Aries Merritt

U.S. could sweep men’s 110-meter hurdles at World Championships

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History may be in order, specifically a one-two-three-four order, in the men’s 110-meter hurdles at the World Track and Field Championships on Monday.

The U.S. sent all four of its men into the semifinals (11:05 a.m., Universal Sports), and all four are expected to make the final (1:30 p.m.) as well. The last time the U.S. swept the medals in an event at the World Championships came in 2007, when Jeremy WarinerLaShawn Merritt and Angelo Taylor led the 400 meters.

Once before, the U.S. went one-two-three-four in an event, the 200 meters at the 2005 World Championships (Justin GatlinWallace SpearmonJohn CapelTyson Gay). Usually, nations are allowed a maximum of three entries per event, but in recent years defending world champions and Diamond League winners have received byes, adding to that maximum in some cases.

Americans qualified first (David Oliver), fourth (Aries Merritt), fifth (Jason Richardson) and eighth (Ryan Wilson) into the semifinals. The top three from the two semifinal heats and the next two fastest overall will make the final.

“If all the Americans run like they’re capable, we’ll have four Americans in the final,” Merritt said in a phone interview before the World Championships. “I don’t know if we’ll be able to pull off the sweep, but we can show we’re the most dominant hurdles country.”

Merritt is the most recognizable of the four U.S. hurdlers. He was one of the most impressive athletes in the sport last year, winning the Olympic title and then breaking the world record. He broke 13 seconds eight times in 2012, but he hasn’t done it once this year. Nobody has.

A hamstring injury has slowed Merritt this season. He finished third at nationals behind Wilson and Oliver in 13.23 seconds and improved on that in July (13.09, 13.14). He’s confident going into the biggest meet of the year.

“The only title I’m missing,” Merritt said. “If I can gain this title, my medal count would be complete. I’m really excited to have the opportunity to try for the trifecta (Olympic title, world record, world title).”

Richardson is the defending champion, though he crossed the finish line second in 2011. In that race, 2008 Olympic champion Dayron Robles finished first, but he was disqualified for hitting 2004 Olympic champion Liu Xiang with his arm following each of the last two hurdles. Liu lost momentum but still finished third.

When Robles was disqualified, Richardson moved up to gold and Liu to silver. Richardson was in third place coming off the final hurdle.

“It was almost like a Christmas miracle how I definitely thought I had gotten third in the race,” Richardson said. “Then it was turned into silver, then turned into gold. The 2011 hurdles race kind of shows you what’s amazing about athletics.”

Oliver, the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist, shockingly failed to make the Olympic team last year. He bounced back to post the fastest time in the world this year (13.03) and the top time in the first round Sunday (13.05).

Wilson, the oldest of the quartet at age 32, made his first world or Olympic team by winning the national title in June.

The U.S. chances of a sweep are boosted by the absences of Liu (injury), Robles (dispute with Cuba) and Orlando Ortega, the second fastest non-American this year who failed to advance into the semifinals.

The major threat to the Americans is Jamaican Hansle Parchment, who won Olympic bronze in London. But Parchment suffered an ankle injury in late June and competed Sunday for the first time since June 1. His qualifying time, 13.43, was 13th best and behind the U.S. foursome.

Medal Picks
Gold: Oliver
Silver: Merritt
Bronze: Wilson

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Federica Brignone passes Mikaela Shiffrin for World Cup overall lead

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Italian Federica Brignone passed an absent Mikaela Shiffrin for the World Cup overall standings lead by winning a combined in Switzerland on Sunday.

Brignone prevailed by .92 of a second adding times from super-G and slalom runs in Crans-Montana. Full results are here.

Brignone moved 73 points ahead of Shiffrin in the overall through 29 of 40 scheduled races. A race winner receives 100 points on a descending scale through the 30th-place finisher. The season runs through March 22.

Shiffrin, the three-time reigning World Cup overall champion, has not competed since the unexpected death of her father on Feb. 2. She has not announced if or when she will return this season.

Brignone, 29, is having a career season with five wins and 10 podiums across four disciplines.

Brignone’s best previous World Cup overall standings finish was fifth. She earned giant slalom medals at the 2018 Olympics (bronze) and 2011 World Championships (silver).

She could become Italy’s first female World Cup overall champion. The last Italian male winner was Alberto Tomba in 1995.

The women’s Alpine skiing World Cup moves to La Thuile, Italy, for a super-G and a combined next Saturday and Sunday.

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Jade Carey on brink of becoming first gymnast to qualify for U.S. Olympic team

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The U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials aren’t until late June, but Jade Carey is in position to qualify for the Tokyo Games in March.

Carey, seeking an individual Olympic gymnastics spot outside of the team competition, earned the maximum points in a World Cup series that is one path to Olympic qualification.

Carey has three wins each on floor exercise and vault with two World Cups left in March. Carey will mathematically clinch an Olympic spot if no other gymnasts win three times on one of the apparatuses to force a tiebreaker.

So far, no other gymnast has two wins on floor. One gymnast has two wins on vault. A gymnast’s top three finishes across the eight-stop series count in Olympic qualifying. If Carey finishes atop the floor or vault standings, she goes to the Olympics.

Carey picked up those third wins on floor and vault at the sixth World Cup in Melbourne, Australia, this weekend.

The one downside to qualifying this route: Carey would not be able to compete in the team competition at the Olympics. Those four spots will be determined at and after June’s trials in St. Louis, with Simone Biles likely grabbing one of them.

“I knew I would be giving up being on the team,” Carey said in October of going the World Cup route, “but I think, for me, it made sense to just go for it.”

Carey is a world medalist on vault and floor, but she doesn’t have the all-around credentials of Biles and some other U.S. gymnasts.

Olympic team event roster sizes were cut from five to four for Tokyo, putting a greater onus on all-around prowess given a team must put three gymnasts on each apparatus in the Olympic final.

The U.S. is the deepest country in women’s gymnastics, so the only truly safe pick to make the four-woman Olympic team event roster is Biles.

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