Mo Farah, Usain Bolt

Usain Bolt returns to London Olympic Stadium; Diamond League preview

Leave a comment

They’re calling it the London Anniversary Games. This week’s Diamond League meet bears extra significance, the first world-class track and field competition held at London’s Olympic Stadium since the flame was extinguished last summer.

Several track and field stars are either injured or pretty much done for the season after failing to qualify for the world championships (Aug. 10-18, Moscow). Most of those still standing will compete in London on Friday or Saturday, including Usain Bolt, Allyson FelixMo Farah and Jessica Ennis.

Here’s a chronological rundown of key events to watch (coverage begins on Universal Sports on Friday, 3 p.m. ET):

Women’s 1,500 meters (Friday, 3:36 p.m. ET)

Mary Cain is the headliner here. Cain, 17, the sensation of the indoor season, makes her senior European debut in the event in which she qualified for worlds.

Cain made the U.S. team by finishing second in a tactical final at nationals in Des Moines, Iowa, in June to training partner Treniere Moser, who is running the 3,000 on Friday.

She has a great chance of winning this race given the highest-ranked woman (according to IAAF) in the field this year is No. 16 Mary Kuria of Kenya (4:03.56). Cain is No. 24 at 4:04.62.

Also in the field is American Morgan Uceny, who was the world No. 1 in 2011 but finished eighth at nationals.

Men’s 100 meters (Friday, 4:48 p.m. ET)

A lot has changed since Bolt last ran a 100, winning the Jamaican nationals on June 21 to qualify for worlds.

Now out of the picture are Olympic silver medalist Yohan Blake (injury), American record holder Tyson Gay (drug test) and former world record holder Asafa Powell (drug test).

The consensus is only one man is left to challenge Bolt in Moscow, if anybody, and that’s 2004 Olympic champion Justin Gatlin, who is not in this field in London.

However, there are two men in Friday’s 100 who have run faster than Bolt this year — countryman Nesta Carter and British upstart James Dasaolu.

Carter, a longtime partner on Jamaica’s 4×100 relay squad, is suddenly the active 2013 world leader with a 9.87, but he didn’t make the Jamaican team for the 100 at worlds. Dasaolu became the second fastest Brit ever (behind 1992 Olympic champion Linford Christie) when he ran a 9.91 at British nationals earlier this month.

Still, it would be surprising to see Bolt lose here, two weeks before the world championships. He may even have his eyes on Gay’s fastest time this year of 9.75, a time we may see expunged pending his drug-testing case.

Women’s 100-meter hurdles (Saturday, 9:11 a.m. ET)

American fans must get up bright and early to catch a glimpse of the biggest female track and field star of the 2012 Olympics — heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis.

Ennis has been battling an Achilles injury since the spring, putting major doubt into her status for not only this meet but also the world championships.

She appears ready to go after setting a personal best in the javelin at a low-key meet earlier this week. Ennis is also in the long jump field Saturday.

Another Olympic champion on the way back from injury is the London gold medalist in this event, Australian Sally Pearson. Pearson, like Ennis, has been set back since the spring. Her ailment has been a hamstring.

Dominant in 2011 and 2012, Pearson has been slow in a handful of meets over the last two months. Her season’s best — 12.67 — is well off her personal best (12.28) set at 2011 worlds and even farther behind the world leader for 2013, U.S. champion Brianna Rollins (12.26). Rollins pulled out of Monaco last week because she her managers didn’t want her to face Pearson before worlds, according to Australian reports.

Rollins is not in the field Saturday, but the third- and fourth-place finishers from U.S. nationals are — Nia Ali and Kellie Wells. They, along with Brit Tiffany Porter, will give Pearson more than enough competition.

Men’s 110-meter hurdles (Saturday, 11:07 a.m. ET)

This event has been one of the most exciting and star-studded of all of track and field for the last few years. We’ve seen the balance of power shift from China to Cuba to three different American men.

Saturday’s showdown will be overwhelmingly red, white and blue. In the field are 2013 U.S. champion Ryan Wilson, former American record holder David Oliver, 2011 world champion Jason Richardson and 2012 Olympic champion Aries Merritt

All four men are going to worlds, so this should be a nice Moscow preview. 2008 Olympic champion Dayron Robles was originally in this event, but as of Thursday afternoon was no longer on the entry list.

The top non-American here is another Cuban, Orlando Ortega, who ran a 13.08 in Eugene, Ore., in June. Only Oliver has run faster this year.

Women’s 100 meters (Saturday, 11:20 a.m. ET)

This sprint isn’t getting the pre-meet talk because it doesn’t include Bolt or a British star, but it just may be the best field of the competition. All the major players going into worlds are here.

From the U.S., there’s national and NCAA champion English Gardner and 2011 world champion Carmelita Jeter. They could both use impressive times here, given Gardner ran an 11.32 in her European pro debut earlier this month (after winning nationals in 10.85). Jeter hasn’t gone sub-11 since her quadriceps injury in Shanghai in May, which caused her to skip nationals in June.

The favorites lead with two-time reigning Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica, who won in Paris on July 6 in 10.92 (into a slight headwind). There’s also world leader Kelly-Ann Baptiste of Trinidad and Tobago. Baptiste has run a 10.83 this year but no other times sub-11. If Fraser-Pryce beats Baptiste here, there’s no doubt who the favorite is going into Moscow.

Notables: Felix takes on a field including Americans Shalonda Solomon, LaShauntea Moore and DeeDee Trotter in the women’s 200 (Saturday, 10:27 a.m. ET). … Farah, fresh off breaking the British 1,500 record last week, could very well break the nation’s 31-year-old record in the 3,000 meters (Saturday, 11:32 a.m. ET).

Usain Bolt: ‘I know I’m clean’

Nina Roth’s team wins Olympic Curling Trials despite violation (video)

Leave a comment

Nina Roth harbored hopes of curling in the Olympics ever since the sport returned to the Winter Games in 1998, when she was a Girl Scout.

It took nearly 20 years, but she’s now on her way.

Roth, a 29-year-old nurse from Wisconsin, led a four-woman team to win the U.S. Olympic Trials finals against Jamie Sinclair‘s rink in Omaha on Saturday.

Roth, the skip, plus vice skip Tabitha Peterson, second Aileen Geving and lead Becca Hamilton make up the U.S. Olympic women’s curling team. They’re all Olympic rookies. A fifth curler, an alternate, is expected to be added later.

Roth and Sinclair traded overtime wins Thursday and Friday, forcing a winner-goes-to-PyeongChang decider Saturday to end the three-game series.

In the ninth of 10 ends, Roth committed a hog-line violation that cost her the lead, failing to let go of her last stone before it passed a line that entered it into play.

But Roth scored two in the last end to win 7-6, thanks to Sinclair missing on her last throw.

One day when Roth was 10, and her mom was her Girl Scout troop leader, the troop tried curling at the local club in McFarland, Wis.

“I loved it and signed up for junior league immediately,” said Roth, whose dad was a recreational curler.

Roth showed early promise, winning two junior national titles. After watching the 2006 Olympic Trials in her hometown as a high schooler, she competed in the 2010 Olympic Trials when she was 20 (very young for a curler).

She has a tattoo of a curling stone and an American flag on her right foot.

Roth’s team is new and relatively young compared to the most recent U.S. Olympic women’s teams. They’re all between 27 and 30 years old.

USA Curling’s high performance program matched them together in June 2016.

Since, Roth and Hamilton regularly drove four hours northwest from Southern Wisconsin to Blaine, Minn., to meet Geving and Peterson for practices. They passed the time on Interstate 94 by singing along to early 2000s punk rock.

“Our favorite song, this is embarrassing, Weird Al [Yankovic‘s] ‘Albuquerque,'” Roth told NBC Olympic research in September of the 11-minute, 22-second epic. “Becca knows all the words already.”

Roth’s team lost to Sinclair at last season’s nationals but earned the worlds berth over Sinclair via better season-long results.

Roth’s team would finish fifth out of 12 teams at worlds. Not bad considering the last three U.S. Olympic women’s teams combined to go 5-22 at the Games.

Peterson, a 28-year-old pharmacist, is going to PyeongChang after being on the runner-up team at the 2014 Olympic Trials.

Geving, 30, made her first Olympic team at her fourth Trials.

Hamilton, 27, will be hoping older brother Matt will join her in PyeongChang. Matt is on John Shuster‘s team that plays a winner-goes-to-PyeongChang game Saturday night in Omaha (NBCSN, 7:30 ET).

The Hamiltons can also qualify for the Olympics in mixed doubles, a new event at the Winter Games. So can Roth with Kroy Nernberger. Those trials are in December in Blaine.

The U.S. has earned one Olympic curling medal, a 2006 men’s bronze. The best U.S. women’s finish was fourth in 2002. Curling was part of the first Winter Olympics in 1924 and every Olympics since 1998.

Canada, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway and Great Britain are the world powers in curling.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: It’s all about family as curling Hamiltons vie for Olympics

Papadakis, Cizeron break ice dance world record (video)

Leave a comment

The Olympic ice dance favorite is very much up for debate.

Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir may be undefeated in their comeback, but French Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron have now broken the world record total score twice in three weeks.

Papadakis and Cizeron, the 2015 and 2016 World champions, tallied 201.98 points to win Grand Prix France on Saturday.

GP FRANCE: Full Results | TV Schedule

Two weeks ago, they became the first couple to break 200 points under an eight-year-old system (though scores have inflated overall during this stretch).

Now, Papadakis and Cizeron head into December’s Grand Prix Final for their first head-to-head with Virtue and Moir since last spring’s world championships.

Virtue and Moir, the 2010 Olympic gold medalists and 2014 Olympic silver medalists, took the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons off before returning to competition last season.

The Canadians went undefeated in 2016-17, including relegating Papadakis and Cizeron to silver in all three of their head-to-heads. The French haven’t lost to anybody else in nearly three years.

They will be joined at the Grand Prix Final by two-time world medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates of the U.S.

They’re likely to be joined at the six-couple Grand Prix Final by more Americans — three-time world medalists Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue.

At this point, it looks like those three U.S. couples will battle for bronze in PyeongChang.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Figure skating season broadcast schedule

Internationaux de France
Ice Dance
1. Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron (FRA) — 201.98 WR
2. Madison Chock/Evan Bates (USA) — 181.85
3. Alexandra Stepanova/Ivan Bukin (RUS) — 177.24
7. Elliana Pogrebinsky/Alex Benoit (USA) — 154.14