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Devon Allen and plays dual roles in professional sports

The first World Athletics Championships to be held in the United States (starting July 15 in Eugene, Oregon) will also draw focus on where athletics stands in terms of popularity in a country where franchised sports are held govern.

The World Championships began in Helsinki in 1983 and US athletes have featured heavily at each of the 17 editions to date. The US has led the medal tally in 13 editions. Still, it has taken nearly 40 years for the biggest athletics competition outside of the Olympics to give its most influential stars a chance to bask on home soil.

Eugene’s Hayward Field will be an ideal venue for the meet as it is considered the spiritual home of US athletics. In a way, bringing the gathering here will be like the Greek organizers performing a beautiful opening ceremony at the Panathinaikos Stadium, dating back to 330 BC. It was like telling world sports bosses what they were missing when, for the hundredth time, they awarded the 1996 Olympics to Atlanta instead of Greece.

Devon Allen, for example, is more likely to bet on revolution when it comes to modern professional sport. A top contender for the 110-meter hurdles title, Allen will prove that even in a world of extremely competitive professional sports, it’s possible to excel in two sports at once. High hurdles pose enough risk of injury, but the 27-year-old has also signed a lucrative contract as a wide receiver with the Philadelphia Eagles of the National Football League (NFL).

Straight-line speed, power, strength and determination are qualities a wide receiver should possess in abundance. Allen may be aiming for fellow countryman Grant Holloway’s world title but is confident he can double. The NFL season runs from September through January, while global athletics begins with the indoor season in March and runs through August.

“I would say I’m just a great athlete. I bet if I played tennis 15 years ago I would be a pro tennis player or a golfer or whatever,” he told reporters after winning the Oslo Diamond League in June. “I like to do a lot of sport. It’s really hard to be great at anything at that level.”

He also won the Paris Diamond League two days after Oslo, showing that his time of 12.84 seconds, the third-fastest time ever in the 110-meter hurdles, to beat Holloway at the New York Grand Prix, was no fluke. He qualified by finishing third at the US National Championships in Eugene, but is expected to be at his best in the two weeks of the Worlds.

While a career that combines top-flight athletics with bone-chilling soccer strokes is seen as too risky, Allen has shown no signs of fatigue so far and is confident of enduring both seasons. He finished fourth at the Tokyo Olympics, returning to a sport he played six years ago while in college in Oregon.

“The biggest thing for me in terms of football is that as an athlete I’m fast enough and strong enough. I just have to start playing soccer, running distances and catching soccer balls.”

For the time being he is training with the Eagles for four days and switches to track duty on the days off at the weekend.

“It’s made me more relaxed and kind of focused on what I’m doing… football and athletics, trying to balance the two, I’ve had to be really careful with my recovery, my sleep, my diet and all of that. ‘ he said last month.

MIX

An internet search for two combinable sports brings up two very interesting results at the top, chessboxing and circle football. In the first, rivals alternate between a round of boxing and a game of blitz chess until one wins by knockout or checkmate. The other is a far less blue game, a six-a-side side event played with a large ball that looks more like a balance ball, where players essentially free-kick, dribble, in a four-15 minute game , can carry or throw quarters.

However, the next two feature football (the NFL variant) and track and field (track and field) along with basketball and volleyball.

However, Allen will not be alone at the World Cup. 18-year-old Erriyon Knighton, who clocked 19.79 seconds to finish second at the US national meeting and qualify behind world champion Noah Lyles, switched from a thriving career in grid-iron racing due to the disruptions caused by the Covid pandemic football to the track .

The 6ft 3in Knighton from Tampa, Fla. has personal best times of 10.04 seconds and 19.49 seconds in the sprints. His time over the longer distance is a U-20 world record and the fourth-fastest of all time, behind only top Jamaicans Usain Bolt and Yohann Blake and former US great Michael Johnson.

Knighton started out as a wide receiver for the Tampa-based Hillsborough High School team. His soccer coach advised him to improve his sprinting skills and the pandemic that ended the season only pushed him further into athletics. A sponsorship deal with adidas in January 2021 made the 16-year-old a professional and therefore unsuitable for scholarships.

But qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics, where he became the youngest US athlete since long-distance runner Jim Ryun in 1964, helped set his goals. He won his semi-final and finished fourth in the final in Japan, meaning the man who surpassed Bolt’s U-18 world mark seven times in the run-up to Tokyo can make a splash in Eugene.

“Things might have been different if the high school season had still been going on. I probably would still have played football if I had that extra year,” he told BBC Sport.

Juggling between athletics and American football has history.

In the 1980s, Renaldo Nehemiah, the world record holder for the 110 m hurdles, made the move to the NFL to play professionally as a wide receiver for the San Francisco 49ers. With athletics opening to professionals, Nehemiah returned after four seasons, although he didn’t reach old heights in the high hurdles.

Bolt, the world 100m and 200m record holder who retired with eight Olympic gold medals and eleven World Championships, was trying to be a footballer. The man responsible for reviving worldwide interest in athletics tried unsuccessfully after ending his athletics career to switch to football, which was the closest thing to an Australian A-League contract.

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