Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, LaShawn Merritt struggle in Shanghai; Diamond League recap

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Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and LaShawn Merritt continued early season struggles relative to their top rivals in a Diamond League meet in Shanghai on Sunday.

Fraser-Pryce, the Olympic and World 100m champion, finished fifth in the 100m in 11.25 seconds (full meet results here).

That’s her slowest 100m time in a Diamond League final since before the London 2012 Olympics. She’s finished fifth, sixth, second and eighth in her last four Diamond League 100m races, including three from an injury-plagued 2014.

Fraser-Pryce, 28, bettered 11 seconds in all six of her Diamond League 100m races in 2013, when she won the World Championship in 10.71 into a headwind, but hasn’t broken 11 since 2013.

“It is a good start,” Fraser-Pryce said of Sunday’s 11.25, according to the IAAF. “I didn’t have any time in my hand and no expectations.”

Fraser-Pryce has said she might not try to defend her World title in the 200m, which could open the door wider for Olympic champion Allyson Felix to regain that title. Though Felix has said she might run the 400m at Worlds instead of the 200m.

In Shanghai, Nigerian Blessing Okagbare won the 100m in 10.98, ahead of American Tori Bowie (11.07), Trinidad and Tobago’s Michelle-Lee Ahye (11.13), Jamaican Veronica Campbell-Brown (11.22) and Fraser-Pryce. Bowie was the fastest woman in the world last year at 10.80.

In the 400m, Olympic champion Kirani James of Grenada easily outdueled World champion LaShawn Merritt for the second time this year. James clocked 44.66, followed by World silver medalist Tony McQuay (45.54) and Merritt (45.58).

“I am a little bit behind in training,” Merritt said, according to the IAAF. “I have still some work to do.”

Merritt was well off his 2014 Diamond League season-opening time of 44.44.

In the 110m hurdles, World champion David Oliver prevailed in 13.17, ahead of Cuban Orlando Ortega (13.19) and Olympic champion Aries Merritt (13.25).

Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim won the high jump without taking a crack at the 2.45m world record, which he tried so often last year. Barshim cleared 2.38m, enough to top Ukrainian rival Bohdan Bondarenko, who missed two attempts at 2.38m and one at 2.41m.

Panama’s Alonso Edward took the 200m in 20.33 seconds. The race did not include any of the 2012 Olympic or 2013 World Championships medalists, nor the fastest man from 2014, Justin Gatlin.

Ethiopian World bronze medalist Almaz Ayana became the third-fastest woman all time in the 5000m by clocking 14:14.32.

The Diamond League next moves to Eugene, Ore., for the Pre Classic in two weeks. NBCSN will have coverage on May 30 from 3:30-4:30 p.m. ET, followed by NBC from 4:30-6.

Blind pole vaulter Charlotte Brown finishes third at state meet

U.S. junior champions crowned in ladies’ and men’s events

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Gabriella Izzo is the newest junior ladies’ national champion, crowned this week at the U.S. Championships in Detroit. Junior ladies’ national champions of the past include eventual Olympians Mirai Nagasu, Gracie Gold, Polina Edmunds and Bradie Tennell.

Izzo had a commanding lead after the short program, with 60.97 points, where she pulled off her first-ever triple Lutz, triple loop combination in competition. (However, it was deemed under-rotated.) Regardless, her 111.45 points in the free skate combined for 172.42 points and the gold medal.

Audrey Shin, who actually won the free skate by just over a point, earned the silver medal with 165.61 points. Emilia Murdock took home the bronze with 154.48 points.

On the junior men’s side, Ryan Dunk rebounded from second after the short program to win the event. His 132.85-point free skate was enough to crack the 200-point overall score, the only man in the field to do so, and win the gold.

Men’s junior champions include eventual world champion Nathan Chen (twice) as well as Olympians Vincent Zhou and Jason Brown.

Dinh Tran finished second with 196.03 points after a fourth-place short program. Joonsoo Kim, who lead after the short program on Tuesday, ended up with the bronze medal with 187.95 points.

NBC Sports Gold’s “Figure Skating Pass” will live stream each junior competition and replays will also be available on-demand. Check out the full schedule and live streaming information here.

The junior rhythm dance took place earlier Wednesday. Siblings Caroline and Gordon Green lead the field with 70.82 points, while Avonley Nguyen and Vadym Kolesnik are second with 65.92 points. The brother-sister team of Oona and Gage Brown are in third with 63.34 heading into Friday’s junior free dance.

Also Wednesday, Laiken Lockley and Keenan Prochnow took the lead in the junior pairs’ short program. The junior pairs’ free skate is Thursday. Kate Finster and Balazs Nagy are second, followed by Isabelle Martins and Ryan Bedard in third.

MORE: Full streaming schedule

As a reminder, you can watch the junior and senior U.S. Championships live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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Chloe Kim, David Wise among X Games headliners

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The X Games return to Aspen, Colorado, this week at Buttermilk Mountain. A marquee event on the yearly snowboarding and freeskiing calendar, the X Games will feature a handful of Olympic gold medalists and notable names in action sports. Below are a few storylines to watch for this week:

Nearly full field of Olympic gold medalists will compete in Aspen

All four freestyle skiing gold medalists in X Games events (halfpipe, slopestyle) and five of six Olympic snowboarding champions (slopestyle, halfpipe, big air) are expected to compete in Aspen. Among them is Chloe Kim, who has not lost a contest since the Olympics. She finished last season with a win at the US Open, and has three victories already this season, including at the Dew Tour in December. Since the Olympics, Kim’s star has only grown: she’s thrown out the first pitch at a Dodgers game and become an awards show regular, but her ability to crush her competition on the pipe remains unchanged.

In addition to Kim, the three other U.S. gold medalists from 2018 should all contend: in men’s ski halfpipe, two-time defending Olympic gold medalist David Wise has continued to impress this season, but as in previous years, he’ll be challenged by his teammates, Aaron Blunck and Aspen native Alex Ferreira, who would skip school as a kid to watch the X Games in person. Snowboard slopestyle gold medalists Red Gerard and Jamie Anderson are both podium threats as well.

After missing Olympics, can Sildaru sweep in Aspen?

Three years ago, a quiet and unassuming Kelly Sildaru won her first X Games title at 13, becoming the youngest ever winner in a winter event. Pegged early as a star for the PyeongChang Games in both slopestyle and halfpipe, the Estonian teenager missed the Olympics with a torn left ACL. Sildaru, who hails from a country with no mountains, will attempt a rare triple in Aspen: she’ll compete in slopestyle, halfpipe, and big air. No winter sports athlete has ever won three gold medals at the same X Games contest. Sildaru missed last year’s event due to her knee injury and has looked sharp so far this season: she won the U.S. Grand Prix in halfpipe and the Dew Tour in slopestyle. Sildaru has four X Games medals in total: two in slopestyle and two in big air.

White’s protégé awaits his big moment

Toby Miller learned from the best: the 18-year-old was mentored by three-time Olympic gold medalist Shaun White, who brought Miller to PyeongChang as his guest. White hasn’t competed since the Olympics, focusing instead on skateboarding, while Miller is having a notable season of his own: he finished third at the Dew Tour and second at the U.S. Grand Prix. The U.S. halfpipe contingent remains deep: Olympians Jake Pates, Ben Ferguson and Chase Josey are all contenders on any given day, though PyeongChang bronze medalist Scotty James will likely be the favorite.

Big tricks

The X Games are often a staging point for new tricks: in 2017, Norway’s Marcus Kleveland became the first to land a quad in competition, only to be topped by Canadian Max Parrot, who won the event with a quad of his own. Chloe Kim and PyeongChang big air gold medalist Anna Gasser have been at the forefront of innovative tricks this season. Kim, a four-time X Games winner, is still far ahead of the field with back-to-back 1080s, which she used last weekend at a World Cup event in Laax. In October 2018, she became the first woman to land a frontside double cork 1080, though she has yet to execute it in competition. Kim can win easily with the arsenal of tricks she already has – but she’d make a bit of history if she decides to go for it.

In November, Gasser became the first woman to land a cab triple underflip, though like Kim, she has not done so in competition. Known for her progressive approach to the sport and impressive arsenal of difficult tricks, Gasser could attempt the triple at the X Games.