Justin Gatlin, Trayvon Bromell
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Ten men’s events to watch at U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials

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More than 100 athletes will qualify for Rio by the end of the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Ore., from July 1-10 on NBC Sports.

The top three finishers per event, provided they meet the Olympic standard, are in line to go to the Games. More finishers in the men’s and women’s 100m and 400m sprints, usually the top six, make the team for the 4x100m and 4x400m relays.

The U.S. Olympic track and field team is always the largest in size across all sports.

This year’s squad could be favored for even more success than 2012, when it led the medal standings with 28 total and nine gold, with the Russian track and field out of the picture for now.

However, the U.S. will look to bounce back from the 2015 World Championships in Beijing, where it topped the medal table with 18 overall, its smallest haul since 2003. Jamaica and Kenya took more golds.

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Here are 10 men’s events to watch:

Shot Put
July 1
2012 Olympics: Reese Hoffa (bronze), Christian Cantwell (fourth), Ryan Whiting (ninth)
2015 Worlds: Joe Kovacs (gold), Reese Hoffa (fifth), Christian Cantwell (12th), Jordan Clarke (first round)

Outlook: The U.S. has earned a men’s shot put medal at each of the last eight Olympics, and that streak figures to extend in Rio. That’s because of Kovacs, who finished fourth at the 2012 Olympic Trials and has since emerged to become the best in the world. He had four of the five best throws in the world last year and has three of the four best this year. All three men’s shot putters could be first-time Olympians for the first time in 20 years, with Ryan Crouser and Kurt Roberts ranking Nos. 2 and 3 in the world this year.

10,000 Meters
July 1
2012 Olympics: Galen Rupp (silver), Dathan Ritzenhein (13th), Matt Tegenkamp (19th)
2015 Worlds: Galen Rupp (fifth), Hassan Mead (15th), Shadrack Kipchirchir (16th)

Outlook: Rupp is the premier U.S. distance runner and a heavy favorite. However, he may drop this event for Rio if he makes the team, since he previously won the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. The Olympic 10,000m is on Aug. 13. The marathon is on Aug. 21. After Rupp, the most interesting man in the U.S. field is Bernard Lagat, who will try to become the oldest U.S. Olympic runner in history at age 41. Lagat owns two Olympic medals, but they were in the 1500m in 2000 and 2004. He failed to finish his last race, the Pre Classic 5000m on May 28.

400 Meters
July 1-3
2012 Olympics: Tony McQuay (semifinals), Bryshon Nellum (first round), LaShawn Merritt (first round)
2015 Worlds: LaShawn Merritt (silver), David Verburg (semifinals), Bryshon Nellum (semifinals), Vernon Norwood (semifinals)

Outlook: Merritt is the clear favorite as the fastest American this year by six tenths of a second. Starting with Arman Hall, at least the next 10 fastest Americans this year are within .36 of each other. Jeremy Wariner, the 2004 Olympic champion now 32 years old, is farther down the list but slated to give it one more go.

800 Meters
July 1-4
2012 Olympics: Duane Solomon (fourth), Nick Symmonds (fifth), Khadevis Robinson (first round)
2015 Worlds: Clayton Murphy (semifinals), Erik Sowinski (semifinals), Casimir Loxsom (first round)

Outlook: Two-time Olympian Symmonds is out of Trials due to a torn ligament and stress fracture in his left ankle. Symmonds took his sixth U.S. outdoor title last year then missed the World Championships in a contract dispute. Meanwhile, NCAA champion Donavan Brazier and world indoor champion Boris Berian are ranked third and fourth in the world this year.

July 2-3
2012 Olympics: Ashton Eaton (gold), Trey Hardee (silver)
2015 Worlds: Ashton Eaton (gold), Zach Ziemek (15th), Jeremy Taiwo (DNF), Trey Hardee (DNF)

Outlook: Eaton provided perhaps the greatest moment of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials when he broke the world record in Eugene. He did it again at the 2015 World Championships and shouldn’t be challenged here. Hardee, if healthy, is a solid runner-up favorite as the last man to beat Eaton at a global meet (2011 Worlds). But he reportedly dislocated a foot in January after dropping out during the 2015 Worlds with a back injury.

Long Jump
July 2-3
2012 Olympics: Will Claye (silver), Marquise Goodwin (10th), George Kitchens (first round)
2015 Worlds: Jeff Henderson (ninth), Michael Hartfield (12th), Marquis Dendy (first round)

Outlook: Goodwin is the story here. The Buffalo Bills wide receiver will try to become the first person to play in the NFL regular season and then qualify for a Summer Olympic team. Goodwin was with the University of Texas when he competed in London. He took nearly three years off from the long jump before returning last summer. This year, he has the two best jumps in the world. Watch out for Henderson, who had the three best jumps in the world last year but had a disastrous World Championships final.

100 Meters
July 2-3
2012 Olympics: Justin Gatlin (bronze), Tyson Gay (fourth), Ryan Bailey (fifth)
2015 Worlds: Justin Gatlin (silver), Trayvon Bromell (bronze), Mike Rodgers (fifth), Tyson Gay (sixth)

Outlook: Gatlin, while recently slower than his torrid spring pace from last year, is the clear favorite. Bromell, the 20-year-old future of U.S. sprinting, is a serious question mark due to an Achilles injury. The Trials will mark Bromell’s first race in one month. Luckily for him, he can still make the Olympic team in the relay by finishing top six. The joint-second-fastest American this year, Ameer Webb, curiously scratched to focus on the 200m.

Triple Jump
July 7-9
2012 Olympics: Christian Taylor (gold), Will Claye (silver)
2015 Worlds: Christian Taylor (gold), Omar Craddock (fourth), Marquis Dendy (first round), Will Claye (first round)

Outlook: After his Olympic title, Taylor struggled a little and then decided to change his takeoff leg. The risky upheaval paid dividends in 2015, when he recorded the second-best triple jump of all time, one cigarette shy of Jonathan Edwards’ world record from 1995. Taylor owns the two best triple jumps in the world this year. He’s followed by Claye, Chris Benard and Craddock all in the world top six.

1500 Meters
July 7-10
2012 Olympics: Leo Manzano (silver), Matthew Centrowitz (fourth), Andrew Wheating (semifinals)
2015 Worlds: Matthew Centrowitz (eighth), Leo Manzano (10th), Robby Andrews (11th)

Outlook: Centrowitz’s international standing took a hit last year. He had previously finished fourth or better at the 2011 Worlds, 2012 Olympics and 2013 Worlds, but never won. Still, he is the cream of the American crop. Manzano has looked less impressive since London, which means two berths are likely up for grabs behind Centrowitz.

110 Meter Hurdles
July 8-9
2012 Olympics: Aries Merritt (gold), Jason Richardson (silver), Jeff Porter (semifinals)
2015 Worlds: Aries Merritt (bronze), David Oliver (seventh), Aleec Harris (semifinals), Ronnie Ash (first round)

Outlook: The world-record holder Merritt is the story here, after earning bronze at Worlds with kidney function at less than 20 percent. He is coming back from a Sept. 1 kidney transplant (and a follow-up procedure in October). Incredibly, Merritt has returned to rank third in the U.S. so far this year, behind Oliver and Ash.

MORE: Lolo Jones scratches out of Olympic Trials

Carolina Kostner tops Alina Zagitova in world champs short program

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Italian Carolina Kostner is the surprise leader after the short program at figure skating worlds, topping a woman half her age, Olympic champion Alina Zagitova, by .76 of a point in Milan on Wednesday.

Kostner, 31, tallied a personal-best 80.27 as she eyes a second world title to join her 2012 crown. Kostner earned the 2014 Olympic bronze medal and was fifth in PyeongChang as the oldest woman in the field by more than six years.

She can become the oldest women’s world champion by more than four years if she hangs on in Friday’s free skate, according to reports when Maria Butyrskaya won at age 26 in 1999.

“If I think back 15 years ago, when I started skating internationally, nobody in Italy followed figure skating,” said Kostner, who could retire after worlds. “Now, there’s a venue full of people sharing this passion with me.”

Zagitova, 15 and trying to become the youngest world champion since Tara Lipinski in 1997, struggled on the back end of her triple-triple jump combination. Her score of 79.51 was 3.41 points fewer than her world record at the Olympics.

“I felt, somehow, tight in my body,” Zagitova said through a translator. “I think it was nerves, but I don’t know why.

“I was more nervous here than at the Olympic Games.”

Zagitova, undefeated in her first senior international season, entered as the clear favorite with Olympic silver medalist and 2016 and 2017 World champion Yevgenia Medvedeva withdrawing from the event due to a right foot injury.

Japan’s Satoko Miyahara and Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond are in third and fourth, reversing their final placements from the Olympics. The U.S. women are in seventh (Bradie Tennell), ninth (Mirai Nagasu) and 17th place (Mariah Bell).

Full results are here.

The top two U.S. women’s results must add up to no more than 13 (sixth and seventh, for example), or they will be dropped to two spots at the 2019 World Championships. The last time the U.S. had fewer than the maximum three spots at an Olympics or worlds was 2013.

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Tennell, the 20-year-old U.S. champion who led the Americans at the Olympics in ninth, swung her fist after a clean short that scored 68.76 points. She was .18 off her personal best from the Olympic team event.

Nagasu, who was 10th at the Olympics, performed a double Axel rather than the triple she landed in the Olympic team event. She also had her triple-triple combination downgraded to a triple-double.

Bell, the second alternate who made the team after Olympian Karen Chen withdrew and Ashley Wagner passed, struggled on her opening combination, only able to tack on a single jump.

Key Free Skate Start Times (Friday ET)
Mariah Bell (USA) — 2:32 p.m.
Bradie Tennell (USA) — 4:05 p.m.
Mirai Nagasu (USA) — 4:12 p.m.
Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN) — 4:36 p.m.
Satoko Miyahara (JPN) — 5 p.m.
Alina Zagitova (RUS) — 5:08 p.m.
Carolina Kostner (ITA) — 5:16 p.m.

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MORE: Best figure skating moments from PyeongChang

South Korea women’s hockey team ‘misses’ playing with North Koreans

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Something is missing as the South Korean women’s hockey team prepares for its lower-level world championship tournament next month.

North Koreans.

“Right now, we have some injured players, and having the North players would definitely help our roster have more numbers,” Sarah Murray, the Minnesota native who coaches the South Korean team and coached the unified Korean Olympic team, said Wednesday, according to Yonhap News Agency. “But we just miss practicing with them. They brought a different level of intensity to practice and it was just fun to have them around.”

South Korea plays at the third-tier worlds in Italy in two weeks in a six-team group with China, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia and Poland.

It earned a spot in that tournament by topping its group in the fourth tier last year, including a 3-0 win over North Korea at a PyeongChang Olympic venue.

If South Korea tops its group this year, it moves to the second-tier worlds in 2019, one level below the ultimate tournament with the likes of the U.S. and Canada.

Murray initially had mixed feelings about North Koreans joining her team for the Olympics. The joint Korean team went winless in five games, giving up 28 goals and scoring two.

“We have really enjoyed working with the North’s players and coaches, and we really do want to help them in the future,” Murray said after their last game in Gangneung, according to The Associated Press, adding that a possible “exchange game” was discussed to maintain the connection. “They want to get better, they want to keep learning from us and we want to help them. And there are things that we can learn from them, too.”

North Korea’s team is scheduled to play in the fourth-tier worlds that start next week in Slovenia. A joint North-South team could return for the 2022 Olympics.

“I think that would be good to do it in 2022, to go to the Beijing Olympics, to keep the North and South Korean team,” IIHF president Rene Fasel said at the Olympics, according to the AP. “It is a message of peace, and we hope to continue that. We will try.”

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