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

President of National Olympic Committees association leaves FIFA post amid bribery claims

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GENEVA (AP) — FIFA Council member Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah of Kuwait is resigning from his soccer roles under pressure from allegations in an American federal court that he bribed Asian officials.

Sheikh Ahmad said Sunday in a statement he will withdraw from a May 8 election in Bahrain for the FIFA seat representing Asia, which he currently holds.

“I do not want these allegations to create divisions or distract attention from the upcoming AFC (Asian Football Confederation) and FIFA Congresses,” said the Kuwaiti royal, who denies any wrongdoing.

“Therefore, after careful consideration, I have decided it is in the best interests of FIFA and the AFC, for me to withdraw my candidacy for the FIFA Council and resign from my current football positions,” he said.

The long-time Olympic Council of Asia president contacted the ethics panels of FIFA and the IOC after the allegations were made in Brooklyn federal courthouse on Thursday.

FIFA audit committee member Richard Lai, an American citizen from Guam, pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy charges related to taking around $1 million in bribes, including from Kuwaiti officials. The cash was to buy influence and help recruit other Asian soccer officials prepared to take bribes, Lai said in court.

Sheikh Ahmad resigned his candidacy ahead of a FIFA panel deciding whether to remove him on ethical grounds.

The FIFA Review Committee, which rules on the integrity of people seeking senior FIFA positions, has been studying the sheikh’s candidacy since the allegations emerged, The Associated Press reported on Saturday.

The FIFA ethics committee is making a separate assessment of whether to provisionally suspend the sheikh, a long-time leader of Kuwait’s soccer federation who was elected to FIFA’s ruling committee in 2015.

Resigning from his soccer positions does not necessarily put Sheikh Ahmad out of reach of FIFA ethics prosecutors and judges if any action was taken.

In 2012, former FIFA presidential candidate Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar was banned for life by the ethics committee days after he resigned.

Bin Hammam was also clearly identified in Lai’s court hearing for having paid Lai a total of $100,000 in bribes to support the Qatari’s failed challenge to FIFA’s then-president Sepp Blatter in 2011. Bin Hammam was removed from that election contest in a Caribbean bribery case.

Sheikh Ahmad has also contacted the IOC’s ethics commission about the allegations against him, the IOC said on Saturday.

As president since 2012 of the global group of national Olympic bodies, known as ANOC, Sheikh Ahmad’s support has often been cited as key to winning Olympic election and hosting awards. The sheikh was widely credited for helping Thomas Bach win the IOC presidency in 2013.

Although Sheikh Ahmad was not named in Department of Justice and court documents last week, he has become one of the most significant casualties of the sprawling U.S. federal investigation of bribery and corruption in international soccer revealed two years ago.

The sheikh could be identified in a transcript of Lai’s court hearing which said “co-conspirator #2 was also the president of Olympic Council of Asia.” Sheikh Ahmad has been OCA president since 1991.

Co-conspirator #3 was described as having a “high-ranking” role at OCA, and also linked to the Kuwait soccer federation.

According to the published transcript, Lai claimed he “received at least $770,000 in wire transfers from accounts associated with Co-Conspirator #3 and the OCA between November of 2009 and about the fall of 2014.”

“I understood that the source of this money was ultimately Co-Conspirator #2 and on some occasion Co-Conspirator #3 told me to send him an email saying that I need funds so he could show the email to Co-Conspirator #2,” Lai said in court.

Lai admitted that he agreed to help recruit other Asian officials that voted in FIFA elections who would help Kuwait’s interests.

The Guam soccer federation leader since 2001, Lai pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy charges and failing to disclose foreign bank accounts. He agreed to pay more than $1.1 million in forfeiture and penalties, and will be sentenced at a later date.

The American federal investigation of corruption linked to FIFA has indicted or taken guilty pleas from more than 40 people and marketing agencies linked to soccer in the Americas since 2015.

Lai’s case marked the first major step into Asia, and suggests other soccer officials potentially recruited by the Kuwait faction could be targeted.

The Asian election for FIFA seats on May 8 in Manama, Bahrain, is the same day as a FIFA Council meeting which the sheik will not attend. The FIFA congress is held in the city three days later.

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AVP set to start season without Kerri Walsh Jennings

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BOSTON (AP) — The AVP said it has reached an agreement with “practically all the players” on a contract that will carry it through the 2020 Summer Games, even as a holdout by five-time Olympian Kerri Walsh Jennings threatens to deprive the domestic beach volleyball tour of its biggest name.

“I respect her decisions, and I wish her well,” AVP owner Donald Sun told The Associated Press. “But in the meantime, we’re just geared up. All the athletes that are signed are fired up to play Huntington Beach next weekend.”

Walsh Jennings did not immediately respond to a text message seeking comment. But she told the AP in March that negotiations were “a work in progress” and that the two sides were “pretty far off.”

She also boycotted an AVP event last summer over experimental rules that she said weren’t discussed with the athletes.

Each of the other seven Americans who went to the 2016 Olympics has signed, Sun said, except for Brooke Sweat. Sweat, who failed to make it out of group play in Rio de Janeiro with teammate Lauren Fendrick, also did not respond to a request for comment.

Sun told the AP that the tour has “a four-year agreement with practically all the players, which is awesome.” The deal includes a minimum of eight events per season and prize money minimums that will increase by at least 50 percent over the term of the deal, he said.

“It was a few months of process, discussing with individual players, groups of players, discussing what concerns they had,” Sun said. “We all made it. I think we’re all pretty happy.”

Well, not everyone.

The rift with Walsh, a three-time gold medalist who won bronze with April Ross in 2016, was exposed when the tour released its 2017 schedule in March and her name wasn’t among the list of those expected to participate.

Sun told the AP this week that the tour is prepared to proceed without Walsh Jennings, who has missed events previous summers because of injury, childbirth or to play on the international tour that determines Olympic qualification.

“It didn’t seem to affect attendance, TV ratings, or viewership on line,” Sun said. “The AVP is not just one person or one athlete; if it was, it would be a very challenging business model.”

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