Usain Bolt

Diamond League preview: Usain Bolt set for 200 in Paris

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Usain Bolt is in an unfamiliar position going into Saturday’s Diamond League meet in Paris. He’s chasing another sprinter.

Bolt, the six-time Olympic gold medalist, is looking up at Tyson Gay in both the 100 and 200 meters on the IAAF world leaders lists this season. Gay owns the year’s fastest times in the 100 (9.75) and the 200 (19.74) with a little more than a month until the world championships in Moscow.

Bolt will run his second 200 of the season Saturday (3:50 p.m. ET) at Stade de France. His first, a 19.79 in Oslo on June 13, marked the fastest time in the world in 2013 until Gay ran his 19.74 at U.S. nationals June 23.

Watch on Universal Sports (Saturday, 2 p.m. ET) | Full Start Lists/Times

“With the world championships approaching, I need some top-class races, to find out where I’m at so as I can place myself in relation to the others and, most importantly, in relation to myself,” Bolt told reporters in Paris.

He’ll get decent competition in Paris, even though Gay and the injured Yohan Blake are not in the field.

Bolt will face the top two finishers from Jamaican worlds trials — where Bolt received a bye — in 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Warren Weir and Nickel Ashmeade.

The biggest cheers — outside of Bolt — will go to Frenchman Christophe Lemaitre, the 2011 world bronze medalist in the 200.

But the real comparison will be to Gay’s previous times. If Bolt beats Gay’s 19.74, he’ll silence some of the early doubts about his dominance this year. If he doesn’t, and if he runs slower than the Oslo 19.79, those whispers will grow a tad louder.

The women’s high jump (2:08) features the world’s top three performers this season in American 2012 Olympic silver medalist Brigetta Barrett, 2012 Olympic champion Anna Chicherova and two-time world champion Blanka Vlasic.

The men’s 400 (2:17) brings a budding rivalry between the last two Olympic champions, LaShawn Merritt and Kirani James, who combine to own the eight fastest times this season. They’re 1-1 against each other in 2013.

The women’s 100 (2:56) includes two-time Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, world leader Kelly-Ann Baptiste and U.S. and NCAA champion English Gardner. Another notable is versatile Nigerian Blessing Okagbare, who won a 200 in Birmingham, England, on Sunday, then won the long jump in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Thursday.

The 110 hurdles (3:30) is loaded with the last two Olympic champions (Aries Merritt and Dayron Robles), last two world champions (Jason Richardson and Ryan Brathwaite), the world leader (David Oliver) and the U.S. champion (Ryan Wilson).

Four American Olympians are in the finale, the men’s 1,500 (3:50), including 2012 silver medalist Leo Manzano, Matthew Centrowitz, who was fourth in London, two-time Olympic medalist Bernard Lagat and two-time Olympian Lopez Lomong.

Tyson Gay beats Asafa Powell; Lausanne Diamond League recap

Hirscher leads by 0.56 seconds after first run in World Champs slalom

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Marcel Hirscher swept into the finish area and wagged his finger triumphantly in front of the camera.

The message was clear: The ski king is back.

The Austrian produced an emphatic response to relinquishing his giant slalom title two days earlier at the world championships by taking a 0.56-second lead after the first run of the slalom on Sunday.

Only Alexis Pinturault of France was within a second of Hirscher, who was on course to win a record-tying seventh career gold medal at the worlds.

Marco Schwarz of Austria was in third place, 1.22 seconds off the lead.

Hirscher, the seven-time overall World Cup champion, showed no ill-effects from the cold that has been affecting him this week. After the giant slalom on Friday, he said he would be going straight back to bed to rest up for the slalom.

He looked in good working order on Sunday.

As the third skier on the course, Hirscher took 1.70 seconds off No. 2 starter Henrik Kristoffersen, who beat Hirscher to GS gold on Friday, and more than two seconds off Clement Noel, who came to the worlds in form after wins in Wengen and Kitzbuehel.

Save for Hirscher crashing, only Pinturault looks capable to denying the Austrian a third slalom gold at the worlds — something only the great Ingemar Stenmark has achieved. Pinturault was only 0.06 seconds behind Hirscher at the third checkpoint but he went wide at the first turn on the final descent and lost half a second.

“I’m still in the fight,” Pinturault said, “and still have a chance in the second leg. That’s the essential (thing).”

Daniel Yule of Switzerland was 0.28 behind Hirscher at the last split before falling at the start to the final descent.

Hirscher also won the slalom at the 2013 and 2017 worlds. A seventh career gold at the worlds would tie the men’s record held by compatriot Toni Sailer from the late 1950s.

Austria, a storied Alpine skiing nation, needs Hirscher to deliver in the final event to avoid finishing the world championships without a gold medal for the first time since Crans Montana, Switzerland, in 1987. The women’s team has already finished with no medals and that hasn’t happened since Schladming, Austria, in 1982.

Watch an encore presentation of the first run on NBCSN at 7:00 a.m. ET. The second and deciding run can be seen live starting at 8:00 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold.

Mikaela Shiffrin proving she’s in league of her own

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There are ski racers, and then there is Mikaela Shiffrin.

NBC Sports essayist Tim Layden calls Shiffrin the “rarest creature,” a prodigy who continues to get better with age.

Shiffrin’s stardom took off with her heart-stopping slalom gold medal in the 2014 Olympics. It looked like she would ascend to an even higher level four years later in PyeongChang when she claimed a gold medal in the giant slalom, but then she lost a battle with her nerves and failed to win a medal in the slalom. She did capture a silver in the combined event.

That Olympic disappointment has fueled her historic World Cup season. She became the youngest skier to pass the 50 win mark. She broke the women’s career record for slalom victories, and she became the first skier ever to win four-straight world championship titles in a single event.

A true prodigy indeed.