Prefontaine Classic preview, schedule, broadcast info

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The Prefontaine Classic will provide an early look at World Track and Field Championships contenders, live on NBC, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra on Saturday.

The annual Diamond League meet in Eugene, Ore., will carry extra significance this year, given it will be contested on the 40-year anniversary of the death of its namesake, 1972 Olympic 5000m runner Steve Prefontaine.

Competition starts Friday night, with Olympic and World champion Brittney Reese in the long jump, Olympic bronze medalist Reese Hoffa in the shot put, Bernard Lagat and Galen Rupp in the 5000m and Olympic and World champion Mo Farah in the 10,000m. USATF.TV will have live coverage.

On Saturday, Olympic champions Allyson FelixJustin GatlinSanya Richards-Ross and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce headline the fields.

NBCSN will have live coverage Saturday from 3:30-4:30 p.m. ET, followed by NBC from 4:30-6. Live Extra will stream the entire broadcast window. The full schedule and entry lists can be found here.

Here’s the schedule of events (all times Eastern):

Friday
11:03 p.m. — Men’s discus
11:06 — Women’s long jump
11:28 — Men’s shot put
12 a.m. (Saturday) — Men’s 5000m
12:20 — Men’s 10,000m

Saturday
3:21 p.m. — Women’s triple jump
3:26 — Men’s pole vault
3:41 — Women’s 400m
3:49 — Men’s 800m
3:56 — Men’s high jump
4:03 — Men’s 400m hurdles
4:11 — Men’s 3000m steeplechase
4:30 — Women’s javelin
4:33 — Women’s 100m
4:42 — Men’s 100m
4:49 — Men’s 400m
4:55 — Women’s 800m
5:05 — Men’s 110m hurdles
5:12 — Women’s 5000m
5:32 — Men’s 200m
5:40 — Women’s 1500m
5:49 — Men’s Bowerman Mile

Here are five track events to watch Saturday:

Women’s 400m (3:41 p.m. ET)

Olympic 200m champion Allyson Felix will race a 400m at a Diamond League meet for the first time in more than one year. Felix said she will enter one of the 200m or 400m at the World Championships in August, and her performance at the Prefontaine Classic could go into determining her event at Worlds in Beijing.

On Saturday, Felix will oppose Olympic 400m champion Sanya Richards-Ross, who owns the fastest time in the world this year. Felix is capable of beating Richards-Ross when at their best, as she did at the 2011 World Championships. The Pre Classic field is lacking the world’s other elite 400m runner, American Francena McCorory.

Women’s 100m (4:33 p.m. ET)

The field includes the fastest women from 2015 (Elaine Thompson, Jamaica), 2014 (Tori Bowie, U.S.), 2013 and 2012 (Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Jamaica) and 2011 (Carmelita Jeter, U.S.).

The opportunity is ripe for Thompson, 22, to stake her claim as the favorite to be crowned world’s fastest woman at the World Championships in three months. She’s already won 100m races in Kingston in March, April and May, but training partner and Olympic and World champion Fraser-Pryce was not in any of those races.

Thompson’s clocked 10.92 this year, but it was Bowie who starred in 2014 with a top time of 10.80. The Mississippi native missed the end of last season after a late August hamstring injury and ran 11.07 in Shanghai on May 17.

Men’s 200m (5:32 p.m. ET)

Usain Bolt ran 20.13 on a wet track in Ostrava, Czech Republic, on Tuesday. Bolt is not in Eugene, but rival Justin Gatlin is in this 200m field. Gatlin ran mostly 100m races since his return from a four-year doping ban in 2010, but last year he clocked 19.68 and 19.71 in the 200m, the fastest times in the world since Bolt won the 2013 World Championship in 19.66. Gatlin hasn’t run a wind-legal 200m yet this season. He did clock a wind-aided 20.10 on April 11.

Gatlin’s competition Saturday will come from the three fastest Jamaicans aside from Bolt this year — Julian ForteNickel Ashmeade and Rasheed Dwyer — Panama’s 2009 World silver medalist Alonso Edward and U.S. 2013 World bronze medalist Curtis Mitchell.

Women’s 1500m (5:40 p.m. ET)

The day’s final women’s race includes reigning Diamond League champion Jenny Simpson, the world’s fastest woman from 2014, Ethiopian-born Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands, plus talented Americans Shannon Rowbury, the 18-year-old Alexa Efraimson and steeplechaser Emma Coburn.

It’s early, but Simpson and Rowbury are threats to break a 44-year U.S. gold-medal drought in Olympic track events longer than 400m next summer in Rio de Janeiro.

Men’s Bowerman Mile (5:49 p.m. ET)

The traditional finale of the meet could be a U.S.-Kenya battle. The Kenyan contingent includes two-time reigning World champion Asbel Kiprop and Silas Kiplagat, the fastest 1500m runner in the last decade. Americans Matthew Centrowitz, the 2013 World silver medalist, and Leo Manzano, the 2012 Olympic silver medalist, will look to dethrone them.

Mary Cain leaves Oregon, returns home to New York

Rafael Nadal can tie Roger Federer’s Slam record with 13th French Open

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For all of the many qualities contributing to Rafael Nadal’s unprecedented superiority at the French Open — the bullwhip of a high-bouncing lefty forehand, the reflex returns, the cover-every-corner athleticism, the endless energy and grit — there’s one element that stands above all the rest.

According to the opponent Nadal beat in the last two finals in Paris, anyway.

“You go into the match knowing that even your best tennis, even if you play it over three, four hours, might not be enough. I mean, if you do it, you maybe have a little chance, but you have to go to your limit on every single rally, every single point,” Dominic Thiem, who won the U.S. Open less than two weeks ago, told The Associated Press.

“That makes it not easy to go into the match,” Thiem said. “And that’s the mental part, I guess.”

When main-draw competition begins Sunday at Roland Garros, Thiem and every other player in the men’s bracket will be pursuing Nadal as the 34-year-old from Spain pursues history.

If Nadal manages to claim a 13th French Open championship — extending his own record for the most singles trophies won by anyone at any major tennis tournament — he would, more significantly, also collect his 20th Grand Slam title overall, tying Roger Federer’s record for a man.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Nadal’s tally elsewhere: four U.S. Opens, two Wimbledons, one Australian Open.

He spoke Friday in Paris about what “probably are the most difficult conditions for me ever in Roland Garros” — a lack of matches in 2020; a new brand of tennis balls (“super slow, heavy”); cooler weather and plenty of rain in the forecast.

“But you know what?” Nadal said. “I am here to fight and to play with the highest intensity possible.”

Asked recently about the possibility of catching the 39-year-old Federer, out for the rest of the season after a pair of operations on his right knee, Nadal expressed a sentiment he’s uttered before.

Climbing the Grand Slam list, Nadal said, is “not an obsession at all.”

“I know that you put a lot of attention on all of this,” he replied when the topic was raised last week at the Italian Open, Nadal’s first tournament since February because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Of course I would love to finish my career with 25, but (that’s) something that probably will not happen. I’m going to keep fighting to produce chances, and then when I finish my career, let’s see, no?” he said. “I just want to keep enjoying tennis. And that’s it. If I am playing well, I know I normally have my chances. If not, going to be impossible. That’s it.”

There is, of course, another great of the game playing during this era and, like Nadal, gaining on Federer.

That would be No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic, who had won five of seven major titles to raise his total to 17 before being disqualified at the U.S. Open for accidentally hitting a line judge with a ball while walking to a changeover.

In this oddest of years, the Grand Slam season will drawing to a close in France; the clay-court major was postponed from May until now because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Roland Garros is the last Slam, the last opportunity of this season. So we all know who the main favorite is there: Obviously, it’s Nadal. And everything that he has achieved there, losing maybe a couple matches in his entire career on that court … is probably the most impressive record that anybody has on any court,” Djokovic said. “So, yeah, of course you would put him right there in front as a favorite to win it.”

For the record: Nadal has won 93 of 95 matches in the French Open and his last 21 in a row.

So what makes him so dominant there?

“He’s an unbelievably great tennis player. Probably on clay, a little bit better than on the other surfaces,” Thiem said. “He’s left-handed, which makes it very uncomfortable. And then his forehand, the topspin on the clay, it’s cruel to play.”

Thiem takes notes and hopes to emulate aspects of Nadal’s game.

So do others.

In Rome, for example, two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep and one of her coaches, Artemon Apostu-Efremov, caught one of Nadal’s training sessions.

“We were watching the way he hits the ball, the acceleration, the energy he has on the court and the way he practices 100%. It’s always an inspiration,” Apostu-Efremov said.

“This dedication on the court and focus on court,” he said, “it’s something that, for sure, could be transferred to Simona.”

Nadal wound up losing his third match in Italy, which is neither ideal form nor the sort of prep work he is accustomed to ahead of Roland Garros.

Still, Nadal at the French Open is unlike anyone else, anywhere else.

“Regardless of how he feels, I’m sure he’ll find a way,” said Stefanos Tsitsipas, a 2019 Australian Open semifinalist seeded No. 5 in Paris. “He always finds a way, every single year. Clay is his surface. I’m sure he’s going to do well.”

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Skate America will not have fans

Skate America
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Skate America, the top annual international figure skating competition held in the U.S., will not have spectators in Las Vegas from Oct. 23-25.

U.S. Figure Skating said the restriction was “due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and in strict accordance with the Nevada Gaming Control Board guidelines.”

Skate America is the first top-level event of the season, kicking off the six-stop Grand Prix Series leading up to December’s Grand Prix Final, which is scheduled this season for Beijing.

The series has already been modified to restrict fields to skaters from the host country or to the event closest to their training location.

Grand Prix fields have not been announced, though two-time world champion Nathan Chen said last month he hoped to go for a fourth straight Skate America title.

Chen trains in California. Most, if not all, top U.S. skaters train in the U.S. or Canada, which means they will compete in Skate America or Skate Canada if they participate in the Grand Prix Series at all.

Two-time U.S. women’s champion Alysa Liu will not be old enough to compete on the Grand Prix until the 2021-22 Olympic season.

Skaters are limited to one Grand Prix start this season. In past seasons, they’ve typically competed twice.

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