Usain Bolt returns to London Olympic Stadium; Diamond League preview

Mo Farah, Usain Bolt
0 Comments

They’re calling it the London Anniversary Games. This week’s Diamond League meet bears extra significance, the first world-class track and field competition held at London’s Olympic Stadium since the flame was extinguished last summer.

Several track and field stars are either injured or pretty much done for the season after failing to qualify for the world championships (Aug. 10-18, Moscow). Most of those still standing will compete in London on Friday or Saturday, including Usain Bolt, Allyson FelixMo Farah and Jessica Ennis.

Here’s a chronological rundown of key events to watch (coverage begins on Universal Sports on Friday, 3 p.m. ET):

Women’s 1,500 meters (Friday, 3:36 p.m. ET)

Mary Cain is the headliner here. Cain, 17, the sensation of the indoor season, makes her senior European debut in the event in which she qualified for worlds.

Cain made the U.S. team by finishing second in a tactical final at nationals in Des Moines, Iowa, in June to training partner Treniere Moser, who is running the 3,000 on Friday.

She has a great chance of winning this race given the highest-ranked woman (according to IAAF) in the field this year is No. 16 Mary Kuria of Kenya (4:03.56). Cain is No. 24 at 4:04.62.

Also in the field is American Morgan Uceny, who was the world No. 1 in 2011 but finished eighth at nationals.

Men’s 100 meters (Friday, 4:48 p.m. ET)

A lot has changed since Bolt last ran a 100, winning the Jamaican nationals on June 21 to qualify for worlds.

Now out of the picture are Olympic silver medalist Yohan Blake (injury), American record holder Tyson Gay (drug test) and former world record holder Asafa Powell (drug test).

The consensus is only one man is left to challenge Bolt in Moscow, if anybody, and that’s 2004 Olympic champion Justin Gatlin, who is not in this field in London.

However, there are two men in Friday’s 100 who have run faster than Bolt this year — countryman Nesta Carter and British upstart James Dasaolu.

Carter, a longtime partner on Jamaica’s 4×100 relay squad, is suddenly the active 2013 world leader with a 9.87, but he didn’t make the Jamaican team for the 100 at worlds. Dasaolu became the second fastest Brit ever (behind 1992 Olympic champion Linford Christie) when he ran a 9.91 at British nationals earlier this month.

Still, it would be surprising to see Bolt lose here, two weeks before the world championships. He may even have his eyes on Gay’s fastest time this year of 9.75, a time we may see expunged pending his drug-testing case.

Women’s 100-meter hurdles (Saturday, 9:11 a.m. ET)

American fans must get up bright and early to catch a glimpse of the biggest female track and field star of the 2012 Olympics — heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis.

Ennis has been battling an Achilles injury since the spring, putting major doubt into her status for not only this meet but also the world championships.

She appears ready to go after setting a personal best in the javelin at a low-key meet earlier this week. Ennis is also in the long jump field Saturday.

Another Olympic champion on the way back from injury is the London gold medalist in this event, Australian Sally Pearson. Pearson, like Ennis, has been set back since the spring. Her ailment has been a hamstring.

Dominant in 2011 and 2012, Pearson has been slow in a handful of meets over the last two months. Her season’s best — 12.67 — is well off her personal best (12.28) set at 2011 worlds and even farther behind the world leader for 2013, U.S. champion Brianna Rollins (12.26). Rollins pulled out of Monaco last week because she her managers didn’t want her to face Pearson before worlds, according to Australian reports.

Rollins is not in the field Saturday, but the third- and fourth-place finishers from U.S. nationals are — Nia Ali and Kellie Wells. They, along with Brit Tiffany Porter, will give Pearson more than enough competition.

Men’s 110-meter hurdles (Saturday, 11:07 a.m. ET)

This event has been one of the most exciting and star-studded of all of track and field for the last few years. We’ve seen the balance of power shift from China to Cuba to three different American men.

Saturday’s showdown will be overwhelmingly red, white and blue. In the field are 2013 U.S. champion Ryan Wilson, former American record holder David Oliver, 2011 world champion Jason Richardson and 2012 Olympic champion Aries Merritt

All four men are going to worlds, so this should be a nice Moscow preview. 2008 Olympic champion Dayron Robles was originally in this event, but as of Thursday afternoon was no longer on the entry list.

The top non-American here is another Cuban, Orlando Ortega, who ran a 13.08 in Eugene, Ore., in June. Only Oliver has run faster this year.

Women’s 100 meters (Saturday, 11:20 a.m. ET)

This sprint isn’t getting the pre-meet talk because it doesn’t include Bolt or a British star, but it just may be the best field of the competition. All the major players going into worlds are here.

From the U.S., there’s national and NCAA champion English Gardner and 2011 world champion Carmelita Jeter. They could both use impressive times here, given Gardner ran an 11.32 in her European pro debut earlier this month (after winning nationals in 10.85). Jeter hasn’t gone sub-11 since her quadriceps injury in Shanghai in May, which caused her to skip nationals in June.

The favorites lead with two-time reigning Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica, who won in Paris on July 6 in 10.92 (into a slight headwind). There’s also world leader Kelly-Ann Baptiste of Trinidad and Tobago. Baptiste has run a 10.83 this year but no other times sub-11. If Fraser-Pryce beats Baptiste here, there’s no doubt who the favorite is going into Moscow.

Notables: Felix takes on a field including Americans Shalonda Solomon, LaShauntea Moore and DeeDee Trotter in the women’s 200 (Saturday, 10:27 a.m. ET). … Farah, fresh off breaking the British 1,500 record last week, could very well break the nation’s 31-year-old record in the 3,000 meters (Saturday, 11:32 a.m. ET).

Usain Bolt: ‘I know I’m clean’

Teri McKeever fired by Cal as women’s swimming coach after investigation

Teri McKeever
Getty
0 Comments

Teri McKeever, the first woman to serve as a U.S. Olympic swimming head coach, was fired by the University of California at Berkeley after an investigation into alleged verbal and emotional abuse of swimmers that she denied.

McKeever was put on paid administrative leave from her job as head women’s swimming coach in May after an Orange County Register report that 20 current or former Cal swimmers said McKeever verbally and emotionally bullied her swimmers.

Cal athletics director Jim Knowlton wrote in a letter to the Cal team and staff that a resulting independent law firm report detailed “verbally abusive conduct that is antithetical to our most important values.”

“I strongly believe this is in the best interests of our student-athletes, our swimming program and Cal Athletics as a whole,” Knowlton said of McKeever’s firing in a press release. “The report details numerous violations of university policies that prohibit race, national origin and disability discrimination.”

The Orange County Register first published what it says is the full independent report here.

“I deny and unequivocally refute all conclusions that I abused or bullied any athlete and deny any suggestion I discriminated against any athlete on the basis of race, disability or sexual orientation,” McKeever said in a statement Tuesday confirming her firing and expressing disappointment in how the investigation was conducted. “While I am disappointed in the way my CAL Career will conclude, I wish to thank and celebrate the many student-athletes and staff that made my time in Berkeley a true blessing and gift.”

McKeever’s lawyer wrote that McKeever “will be filing suit to expose the manner in which gender has affected not only the evaluation of her coaching but harmed and continues to harm both female and male athletes.”

McKeever led Cal women’s swimming and diving for nearly 30 years, winning four NCAA team titles and coaching Olympic champions including Missy FranklinNatalie Coughlin and Dana Vollmer.

In 2004, she became the first woman to be on a U.S. Olympic swim team coaching staff, as an assistant. In 2012, she became the first woman to be head coach of a U.S. Olympic swim team. She was an assistant again for the Tokyo Games.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Diana Taurasi returns to U.S. national basketball team

Diana Taurasi
Getty
0 Comments

Diana Taurasi is set to return to the U.S. national basketball team next week for the first time since the Tokyo Olympics, signaling a possible bid for a record-breaking sixth Olympic appearance in 2024 at age 42.

Taurasi is on the 15-player roster for next week’s training camp in Minnesota announced Tuesday.

Brittney Griner is not on the list but is expected to return to competitive basketball later this year with her WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury (also Taurasi’s longtime team, though she is currently a free agent), after being detained in Russia for 10 months in 2022.

Taurasi said as far back as the 2016 Rio Games that her Olympic career was likely over, but returned to the national team after Dawn Staley succeeded Geno Auriemma as head coach in 2017.

In Tokyo, Taurasi and longtime backcourt partner Sue Bird became the first basketball players to win five Olympic gold medals. Bird has since retired.

After beating Japan in the final, Taurasi said “see you in Paris,” smiling, as she left an NBC interview. That’s now looking less like a joke and more like a prediction.

Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve succeeded Staley as head coach last year. In early fall, she guided the U.S. to arguably the best FIBA World Cup performance ever, despite not having stalwarts Bird, Griner, Tina Charles and Sylvia Fowles.

Taurasi was not in contention for the team after suffering a WNBA season-ending quad injury in the summer. Taurasi, who is 38-0 in Olympic games and started every game at the last four Olympics, wasn’t on a U.S. team for an Olympics or worlds for the first time since 2002.

Next year, Taurasi can become the oldest Olympic basketball player in history and the first to play in six Games, according to Olympedia.org. Spain’s Rudy Fernandez could also play in a sixth Olympics in 2024.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!