Tim Layden

Flightline: A Secretariat-like performance in an unseen career

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Last Saturday night a four-year-old colt named Flightline won the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar, a stately old seaside racetrack just north of San Diego, steeped in racing history, and where – like at Saratoga in upstate New York – for several weeks every summer racing is a vibrant and essential enterprise. Overflow crowds, A-list trainers and jockeys, and a pervasive and buoyant sense that something important is taking place, and must be consumed. There is a time machine here (and there) – and it is always 1939.

In this place, Flightline delivered a performance so stunning that it is not easily contextualized. (More to come on this issue, but if you believe that no horse should be mentioned in the same paragraph as Secretariat, even without intimating equivalence, you’d best find your fainting couch.) Running for just the fifth time in his career, and for the first time at a distance of more than one mile and the first time around two turns (and just the third time at more than six furlongs), Flightline rendered a field of able, expensive, and accomplished rivals irrelevant. (Characterization of these opponents has already become a lively subplot in the Flightline oeuvre, with the cynical among us asking the eternal wizened horseplayer’s question: Who did he beat? Since you asked, he beat Country Grammer, who won the Dubai World Cup in March; and Express Train, who has five graded stakes wins. Maybe not Kelso and Damascus, but solid racehorses.)

Measurables: Flightline’s final margin of victory was 19¼ lengths. He strolled through a half-mile in a solid 46.06 seconds before taking the lead – “Flightline doesn’t want to wait,” called race announcer Trevor Denman, no novice at this – and reaching three-quarters in a very fast 1:09.97. By comparison, the crushing Kentucky Derby pace that set up Rich Strike’s come-from-behind win was 1:10.34 for three-quarters, although faster from the start at 21.78 and 45.36, but Flightline’s second quarter was a screw-tightening 22.64, almost a second faster than the Derby’s 23.58 seconds. Different race shapes, but both very fast early, in a 10-furlong race. Flightline finished in 1:59.28, just .17 off the Del Mar track record despite being geared down significantly in the last sixteenth of a mile by jockey Flavien Prat. There’s little doubt he could have run 1:58-something, which is rare air. (*Those same wizened horseplayers like to say that time only matters in jail, because every track is different, and even the same track on different days or different races on the same day. Fair enough. But 1:59.28, jogging home, is fast. It just is.) His performance was given a Beyer Speed Figure of 126, which according to the Daily Racing Form, which publishes the figures, is the second-highest number since eponymous BSF creator Andrew Beyer took his numbers public in 1991 – and the highest since Ghostzapper’s 128 in the 2004 Iselin Stakes at Monmouth Park.

All of this provides (mostly) objective context, and it is overwhelming.

But another form of context is more subjective, and more emotionally powerful – visceral, immutable, transformative, and racing fans know it when they see it. It is a vision of equine speed, efficiency, dominance – and yes, beauty, too – that moves a witness to gulp, and creates a moment that will be retold into old age. A tremendous machine moment. Flightline gifted such a moment to his sport on Saturday. He loitered around the first turn off the right flank of Extra Hope, at 45-1 the longest shot in the five-horse field, before running off on his own. By the middle of the turn, his lead was a dozen lengths. Prat barely moved, except to shake the reins twice, with no more vigor than a beachgoer shaking sand off a towel; he never considered his whip. Prat looked back once, inside the eighth pole, and then again at the sixteenth pole, before rising from his saddle ever so slightly, his work done. Who did he beat? Who cares?

Okay. Let’s be clear on something: Secretariat’s 1973 Belmont victory, by 31 lengths in a still-ungodly 2:24 for 1 ½ miles, is the greatest thoroughbred performance in history. Fin. And maybe Secretariat is the greatest thoroughbred in history – but there’s a discussion on that topic, involving Man O’War, Citation, Dr. Fager, Spectacular Bid, Ruffian … and at least a handful of others. (Don’t @ me for not name-checking your personal favorite.) Writ large, there is no blasphemy – in fact, there is joy – in comparing performances to Secretariat’s Belmont, without in any way diminishing Big Red’s work. Arrogate’s 2017 Travers. Ghostzapper’s aforementioned Iselin. Zenyatta’s 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic. Many others. It’s also not blasphemous to argue that Flightline’s was the best since ’73. (**Racing fans of a certain age get very emotional when Secretariat is asked to slide over and make room on the couch for other horses and other moments, but if we aren’t willing to occasionally consider updating and adding to our greatest-ever lists, we’d still be calling Otto Graham the greatest quarterback in NFL history, and hell, maybe he was, but at least we look under the hood now and then).

But here’s the problem with all of this: (And it is a problem). It’s only hardcore racing fans who are dialed in to this discussion at all, because the Pacific Classic took place on the Saturday evening of the Labor Day holiday weekend, which also was the first weekend of the college football season (post time was roughly late in the second quarter of the Ohio State-Notre Dame game). The Pacific Classic was broadcast only on the FanDuel Network, formerly TVG, which is a valuable resource for fans and (more so) bettors, but its audience is miniscule compared to more mainstream networks (including NBC, who is paying me to write this column). In this regard, Flightline’s virtuoso performance was a tree-falling-in-the-woods moment.

It also was not a Triple Crown race, or more to the point, it was not the Kentucky Derby. Because when it comes to racing’s share of the sports audience, there is the Derby, the Triple Crown, and there is everything else. On Saturday evening I Tweeted that “… many more civilians are familiar with one-hit Derby wonder Rich Strike than jaw-dropping superstar Flightline.” I could get 3-5 on that statement. It is a painful quirk of modern racing that the Triple Crown – and to be fair, that’s 80% the Derby – has swallowed the sport whole, in much the same way that the NCAA Tournament has swallowed college basketball whole. An unintended consequence of this reality in racing is that horses who mature into excellence – or transcendence – at age four or five (or even past the Triple Crown races at three) run smack into a closed window of opportunity.

How many 21st-century “older” horses have broken through the barrier that separates hardcore fans from mainstream sports fans? I’m gonna say: One. Zenyatta. Because she was female? Maybe. Because she came from behind? Possibly. Because she so heartbreakingly came up inches short in her final race? Probably not, but that was some moment. The Triple Crown captures eyes and ears; and then casual fans wait for the next one while hardcore fans wander into the weeds.

And, this, too, is complex. The Triple Crown, and especially the Derby, is good business. Last year’s Derby telecast (on NBC) averaged almost 16 million viewers, which is in the range of some Sunday NFL Games and many NCAA Tournament games. It’s tempting to suggest that this is evidence that there is an audience for racing, but it might just mean that there is an audience for the Derby, which is an event around which civilians (non-horse fans) schedule mint julep-soaked parties on their patios. It’s half sporting event, and half TV event.

Which is why it’s so dispiriting that Flightline has gone relatively unnoticed. (His tour de force in the Metropolitan Mile was seen on NBC’s broadcast of the Belmont Stakes undercard, by far his biggest audience, but that was a non-Triple Crown Belmont, and thus modestly viewed, by network standards). Other side of that coin: Flightline has raced only five times in his life, and missed his Derby altogether. You can’t watch what’s not happening.

But it’s not that simple, either. Earlier this week, I talked with John Sadler, Flightline’s respected trainer. “I read a lot, I listen to a lot, like anybody else,’’ he said. “I know people want him to run more often. I’m sure people would have liked to see Muhammad Ali box every two weeks. My guiding principle has always been to do what’s best for the horse.”

It’s harsh to say that Flightline has been fragile, and too ethereal to say that he’s been unlucky. Both are in play. His growth was stunted early when he dragged his butt across a sharp edge on a barn door as a yearling in Florida, opening a deep, six-inch wound, from which he still bears a vertical scar. He didn’t start training until December of his 2-year-old year, and didn’t make his first start until 10 days before the 2021 Derby, far too late to catch up to the Triple Crown. This year, he had a foot issue in the early spring, delaying his debut until the Met Mile, in which he checked twice and still rolled away. So: He’s had some issues, and Sadler has been cautious with him. Both of these can be true.

“The idea that you can run at this level and run all the time,” says Sadler, “that’s just not fair. These efforts are so big, it takes time to come back to that height.” Like the rest of us, he marvels at what he sees. “People ask me when I knew he was special,” says Sadler. “Day one. My assistant (and exercise rider) Juan Leyva, got off him and said, ‘This is the best horse you’ve ever had.’ He’s got beautiful action, a big engine, and he’s got want.”

There’s an elephant in this tack room, of course. Flightline is not likely to become more exposed to the broader sports world anytime soon, or ever. He won’t run again until the Nov. 5 Breeders Cup Classic at Keeneland (and on NBC), where he will face Epicenter, the best 3-year-old in training; and Life Is Good, the best Eastern older horse. (Sign me up for this). After that? “No decision,” says Sadler.          But we’ve seen this movie previously, haven’t we? Flightline has won a little less than $1.4 million on the racetrack; he’s worth many multiples of that number as a stallion. “Nothing has been decided,” said Sadler, “but I’m sensitive to both sides of this.” Breeding is the economic engine of sport, but does little to build a fan base chasing the high of moments like Saturday’s. Breeding is antiseptic and (thankfully) inaccessible to the public, an irresolvable problem. We can hope Flightline runs another year, or two, but we’re dupes if we expect it.

Best case scenario: Flightline runs another three or four races, into next year. Worst case: One more. In the current racing-and-content ecosystem, there’s no path to mainstream fame. He lives in a niche, greatness largely unseen. Maybe one of his foals will win the Derby.

Vin Scully and Bill Russell: Essential voices lost

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Over a duration of roughly 48 hours from Sunday evening until Tuesday evening, the voices of first, Bill Russell, and then Vin Scully, were stilled for eternity. This does not mean that we will never hear them again; we surely will. Search, click, listen. ‘Little roller up along first…‘ Search, click, listen. ‘I would kick your ass…’ But those voices will no longer evolve with the world around them, as they once did splendidly and importantly, though very differently – Scully’s mellifluously and comfortably, Russell’s stridently and relentlessly – across lives that lasted 182 years in total. They were voices that carried the weight of history in very different receptacles, but imprinted themselves on generations.

The swift unfolding and discarding of information in our time will quickly and efficiently hasten both men from concurrently celebrated and mourned to concurrently shuffled to the broad expanse of history, where the elegantly faded relevance of a long life shifts inexorably to the hazy equity of legacy. Because this is what the present does to the past, and always has, although more ruthlessly nowadays, where delivery systems pass today’s news into yesterday’s more efficiently than ever. (A process that will only become more efficient).

They were born seven years apart, Scully in 1927 – the peak year of the Ruth-Gehrig Murderers’ Row Yankees – in the Bronx; Russell in the Jim Crow South (Monroe, Louisiana) in 1934, before moving to Oakland at age nine. Their lives would in many ways be tethered to their beginnings (as are all of ours), likely in ways they didn’t comprehend until well into adulthood (same) but embraced both gently (Scully) and forcefully (Russell). They were products of their beginnings, their races, and their chosen professions. In this same way, Scully remained voluble longer, because his implement of choice was, literally, a microphone (and a camera, though not at the beginning). Russell’s was a basketball, and the expiration date comes much sooner, although Russell’s importance long outlived his playing and coaching careers.

In a way, they were polar opposites, and not just because one was a red-haired white man, and the other Black. (Although that distinction is fundamental and vital). In the wonderful remembrances that have poured forth for Scully (and which poured forth upon his retirement in 2016), the word comfortable is omnipresent. Those who listened to his voice while sitting, while driving, while falling asleep in distant times, found comfort in its dependably soothing tones. Russell was not about comfort, and while his dominance as the leader of the Celtics’ dynasty from 1957-’69 brought joy to many, including William Felton Russell himself, it was a different kind of joy, connected to the brutal duality of sports that Russell understood better than all but a few others (Jordan, Belichick, Curry, to start): One wins (usually me), one loses (usually you); the rest is just filler.

Their lives were mirror images: Scully rose to become an icon in a manner that other broadcasters and journalists of all kinds would respect and admire (we love nothing more than to shade our easy lives with tales of when it was much harder, and yes, I froze my sorry butt off at the Union College vs. Ithaca D3 playoff game in 1984, and don’t you forget it). Scully did college football, college basketball, boxing… everything, in the mid- and late 1940s after graduating from Fordham. He once broadcast a frigid football game from the roof of Fenway Park without a coat or gloves, because he had expected to work indoors. Respect.

By the 1950s he was doing Brooklyn Dodgers games with Red Barber and that was a springboard to everything else. In the 70s and 80s, he was everywhere. Not just baseball, where he called Hank Aaron and Kirk Gibson, and sprinkled his broadcast with gentlemanly expressiveness like describing Bob Gibson as pitching “like he’s double-parked,” but also the NFL, where in 1981, he called The Catch, on each occasion rising to meet the moment and then generously getting out of its way.

As a practical matter, the last quarter century of his career was spent mostly with the Dodgers, but something more: He became, almost coincidentally, a steward for something simpler. His measured pace, his delicate wordsmithing, even the cut of his sportcoats and the perfection in his hairstyle, were beloved as counterweights to the noisy world that grew at arm’s length around him, to the catchphrase craze, to hot takes and embracing debate, to the decline of interest in America’s Pastime. He was a time machine, yet at the same time, never more current. Where others shouted to be heard, Scully simply spoke as he always had and we listened. Another word associated with Scully: Treasure. It was a good word.

Few used that word for Russell, and not because he wasn’t, but because it would constitute sanding down his rough edges, and his rough edges were important.

But his beginning: Because he was Black man in America, it would be ludicrous to suggest that Russell’s life wasn’t hard. Of course it was. As my former Sports Illustrated colleague Jack McCallum wrote in his eloquent obituary, “Russell was just 9 when his parents arrived in Oakland, and so he had only a minor sense of the Jim Crow indignities that his parents had suffered in Louisiana. Charles Russell had a shotgun stuck in his face at a gas station, and Katie was told by a policeman to go home and change because she was wearing `white women’s clothing.’ But the son came to know heartache and hard times on his own (his mother died when he was 12), and he would come to know virulent racism, too, especially after he arrived in 1950s Boston, a city that in some ways was not unlike Monroe…”

But athletically, after gawky beginnings, Russell rushed to greatness by dint of raw talent refined and tireless work, the tools of the transcendent. He was fantastically athletic, and applied that athleticism disproportionately to defense and team play throughout his career. He led the University of San Francisco to consecutive national championships in 1955-’56 (and a 55-game winning streak that lasted until John Wooden’s UCLA teams broke it), and was one of the best high jumpers in the world, despite poor technique and little practice. As a professional, he owned both Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West in the column that mattered most to him: Championships.

Through it all, racism followed. As Russell would write in his autobiography, his USF team was hounded on the road and barred from hotels. In Boston, even as he helped build the dynasty, his home in the nice suburb of Reading was vandalized, and the vandals defecated in his bed. He never forgot those moments (nor should he have been expected to): When his jersey was raised to the rafters of the old Boston Garden in 1972, he insisted that only his teammates were present. He didn’t attend his Hall of Fame induction three years later, although later in life he was pulled affectionately back in the NBA world.

What he did was immerse himself among the first generation of activist Black athletes , including Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Harry Edwards and a young Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, among others. In 2015, I interviewed Brown at his Los Angeles home, and he recalled the summer of 1968, when Russell lived with him in L.A., as their collective activism roiled and grew. “Bill was a serious man,” said Brown, who at that time had been retired for three years, and was himself a serious man, in the extreme. “We talked about the state of the world as Black men in America. A lot of people came to this house.”

If Scully was an every day, every night reminder of a simpler time, Russell was just as much a reminder that times were not so simple, and for some Americans, never had been. He could laugh, a paint-peeling cackle that can’t be forgotten, but it was that seriousness that defined him more explicitly. He understood his reputation: When he was hospitalized in 2018, and then released, he Tweeted: “Thank you everyone for the kind thoughts, yes I was taken to the hospital last night & as my wife likes to remind me I don’t drink enough. On my way home & as most my friends know I don’t have a heart to give me trouble.”

He was also quick to remind any inquisitor that however you choose to frame his legacy (that word), he was the greatest winner ever. Maybe. He’s on the shortest of lists in that debate. It’s not Wilt or West, that much is certain.

His perspective was always essential. As was Scully’s. It’s trite to say that they will both be missed terribly. But it’s irresponsible to leave it unsaid.

Twenty-four minutes at Hayward: Track and field worlds take frenetic turn

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EUGENE, Oregon – It is often argued that track and field is too ponderous and sprawling, too slow and too inaccessible for a modern audience whose synapses have been fried and shrunk to a length so short that an entire NBA game can be reduced to a TikTok post featuring one dunk and one dime, and possibly a mascot eating popcorn or a celebrity drinking wine at courtside. That meets are too long and too confusing, with throwing here, and jumping there and running all around and how can anyone be expected to follow it all? Maybe there’s a sliver of truth in all of this. Tastes evolve.

Or just maybe you needed to be here Sunday night at the new Hayward Field on the Day Three of the 18th Track and Field World Championships, and the first in the United States. Maybe you needed to see U.S. athletes win nine medals in a single day, four of them gold, both championship records. Maybe you needed to see a 27-year-old American woman who still logs hours as a cashier at Chipotle, fling the hammer farther than any other woman in the world for a gold medal; or three big American men sweep the medals in the shot; or a tiny 35-year-old Jamaican woman win her seventh global 100-meter championship, establishing herself as maybe the best female track and field athlete in history. Maybe you needed to see a very messy false start, gutting a hometown star.

But there’s helpful news: Most of it happened in a frenetic window shorter than half an inning of a Major League baseball games. Think of it as Twenty-four Minutes at Hayward. (All times approximate, don’t @ me with your timestamps).

7:28 p.m.: A crystalline sky overhead, slowly darkening, temperatures dipping toward the low-70s as if Eugene had put climate change on hold for a night (two nights, actually, as Saturday was splendid as well). A breeze swirling around the new stadium, which was mostly full for the second consecutive night. U.S. pole vaulter Sandi Morris, 30, stands at the end of the runway, safely in possession of a silver medal to match the silvers she won the at the 2016 Olympics, and 2017 and ’19 Worlds, but needing a clearance at 16 feet, ¾ inches to pass teammate Katie Nageotte, the 2021 Olympic gold medalist, and move into first place.

It had already been a successful day for the U.S.: Early in the afternoon, Brooke Andersen, 27 had taken gold in the hammer throw and teammate Janee’ Kassanavoid had won bronze. (They followed DeAnna Price, who won the gold medal at the 2019 Worlds in Doha, Qatar). Both are of the generation of U.S. women’s throwers who were recruited into the sport not because they were big, but because they were explosive athletes, with deep backgrounds in multiple sports. “I played every sport except track and field,” said Kassanavoid. Andersen was a 135-pound soccer player who idolized Mia Hamm. “I didn’t lift a weight until college,” she said. Now she weighs 185lbs and has retained her quickness and agility in the circle. But the life of a thrower has obstacles: Not long ago, Andersen trained while working a total of 60 hours at GNC and Chipotle, and she still snags hours behind the counter at the latter. But she also recently signed a contract with Nike, nudging toward full professional status.

7:29 p.m.: Morris, whose second attempt had been agonizingly close, wasn’t close on the third, leaving Nageotte with gold. “I wanted the gold,” said Morris. “I didn’t do enough to earn it. But 4.90 [meters, the 16-3/4] is a high bar, and everything has to be perfect, and it wasn’t.”

Nageotte spent much of the year battling a post-Olympic emotional letdown that nearly dragged her into retirement. “After the Olympics, I never got a break,” she said. “I got a physical break, but I never got a mental break. It was five years of stress, trying to make the team and win a medal and I really didn’t come back around until the last two months.”

7:31 p.m.: In the shot put ring, no more than 50 feet from the pole vault landing pit, and adjacent to the backstretch of the orange running track, 33-year-old American Joe Kovacs, readied for the fifth of his six throws, chalk spread across his neck. Kovacs won the world title in 2015 and ’19, and had been engaged in a long battle with countryman Ryan Crouser, who has won the last two Olympic golds and last summer broke Randy Barnes’ (suspicious) 31-year-old world record. Kovacs, nearly as wide as tall, launches a throw of 22.89 meters [75 feet, 1 ¼ inches] to take the lead over Crouser by seven inches. “I expected that from Joe,” said Crouser, “because he has such a potential for big throws.”

Kovacs said: “I expected Ryan to come right back and throw far.” They are like domestic partners, finishing each other’s sentences.

7:32 p.m.: On the front straightaway, eight men warmed up for the final of the 110-meter hurdles. The plot was thus: Grant Holloway of the U.S. was favored to win gold in Tokyo, but staggered off the last of 10 hurdles and was second behind Hansle Parchment of Jamaica. They would meet again. Subplot: This would be the last hurdle race for Devon Allen of the U.S. who ran track and played football at Oregon, before trying to make the Philadelphia Eagles’ roster as a receiver and kick returner.

Suddenly Parchment lay on the track, stretching, and then stood and limped off. A narrative-shifting DNS (did not start).

The shot put competition was paused before Crouser’s fifth throw, to give the hurdles center stage. The 6-foot-7, 315-pound Crouser stood alone on the infield in his red U.S. singlet and blue tights.

7:33 p.m.: The starter’s pistol crackled for the hurdles, and then crackled again. A false start. Crouser was called back into the shot ring, unexpectedly quickly. “It’s track, so you know things will go wrong,” said Crouser. “You just have to be prepared.” He was prepared. Crouser initiated rhythmic clapping and then tossed the shot – he makes it appear hollow – and it landed with a puff of pale brown dust, very near Kovacs’s mark.

7:34 p.m.: The meet announcer intones that the false start has been charged to lane three: Devon Allen. There was an audible gasp. Okay, school in session: False starts are assessed through an electronic system that measures how quickly an athlete applied pressure to pads on their starting blocks. If that pressure – the reaction time – is applied sooner than .100 seconds, it is a false start, on the theory that the athlete anticipated the gun, rather than reacting to it. This is an arbitrary number, but in theory with scientific underpinnings. Allen’s reaction time was .099 seconds, meaning that he was disqualified for reacting one one-thousandth of a second too quickly. (His reaction time in the semifinal was .101 seconds, safe by two one-thousandths of a second).

Allen wandered around, shocked. Twice he climbed over a fence to talk with start officials, to no avail. Other runners shuffled about, sympathetic but waiting to run. The scene was reminiscent of the men’s 100 meters at the 2003 Worlds, when Jon Drummond of the U.S. was disqualified for a false start (under different rules) and laid down on the track in protest before eventually leaving. Allen did not lay down on the track. “I know for a fact that I did not false start,” said Allen afterward. “I didn’t react until I heard the gun.”

7:35 p.m.: Crouser’s distance appeared on the small infield video board and is announced: 22.94 meters, three inches beyond Kovacs and into first place. It is a World Championship meet record.

Allen wanders some more, arms outstretched, palms up. Holloway is surprised but not shocked by Allen’s fate and the general state of chaos prevailing: “I’m on Devon’s side; I don’t think he false-started,” Holloway says. “But it’s athletics and, pardon my language, shit happens.”

7:37 p.m.: An official theatrically raises a red and black card at Allen, officially disqualifying him from the race. There are boos. There is murmuring. Shit happens. Allen walks off the track, under the grandstand and out of sight. The other hurdlers line up, only six of them. No Parchment, no Allen. Holloway, in lane four, will run with empty lanes on both sides. It’s a lousy look.

My take: On the one hand, it’s preposterous that Allen was allowed to run with a reaction time of .101 seconds and tossed for a reaction time of .099 seconds, and thus deprived of running in the most important race of his life (with Oregon fans similarly deprived, a buzzkill moment on an otherwise thrilling day). And he did not appear to move, whereas most false starts come with some visible backup. (A false start in the women’s 100-meter semifinals also looked very iffy). On the other hand, there has to be a false start rule of some kind. Older versions, in which a runner was disqualified for two false starts, led to long delays and runners throwing flyers indiscriminately. More to the point, there was no solution available in the moment. You can’t just give the batter four strikes on the spot because three is a bad rule (or because he’s popular). But it was a downer in the building.

7:39 p.m.: Holloway rolled to his second consecutive world title – around that Olympic silver – in 13.04 seconds. “Parchment goes down, Devon false started, which he didn’t, but it happened,” said Holloway. “You say to yourself, ‘Focus, just be the first one to the line, like any other race.’” Trey Cunningham of the U.S. took silver, a one-two U.S. finish. “Not my best race,” said Cunningham. “But it’s a shiny medal.”

7:43 p.m.: Kovacs’s last throw was short of Crouser’s mark. Crouser’s last throw – “I just swung for the fences,” he said – is a foul. The bronze medal goes to 27-year-old American Josh Awotunde, who recovered from a spring pectoral strain, spent time living with Crouser and under his wing, and threw an 11-inch personal best on his first throw. It was the first 1-2-3 shot put sweep in Worlds history and followed up the U.S. sweep in the men’s 100 meters Saturday night. There would be one more, not by Americans.

7:46 p.m.: Seven Americans wore flags and worked their way around the track, not together, but in synch, celebrating, posing. Morris and Nageotte on the first turn. Crouser, Kovacs and Awotunde on the backstretch. Holloway and Cunningham on the far turn. A couple firetrucks, a marching band and it could have been a parade. The track was cleared for one last event.

7:52 p.m.: Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica, 35 years old and five feet tall, ripped away from the blocks and bounded to a gold medal in the 100 meters in 10.67 seconds, a world championship record. She won Olympic 100-meter gold medals in 2008 and 2012 (along with a bronze in Rio in 2016 and a silver behind Elaine Thompson-Herah last year in Tokyo) and has won the 100 meters at five of the last seven worlds. She is the only woman to break 10.70 seconds five times (Thompson-Herah has done it four times; Flo-Jo did it three times). There is little doubt Fraser-Pryce is the best female sprinter in history and quite possibly the best in all events. It’s a worthy discussion.

“This is my favorite title, doing it at 35,” said Fraser-Pryce. “ Yes, I said 35. Age doesn’t change anything. If I’m healthy, I’m going to compete and I’m not going to stop until I don’t believe that.” Shericka Jackson followed Fraser-Pryce for silver and Thompson-Herah for bronze, a sweep to match the U.S. men 24 hours earlier. They too, each grabbed the familiar Jamaican flags. Fans began descending from their seats and spilled into the concourse. A breeze stiffened from the north. Seven more days remain.