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Oslo Diamond League preview, broadcast schedule

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Caster Semenya and Andre De Grasse headline a Diamond League meet in Oslo, live on Thursday starting at 12:15 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold and 2 p.m. on NBCSN.

The Olympic champion Semenya puts her 16-meet winning streak on the line in the 800m against the Rio silver and bronze medalists.

De Grasse, a three-time Olympic medalist for Canada, could be the top challenger to Usain Bolt in Bolt’s final individual race at the world championships in August. But De Grasse finished fourth and fifth in his first two Diamond League 100m races this season. He needs a win in Oslo to stay in the gold-medal conversation.

U.S. athletes in Oslo are preparing for the national championships in Sacramento, Calif., next week. At nationals, the top three per event will qualify for worlds.

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

12:15 p.m. — Women’s pole vault
1:57 — Men’s discus
1:57 — Women’s discus
2:03 — Men’s 400m
2:12 — Men’s high jump
2:17 — Women’s 100m hurdles
2:20 — Women’s long jump
2:45 — Women’s 3000m steeplechase
3:03 — Men’s 100m
3:10 — Women’s 800m
3:25 — Men’s 400m hurdles
3:40 — Women’s 200m
3:50 — Men’s 1500m

Here are five events to watch:

Men’s/Women’s Discus — 1:57 p.m. ET

The men’s and women’s discus events are held simultaneously this season for the first time. The last four Olympic champions are represented in Oslo — German brothers Robert and Christoph Harting and Croatian Sandra Perkovic, the 2012 and 2016 women’s gold medalist.

Neither Harting has been particularly impressive in limited action so far this season. Instead, Jamaican Fedrick Dacres owns the two best throws of 2017. Jamaica reigns in the sprints, but it has never had a Diamond League winner in a throwing event.

Perkovic puts her 15-meet winning streak on the line against Rio silver medalist Mélina Robert-Michon of France and Rio bronze medalist Denia Caballero of Cuba.

Men’s High Jump — 2:12 p.m. ET

The best field of the meet. The top five from the Rio Olympics are entered, led by gold medalist Derek Drouin of Canada. But Drouin no-heighted in his 2017 Diamond League debut in Shanghai.

Instead, the favorite Thursday is Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim. The Rio silver medalist has won all four of his competitions this year, clearing heights that nobody in the world has matched in 2017.

Men’s 100m — 3:03 p.m. ET

De Grasse, the Olympic 100m bronze medalist and 200m silver medalist, could really use a win here. Only one man in the field has broken 9.90 in his career or 10.0 this season, and it’s not the Canadian phenom. It’s veteran Frenchman Jimmy Vicaut.

In De Grasse’s favor: His fourth- and fifth-place 100m finishes earlier this season were against stronger fields, and he’s coming off a 200m win last week in Rome. He may be rounding into form as the Canadian Championships approach in early July.

Women’s 800m — 3:10 p.m. ET

The scrutinized Semenya hasn’t lost since 2015, but she’s looking vulnerable. Kenyan Margaret Wambui, who took bronze in Rio 1.6 seconds behind Semenya, closed the gap in their first two meetings this season.

Wambui made Semenya run hard through the line in Doha (losing by a respectable .42) and then scared Semenya in Eugene three weeks later (losing by one tenth of a second). This time last year, Semenya was winning races by one second, so relaxed it looked like she could have gone one or two seconds faster.

Now, Wambui is a worthy challenger in Oslo.

Women’s 200m — 3:40 p.m. ET

Olympic silver medalist Dafne Schippers is the class of the field. Nobody else is ranked in the top 35 in the world this year, so the Dutchwoman is more racing against the top 200m times posted elsewhere in 2017.

The target will be to get near Tori Bowie‘s world-leading 21.77 seconds set at the Pre Classic, where Schippers was fourth in 22.30, her lowest 200m finish in five years.

A more realistic goal for Schippers would be to break 22 seconds, which she did in winning Oslo last year.

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Alysia Montano races pregnant again at USATF Outdoor Championships

Alysia Montano
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U.S. Olympic 800m runner Alysia Montaño raced four months pregnant in 110-degree heat at the USATF Outdoor Championships in Sacramento, Calif., on Thursday.

Montaño, who raced eight months pregnant at the 2014 USATF Outdoors also in Sacramento, finished last in her 800m first-round heat in 2:21.40. She was 10 seconds faster than her time three years ago.

In a Wonder Woman top, she gritted her teeth on the final straightaway and raised her arms crossing the finish line.

“[In 2014] women let me know that my journey and my story had inspired them in so many different ways,” Montaño told media in Sacramento, standing next to 2-year-old daughter Linnea. “I think there’s something about coming out to any venue, not really expecting to win, but just going along with the journey and seeing what comes out of it. And that’s the most beautiful part for me, being a track and field athlete, the platform that I have, I feel so responsible to be a representative for people who don’t have the same platform, don’t have the same voice that I do.

“I represent so many different people. I represent women. I represent black women. I represent pregnant women. … I think it’s my responsibility to make sure I’m a voice and advocate for them.”

Athletes are looking for top-three finishes to qualify for the world championships in London in August. Finals are later this weekend.

In the men’s 800m, two-time Olympian and 2013 World silver medalist Nick Symmonds was eliminated, 32nd-fastest of 33 runners in the first round.

Symmonds, in his final season, said he has one more race left — the Honolulu Marathon on Dec. 10.

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Lilly King to be less vocal on Yuliya Efimova topic this summer

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Expect to see Lilly King and Yuliya Efimova resume their breaststroke rivalry at the world championships next month.

It will look very different than in Rio, when King became a vocal opponent of doping and directed some of her words at the formerly suspended Russian Efimova.

“This summer, I’m not going to talk about everything that happened last summer,” King said, according to the Indianapolis Star. “I spoke my piece. I’ve said everything I need to say.”

Her focus needs to stay in the pool, where she must finish first or second at the USA Swimming National Championships next week to make it to worlds (broadcast schedule here).

King said in May her goal is to break world records at worlds in Budapest in July.

She may need to in order to defeat Efimova like in Rio.

Efimova has the fastest 100m breast time in the world this year, a 1:04.82 set on Sunday. The national record put her No. 3 on the all-time list (and .09 faster than King’s winning time in Rio).

King is in third place this year at 1:06.20, though she spent all winter focusing on NCAA competition in 25-yard pools.

In Rio, King said Efimova shouldn’t have been allowed to compete given her doping history.

Efimova served a 16-month ban for testing positive for the banned steroid DHEA in 2013. She again tested positive in February 2016 for meldonium, though she said she stopped taking it before it became a banned substance Jan. 1, 2016, and was absolved along with other athletes.

King memorably finger-wagged at an image of Efimova on a TV in the ready room before her 100m breast semifinal and relegated the Russian to silver the following the night.

“You’ve been caught for drug cheating, I’m just not a fan,” King memorably said in Rio, adding last November, “[Doping] was on all of our minds. We had team meetings talking about what it was going to be like. We were going to be racing dopers, and we all knew it.”

King struggled with her newfound fame after she returned home last summer, sobbing in a winter meeting with her University of Indiana coach, Ray Looze, according to the Indianapolis Star:

It was so hard to do normal activities in her hometown – go to the grocery store or eat at a restaurant – that she considered wearing a wig to disguise herself. Her likeness was on a bingo card at a fall festival, so people purposely looked for her. When in Evansville now, she said, she looks at the ground so no one will recognize her. After an initial wave of attention on IU’s campus, she can walk around without interruption.

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