David Rudisha

Zurich Diamond League final preview

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The Diamond League circuit concludes with two finals meets in Zurich on Thursday and Brussels on Sept. 5.

The finals are labeled that way because they mark the last competitions in individual event Diamond Races, accumulation points standings that determine season-long champions.

The Diamond League finals provide double the points than the previous Diamond League meets. That means first place in Zurich awards eight points, second place gets four points and third place two points.

Each of the 32 individual event Diamond Race winners receive $40,000 and a Diamond Trophy. Half of the Diamond Races conclude in Zurich. The other 16 conclude in Brussels.

In Zurich, 14 of the 16 Diamond Races are still in play. Only LaShawn Merritt (400m) and Sandra Perkovic (discus) have their titles already clinched, so long as they show up in Switzerland.

The rest of the events are headlined by Allyson Felix and David Rudisha with Universal Sports and UniversalSports.com coverage starting at 2 p.m. ET. Don’t forget Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell racing in the 100m, a non-Diamond Race event.

Here are five Diamond Races to watch in Zurich:

Men’s triple jump — 2 p.m. ET

Standings
1. Will Claye (USA) — 14 points
2. Christian Taylor (USA) — 12 points

The Americans who went one-two at the London Olympics will do battle for another title in Zurich. This time, London silver medalist Claye is in the driver’s seat.

Claye has had a better season than Taylor, leaping personal bests 17.66m in May and 17.75m in June, the latter winning the U.S. Championships in Sacramento, Calif. Claye celebrated that jump, while wearing a backwards cap, by running into the stands.

But Taylor, who opened his season running 400m races, won the last Diamond League triple jump in Glasgow, Scotland, on July 12. Claye was second there. If that result repeats in Zurich, Taylor will claim the Diamond Race title.

Women’s 1500m — 2:38

Standings
1. Abeba Aregawi (SWE) — 12 points
2. Sifan Hassan (NED) — 10 points
3. Jenny Simpson (USA) — 9 points

Simpson, the 2011 World champion, is having the best season of her career. She’s gone under her previous personal best twice, including a 3:57.22 in Paris on July 5. Then she beat the Ethiopian-born Aregawi and Hassan, along with Genzebe Dibaba, in Stockholm on Thursday.

That victory put Simpson in control of her own destiny in Zurich. Win, and she takes the Diamond Race. If she finishes second, she can also capture the season title if Aregawi doesn’t finish first or third and Hassan doesn’t win.

Women’s 100m — 2:59

Standings
1. Kerron Stewart (JAM) — 7 points
2. Murielle Ahoure (CIV) — 3 points
3. Veronica Campbell-Brown (JAM) — 2 points
3. Blessing Okagbare (NIG) — 2 points
3. Myriam Soumare (FRA) — 2 points

Few could have predicted how this event would play out this season. Olympic and World champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce prevailed in the opener in Doha but hasn’t won since and isn’t in the Zurich field after scratching the Birmingham 100m on Sunday.

American Tori Bowie, primarily a long jumper until March, won three of the six Diamond Race events so far this season, giving her 12 points and the lead. But she pulled up with a leg injury in Birmingham and will miss Zurich, meaning she is not eligible to win the Diamond Race.

That leaves the Jamaican veteran Stewart as the leader. Stewart, 30 and a 2008 Olympic 100m silver medalist, hasn’t broken 11 seconds this year for the first time since 2007. She’ll likely need to finish second to win the Diamond Race, and it won’t be easy. Okagbare and Campebell-Brown are the fastest women this year in the field. Olympic 200m champion Allyson Felix and the world’s fastest 200m runner this year, the Netherlands’ Dafne Schippers, are also in the field.

Men’s 800m — 3:08

Standings
1. David Rudisha (KEN) — 8 points
2. Nijel Amos (BOT) — 6 points
3. Asbel Kiprop (KEN) — 4 points
3. Adam Kszczot (POL) — 4 points

The Olympic champion and world record holder Rudisha will clinch the Diamond Race title with a victory or by finishing second if Amos, Kiprop and Kszczot don’t win. Rudisha, who came back in June after missing more than a year of competition with a knee injury, has looked more beatable this season that any time over the last five years. He is coming off a 600m victory in Birmingham, England, on Sunday.

World champion Mohammed Aman can prevail in the Diamond Race with a win if Rudisha doesn’t finish second. Aman won a pair of 800m races at Diamond League meets this year, but they didn’t count in the Diamond Race standings.

Women’s 100m Hurdles — 3:17

Standings
1. Queen Harrison (USA) — 17 points
2. Dawn Harper-Nelson (USA) — 13 points

Americans have won all six 100m hurdles races this season — Harrison with three, Harper-Nelson with two and World champion Brianna Rollins with one. Australian Olympic champion Sally Pearson is also in this field, but the Diamond Race will come down to Harrison, a 2008 Olympian in the 400m hurdles, and the 2008 Olympic champion Harper-Nelson.

Harper-Nelson closed the gap on Harrison with a Birmingham victory and owns the fastest time in the world this year (12.44).

Video: Youth Olympics 8x100m relay

Justin Gatlin, with Usain Bolt gone, shows the kids he’s still spry

AP
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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Sometimes after a particularly grueling workout, sprinter Justin Gatlin will turn to his younger training partners and inquire: “Are you sore, too?”

It’s just an age check. He doesn’t feel 37 except on rare occasions. Like at big races when he sees so much youth on the starting line and not the familiar faces from years gone by.

Missing, of course, is his biggest rival, Usain Bolt, the Jamaican standout who rewrote the record book before saying goodbye to track nearly two years ago.

Arriving on the scene, a slew of 20-somethings such as Americans Christian Coleman and Noah Lyles who present another challenge for Gatlin, the defending 100m world champion.

“I don’t think about age. I don’t think about being old,” said Gatlin, who will compete in the 100m at the U.S. championships this week in Des Moines, Iowa. “I just feel like a time traveler in a way. I’m still here, still running, still putting down good times, still training really well. Just staying focused on what the goal is.”

And that goal is to show the kids he’s still young at heart. At a Diamond League race in Monaco on July 12 , Gatlin won the 100 in 9.91 seconds, holding off Lyles by 0.01 seconds.

“These young athletes, they make me feel young,” said Gatlin , who doesn’t consider the Tokyo Olympics next summer his finish line as he contemplates racing through the 2021 World Championships in Eugene, Ore. “They’re running super-fast times that I ran before so it gives me a target. It gives me a sounding board to know where I have to be and how I’m going to have to compete.”

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Throughout his career, Gatlin has been a polarizing figure. With his doping past — his four-year suspension ended in 2010 — Gatlin’s been booed (like the night he beat Bolt for gold at the ’17 World Championships in London) and hounded (he gestured toward a heckler bothering his mom in the stands during the medal ceremony at the ’15 Worlds in Beijing). He’s never let it bother him.

Instead, he lets his performances do most of his talking.

“I’m an enigma,” Gatlin said. “I’ve had my dark times and I’ve gone through an area where normally someone who’s been away from the sport or had a ban would never come back from. … I defied those odds to a point where I think that it made people uncomfortable because not only did I come back, but I came back better.”

He said the younger generation doesn’t judge him. An up-and-coming sprinter once joked with Gatlin that he happened to be in first grade when Gatlin won the 100m title at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

“Those kinds of things always shock me, how time really works. But it still doesn’t make me feel old,” said Gatlin, whose best 100m time is 9.74 seconds in Doha on May 15, 2015. “I’ve gained so many more followers just off of the respect of me working hard, me climbing, keep fighting for it no matter my age, no matter how many times I lost to Usain. It was all about staying the course, which was my course, and not veering from and trying to be something that everyone wanted me to be. I just wanted to be Justin.”

Gatlin surprised the track world at worlds in ’17 by beating Bolt in Bolt’s final major 100 race. Gatlin also edged Coleman, who came in second that night with Bolt taking third.

Not having Bolt at the world championships this fall in Doha remains hard to fathom for Gatlin. They’ve had so many epic races over the years, like at worlds in ’15 when Bolt eclipsed Gatlin at the line.

But this thought keeps Gatlin working: The next Bolt is out there. It could be Lyles. Or Coleman. It could be Andre De Grasse of Canada or Matthew Boling, the teen from Texas who is headed to Georgia for college and who became a viral sensation this spring when he ran a wind-aided 9.98 in the 100m (Bolt’s world record is 9.58).

It could be anyone.

“Track and field is a beautiful, beautiful novel with many, many unique chapters,” Gatlin said. “I’m excited about what’s going to come after and how it’s going to be unique and maybe bigger and better than a Usain Bolt.”

At nationals this week, Gatlin’s plan is modest. He will run a round of the 100m — he already has an automatic spot to worlds — and see how he feels. If he feels good, he may chase after the title. If not, he won’t. Gatlin is planning to skip the 200m as he tries to get his hips and hamstrings feeling 100 percent.

To keep his legs fresh at 37, Gatlin has learned to take rest days. To keep his mind fresh at 37, he works out with younger training partners who bring new energy and ideas.

“That,” Gatlin said, “is really what keeps me young.”

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Geraint Thomas crashes, recovers; other pre-Tour de France favorite out in Stage 16

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NIMES, France (AP) — Crashing is becoming a bad habit for defending Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas.

After hitting the ground twice over the past two weeks, the Welshman fell off his bike one more time on Tuesday as a heat wave engulfed the race ahead of grueling days in the Alps when the Tour will reach its climax.

Once again, Thomas was lucky enough to escape with bruises and scratches, but the timing of his crash in the rural hinterland of the antique Roman city of Nimes was unfortunate. Although Thomas quickly got back on his bike and did not lose time, crashes always have a lingering effect on riders’ bodies. It’s generally after 48 hours that the soreness reaches its peak, and that’s when he will be fighting in high altitude with rivals trying to take him off his perch.

Lagging 1 minute, 35 seconds behind race leader Julian Alaphilippe with the race now going into its five last stages, Thomas was caught off guard under a scorching sun about 40 kilometers into the stage won by Australian sprinter Caleb Ewan.

The peloton was not riding at full speed, but Thomas was surprised.

TOUR DE FRANCE: TV Schedule | Full Standings

“I just had one hand on the bars, and the gears jumped and jammed and I got thrown off my bike on a corner,” he said. “I knew the race wasn’t on so I just got back into the group. It’s just frustrating. It was such a freak thing.”

Danish rider Jakob Fuglsang, who stood ninth overall, was not as lucky and was forced to abandon the Tour with a left hand injury after falling late in the stage as the peloton pedaled past the picturesque town of Uzes.

Thomas, a former track specialist who transformed into a Tour de France contender after years spent working in support of four-time champion Chris Froome, has always been prone to crashing. Just last month, his preparation for the Tour was cut short by a spill during a race in Switzerland.

But he has also shown in the past that he can soldier on in pain. Six years ago when riding the Tour as Froome’s loyal teammate, Thomas fell off his bike on a Corsican road in the opening stage and broke his pelvis. But he kept racing for 3,000 kilometers to reach the finish.

He will need to be at the top of his form on Thursday for the start of an Alpine trilogy of stages including six climbs over 2,000 meters. This is when the race — the most exciting in the last decade — will be decided before Sunday’s ceremonial ride to Paris.

Sixteen stages out of 21 have been completed, but the suspense remains intact, with six riders separated by little more than 2 minutes. Behind Alaphilippe and Thomas, Steven Kruijswijk remained third, 1:47 off the pace and 3 seconds ahead of Thibaut Pinot. Thomas’ Ineos teammate Egan Bernal lags 2:02 behind and Emmanuel Buchmann has a 2:14 deficit.

Bernal, a Colombian and one of the best pure climbers in the Tour, played down Thomas’ crash and said the race in the Alps will suit him more than the Pyrenees, where both Ineos leaders conceded time to Pinot.

“He crashed but with no consequence and I don’t think he’ll suffer from it in the coming days,” Bernal said. “We’re approaching the Alps. The climbs there are longer and steeper. They’re more of the Colombian style of climbing. I’m ready and I feel good.”

Ewan said he suffered from the heat throughout the stage — temperatures soared as high as 40 degrees Celsius (40 F) — but it did not slow him down in the finale. The Australian Tour debutant edged Elia Viviani and Dylan Groenewegen to post his second stage win following his maiden success in Toulouse last week.

Earlier, riders tried to cool down with bottles of cold water against the backs of their necks as they pedaled on the Pont du Gard, an ancient Roman aqueduct bridge set against a dramatic landscape of rocks, trees and water. Alexis Gougeard, Lukasz Wisniowski, Stephane Rossetto, Paul Ourselin and Lars Bak organized the day’s breakaway and had a maximum lead of 2 minutes.

After the group was caught two kilometers from the finish, Viviani was set up by his teammates and launched the sprint about 200 meters from the line but could not resist Ewan’s comeback.

“To be honest, I felt so bad today during the day. I think the heat really got to me,” Ewan said. “I was really suffering but I had extra motivation today because my daughter and wife are here. I’m so happy I could win for them.”

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