Rio Olympic track and field schedule released

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The Rio Olympic track and field schedule includes 13 finals in morning sessions, highlighted by the men’s 400m hurdles and triple jump, events with strong U.S. medal hopes.

The men’s 100m final — where Usain Bolt could go for a record third straight title — is Sunday, Aug. 14, at 9:25 p.m. ET. The women’s 100m final is the night before at 9:35.

The men’s 200m final — which could be Bolt’s last individual Olympic race, as he plans to retire before the 2020 Olympics — is Thursday, Aug. 18, at 9:30 p.m. ET. The women’s 200m final, which could include 2012 Olympic champion Allyson Felix, is the night before at 9:30.

The men’s 4x100m relay final — which could be Bolt’s last Olympic race — is Friday, Aug. 19, at 9:35 p.m. ET.

Eight stadium events will hold morning session finals, a first at the Olympics since 1988. The first is the women’s 10,000m on the first day of track and field competition on Friday, Aug. 12, one week after the Opening Ceremony.

The others are the men’s discus (Aug. 13), women’s 3000m steeplechase and hammer throw (Aug. 15), men’s triple jump and women’s discus (Aug. 16), men’s 3000m steeplechase (Aug. 17) and men’s 400m hurdles (Aug. 18).

U.S. Olympic medal threats in morning finals include Shalane Flanagan, the 2008 Olympic 10,000m bronze medalist.

Emma Coburn is also a rising threat in the 3000m steeplechase. Coburn was the third-fastest woman in the event this year. The U.S. hasn’t won an Olympic steeplechase medal since 1984.

The U.S. went one-two in the men’s triple jump in London, with Christian Taylor and Will Claye.

Gia Lewis-Smallwood was the second-ranked woman in the discus this year.

Michael Tinsley is the reigning Olympic and World silver medalist in the men’s 400m hurdles.

The men’s 400m hurdles is the event that Olympic decathlon champion Ashton Eaton focused on in 2014. Eaton is expected to return to the decathlon in 2015.

Eaton was the ninth-fastest man in the 400m hurdles in the world this year and second-fastest among Americans, behind Tinsley. Three U.S. men can make the Olympic team in the 400m hurdles, which is not one of the 10 decathlon events.

In 2012, the 400m hurdles final was two days before the start of the decathlon.

In 2016, the 400m hurdles final will be on the same day as the second and last day of the decathlon. If there was any, tiny chance that Eaton could have considered trying the 400m hurdles in Rio, that now appears out of the question.

The eight morning stadium finals are split evenly between men’s and women’s and track and field events.

There is at least one final during each of the six morning sessions in the stadium.

The five road races — men’s and women’s marathon and 20km walks and men’s 50km walk — will also be in mornings.

Rio de Janeiro is one hour ahead of Eastern Time during the summer.

“Staging finals in the morning was done at the request of the Rio LOC [local organizing committee] and the Olympic Broadcasting Service, supported by the International Olympic Committee,” IAAF Competitions Director Paul Hardy said in a press release last month. “Having finals in the morning will also ensure that we receive maximum visibility for athletics at the Olympics across all time zones.

“Our prevailing view was that the leading distance runners will welcome this change to the athletics program at the Olympics as they will often have competitions throughout the year in the morning, such as road or cross-country races, and so will be accustomed to this timing.”

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World Cup Alpine season opener gets green light

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After checking the snow on the Rettenbach glacier in Soelden, Austria, FIS officials announced Thursday that the traditional World Cup season opener is set to go ahead as planned Oct. 26-27 with men’s and women’s giant slalom races.

Current conditions at Soelden show a solid 30 inches of snow at the summit. The race finishes at an altitude of 2,670 meters (8,760 feet), far above the currently snowless village.

The first races of the season are never guaranteed to have enough snow, though last year’s men’s race at Soelden had the opposite problem, being canceled when a storm blew through with heavy snowfall and high winds. 

France’s Tessa Worley won the women’s race last year ahead of Italy’s Frederica Brignone and U.S. skier Mikaela Shiffrin, who would go on to dominate the rest of the World Cup season.

The Soelden weekend is followed by three dormant weeks until the season resumes Nov. 23-24 in Levi, Finland. The World Cup circuits then switch to North America. The men will run speed events Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Lake Louise, Alberta, then head to Beaver Creek, Colo., for more speed events and a giant slalom Dec. 6-8. The women run slalom and giant slalom Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Killington, Vt., and head to Lake Louise the next weekend.

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Olympic marathon and race walk move from Tokyo to Sapporo draws some pushback

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In the wake of a dropout-plagued set of world championship endurance races in Qatar, moving the 2020 Olympic marathons and race walks from Tokyo to the cooler venue of Sapporo is a quick fix for one problem, pending the potential for untimely heat waves.

But the move has drawn some opposition for a variety of reasons.

First, many organizers and politicians appear to have been caught by surprise. Tokyo’s governor, Yuriko Koike, was “taken aback” and Sapporo’s mayor, Katsuhiro Akimoto, learned about the move from the media, Kyodo News reported. Koike even sarcastically suggested that the races could move all the way northward to islands disputed by Russia and Japan.

South African sports scientist Ross Tucker suggested that running in heat and humidity poses an interesting challenge for athletes, some of whom may be able to catch up with faster runners by preparing for the conditions.

British marathoner Mara Yamauchi made a similar point, saying the move was unfair to those who already were preparing for the heat, humidity and other conditions.

Belgian marathoner Koen Naert said he will make the best of the change but complained that some of his preparation and every runner’s logistical planning would no longer apply.

The angriest athlete may be Canadian walker Evan Dunfee, who placed fourth in the 2016 Olympic 50km race and nearly claimed bronze as a Canadian appeal was upheld but then rejected. He says runners and walkers can beat the conditions if they prepare, which many athletes did not do for the world championships in Qatar.

“So why do we cater to the ill prepared?” Dunfee asked on Twitter.

The move also takes athletes out of the main Olympic city and takes away the traditional, tough less frequent in modern years, finish in the Olympic stadium.

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