Allyson Felix

Allyson Felix, Justin Gatlin headline Shanghai Diamond League; preview

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The second Diamond League meet of the season has a tough act to follow after the opener in Doha produced several memorable events.

Last week, Diamond League records were set in the men’s high jump and women’s 3000m, among seven world-leading performances in the Qatar capital.

The circuit moves to Shanghai for the second of 14 meets Sunday, headlined by Olympic champions Allyson FelixShelly-Ann Fraser-PryceJustin Gatlin and Renaud Lavillenie, who broke the indoor pole vault world record in February.

Universal Sports will have live coverage beginning at 8 a.m. ET Sunday. The full schedule and entry lists can be found here. Here’s the schedule of events Sunday (all times Eastern):

6 a.m. — Women’s long jump
6:10 — Women’s discus
6:25 — Men’s shot put
6:45  – Women’s high jump
7:45 — Men’s pole vault
8:04 — Men’s 400m hurdles
8:13 — Women’s 1500m
8:26 — Men’s 100m
8:27 — Men’s triple jump
8:30 — Men’s javelin
8:36 — Women’s 400m
8:46 — Women’s 3000m steeplechase
9:06 — Men’s 800m
9:17 — Women’s 200m
9:26 — Men’s 5000m
9:50 — Men’s 110m hurdles

Here are five events to watch:

Men’s shot put

The field includes the reigning World Championships gold and silver medalists, German David Storl and American Ryan Whiting, the two-time reigning Olympic champion Pole Tomasz Majewski and the 2014 world leader, American Christian Cantwell.

Cantwell missed much of last season due to injury, but he may well be the favorite given he has three of the four best throws this season, including one of 21.85m, which would have won last year’s World Championship.

Men’s 100m

The reigning world silver medalist Gatlin is the man to watch here after he clocked 10.02 seconds into a massive 3.5 m/s headwind in Tokyo last Sunday.

Gatlin’s goal over the next two seasons is to break Tyson Gay‘s American record of 9.69. Gatlin’s personal best is 9.79. He’ll be pushed in Shanghai by world bronze medalist Nesta Carter of Jamaica and American Mike Rodgers. Expect the winner to set a new world-leading time for 2014, if the wind is legal, given the best so far is 9.98.

Women’s 400m

This is Felix’s third attempt at a season debut after she pulled out of meets in Kingston, Jamaica, and the Cayman Islands. Felix, who tore her right hamstring in the 200m final at the 2013 World Championships, has said she’s going to run more 400m races this year, so finally opening with a one-lap event is fitting.

She’ll take on the woman who clipped her for 2011 World Championships gold, Botswana’s Amantle Montsho, and the 2014 World Indoor champion, American Francena McCorory.

The Olympic 200m champion Felix switched from the 400m to the 100m as her complementary event after losing to Montsho by .03 in 2011, but she said last year she’s favoring the 400m over the 100m in this Olympic cycle. This could be her first step toward Rio in that respect.

Women’s 200m

The triple 2013 world champion Fraser-Pryce is running her second straight Diamond League meet after taking a 100m in Doha last week. She’s using this non-Olympic, non-World Outdoor Championship year to put more work into the 200m.

The Jamaican already won a 200m in Kingston on May 3 in 22.53, but the world leader is American Joanna Atkins at 22.27. Atkins is not in the field in Shanghai, but U.S. champion Kimberlyn Duncan is. Duncan also has a 22.53 this year, but she was beaten by Fraser-Pryce in Kingston.

Also watch out for two-time Olympic 200m champion Veronica Campbell-Brown, who hasn’t run the 200m since it was revealed she failed a drug test last year. World bronze medalist Blessing Okagbare and U.S. 100m champion English Gardner are also in the field.

Men’s 110m hurdles

This is the finale at Shanghai Stadium, and for good reason as it is the most popular track event in China since Liu Xiang‘s Olympic title in 2004. Liu is not in the field. Very little has been seen of the Chinese megastar since he hobbled out of the Olympics with an Achilles injury for the second straight Games.

Instead, this race was supposed to feature Olympic champion and world record holder Aries Merritt against the man who previously held both titles, Cuban Dayron Robles. But Merritt pulled out of the meet due to health issues this week.

Robles’ world record from 2008 is 12.87 seconds, but he hasn’t bettered 13.10 in nearly three years. The winner is more likely to be one of the 2013 World Championships medalists — David OliverRyan Wilson or Sergey Shubenkov.

Yohan Blake wants to try a different sport after sprinting

Olympic pairs’ champs crush world record for world title; U.S. struggles

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Germans Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot added a world title to their Olympic gold with a world-record score, while U.S. pairs’ struggles continued with the Americans’ lowest-ever results at a world championships.

Savchenko and Massot broke the longest-standing record total in figure skating, extending their lead from Wednesday’s short program to win by 20.31 points over Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov.

“It was exactly the season that we wanted,” Massot said. “We reached our goal today.”

Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres took bronze, France’s second Olympic or world pairs medal in 86 years.

Full results are here.

Savchenko and Massot’s free skate — the first to eclipse 160 points under the current judging system — included a side-by-side triple Salchow-double toe loop-double toe loop combination and a throw triple flip and throw triple Salchow.

Their total score — 245.84 points — shattered 2014 Olympic champions Tatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov‘s record of 237.71 set at 2013 Skate America. Their winning margin also broke Volosozhar and Trankov’s record for an Olympics or world championships under the 14-year-old points system.

Savchenko earned her 11th world medal — tying the female record held by Norwegian singles legend Sonja Henie — and sixth world title — tying Soviet Alexander Zaitsev for second on the all-time pairs’ list, four behind Irina Rodnina.

This was the French-born Massot’s first world title. Savchenko’s previous five world titles came with now-retired Robin Szolkowy.

Savchenko is 34, a five-time Olympian and the oldest pairs’ gold medalist in Winter Olympic history. The logical question — will she continue competing next season?

“Think about tomorrow,” she said, with Massot adding, “Ask again next week.”

The two U.S. pairs finished 15th and 17th, which means the U.S. drops to one pairs’ spot for the 2019 Worlds, its fewest since 1957.

U.S. champions Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Christopher Knierim dropped from 11th after the short program to 15th of 16 pairs after the free skate. Scimeca fell on their death spiral and a throw triple flip, looked distraught skating off the ice and tweeted 10 minutes later, “I’m sorry for losing us a spot” and “Bad day to have a bad day.”

The Knierims made the top 10 in their four previous world championships appearances with a best finish of seventh.

The other U.S. pair, 2000 World junior singles silver medalist Deanna Stellato and 2014 Olympian Nathan Bartholomay, were 17th in Wednesday’s short program, missing the cutoff for the free skate by one spot.

It’s the first time all U.S. pairs finished outside the top 11 at a worlds, granted worlds didn’t regularly have a field greater than 15 pairs before 1990.

It came on the heels of the U.S. having its smallest pairs’ contingent — one pair — at an Olympics since the first Winter Games in 1924. The Knierims were 15th in PyeongChang, marking the first time the U.S. sent a pair to an Olympics and put none in the top 10.

The last U.S. pairs’ medal at worlds came in 2002, making this the nation’s longest drought in any figure skating discipline. The last Olympic medal was in 1988.

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Nathan Chen hits short program, leads world championships

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That’s more like it, Nathan Chen.

After two disastrous Olympic short programs, Chen nailed his jumps at the world championships, taking the lead by 1.86 points over Russian Mikhail Kolyada in Milan on Thursday. American Vincent Zhou is third.

Full results are here.

“I learned a lot from the Olympics, and I used what I learned there heading into the short program in terms of where to place my mind, what to think about throughout the program,” Chen said. “It was great to have an opportunity to come back before the end of the season to try the short program again, sort of hope to redeem myself.”

Later Thursday, Germans Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot backed up their Olympic gold with a world title, shattering the longest-standing world record in figure skating with a record margin of victory. Full recap here.

In Saturday’s men’s free skate, Chen can become the youngest men’s world champion since Yevgeny Plushenko in 2001. Zhou can become the first man to make a senior world podium the year after winning a world junior title since Plushenko in 1998. The U.S. last put two men on a world podium in 1996 (Todd EldredgeRudy Galindo).

This week’s field lacks Yuzuru HanyuJavier Fernandez and Patrick Chan, who combined to win every Olympic and world title since 2011 but ended their seasons at the Olympics.

On Thursday, Chen hit a quadruple Lutz-triple toe loop combination, a quadruple flip and a triple Axel for 101.94 points (2.18 shy of his personal best). It was a reversal from PyeongChang, where Chen’s short programs began unraveling with that opening combination, and he scored 80.61 and 82.27 points.

Chen placed 17th in the Olympic short program and redeemed himself with the top free skate, moving up to fifth. He went into the Olympics as the only undefeated male skater for the season.

“That I was able to bounce back and have the long program that I did, because of that the whole Olympic experience wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be after the short program,” Chen said Thursday. “Being able to have that, I didn’t have any ghosts of the Olympics following me [to worlds].”

Zhou, the youngest of 37 men in the field at 17, landed a quad Lutz-triple toe loop combination and a quad flip, fist pumping at the end of his skate. He shattered his personal-best short program by 12.25 points. Zhou was sixth at the Olympics.

“I came here to skate a clean program, I did that, and being in the top three is icing on the cake,” Zhou said.

Two other medal favorites — Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno of Japan and two-time world bronze medalist Jin Boyang of China — struggled with jumps. Jin is fourth and Uno fifth.

Uno, competing with a reported ankle injury, performed a triple-double combination rather than the quad-triple he did in PyeongChang. Jin had a quad toe called under-rotated.

The third American, 2013 U.S. champion Max Aaron, is in 15th place. Aaron put his hand down on his opening quad Salchow and turned out of his triple Axel landing.

Key Free Skate Start Times (Saturday ET)
Max Aaron (USA) — 6:05 a.m.
Shoma Uno (JPN) — 8:21 a.m.
Jin Boyang (CHN) — 8:29 a.m.
Mikhail Kolyada (RUS) — 8:38 a.m.
Vincent Zhou (USA) — 8:47 a.m.
Nathan Chen (USA) — 8:55 a.m.

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