Allyson Felix

Allyson Felix, Justin Gatlin headline Shanghai Diamond League; preview

Leave a comment

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

U.S. figure skating could have its best world team since 2006

Nathan Chen performs during the men's free skate competition at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP
Leave a comment

KANSAS CITY — U.S. figure skating has a shot at medals in three of four disciplines at the world championships in Helsinki in two months, which hasn’t happened in 11 years.

Before this year, the U.S. men and U.S. women hadn’t boasted simultaneous medal contenders in a decade. Johnny Weir and Evan Lysacek spent the 2010 Olympic cycle in the world elite, while the U.S. women faded. After they stopped competing, Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold moved into the women’s medal field while the U.S. searched for a new leading man.

He’s arrived. Nathan Chen confirmed he is one of the world’s best male skaters by landing a record seven quadruple jumps between two programs at Sprint Center this past week.

The 17-year-old already made the podium in an event that featured the world’s best, earning silver at the Grand Prix Final in December. Chen struggled with his short-program jumps at the Grand Prix Final and attempted one fewer quad overall yet still outscored everybody but Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu.

Of all of the U.S. medal hopes at worlds, Chen may face the stiffest trio of challengers. Not only is there Hanyu, but also two-time reigning world champion Javier Fernandez of Spain, plus Japan’s Shoma Uno, all of whom rank higher than Chen in best total scores in international competition this season.

MORE: Chen believes Olympic gold is possible after U.S. title

Wagner, who shares a coach with Chen, did not have her best nationals. She finished second to surprise winner Karen Chen (no relation to Nathan), who has yet to factor internationally.

But Wagner said before and after the U.S. Championships that her focus was to peak for the world championships. The goal for nationals was to make the world team, which required not winning but finishing in the top three. Mission accomplished.

The concern with Wagner is that she hasn’t produced a world medal-caliber result yet this season. Her best score from the fall ranks her sixth among women going to worlds. But Wagner has shown in the last few seasons that she can pull it together for major events. There’s her 2016 World Championships silver medal, plus her three straight Grand Prix Final medals from 2012-14.

At worlds, Wagner will have to deal with a Russian trio capable of sweeping the podium, three strong Japanese skaters, plus the revelation of this season, Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond.

VIDEO: Wagner passed Puffs in emotional press conference moment

The U.S.’ strongest discipline continues to be ice dance. Maia and Alex Shibutani and Madison Chock and Evan Bates finished second and third at the 2016 World Championships. They went one-two at the U.S. Championships this past week.

But two ice dance medals don’t appear to be in the cards in Helsinki. That’s because Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who earned gold and silver at the last two Olympics, came back this season after a two-year break.

Virtue and Moir broke international scoring records in the fall, sweeping their four starts. The two-time reigning world champions, Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France, also beat the U.S. couples at the Grand Prix Final.

The Shibutani siblings and Chock and Bates have never finished ahead of Virtue and Moir in competition. Neither has bettered the French since the December 2014 Grand Prix Final, either.

But all it takes is one dance medal, plus Chen and Wagner at their best in Helsinki, and the U.S. could go into the Olympic year in its best place since 2006.

MORE: Gracie Gold comments on split from coach Frank Carroll

Laurie Hernandez discusses life after Rio, new book on TODAY (video)

Laurie Hernandez
TODAY
Leave a comment

Laurie Hernandez‘s book, “I Got This: To Gold and Beyond,” is out Tuesday, and the Olympic champion gymnast stopped by TODAY on Monday to discuss its contents and life post-Rio.

An excerpt on Hernandez’s experience in Rio and the story of her floor-exercise wink to judges, is here.

On TODAY, Hernandez discussed another interesting anecdote from the book about tissues.

“Before Olympic Trials, we went out to eat, and I had a little breakdown because practice was really rough, and my routines weren’t coming the way I wanted them to,” she said. “This poor waitress kept bringing me over piles of tissues. … We were leaving, and my sister [Jelysa] told my dad, I’m going to save these tissues. I’m going to give them to her when she makes the team. I’m thinking to myself, you guys are crazy, this is not going to happen.”

Hernandez went on to finish second to Simone Biles at the Olympic Trials and make the five-woman Olympic team as the first U.S. female Olympian born in the 2000s.

The family celebrated the achievement, where Jelysa handed the tissues to Hernandez in a bag.

“Even when you fell, you couldn’t believe in yourself, we were there for you,” Jelysa told her.

“So it was a really defining moment,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez is away from gymnastics while promoting her book and touring with “Dancing with the Stars,” but she is expected to return to the sport at some point.

MORE: Hernandez explains 2017 goals: First date, driver’s license, Law & Order