Meryl Davis, Charlie White

Meryl Davis, Charlie White take first dance toward record title

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Meryl Davis and Charlie White began what’s expected to be a record-breaking weekend with the highest short dance score in U.S. Championships history on Friday.

Davis and White posted 80.69 points for a 7.28-point lead over a hopeless field at TD Garden in Boston. They’re on pace to earn their sixth straight national title on Saturday, breaking a tie with four past couples who won five championships.

“I think that today we really reached a comfort level with this program that we haven’t achieved in competition so far,” Davis told reporters. “We feel really confident.”

U.S. Championships schedule, broadcast times

The reigning world champions who haven’t lost anywhere in almost two years put up a fast-paced but flowing dance to “My Fair Lady.”

Davis and White could plunge in the free dance Saturday and still be named to the U.S. Olympic Team, which will include three couples overall.

The two next highest couples in the standings are expected to join Davis and White in Sochi. After the short program, that would be Madison Chock and 2010 Olympian Evan Bates and siblings Alex and Maia Shibutani

Chock and Bates and the Shibutanis have been the top U.S. ice dancers behind Davis and White this season.

Chock and Bates posted a personal-best 73.41 points for second place. Bates finished 11th at the 2010 Olympics with partner Emily Samuelson, suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in September 2010 and changed partners to Chock in summer 2011.

They were second at the 2013 U.S. Championships behind Davis and White and won two bronze medals in international Grand Prix events this season.

Chock skated with sore shoulders after taking a hard fall in practice Thursday, crashing into the boards.

“Our coach just said, ‘Skate to win,'” Bates said. “He wants us to be pushing upwards toward Meryl and Charlie.”

The Shibutanis, who have skated together for 10 years, scored 68 points after struggling on twizzles during a jazzy dance to Michael Buble.

The affectionately known ShibSibs are the 2011 world bronze medalists and haven’t finished lower than third in their three senior-level U.S. Championships appearances.

“It definitely wasn’t our best,” Alex said. “We left some points out there.”

The top couple looking to move into the top three Saturday will be Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, who placed fourth and third at the last two U.S. Championships. They’re 1.31 points behind the Shibutanis.

Short Dance
1. Meryl Davis/Charlie White — 80.69
2. Madison Chock/Evan Bates — 73.41
3. Alex Shibutani/Maia Shibutani — 68.00
4. Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue — 66.69
5. Alexandra Aldridge/Daniel Eaton — 63.71
6. Lynn Kriengkrairut/Logan Giulietti-Schmitt — 61.22

Plushenko changes mind about Sochi

Qatar’s Barshim sets season’s best high jump record in Birmingham

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Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim, who astonished the track and field world with his non-traditional hurdling technique on his way to becoming the reigning world champion in high jump this August, one-upped himself in Birmingham when he soared over the bar set to 2.40 meters. That’s just a smidge over 7 feet, 10 inches!

The men’s outdoor high jump world record is currently 2.45m, set by Cuba’s Javier Sotomayor in 1993.

At the 2017 Worlds, the 6-foot-2 Barshim cleared the bar at about 6 feet, 4 inches with his now famous feet-first maneuver.

At Birmingham’s Diamond League event his technique may have been conventional, but his final leap was no less breathtaking.

After trading jumps with Syria’s Majed Aldin Ghazal up to 2.35m, Ghazal decided to bow out, but the Qatari continued on. With the meet already won, Barshim raised the bar to 2.40m.

“I knew I had that jump in me but I needed that pressure on my shoulders,” Barshim said. “I love it here. I had the [meet] record here from 2014 and I also won in Birmingham last year so it is a lucky place for me.”

The 2.40m final jump for Barshim registered as a meet and season record. After climbing down off the landing pad, Barshim’s fellow jumping competitors mobbed him in celebration.

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MORE: Great Britain’s Mo Farah races and wins final track race in home country

Great Britain’s Mo Farah races and wins final track race in home country

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Great Britain’s 4-time Olympic gold medalist Mo Farah raced his final race on a U.K. track surface in Birmingham, winning the 3000m, as he crossed the line in 7 minutes 38.64 seconds in the final Diamond League event of the day.

Spain’s Adel Mechaal nipped at Farah’s heels heading into the final 200m, but the Brit’s kick, and the ovation from the home crowd, propelled Farah to victory.

“[The fans] have been amazing. This is what it is all about. This is what we dream of,” Farah said after the race.

At 34, Farah’s plans are to leave the 400m loop behind to pursue road racing in 2018.

“I now have to see what I will do on the road. I don’t think I’ll have the same pressure so I’ll go and enjoy it,” Farah said. “Running was a hobby when I was younger but it has become a job and I love it. It can be hard when you get the pressure but the roads will be something completely different.”

Immediately preceding Farah’s win in Birmingham, Allyson Felix of the U.S. finished second in the women’s 400m final behind Salwa Eid Naser of Bahrain.

“It has been a long few weeks so I was feeling tired out there so I just wanted to come out here and try to get it done but I came up just short,” Felix said. “Everyone is tired from London but I came and gave it my best effort.

“I am not sure about any future races this season, I am going to see how I recover from this.”

Earlier this month, Felix finished behind Naser when she took bronze in the 400m at the 2017 IAAF World Championships, where Phyllis Francis of the U.S. won gold, running a personal best 49.92 seconds. Francis finished fourth in Birmingham behind another U.S. middle distance athlete, Courtney Okolo who got the bronze.

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MORE: U.S., Great Britain to hold track and field dual meet