Yohan Blake

Yohan Blake, Lolo Jones beaten at Adidas GP; no high jump WR

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NEW YORK – Yohan Blake suffered a surprising 100m defeat at the Adidas Grand Prix, while Lolo Jones placed a satisfactory third in the 100m hurdles less than 24 hours after flying in from China.

Blake, the Olympic 100m silver medalist, stumbled out of the blocks and clocked a slow 10.21 at Icahn Stadium on Randall’s Island on Saturday evening. He finished second to countryman Nesta Carter, who ran 10.09.

“Everybody saw what happened at the start,” said Blake, in a hurry to escape the media mixed zone. “There’s not much more to say.”

Blake, the top rival to Usain Bolt since 2011, owns a personal best of 9.69 from 2012. He missed most of last season with a hamstring injury.

Blake and Bolt likely will not race against each other this season. Bolt recently pulled out of meets in June and July due to a lack of training coming off a foot injury. The next Diamond League meet, in Lausanne, Switzerland, on July 3, features a 100m showdown between top Americans Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay, who did not run at the Adidas Grand Prix.

In other events Saturday, Jones placed third in the 100m hurdles in 12.77, her first Diamond League meet of the season. Queen Harrison won in 12.62, .01 better than 2008 Olympic champ Dawn Harper-Nelson. World champion Brianna Rollins wasn’t in the field.

Jones, who finished 11th in the Sochi Olympic bobsled competition, flew in from a TV appearance in China on Friday.

“At the start line I was seeing 20 hurdles,” said Jones, whose next meet is the U.S. Championships in Sacramento, Calif., in two weeks. “My body just fell apart at the end [after the first five hurdles].”

The most exciting event was the men’s high jump, where Ukraine’s Bohdan Bondarenko and Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim took a combined five attempts at a new world record of 2.46m. All failed. Both cleared 2.42m, with Bondarenko getting the win with fewer overall misses.

Mary Cain, the 18-year-old who became the youngest athlete to make a U.S. World Championships team last year, was fourth in an 800m. Cain takes her driver’s test Friday, graduates from high school Saturday and plans to run the 1500m at the U.S. Championships.

“[Coach] Alberto [Salazar] wants me to take it slow,” said Cain, adding she wasn’t tapered for Saturday. “We’re training to peak in August.”

David Rudisha notched his first Diamond League victory in more than one year, essentially going wire-to-wire in the 800m in 1:44.63. Rudisha, the Olympic champ and world record holder, suffered a knee injury running in Central Park this time last year. The Adidas Grand Prix was his second Diamond League meet back.

Beijing Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt won for the third time in four Diamond League 400m races this season. Merritt clocked 44.19 against a field that did not include Grenada rival Kirani James.

“For me, it’s not really about times; I just wanted to get the victory,” said Merritt, who will run in the Czech Republic on Tuesday. “It’s a matter of getting these races in and handling business.”

World Indoor champ Francena McCorory captured her 400m by more than one second in 50.15. The field did not include Jamaican world leader Novlene Williams-Mills, who has run 50.04, or U.S. Olympic champion Sanya Richards-Ross.

Tori Bowie continued her surging season by winning the 100m in 11.07. Bowie competed at the World Indoor Championships in March in the long jump. But in the outdoor season she has won three Diamond League sprints with personal bests in the 100m and 200m and the fastest time in the world in the latter.

Olympic and World 100m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce withdrew from the Adidas Grand Prix 200m earlier this week, citing injury.

Jamaican Warren Weir won the 200m in 19.82, the fastest time in the world this year.

Olympic pole vault champion Jenn Suhr was beaten in her Diamond League season debut by Brazilian Fabiana Murer. Suhr, who cleared 15 feet, 6 inches (4.72m) outside in Herald Square on Wednesday, posted 4.70m Saturday and failed at three 4.80m attempts.

Puerto Rican Javier Culson upset Olympic and World silver medalist Michael Tinsley, winning the 400m hurdles in 48.03, the fastest time in the world this year. Tinsley, previously the world leader, was second in 48.56.

New Zealand’s Valerie Adams won her 50th straight shot put competition. Adams, whose brother is Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams, hasn’t lost since 2010.

Ethiopian-born Swede Abeba Aregawi bounced back to win the 1500m in 4:00.13. Top American Jenny Simpson was third in 4:02.54. At the Prefontaine Classic, Aregawi lost her first Diamond League 1500m since Aug. 17, 2012 to Kenyan Hellen Obiri, who was not in Saturday’s race.

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Tony Azevedo retires after 5 Olympics in water polo

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 14:  Tony Azevedo of the USA in action during the USA vs Italy Waterpolo group match at Julio de Lamare Aquatics Centre on August 14, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
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Tony Azevedo is ending one of the greatest water polo careers in U.S. history, retiring after a record five Olympics at age 35.

Azevedo, the first American to play in five Olympic water polo tournaments, said it was a tough decision but a necessary one to spend time with his family — wife Sara and two kids, according to the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram.

“The traveling and everything for them would be too much,” said Azevedo, who has a 3-year-old boy and a girl born after the Rio Olympics. “It’s time.”

Azevedo was a teenage prodigy dubbed the “Kobe Bryant of water polo.” A ball boy at the 1996 Olympics, Azevedo made a list of about 13 goals as a “slow, fat, chubby kid” who wanted to start on his high school team.

He reached all of those goals except for one — a gold medal. Azevedo made his Olympic debut out of high school in 2000 and then helped lead the U.S. to silver at Beijing 2008, his lone Olympic or world championships medal in 13 combined appearances. He led the U.S. in goals at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.

“If anyone asks, am I going to miss the swimming? No. Am I going to miss the games? No. Are you going to miss the Olympics? No,” Azevedo said. “I’m going to miss those days of grinding with your teammates.”

Azevedo was one of the top U.S. stories of the Rio Olympics, since he was born in the Brazilian city and lived there for 23 days before moving to Southern California. Azevedo, whose father was a Brazilian national team member, played for a Sao Paulo club team for much of the past Olympic cycle.

The U.S. went 2-3 in Rio, failing to advance out of group play.

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MORE: PyeongChang 2018 daily schedule highlights

Five takeaways from World Alpine Skiing Championships

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Five thoughts after an unpredictable world alpine skiing championships, looking ahead to the Olympics … 

1. Expect Mikaela Shiffrin to be busier in PyeongChang

Shiffrin chose not to enter the super-G or super combined in the first week at worlds, in order to maximize her medal potential in the giant slalom and slalom in the final weekend. It paid off with silver and gold medals.

It seems unlikely that Shiffrin adopts the same, two-race slate in PyeongChang. The 2018 Olympic schedule has the giant slalom and slalom in the first week, followed by the speed events of super-G, downhill and super combined.

Consider also Shiffrin’s mindset going into St. Moritz.

“Right now, I’m going with [only giant slalom and slalom] because I just don’t think that I have quite enough experience in speed [events] to be able to count on winning a medal in those events yet,” she said. “But by the time we go to South Korea next year, maybe I could. I might be in a position where I can at least be in contention for medals in giant slalom, slalom, combined, super-G and maybe even downhill, only because nobody’s ever skied on that track before.”

The women get their first look at the 2018 Olympic venue with World Cup races in two weeks, a downhill and super-G. Shiffrin said before worlds that she planned to travel to South Korea for training but to leave before the races start. She wanted to prioritize the following week’s World Cup giant slalom and slalom in Squaw Valley, Calif.

What’s for sure is we can learn plenty about Shiffrin’s Olympic potential in speed events this weekend. She’s set to race at the World Cup stop in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, which is made up of two combineds and a super-G.

If Shiffrin enters all three events, it will bring her career World Cup start total in downhill, super-G and combined up to 10 races. Her best finish in her first seven starts was fourth in a super-G last month.

“I have a lot of goals there,” Shiffrin said of speed events after bagging her third straight slalom world title Saturday. “Hopefully, some day, I’d like to win in super-G and downhill, but I think it’ll take some time before I can do that consistently. It’s definitely a long road from here. I still feel like I just started.”

2. Lindsey Vonn must heal

Vonn made it clear at worlds that she wasn’t 100 percent recovered from breaking her right upper arm in a Nov. 10 training crash. Her right hand movement was so limited that she couldn’t put her hair in a ponytail, let alone comfortably grip a ski pole at 75 miles per hour.

After skiing out of the opening super-G, troubled by that hand, she duct-taped her glove to her ski pole, placed fifth in the super combined and third in the downhill. She said the bronze medal felt like gold given her latest injury comeback.

Vonn became the oldest woman to earn a world championships medal. In PyeongChang, she can become the oldest woman to earn an Olympic Alpine medal.

Vonn’s biggest hurdle is her own health. A smooth finish to the season, regardless of wins, and a normal offseason is key.

“I want to be in a position at the Olympics where I’m at my top form not just struggling to kind of make it back into the mix,” Vonn said, according to The Associated Press. “It’s a different ballgame when I’m prepared.”

3. U.S. lacks young stars

Worlds went about to form for the entire U.S. team. Shiffrin and Vonn were the only medalists. No man placed in the top 10 for the first time since 1997.

Injuries and, especially, aging are the concerns.

Four-time Olympic medalist Julia Mancuso, out since November 2015 hip surgery, was on the team but didn’t enter any events. The top U.S. men on the World Cup in recent seasons, Ted Ligety and Steven Nyman, went out with season-ending injuries in January. Bode Miller, who has trained but not raced this season, was in the NBC Sports commentary booth.

All of them are 32 years and older. Maybe some summon one last Olympic medal surge next year, but what about after that?

Shiffrin is the only American younger than age 28 who owns a World Cup victory. U.S. men earned Youth Olympic and junior worlds gold medals last year, but they look destined for 2022.

4. Marcel Hirscher approaches Austrian legends

Hirscher was the best skier in St. Moritz, despite reportedly spending days in bed before his first race. He earned two golds and missed a third by .01 in the super combined.

Only Tony Sailer owns more individual world titles among Austrian men. Hirscher is en route to his sixth straight World Cup overall title this season, which no man from any country has accomplished.

He’s at 43 World Cup wins, 11 shy of the Austrian men’s mark held by Hermann Maier. At 27 years old, Hirscher ought to eclipse it.

But Hirscher’s résumé has a gaping hole — no Olympic gold medal. He was upset in the Sochi Olympic slalom by countryman Mario Matt. And there’s no certainty Hirscher will be a favorite in PyeongChang.

For years, he was the world’s second-best giant slalom skier behind the now-injured Ligety, who could reclaim the throne next season, though that is a tall order.

In slalom, young Norwegian Henrik Kristoffersen has been neck and neck with Hirscher but had a poor worlds.

The super combined is the most unpredictable event, but even there Frenchman Alexis Pinturault has won six of the 11 World Cup races since 2013.

5. Surprises in St. Moritz

Most races provided surprise medalists.

In all five men’s events, either the gold or silver medalist had not won a World Cup race in at least two years (or, in three cases, never made a World Cup podium). Women’s medalists in downhill, super-G, giant slalom and the super combined had never won a World Cup race.

New names were going to emerge regardless, considering the list of recent stars not racing (retired Tina Maze, Ligety, Miller, Aksel Lund Svindal) and those who did compete but were slowed or forced out by injury (Vonn, Anna Veith, Gut).

More surprises could be in store in PyeongChang given, as Shiffrin said, it’s a new track for everybody.

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