunders qualified for the finals while wearing a Joker mask.)
Elle Purrier St. Pierre: We thought that Purrier St. Pierre would be putting on a good performance. What we couldn’t have guessed was that she would have such a close call to disaster. There was some pushing and shoving for position in the first 50 meters of the 1,500-meter race, and Purrier St. Pierre was pushed off track. She recovered quickly and went on to win in 3:58.03. “Honestly, it just motivated me to get out more,” she said after the race. “I was like, ‘I don’t want to mess around with this stuff.’”
Sha’Carri Richardson: It was no surprise to see Richardson take the 100-meter win with a time of 10.86, stamping her ticket to Tokyo. It was almost sweeter to watch her run into the stands of Hayward Field — moments after finishing her race — to embrace her grandmother. “Without my grandmother, there would be no Sha’Carri Richardson,” she said in an interview back on track. “So my family is my everything.”
Allyson Felix: In 2004, Felix was called “a rising star” after qualifying for her first Olympics. Last week, the nine-time Olympic medalist qualified for her fifth and final Summer Games. Her daughter, Camryn, was there to celebrate on the track. The 35-year-old is one of the sport’s most respected figures, and she has the opportunity to become the most decorated track and field athlete in Olympic history.
Post-Run Refuel: What We’re Consuming
Ahead of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, a group of exercise scientists wrote a comprehensive scientific review about training and competing in scorching heat. Here’s what experts recommend — including whether to freeze your underwear and when (and why) to still take a warm shower.
Alison Bechdel’s new book, “The Secret to Superhuman Strength,” examines the exercise craze and what it exposes about our attitudes around self-care, the booming fitness economy and even our mortality. In this conversation with Kara Swisher, she discusses workout culture and how running gives her a “feeling of calm and focus and even euphoria.”
“I think it has to do with the impact with just slamming your body into the earth,” she says. You can listen to this episode of “Sway” on Apple, Spotify, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.
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