Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce

Diamond League season set to open in Doha; preview

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Usain Bolt might not race until June. Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell are suspended. Allyson Felix withdrew from her first two scheduled meets of the season.

The absence of stars (to a U.S. audience) as the Diamond League season begins in Doha, Qatar, on Friday is a reminder that this is what athletes call the “off year” in track and field.

There are no Olympics or World Outdoor Championships for the only time in the four-year cycle. It’s a season for Rio Olympic medal hopefuls to dabble in different events, rest and/or play it safer than normal to avoid injury.

But this spring and summer could also see the emergence of new names to watch as we cross the halfway point between the London and Rio Games.

It was in 2010 that the Diamond League debuted. Also that year, Yohan Blake ran his first sub-9.9 100m and jumped from No. 83 to No. 4 in the world in the 200m. He would win World Championships 100m gold in 2011 and Olympic 100m and 200m silver in 2012. London Olympic champions David Rudisha and Ashton Eaton also broke their first world records in 2010.

Doha marks the first of 14 Diamond League meets over the next four months. Universal Sports will have coverage beginning at 12 p.m. ET. The full schedule and entry lists can be found here. Here’s the schedule of events Friday (all times Eastern):

10:25 a.m. — Men’s long jump
10:30 — Men’s discus
10:35 — Women’s shot put
11:10  — Women’s pole vault
11:40 — Men’s high jump
12:04 p.m. — Women’s 400m hurdles
12:10 — Women’s javelin
12:14 — Men’s 1500m
12:26 — Men’s 400m
12:30 — Women’s triple jump
12:35 —  Women’s 800m
12:46 — Men’s 110m hurdles
12:56 — Men’s 800m
1:09 — Women’s 100m
1:18 — Men’s 3000m steeplechase
1:36 — Men’s 200m
1:45 — Women’s 3000m

Here are five events to watch:

Men’s high jump

The event is missing 2013 world champion and world record chaser Bohdan Bondarenko of Ukraine. But it includes London Olympic gold, silver and bronze medalists — Ivan Ukhov (Russia), Erik Kynard (U.S.) and Derek Drouin (Canada).

Drouin has impressed in the early season, winning the Drake Relays with a personal-best 2.40m, becoming the 10th man ever to clear that mark.

Men’s 400m

Reigning world champion LaShawn Merritt takes on the Dominican Republic’s Luguelin Santos in what could be a budding rivalry.

The previous two seasons had been about the Merritt-Kirani James showdowns, but it was the world bronze medalist Santos who edged Merritt in Kingston, Jamaica, on Saturday.

World Championships silver medalist Tony McQuay is also in the field.

Women’s 100m

Jamaican Olympic and world champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce is the headliner in Doha. She said at a press conference Thursday that she’s focusing on improving her 200m this season, but she’ll start off her Diamond League campaign in her bread and butter event.

The top competition should come from 2013 U.S. champion English Gardner, 2008 Olympic silver medalist Kerron Stewart of Jamaica and Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare.

Okagbare won a 100m in 11.19 seconds in Kingston on Saturday, beating Stewart (11.32) and Gardner (11.50).

Fraser-Pryce went sub-11 seven times last season, including a 10.71 at the World Championships.

Men’s 200m

Jamaican Olympic bronze medalist Warren Weir is the favorite here after taking fourth in a 100m in Kingston on Saturday.

The current world-leading time for 2014 is 19.97, a time Weir beat in five races last season.

If anybody is to upset Weir, it could be American Curtis Mitchell, the upstart bronze medalist at last year’s World Championships.

Women’s 3000m

The final event features perhaps the hottest athlete of the indoor season, Ethiopian Genzebe Dibaba.

Dibaba blew away the 3000m field by 2.68 seconds at the World Indoor Championships in February after breaking the world record in February.

Friday’s field includes several other major meet medalists, including Kenyan Mercy Cherono and Ethiopian Almaz Ayana, who won 5000m silver and bronze at the 2013 World Championships.

The 3000m is not an event run at the Olympics or World Outdoor Championships.

Report: Tyson Gay offers to pay back nearly $500,000

The Wrap from Day 1 of the World Championships

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NUR-SULTAN, Kazakhstan — Matt Lindland sees progress taking place within the United States Greco-Roman program.

He sees accountability and ownership. He sees a desire to compete with the global Greco powers and a willingness to pay the price to get there.

“There’s definitely been progress,” Lindland said. “We’ve got great guys. It’s about them. They want to be here. They want to do what it’s going to take to get to that next level, and you can see it. They’re frustrated when things don’t go their way, and they’re going to figure out how to fix those things. Yeah, we’re making the right progress. We’ve got the right guys, we’ve got the right attitude.”

But Lindland also sees hesitation at times, too. He sees too much analyzing and not enough reactionary aggression.

“I think our guys are second-guessing themselves, they’re questioning and they’re thinking,” he said. “They’re thinking about what’s going to happen instead of being in the moment and just being present and letting things fly. Really great athletes out there on America’s team and they’re super capable. When they start thinking and questioning what’s going to happen and wondering what the referee is going to call, they’ve just got to go out there and do what they’re all capable of doing.”

Both dynamics — the signs progress and the work-in-progress symbols — were on display Saturday on the opening day of the World Championships.

Max Nowry, Ryan Mango and Raymond Bunker notched opening-round wins Saturday. For perspective, only three Americans posted Greco victories at the World Championships in 2018.

On the flip side, though, each of the three ran into roadblocks when they couldn’t hold leads in their second bout, and Mango and Bunker got eliminated later in the day.

Nowry and John Stefanowicz, however, got pulled into the repechage and have a chance to wrestle Sunday for medals. Nowry got an extra opportunity when Kazakhstan’s Khorlan Zhakansha stunned 2018 World champ and No. 1 seed Eldaniz Azizli of Azerbaijan, 11-5, in the 55-kilogram semifinals.

Stefanowicz dropped a 7-0 decision in the Round of 16 at 82 kilograms against Georgia’s Lasha Gobadze. But the Georgian posted two more victories to set Stefanowicz up with another chance at a medal.

Read the rest of the article at Track Wrestling

Sky Brown, 11 years old, is third at world skateboarding championships ahead of Olympic debut

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Sky Brown, an 11-year-old who appears en route to becoming the youngest female Summer Olympian in 50 years, took third at the world skateboarding championships in Sao Paulo on Saturday. The sport debuts at the Olympics in Tokyo.

Brown posted her highest score of her four finals runs in the last round, 58.13 points, of the park event. It was not enough to overtake Japanese Misugu Okamoto and Sakura Yosozumi. The new world champion Okamoto is 13 years old. Yosozumi is 17.

Brown has been raised in Japan by a Japanese mother and a British father. The 2018 Dancing with the Stars: Juniors winner appeared in a Nike “Dream Crazier” ad with Simone BilesSerena Williams and Chloe Kim in February.

She has not clinched an Olympic spot yet but is well on her way as the qualifying season continues.

She turns 12 years old just before the Tokyo Olympics begin and would be the youngest Olympian since Romanian rowing coxswain Carlos Front at the 1992 Barcelona Games.

She would be the youngest female Olympian since Chinese ice dancer Liu Luyang in 1988 and the youngest female Summer Olympian since Puerto Rican swimmer Liana Vicens in 1968, according to the OlyMADMen.

The Tokyo Games feature four skateboarding events — men’s and women’s street and park.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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