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Justin Gatlin, Andre De Grasse face off at Diamond League opener

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If a sprinter is to beat Usain Bolt at his world championships farewell in August, it will likely be one of the men in the 100m field at the Diamond League opener in Doha on Friday.

Olympic silver and bronze medalists Justin Gatlin and Andre De Grasse headline the first of 14 meets in the Diamond League season that runs to Sept. 1.

Universal HD will air live coverage Friday from noon-2 p.m. ET, with NBC Sports Gold streaming the action from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

Gatlin and De Grasse will each line up for an individual outdoors race for the first time since the Rio Olympics. They’ll be joined by former world-record holder Asafa Powell and South Africa’s Akani Simbine, who owns five of the eight fastest times in the world this year.

Doha start lists are available here. Here’s the schedule (all times Eastern):

11 a.m. — Women’s shot put
11:15 — Women’s pole vault
11:45 — Men’s high jump
12:03 p.m. — Men’s 400m
12:05 p.m. — Men’s javelin
12:14 — Men’s 1500m
12:25 — Women’s 800m
12:35 — Women’s 200m
12:45 — Men’s triple jump
12:50 — Women’s 100m hurdles
1:05 — Women’s 3000m steeplechase
1:25 — Men’s 100m
1:35 — Men’s 400m hurdles
1:45 — Men’s 3000m

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s pole vault — 11:15 a.m. ET

Olympic gold and silver medalists Ekaterini Stefanidi (Greece) and Sandi Morris (U.S.) renew their rivalry. In 19 career meetings, Stefanidi holds a 10-9 edge, but Morris has won three of the four since Rio, according to Tilastopaja.org. The top outdoor clearance in the world this year is from 2012 Olympic champion Jenn Suhr at 4.83 meters, but Suhr is not in the Doha field.

Women’s 800m — 12:25 p.m. ET

Ethiopian 1500m world-record holder Genzebe Dibaba picked an extremely difficult race for the first outdoor 800m of her career. Dibaba, who was upset by Kenyan Faith Kipyegon for Rio 1500m gold, will take on all three Olympic 800m medalists in Doha — South African Caster Semenya, Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba and Kenyan Margaret Wambui.

Given there are three days between the 1500m and the 800m at the world championships in August, it’s conceivable that Dibaba could try to race both events in London.

Women’s 200m — 12:35 p.m. ET

The Rio gold and silver medalists duel here, too, with Jamaican Elaine Thompson and Dutchwoman Dafne Schippers. Both will be chasing 22.09 seconds, the fastest time in the world this year set by Rio bronze medalist Tori Bowie last Friday. Bowie is not in the Doha field. Neither Thompson nor Schippers has ever run that fast this early in a year.

Women’s 3000m steeplechase — 1:05 p.m. ET

Olympic champion and world-record holder Ruth Jebet of Bahrain and Olympic bronze medalist and American record holder Emma Coburn make their season debuts.

Though Coburn shared the Rio podium with Jebet, the gap is large. Jebet’s world record set after the Olympics is 8:52.78, six seconds faster than the next-fastest clocking of all time. In fact, Jebet ran under Coburn’s American record (9:07.63) four times in 2016, including three times under 9 minutes.

Men’s 100m — 1:25 p.m. ET
In perhaps the highlight of the IAAF World Relays two weeks ago, De Grasse easily passed Gatlin on a 4x100m preliminary heat anchor leg. The Canadian De Grasse, 22, looked spry. Gatlin, 35, looked unable to find the extra gear he showed in spring 2014 and 2015.

One preliminary relay leg in April is far from a suitable sample size, but De Grasse is certainly promising at the moment. Keep in mind though that De Grasse does not have a history of blazing (wind-legal) times in the spring. In 10 races before the Rio Olympics in 2016, he had a best of 9.99 seconds.

It’s likely going to take faster to win in Doha. Not necessarily because of Gatlin, but the South African Simbine, who has raced at three meets this season and posted the following wind-legal times — 9.93, 9.98, 9.92, 9.94 and 9.95. Simbine was fifth in Rio behind Bolt, Gatlin, De Grasse and Yohan Blake.

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U.S. men look to fill Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte void at swim worlds

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With Michael Phelps retired and Ryan Lochte suspended, the superstars at the world swimming championships clearly lie on the women’s side.

But the men’s events will include world-record chasers, a stinging rivalry and, perhaps, the emergence of Phelps and Lochte’s successor as leading U.S. man.

Caeleb Dressel came through in Rio under arguably the most pressure of any swimmer, starting off the U.S. 4x100m freestyle relay team in his very first Olympic splash with a personal-best time.

Dressel, a 20-year-old who nearly quit swimming three years ago as the No. 1 recruit in the nation, has nine events to choose from at worlds in Budapest starting Sunday.

He qualified in four individual events — 50m and 100m butterflies and freestyles — and is eligible for all five relays (two mixed-gender).

In the last 15 years, only two U.S. men have raced in four individual events at a single Olympics or world championships — Phelps and Lochte.

Dressel is in the medal mix in all of his individual events, ranking No. 1 in the world this year in the 100m fly, No. 3 in the 50m free, No. 4 in the 100m free and No. 5 in the 50m fly. He is also almost guaranteed medals in any relays that he enters given the unmatched U.S. depth.

Dressel has never been to a worlds and raced just one individual event in Rio. He’s the potential breakout star on a U.S. team, surrounded by more proven names.

SWIMMING WORLDS: TV Schedule | Men’s Preview | Women’s Preview | Event Schedule

Ryan Murphy, who swam for the same Jacksonville, Fla., club team as Dressel, swept the backstrokes in Rio and broke the 100m back world record leading off the medley relay. That dominance has not quite carried over so far in 2017. Murphy ranks third in the world in the 100m and 200m backs this year.

Chase Kalisz, a longtime Phelps training partner in Baltimore, has followed up his Rio Olympic 400m individual medley silver medal well this year. He chopped two seconds off his personal best in the 200m IM and goes into Budapest ranked No. 1 in the world in the 400m IM by nearly a half-second.

The U.S. boasts more medal threats including Nathan Adrian (sprint freestyles), Townley Haas (200m free), Cody Miller and Kevin Cordes (breaststrokes), but nobody is a clear favorite.

The surest bets are world-record holders Adam Peaty and Ippei Watanabe in the breaststrokes and Italian Gregorio Paltrinieri in the 1500m free. Paltrinieri could challenge a five-year-old world record held by Sun Yang.

Speaking of Sun, the mercurial Chinese superstar is set to renew his rivalry with Australian Mack Horton. In Rio, Horton memorably called Sun “a drug cheat,” in reference to Sun’s three-month suspension in 2014 for using a banned stimulant.

Horton then went out and beat Sun in the 400m freestyle, dethroning the Olympic and world champion. Horton and Sun could face off in four individual events in Budapest.

Key men’s finals:

Sunday, July 23
400m freestyle — Sun has been two seconds faster than Horton this year
4x100m freestyle relay — Olympic silver medalist France won’t defend world title; U.S. favored

Monday, July 24
100m breaststroke — Peaty has the eight fastest times ever and fastest by .95 this year

Tuesday, July 25
200m freestyle — Haas the only man within .64 of Sun in 2017
100m backstroke — Rio silver medalist Xu Jiayu was .01 shy of Murphy’s WR in April

Wednesday, July 26
200m butterfly — Japan and Hungary lead the post-Phelps-era world; Chad le Clos ranks 8th in 2017
800m freestyle — Italian Gabriele Detti fastest in 2017 by six seconds, but slower than Sun’s winning times in 2011, 2013, 2015

Thursday, July 27
200m individual medley — Phelps, Lochte won the last 12 Olympic/world titles
100m freestyle — Reigning Olympic and world champions’ absences open door for Adrian, Dressel

Friday, July 28
200m backstroke — U.S. won 14 of the last 15 Olympic/world titles, including Murphy in Rio
200m breaststroke — Watanabe broke WR in January; surprise Olympic champ Dmitriy Balandin ranks No. 127 this year
4x200m freestyle relay — U.S., without Lochte, Phelps, looks to take world title back from Great Britain

Saturday, July 29
50m freestyle — Reigning Olympic and world champions’ absences open door for Adrian, Dressel
100m butterfly — Joseph Schooling eyes Phelps’ WR, but Dressel ranks No. 1 in 2017

Sunday, July 30
400m individual medley — Kalisz ranks No. 1 in 2017, but time is .94 slower than Kosuke Hagino in Rio
1500m freestyle — Sun holds WR of 14:31 but hasn’t broken 14:55 since 2014
4x100m medley relay — Great Britain will lean on Peaty to challenge U.S.

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Katie Ledecky eyes more history as women to star at swimming worlds

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The year after the Olympics isn’t always known for it, but there should be fireworks in the women’s events at the world swimming championships in Budapest next week.

Katie Ledecky could match Missy Franklin‘s record of six gold medals at a single worlds by swimming one more event than she did at the 2015 Worlds and 2016 Olympics. Judging by Ledecky’s times at the U.S. Championships last month, the rising Stanford sophomore is in her usual dominant form.

Hungarian Katinka Hosszu, swimming in front of her home fans, could try to equal Ledecky with four individual golds in backstrokes and individual medleys.

Swede Sarah Sjostrom could do the same in the 50m and 100m butterflies and freestyles, where world records are under threat.

Ledecky, Hosszu and Sjostrom are all bidding to become the first women to three-peat in an individual event at worlds.

Then there’s the return of the greatest rivalry in swimming. After their memorable Rio duel, King and Yulia Efimova rank Nos. 1 and 2 in the world this year in all three breaststrokes.

Spain’s Mireia Belmonte and American Leah Smith have never won an individual world title, but they could be the busiest swimmers of all next week.

Belmonte could race 7,4000 total meters if she makes every event final. Smith could get up to 7,000 meters. Both would outdistance Ledecky and Hosszu in mileage.

SWIMMING WORLDS: TV Schedule | Men’s Preview | Women’s Preview | Event Schedule

The women’s program could have been even more loaded if not for two notable absences. Australian Cate Campbell, the 100m freestyle world-record holder, is sitting out world champs.

Australia beat the U.S. in the 4x100m free relay at the 2015 Worlds and 2016 Olympics, but without Campbell, the Americans are about even with the Aussies. Ledecky’s bid for six golds could hang on this race on the opening night.

Ledecky also greatly benefits from Sjostrom’s decision to skip the 200m freestyle. In Rio, Sjostrom was the closest swimmer to Ledecky in her individual events, coming .35 shy in the 200m free while outsplitting Ledecky in the final 50 meters.

Key women’s finals:

Sunday, July 23
400m freestyle — Ledecky hasn’t lost a 400m free since the 2012 Olympic Trials
4x100m freestyle relay — Showdown with Campbell-less Australia crucial for Ledecky’s six-gold bid

Monday, July 24
100m butterfly — Sjostrom’s only competition is her world record of 55.48
200m individual medley — Nobody has been within a second of Hosszu this year

Tuesday, July 25
100m backstroke — Kylie Masse was .09 off the longest-standing women’s swimming world record at Canadian Champs
1500m freestyle — Ledecky is 25 seconds faster than anyone else this year
100m breaststroke — Efimova is .13 faster than King this year

Wednesday, July 26
200m freestyle — Ledecky’s toughest individual event made easier by Sjostrom’s absence

Thursday, July 27
200m butterfly — Olympic champ Belmonte eyes first world title; Nos. 2, 3, 4 from Rio absent
4x200m freestyle relay — China is strong, but Ledecky is the U.S.’ ace in the hole

Friday, July 28
100m freestyle — Heavy favorite Sjostrom .02 off the world record in June
200m breaststroke — Efimova is two seconds faster than second-ranked King this year

Saturday, July 29
200m backstroke — Kathleen Baker can inherit throne from retired Maya DiRado 
800m freestyle — Likely Ledecky’s sixth and final event, could match Franklin’s gold record

Sunday, July 30
50m freestyle — No. of sub-24-second times this year — Sjostrom: 6; Rest of World: 0
400m individual medley — Hosszu, after breaking WR by two seconds in Rio, slower this year
4x100m medley relay — U.S. should gap Australia, China on breaststroke leg

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*Correction: The integrity of a Lilly King quote attributed to Agence France-Presse in earlier version of this story has been called into question and was removed.