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

Geraint Thomas cuts Julian Alaphilippe’s Tour de France lead

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FOIX, France (AP) — When one French rider starts to fade, another comes to the fore. One way or the other, France may still be on course for its first Tour de France winner since 1985.

Dancing over his saddle, his mouth wide open and gasping for air, Thibaut Pinot launched a ferocious attack Sunday and profited from the first signs of weakness in the high mountains from French race leader Julian Alaphilippe to edge closer to the yellow jersey in the overall standings.

Ascending the last uphill finish in the Pyrenees with a display of power and fluidity that signaled that he’ll also be a major contender to win the Tour, Pinot gained time on all his rivals for the second consecutive day following his triumph at the famed Tourmalet mountain in the previous stage.

Heading to the second and final rest day Monday ahead of what promises to be a climactic final week in the Alps, the race is exquisitely poised. Six riders are all within 2 minutes, 14 seconds of each other at the top of the standings.

The six terrible ascents above 2,000 meters (6,500 feet) in the Alps, peppered over three mountain stages, will likely decide who will stand on top of the podium on the Champs-Elysees next Sunday.

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“The high mountains have only just begun,” said Alaphilippe. “The Alps are going to be a big mouthful.”

Surging from the mist and rain, Pinot crossed the finish line of Sunday’s Stage 15 in second place, 33 seconds behind Simon Yates, who posted a second stage win after a long solo raid, three days after his first stage victory in the southwestern mountain range.

The 29-year-old Pinot was irresistible when he made his move seven kilometers from the summit. Only Emanuel Buchmann and defending champion Geraint Thomas’ teammate Egan Bernal could follow. But Pinot accelerated again about 2 kilometers later to drop them for good.

Pinot moved to fourth place overall, 1 minute, 50 seconds behind Alaphilippe.

“The weather conditions and the stage were good for me, I had good sensations, I needed to make the most of it,” said Pinot. “I need to keep going up in the general classification, the most difficult stages are looming.”

While Pinot was escorted by his faithful Groupama-FDJ teammate David Gaudu in the final ascent toward Prat d’Albis, Alaphilippe was isolated without a single teammate to help him in the 12-kilometer climb and cracked, yet managed to salvage his yellow jersey.

Alaphilippe was so exhausted after his effort up the hill, where he grimaced through the rain, that he had to grip a roadside barrier afterward while he caught his breath.

“If I crack I hope he’ll carry the torch for the French,” Alaphilippe said about Pinot.

Thomas, who had already conceded time to Pinot at the Tourmalet, remained second in the general classification. He got dropped when Pinot took the lead from a reduced group of contenders but did not panic. He rode at his pace until he accelerated with 1.5 kilometers left to cut the overall gap on Alaphilippe from 2 minutes, 2 seconds to 1:35. Steven Kruijswijk of the Netherlands stood third overall, 1:47 off the pace.

Thomas said after the stage he could have tried to follow Pinot earlier but instead opted for a conservative approach because he did not want to bring back Alaphilippe to the front. Bernal was with Pinot and the Welshman would not take the risk of chasing down their common rival. Bernal, a Colombian with excellent climbing skills, remains involved in the fight for the yellow jersey, 2:02 behind Alaphilippe.

“I felt better than yesterday but I needed to try to pace it when it all kicked off,” Thomas said. “It’s a difficult one, tactics wise. I wanted to go, I had the legs to go but I wasn’t going to chase down Egan Bernal with Alaphilippe on my wheel.”

Coming right after the ascent of the Tourmalet, Stage 15 ran close to the ancient Cathar castles and was a punishing ride totaling more than 39 kilometers of climbing.

Alaphilippe was so exhausted after his effort up the hill, where he grimaced and dribbled through the rain, that he had to grip a roadside barrier afterward while he caught his breath.

“If I crack I hope he’ll carry the torch for the French,” Alaphilippe said about Pinot.

Yates, the Vuelta defending champion, was given a free reign by the peloton when he took part in an early breakaway as he was not a threat overall. He made his decisive move about 9 kilometers from the line.

“I’m very proud of that,” Yates said of his second victory at this Tour.

Watch world-class cycling events throughout the year with the NBC Sports Gold Cycling Pass, including all 21 stages of the Tour de France live & commercial-free, plus access to renowned races like La Vuelta, Paris-Roubaix, the UCI World Championships and many more.

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Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce turns back the clock, wins another Diamond League

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Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce continues to show she’s just as fast as before childbirth, winning a Diamond League 100m in 10.78 seconds in London on Sunday.

Fraser-Pryce, a 32-year-old, two-time Olympic champion, beat a field that included the two fastest women of 2018, Brit Dina Asher-Smith (10.92) and Ivorian Marie-Josee Ta Lou (10.98).

It lacked the only woman ranked higher than Fraser-Pryce this season, Rio Olympic champion Elaine Thompson, who edged her countrywoman at the Jamaican Championships on June 21.

But Fraser-Pryce has now broken 10.79 three times this season, her first time doing so since 2013. She could become the oldest woman to win an Olympic or world 100m title in Doha in two months.

“10.78 is a fabulous time,” she said. “My aim for Doha is definitely to be on the podium. For me, it’s a long season from here, so I am hoping my experience will come into play.”

Full London results are here. The meet lacked U.S. stars who are preparing for this week’s USATF Outdoor Championships, where world champs spots are at stake. The Diamond League resumes Aug. 18 in Birmingham, Great Britain.

Also Sunday, Kenyan Hellen Obiri won an anticipated head-to-head with Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan in the 5000m. Obiri, the world champion, clocked 14:20.36, the world’s fastest time in two years. Hassan, who nine days ago broke the mile world record, took third in a European record 14:22.12.

Swede Daniel Ståhl won a discus that included the world’s top three this year and the reigning Olympic and world gold and silver medalists. Stahl launched a 68.56-meter throw to overtake Jamaican Fedrick Dacres.

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