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.

Decathlon
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.

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U.S., Great Britain to hold track and field dual meet

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The U.S. and Great Britain go head-to-head in a track and field meet on July 21 at the London Olympic Stadium.

“The Meet” will include nine running, jumping, hurdles and relay events and last two hours. Specific events and athletes will be announced early next year.

The U.S. topped the overall medal standings at every Olympics and world outdoor championships since 2004.

Great Britain is one of three countries to earn at least five medals at every Olympics and worlds since 2007, joining the U.S. and Kenya.

British athletes made six podiums at the just-completed worlds at the London Olympic Stadium, including in all four relays. The other two medals came from Mo Farah, who is moving to road racing and marathons after this season.

“The Meet” is similar to swimming’s “Duel in the Pool,” a biennial head-to-head competition between the U.S. and rival Australia from 2003 through 2007 and between the U.S. and Europe between 2009 and 2015.

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Five women’s gymnasts to watch at P&G Championships

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As Rio gold medalists decide on their futures, this week’s P&G Championships mark the first showcase for a new class of U.S. women’s gymnasts.

For the first time since 2008, nobody in the nationals field in Anaheim has competed at an Olympics. Usually, a gymnast or two carries over into the post-Olympic year, like Bridget Sloan in 2009 and Kyla Ross in 2013.

But this year, the feeling is akin to 2005, when no woman (or man) from the 2004 Athens Games chalked up at nationals.

Back then, a 15-year-old Nastia Liukin, who had already starred in a commercial during the 2004 Olympics, made her senior nationals debut and won the all-around. Three years later, Liukin won the Olympic all-around in Beijing.

There will be talk this week of finding the next Liukin, or Gabby Douglas, or Simone Biles, who, like Liukin, won her senior nationals debut the year after the Olympics.

“Some of them [from Rio], hopefully Simone, will be coming back, but I think this is a great opportunity for some of these girls to go out there and prove that they’re just as ready to compete at a world championships,” said Liukin, now an NBC Olympics analyst. “They have to step up a little bit and kind of become the leaders.”

Gymnasts this week are vying to impress new U.S. national team coordinator Valeri Liukin (Nastia’s father). The four-woman roster for October’s worlds, where there is no team event, will be named after a selection camp later this summer.

Five gymnasts to watch at the P&G Championships:

Ragan Smith
Rio Olympic alternate
2017 AT&T American Cup champion

The Texan performed admirably in her first senior season in 2016, placing fifth in the all-around at the Olympic Trials. Her best events are balance beam and floor exercise, and the U.S. needed uneven bars help in Rio, so she went to the Games as an alternate at age 15.

Smith, coached by 1991 World all-around champion Kim Zmeskal, emerged this year as the U.S.’ most reliable all-arounder and clear favorite this week. She won the AT&T American Cup on March 4 despite a beam fall. A definite all-around medal favorite at October’s worlds.

Ashton Locklear
Rio Olympic alternate
2014 World team champion

Locklear was beaten for the Olympic team bars specialist spot by Madison Kocian after nearly matching Kocian in scores in four routines between last year’s P&G Championships and Olympic Trials. The 19-year-old is not considered an all-around threat this week but is favored to make the world team based on her bars ability. She was fourth in the event at 2014 Worlds.

Riley McCusker
2017 Jesolo Trophy all-around winner

McCusker, who has the same coach as Laurie Hernandez, struggled at the American Cup in her first senior competition, falling on bars and beam. She rebounded to win Jesolo a month later and remain in the mix as the No. 2 U.S. all-arounder (Smith wasn’t at Jesolo).

However, McCusker was on crutches with a cast on her wrist in early July and said she expected to be back to peak form in September, not August.

Morgan Hurd
2017 Stuttgart World Cup bronze medalist

Hurd, a first-year senior who competes in glasses, was adopted from China as a toddler and now lives with her mom in Delaware.

Liukin, asked to name gymnasts to watch this week, started with Hurd, whom she says has the highest floor exercise start value in the world. “She could be capable of winning a world all-around medal and possibly become a world champion on floor,” Liukin said.

Jade Carey
2017 U.S. Classic vault winner

The U.S. has a tradition of sending a vault specialist to worlds, but neither of the top vaulters from the last Olympic cycle — Biles and MyKayla Skinner — are competing this week. Enter Carey, a 17-year-old who wasn’t an elite gymnast before this season.

Carey performed the difficult Amanar vault at July’s U.S. Classic, where she was the only gymnast to perform two vaults, which is required to compete for medals on the event at worlds.

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