Yohan Blake

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


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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Ashley Wagner eyes history at Grand Prix Final after ‘disaster’ in Japan

Ashley Wagner
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Ashley Wagner can next week become the first U.S. singles skater to make four straight Grand Prix Final podiums, but not if she performs like she did last weekend at NHK Trophy in Japan.

“NHK was a disaster,” the three-time U.S. champion said Tuesday, “but that was kind of a one-time deal.”

Wagner backed into the Grand Prix Final as the sixth and final women’s qualifier by finishing fourth at NHK Trophy on Saturday, snapping her streak of 10 straight podium finishes in Grand Prix events. She had won Skate Canada four weeks earlier.

The Grand Prix Final is the most prestigious annual figure skating competition outside of the World Championships and an event that Wagner calls a preview for Worlds (in Boston in late March/early April).

In Japan, Wagner had trouble cleanly landing and fully rotating jumps in both programs, and though she didn’t fall, her mental state was clearly shaken even before the free skate Saturday.

Japanese legend Mao Asada (one of three women to make four straight Grand Prix Final podiums, along with Irina Slutskaya and Michelle Kwan) skated immediately before Wagner.

The home crowd was at its loudest after Asada rebounded from her own poor short to move into the lead (temporarily, Asada finished third).

“I didn’t know how Mao had skated,” said Wagner, who was in third after the short program. “I figured I needed to at least get on the podium [to definitely make the Grand Prix Final], and I knew that I could probably afford a fourth place [to still make the Final]. I think that is where I went wrong. I should have just put my head down, started fresh and gone into that long program not focusing on, OK, well, I can get as low as this and I’ll make it to the [Grand Prix] Final. I think that didn’t really get me into the fighting spirit that I’m so used to competing with. When I focus on the results and not how I’m going to get there, it usually doesn’t go so well for me. It was a rookie mistake.

“I think I was playing it safe and trying to avoid making a mistake, and of course that’s exactly what I ended up doing.”

Wagner placed fifth in the free skate and fourth overall. She actually could have finished sixth overall and still made the Barcelona Grand Prix Final.

So she goes into next weekend’s competition as an underdog to Russians Yevgenia Medvedeva and Yelena Radionova, the last two World Junior champions. Plus countrywoman Gracie Gold and Asada.

Wagner’s confidence that the NHK hiccup won’t repeat could be bolstered by last season, when she was also the last qualifier into the Grand Prix Final (before Gold withdrew), was in last place after the Final short program but starred in the free skate to grab bronze.

“I like it when I have something not go so well,” she said. “When things are too perfect for too long, in a way it kind of freaks me out a little bit.”

Wagner called the women’s field in Barcelona “wide open.” It may be, given six different women won the six qualifying events, the first time nobody doubled up since 2006.

However, Wagner tapped Asada when asked to name her biggest competition. Wagner, 24, and Asada, 25, are the only women’s Grand Prix Final qualifiers older than 20.

“When she’s on, [Asada] has the whole package,” Wagner said of the three-time World champion who took last season off from competition. “She knows how to put on a performance. The audience loves her. Technically, she’s very strong. I think that If I had to pinpoint someone, Mao Asada on one of her good days, is definitely going to be one of the top girls.”

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Travis Ganong on the rise, leads U.S. men into Beaver Creek

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BEAVER CREEK, Colo. (AP) — Before checking into his Colorado hotel, Travis Ganong made a quick pit stop with his doctor to get the stitches removed from his surgically repaired right thumb.

The digit remains extremely swollen even two weeks after a training crash. So much so that he can barely push out of the starting gate.

Not that anyone could tell in Lake Louise, Alberta, last weekend, when Ganong finished third in a downhill race and came within a wisp of another podium spot in the super-G.

Stitches removed and confidence soaring, Ganong’s eager to take on the demanding course in Beaver Creek over the weekend. This is a place where last February he earned a breakthrough silver medal in the downhill at World Championships (video here).

”It’s really nice to have these solid results so early in the season. It takes the edge off,” Ganong said. ”Before you have the first result, you’re always questioning yourself. Now I can relax and that’s when the really good skiing comes.”

The 27-year-old from Squaw Valley, California, has been a rising force on the U.S. speed team since a fifth-place finish at the 2014 Sochi Games.

In such a fast sport, though, he’s taken a gradual approach to his development – never racing outside his comfort zone until he was good and ready. That was all part of his calculated plan, which came to fruition last season as he won his first World Cup downhill race in Italy and earned his first medal at Worlds.

”I was always building, building, building, getting better and better incrementally,” Ganong said. ”Last year I was like, ‘OK, my time is now. I need to try something new.’

”Bam, I won a race. But then I would have a horrible race. … Now this year it’s all about bringing that consistency back to the top, top level.”

Growing up in Squaw Valley, Ganong could always be found somewhere on the mountain, whether it was skiing powder in the back-country with his father, cross-country skiing (he was good, too), snowboarding (yep, he tried that), going over moguls or training with his team.

”We had this two- or three-inch rule where if it snowed that much, we didn’t worry about setting up gates. We’d go freeskiing and chase each other around the mountain,” Ganong said. ”That’s the No. 1 reason why so many good skiers come out of there.”

Like longtime U.S. skiing great Daron Rahlves, one of Ganong’s idols as a kid. The two talk all the time about ways Ganong can uncover more speed.

”I really excel on the steeper, more gnarly courses,” Ganong said. ”I need to try to figure out a way to bring that same intensity to the easier hills that are a little flatter and not my strong suit. Daron and I, that’s all we talk about when we talk about ski racing.”

Ganong broke through last weekend in Lake Louise, which is more of a glider’s course.

Not bad considering his recent wipeout. He tumbled during an early morning training session in Vail when he didn’t pick up a roll in the terrain. He needed surgery to fix a torn tendon and ligaments. He also bruised his left knee.

So he didn’t have all that high of expectations going into Lake Louise.

”For me to have that kind of speed on that kind of hill, yeah, that was a little surprising,” Ganong said. ”I skied really relaxed and just kind of within myself.”

No one could catch Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal, though, who came away with wins on both days as he returns to the World Cup circuit after tearing his Achilles tendon last season while juggling a soccer ball.

”Aksel just knows how to let the skis go,” Ganong said. ”But Beaver Creek? It’s a different hill.”

Ganong’s kind of hill.

”Beaver Creek is way more my style of skiing and my style of hill,” said Ganong, who was fifth last December in a World Cup downhill at Birds of Prey. ”I’m trying to not think too much about it, just keep working hard, and keep thinking I’m an underdog and have something to prove.

”Hopefully, that’s a good mentality to keep me fired up.”

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