World Relays

U.S. women sweep on final day of World Relays (videos)

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The U.S. won all three women’s races at the first World Relays on Sunday, giving it victories in five of 10 overall events to close the meet in Nassau, Bahamas.

The American women captured the 4x200m, 4x400m and 4x800m one day after taking the 4x100m. Also Sunday, the American men won their first and only relay in the 4x400m. Jamaica took the men’s 4x100m (after the U.S. was disqualified in a preliminary heat). Kenya won the men’s 4x1500m in world-record time.

Overall, the U.S. (five), Kenya (three) and Jamaica (two) were the only nations to win races at the two-day meet.

The U.S. women topped Great Britain and Jamaica in the 4x200m with a quartet of Shalonda SolomonTawanna MeadowsBianca Knight and Kimberlyn Duncan. London Olympic 200m medalists Allyson Felix and Carmelita Jeter were not on the U.S. roster in Nassau.

The U.S. prevailed in 1 minute, 29.45 seconds, .16 better than Great Britain. Jamaica, with world 200m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce on anchor, settled for third after a poor final baton exchange.

The U.S. women’s 4x400m, with 2012 Olympic 400m champion Sanya Richards-Ross, won in 3:21.73, holding off Jamaica (3:23.26). The U.S. and Jamaica were even after Richards-Ross’ second leg, but veteran Natasha Hastings opened a lead that proved more than enough for anchor Joanna Atkins. World 4x400m champion Russia, long a U.S. rival in this event, did not enter a quartet despite being on the initial start list Saturday.

Yohan Blake anchored a Usain Bolt-less Jamaica to a sprint relay win for a second straight night, this time in the 4x100m in 37.77. The U.S. men missed the final after being disqualified for passing a baton out of the zone in their preliminary heat. On Saturday, the U.S. men’s 4x200m relay team was also disqualified on an illegal handoff.

Beijing Olympic 400m champion LaShawn Merritt broke some 17,000 hearts at Thomas Robinson Stadium, passing the Bahamian 4x400m anchor on the final straight for victory. Merritt and the U.S. men, including Olympic and world triple jump champion Christian Taylor, clocked 2:57.25. The Bahamas, which won the 2012 Olympic 4x400m gold, was second in 2:57.59.

Kenya completed a world-record sweep of the men’s and women’s 4x1500m. World 1500m champion Asbel Kiprop crossed the finish in 14:22.22, 14 seconds faster than Kenya’s previous world record from 2009. The U.S., with Olympic silver medalist Leo Manzano anchoring, held off Ethiopia for second place in 14:40.8.

But the U.S. women prevented Kenya from a middle-distance sweep, taking the 4x800m in 8:01.58, bettering Kenya by 2.7 seconds. World junior 800m champion Ajee’ Wilson handed a significant lead to anchor Brenda Martinez, the reigning world bronze medalist. Martinez, who also anchored the second-place U.S. 4x1500m team Saturday, was never challenged by Kenyan anchor Eunice Sum, the reigning world champion.

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Copenhagen withdraws as 2021 World Gymnastics Championships host, cites pandemic

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Copenhagen withdrew as host of the 2021 World Gymnastics Championships, citing financial strain as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Gymnastics worlds are usually not held in Olympic years, but the October 2021 edition remained scheduled when the Tokyo Games were postponed to summer 2021.

Denmark’s gymnastics federation board made the decision to not host worlds due in part to uncertainty about the global development of the coronavirus pandemic. That combined with financial losses already associated with the pandemic led to the bowing out.

The International Gymnastics Federation executive committee will “consider all consequences” from Copenhagen withdrawing, including launching a new bid process.

The 2022 Worlds are set for Liverpool, Great Britain, and 2023 in Antwerp, Belgium. Denmark will look into bidding to host in 2025.

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Allyson Felix, Noah Lyles headline Inspiration Games; TV, stream info

Allyson Felix, Noah Lyles
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In Allyson Felix‘s 17 years on the senior international level, she has never experienced anything like what Thursday will bring.

Felix, a nine-time Olympic medalist, will line up at a track in California to race 150 meters. Her opponents will be on the other side of the country — Bahamian Shaunae Miller-Uibo in Florida — and the other side of the Atlantic Ocean — Swiss Mujinga Kambundji in Zurich.

The Inspiration Games air live on Thursday from 2-3:30 p.m. ET on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app. The meet is a repurposed version of a Diamond League stop in Zurich, Switzerland.

“I’ve just been training and training and training, so anything to break it up. … this seemed like something great. I just loved the concept,” said Felix, who memorably raced alone in at the Rio Olympics in a re-run of the 4x100m first round. “I’m not really sure what to expect. I think [it’s] the first time that we’ve all done anything like this. I’m just approaching it to have fun and hopefully give people something to watch and to be entertained by. I think we all miss sports so much.”

Meet organizers had to get creative with the coronavirus pandemic limiting athlete travel and group events. The Impossible Games was first to go on June 11 — in an Oslo stadium with few spectators and even fewer athletes (and others competing in different countries).

The Inspiration Games takes virtual competition to another level. Felix, Miller-Uibo and Kambundji are all slated to sprint at the same time in different locations. As are world champion Noah Lyles, Frenchman Christophe Lemaitre and the Netherlands’ Churandy Martina in a later 200m.

It marks the first meet since the coronavirus pandemic for Felix, bidding to make her fifth Olympic team and first as a mom. The pandemic and restrictions in California forced her to train on streets.

“Everything is still pretty much locked down,” she said. “You can’t get onto a track without jumping a fence.”

Felix admitted she’s “definitely not sharp” going into her first race since February.

“Once we knew for sure that the Olympic Games would be postponed, we really had to think about being at our best a year from now,” said Felix, a 34-year-old bidding to break Michael Johnson‘s record as the oldest Olympic 400m medalist. “In my situation and where I’m at in my career, I had to make some adjustments, just with the level of impact on my body so that I could still be able to continue to train, but to save something and to have that one last time to be at my best next year. I definitely think things have shifted now.”

Lyles raced last Saturday at a small meet in Florida, outsprinting Justin Gatlin in a 100m heat (9.93 seconds to 9.99 with a hefty four meter/second tailwind).

The regular Diamond League calendar is scheduled to resume in August.

Here are the Inspiration Games entry lists. Here’s the schedule of events (all times Eastern):

1:35 p.m. ET — Men’s Pole Vault
1:35 — Women’s Pole Vault
2:05 — Men’s Triple Jump
2:10 — Women’s 150m
2:27 — Men’s 100 Yards
2:41 — Women’s 300m Hurdles
3:06 — Men’s 200m
3:20 — Women’s 3x100m Relay

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s Pole Vault — 1:35 p.m.
Greek Katerina Stefanidi, a Stanford grad, and American Sandi Morris renew their rivalry. Stefanidi will be in California. Morris will be in Florida. Swede Angelica Bengtsson rounds out the field. Stefanidi relegated Morris to silver at the 2016 Olympics and 2017 Worlds. But Morris snapped’ Stefanidi’s streak of eight straight wins in their head-to-head back in 2018 and has bettered Stefanidi in four of their last six meetings.

Men’s Triple Jump — 2:05 p.m.
Double Olympic champion Christian Taylor takes on longtime rival Pedro Pablo Pichardo, a Cuban-born Portuguese, and American Omar Craddock. Taylor bettered Pichardo in five of their last six meetings. In more than 30 meets together, Taylor has lost to Craddock just once (when Taylor has competed in full).

Women’s 150m — 2:10 p.m.
Felix and Miller-Uibo go head to head for the first time since the 2017 World Championships. Their most memorable duel came at the Rio Olympics, where a diving Miller-Uibo edged Felix by .07 for 400m gold. While Miller-Uibo and Felix primarily compete over a full lap, the 150m is closer to Kambundji’s wheelhouse. The Swiss earned 200m bronze at the 2019 World Championships, taking advantage of a depleted field.

Men’s 100 Yards — 2:27 p.m.
Triple Olympic medalist Andre De Grasse of Canada, Olympic 110m hurdles champion Omar McLeod of Jamaica and French veteran Jimmy Vicaut all train in Florida and will presumably be racing at the same venue on Thursday. The 100 yards is scantly contested in top-level meets. Nobody has broken nine seconds in a 100-yard (91.44-meter) race, according to World Athletics. But Usain Bolt‘s estimated 100-yard time en route to his 2009 world record in the 100m was 8.87 seconds.

Men’s 200m — 3:06 p.m.
Lyles has lost an outdoor 200m just once in this Olympic cycle and wouldn’t normally be pestered by Lemaitre or Martina, but these are unusual times and this an unusual competition. Lemaitre is the Olympic bronze medalist but was sixth at last year’s French Championships. Martina, 36, and, like Lemaitre, hasn’t broken 20 seconds in more than three years.

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