Adidas Grand Prix preview, schedule, broadcast info

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Two days before the last time Usain Bolt raced in New York, seven years ago when he owned zero Olympic medals, the Jamaican sat next to the reigning World 100m champion Tyson Gay at a Manhattan press conference while the reigning Olympic 100m champion Justin Gatlin spent the day across the city, in a court room.

On May 31, 2008, Bolt was to race in a top-level 100m for the fifth time in his career, according to The New York Times, against Gay, then the top threat to become the third straight U.S. man to win Olympic 100m gold in Beijing later that summer.

Gatlin, too, had flown to New York, for a hearing in front of the Court of Arbitration for Sport. He hoped to have a four-year ban for testing positive for testosterone in 2006 lessened so he could compete at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials and try to defend his title in Beijing.

In New York, Bolt would break the 100m world record for the first time at the 2008 Reebok Grand Prix, clocking 9.72 seconds on a wet track.

“That’s when I really blew up,” Bolt said Thursday, according to Reuters. “Everybody around the world started to watch.”

One month later, a judge denied Gatlin’s bid to compete at the U.S. Olympic Trials, where Gay crashed to the Hayward Field track and was wheeled off of it in the 200m quarterfinals with a left hamstring injury. Then in August 2008, Gay failed to reach the Beijing Olympic 100m final while Bolt broke the world record again.

Bolt and Gay will race in separate events in New York on Saturday, at the (renamed in 2010) Adidas Grand Prix. NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra will have coverage from 1-3 p.m. ET.

Gatlin again won’t be racing in New York, but his presence will be felt. He was the fastest man in the world in 2014 and is so far again this year, five years removed from that four-year doping ban.

Gatlin registered 9.74 seconds in the 100m this year, the fastest time in the world since 2012. He has also recorded 19.68 in the 200m twice in the last 11 months, the fastest time in the world since Bolt captured the 2013 World Championship.

On Saturday, Bolt will line up in a 200m and be measured more against Gatlin’s 19.68 than by any times from the sprinters in the lanes surrounding him.

Bolt raced a total of 400m in competition last year, a season shortened due to foot surgery that March, and clocked 20.13 in chilly rain in Ostrava, Czech Republic, on May 26.

“I’m not in the best of shape,” Bolt told media in New York on Thursday night.

With one year before his stated final Olympics, Bolt’s sprint supremacy is under its greatest threat since he became the 100m king in this city seven years ago.

Here are the Adidas Grand Prix start lists. Here’s the schedule (all times Eastern):

9:40 a.m. — Men’s javelin
10 — Women’s long jump
10:55 — Women’s discus
11:40 — Women’s pole vault
11:50 — Women’s high jump
12:18 — Women’s 100m
12:25 — Men’s 400m
1:04 — Men’s 400m hurdles
1:13 — Women’s 3000m steeplechase
1:25 — Men’s triple jump
1:31 — Women’s 400m
1:37 — Men’s 5000m
1:45 — Men’s shot put
1:58 — Women’s 100m hurdles
2:06 — Women’s 200m
2:16 — Men’s 100m
2:25 — Men’s 800m
2:36 — Men’s 110m hurdles
2:45 — Men’s 800m
2:54 — Men’s 200m
3:20 — Women’s 1000m

Five events to watch:

Women’s pole vault (11:40)

Olympic champion Jenn Suhr was upset by Brazil’s Fabiana Murer at this meet one year ago. But Suhr ought to be the favorite Saturday, given she cleared 4.81m on May 24, the best in the world since 2013.

Brazil’s top track and field athlete Murer returns, as does Olympic silver medalist Yarisley Silva of Cuba. Suhr’s longtime rival Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia is not in New York, having said in September she planned to sit out 2015 after having a baby girl last June.

Men’s triple jump (1:25)

Cuban Pedro Pablo Pichardo figures to romp, given he jumped 18.08m to become No. 3 in the event all time earlier this year and has jumped 17.94m or better four times in 2015. Olympic champion Christian Taylor is not in New York, but Olympic silver medalist Will Claye is, bringing a 17.38m season’s best.

Perhaps the most intriguing story is former New York Giants running back David Wilson, whose eyes are set on qualifying for the U.S. Championships in his first track meet in four years. Wilson must jump 16.30m or better to assure a berth in Nationals in two weeks.

Men’s 100m (2:16)

Gay will look to cement his status as favorite in the 100m at the U.S. Championships in two weeks (since Gatlin has a bye into the World Championships as reigning Diamond League champion, he doesn’t have to race the 100m at Nationals).

Gay’s competition leaves plenty to be desired. While the American ran 9.88 at the Prefontaine Classic on May 30, nobody else lined up for Saturday’s sprint has bettered 9.98 this season. Gay’s expected top rivals at the U.S. Championships where the top three make Worlds individually — Ryan BaileyMarvin BracyTrayvon Bromell and Mike Rodgers — are not in New York.

Men’s 800m (2:45)

Olympic champion David Rudisha will race for the first time since he pulled a right thigh muscle in Ostrava on May 26. The Kenyan world-record holder went more than one year between races in 2013 and 2014 due to a knee injury noticed while running in Central Park.

Rudisha, 26, now looks up at Ethiopian World champion Mohammed Aman, Djibouti’s Ayanleh Souleiman and Botswana’s Nijel Amos, all at least four years younger than Rudisha. None of them are in New York, where the Kenyan’s challenge could come from U.S. 1500m stars Leo Manzano and Matthew Centrowitz.

Men’s 200m (2:54)

Bolt’s competition is a little stronger than Gay’s, despite the loss of Olympic bronze medalist and World silver medalist Warren Weir, who was on the original start list. Bolt could be tested by Panama’s Alonso Edward, who took silver behind Bolt’s world record at the 2009 World Championships and ran 19.84 last year.

Remember, Bolt ran 20.13 in chilly, rainy Ostrava on May 26 in his only 200m since 2013.

Flashback Video: Usain Bolt at the Athens 2004 Olympics

Brian Orser reveals Hanyu’s, Medvedeva’s, and Brown’s Grand Prix plans

Yuzuru Hanyu
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Over the past decade, the Toronto club where Brian Orser coached South Korea’s Yuna Kim to the 2010 Olympic title has become such an attraction for top figure skaters from around the globe that it could add a word to a name that already is a mouthful.

You could call it the Toronto International Cricket Skating and Curling Club.

But its reach now is limited by the deadly virus pandemic that has effectively frozen out the elite athletes from Japan, Russia, South Korea and Poland who train at the Cricket Club.

That situation won’t change quickly, even with the International Skating Union having announced Monday its plans to proceed with a live format for the international Grand Prix Series. This fall, it will become a series of six essentially domestic competitions scheduled to begin with Skate America Oct. 23-25 in Las Vegas.

If they take place.

“As soon as the skaters can come back, it will be full steam ahead… to where, we don’t know,” Orser said via telephone Wednesday.

Two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu remains in Japan. Two-time world champion Yevgenia Medvedeva is in Russia, four-time national champion Cha Jun-Hwan in South Korea, and two-time national champion Yekaterina Kurakova in Poland.

“We would like for them all to come back, but with the Canadian travel restrictions in place until at least Aug. 21, we can’t guarantee approval to get them in, and they would have a 14-day quarantine here if they do get in,” Tracy Wilson, who coaches with Orser, said via telephone Wednesday. “Right now, they are all training at home, and that’s OK.

“The situation is different for each one. The Japanese federation may need Yuzu to do the Grand Prix in Japan, and at this point he would face quarantine entering Canada and returning to Japan.

“For Yevgenia, as soon as she does the Russian test skates (scheduled for early September), we will re-evaluate her situation.”

Orser said he has been doing three video coaching sessions a week with Medvedeva, with whom he is in his third season as coach. Medvedeva, who left Russia for Canada after winning a silver medal at the 2018 Olympics, also is currently getting help from coach Elena Buyanova at the CSKA rink in Moscow.

“She (Medvedeva) looks way ahead of where she was at this point last year,” Orser said.

MORE: Looking back at Yuna Kim’s 10-year gold medal anniversary

Orser also has been having live remote sessions with Cha and Kurakova, and they are also sending videos to him. The only skater he has not seen is Hanyu.

“That’s normal when he is back in Japan,” Orser said. “I wasn’t expecting anything.”

How long Hanyu stays in Japan may depend on travel restrictions being loosened in both his homeland and Canada.

“I would like to get them all back, and they need to come back,” Orser said. “But facing a double quarantine is not in anyone’s best interest.”

Only two of the Cricket Club’s international skaters, 2014 Olympian Jason Brown of suburban Chicago and Yi Zhu of Los Angeles (who represents China), have come back to Toronto after leaving in late winter.

It took Brown two tries to get back across the border because of issues with the paperwork necessary for Canada to consider it essential he be allowed to enter. Orser and Wilson want to be sure any skaters coming from Asia and Europe are admitted on the first try.

From April to July, until skaters could get back on the ice in their various homelands, Brown led Thursday off-ice fitness classes via Zoom, with Medvedeva, Cha and Kurakova taking part.

“It was such a fun way to stay connected and still ‘train’ together while we were oceans apart,” Brown said in a Wednesday text message.

Orser and Wilson will recommend that all the foreign skaters training at the Cricket Club try to compete at Skate Canada, scheduled the last weekend of October at a 9,500-seat arena in Ottawa. Wilson thought if the event cannot have spectators, it might be moved to a smaller facility, possibly in a different city.

“All plans are in the early stages,” Skate Canada spokesperson Emma Bowie said in an email.

Grand Prix assignments have not yet been made.

Whether Brown picks Skate Canada over Skate America – if he gets a choice – could depend on when (and if) the Canadian government shortens quarantine periods for travelers from the United States.

“I know that we are in such unprecedented and uncertain times, so I love seeing the ISU being creative and trying to find a way to hold skating events this year,” Brown wrote. “While a lot can happen before October, if it’s safe to do so, I’ll be ready and eager to take part in any events that I can.”

The ISU said it wants to have the Grand Prix Final in Beijing, whether it takes place on its original dates (Dec. 10-13) or early in 2021. The competition is to be used as a test event of the skating venue for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

There are no details yet on qualification for the final, which usually is determined by points for placements at the six “regular season” events of the series, held in the U.S., Canada, China, France, Russia and Japan. The top six in each of the sport’s four disciplines make the Final.

In the past, the highest-ranked skaters could compete in up to two Grand Prix events, but ISU Vice-President Alexander Lakernik of Russia said in a Tuesday email that everyone would be limited to one event this year.

Because the Final presumably would have much more of an international field than the six other events, staging it is infinitely more problematic because of travel involved.

“We want what’s best for the sport,” Wilson said. “We have to get these kids out there doing programs, to get them on TV. [Note: An NBC spokesman said the network would, as planned, provide coverage of the Grand Prix, with details forthcoming.] In terms of competition, we’re up for anything.

“For me, though, with all the restrictions, there is no way they will be able to run a fair qualification for the Grand Prix Final. You’ve got to reinvent yourself and make it something else – if you are able to have it at all.”

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at the last 11 Winter Olympics, is a special contributor to NBCSports.com/figure-skating.

MORE: Nathan Chen is surprised, grateful and posing questions about figure skating’s restart

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Steven Nyman, top U.S. downhiller, faces another obstacle

Steven Nyman
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Steven Nyman, the active U.S. leader in World Cup downhill wins, tore his right Achilles in a training crash and had surgery earlier this week in Mt. Hood, Ore.

“I am moving forward,” was posted on Nyman’s social media. “I’ve been through this before and have full intention to comeback [sic] and compete through the next Olympics.”

Nyman raced in three Olympics and owns three World Cup downhill victories.

He turns 40 during the next Winter Games in Beijing in 2022, when he will be three and a half years older than any previous U.S. Olympic Alpine skier.

Nyman missed the PyeongChang Olympics after a pair of major injuries: blowing out his left knee in a January 2017 downhill race crash and tearing his right ACL in downhill training in January 2018. He also tore his left Achilles in 2011.

He raced the last two seasons with a best World Cup finish of fifth in Val Gardena, Italy, site of all of his World Cup wins in 2006, 2012 and 2014.

The U.S. men’s program is in the midst of its longest World Cup downhill victory and podium droughts this millennium — none since Travis Ganong‘s win in Garmish-Partenkirchen, Germany, on Jan. 27, 2017.

MORE: Alpine skiing World Cup plans earlier season start with fewer fans

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