Allyson Felix wins 400m, fastest women upset at U.S. Championships

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Allyson Felix won the national 400m title, while World champion LaShawn Merritt was upset at the U.S. Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore., on Saturday.

Felix, the Olympic 200m champion and 2011 World 400m silver medalist, surged in the last 100 meters to run down Natasha Hastings in the women’s 400m final, prevailing in 50.19 seconds (race video here).

“I just wanted to let them not get too far away from me, and I knew I could be strong coming home,” Felix told Lewis Johnson on NBC. “I’m a sprinter. I finally got to sprint a little bit. I made it hard on myself.”

Athletes are competing at Hayward Field looking to finish in the top three of their events to make the team for the World Championships in Beijing from Aug. 22-30.

U.S. qualifiers for World Track and Field Championships | Full U.S. Championships results

Felix has said she will run either the 200m or the 400m at Worlds but not both, since the 200m semifinals and 400m final at Worlds are 70 minutes apart.

“I feel like I still haven’t reached my potential there [in the 400m],” Felix said, according to Reuters. “I feel like I could challenge myself there.

“But I still love the 200.”

Felix’s decision will be key for the fastest 400m woman in the world the last two years — Francena McCorory. McCorory finished fourth in the U.S. final and will only be able to race the individual 400m at Worlds if Felix opts out of it. Olympic champion Sanya Richards-Ross failed to qualify for the U.S. 400m final.

Merritt, the 2008 Olympic champion, was edged for the men’s 400m title by David Verburg, 44.63 to 44.66 (race video here). Vernon Norwood and 2012 Olympic Closing Ceremony flag bearer Bryshon Nellum also made the Worlds team, as Merritt had a bye into Worlds as defending champion.

In the 100m hurdles, 2008 Olympic champion Dawn Harper-Nelson prevailed in 12.55, ahead of Kendra Harrison and Sharika Nelvis (race video here). That trio is joined on the U.S. team for Worlds by defending World champion Brianna Rollins.

Summer and Winter Olympian Lolo Jones and Jasmin Stowers, who this year became the second U.S. woman ever to run 12.40 or better three times in a career, failed to make the Worlds team.

Olympic and World champion Brittney Reese took second in the long jump to 2005 World champion Tianna Bartoletta. They’re joined on the Worlds team by Olympic bronze medalist Janay DeLoach and Jasmine Todd, who also qualified in the 100m Friday.

Two-time World medalist Matthew Centrowitz won the 1500m in 3:37.25 (race video here), ahead of Robby Andrews and Olympic silver medalist Leo Manzano. Manzano edged Ben Blankenship by .02 for third, but Andrews and Manzano must run the qualifying standard 3:36.20 by Aug. 9 to make the Worlds team, or else Blankenship, who already has the standard, will go to Beijing.

“Winning wasn’t good enough,” Centrowitz told media in Eugene. “I wanted to really dominate. … Going into that home stretch, I wanted the race to be won already. … I think I did that.”

Bershawn Jackson, the 2005 World champion and 2008 Olympic bronze medalist, won the 400m hurdles in 48.29 (race video here). He’s joined on the U.S. team for Worlds by Olympic and World silver medalist Michael Tinsley, 2014 U.S. champion Johnny Dutch and 2007 and 2009 World champion Kerron Clement.

U.S. men make up the five fastest 400m hurdlers in the world this year, led by Jackson.

American record holder Emma Coburn won her fourth 3000m steeplechase national title in 9:15.59, the second fastest time in the world this year (race video here). A U.S. woman has never won an Olympic or Worlds steeplechase medal.

“There’s only three, four, five really competitive women [in the world], so I hope to be one of them,” Coburn told Lewis Johnson on NBC.

Sam Kendricks won the pole vault, with 2007 World champion Brad Walker second and also making the World Championships team. Kendricks is ranked tied for fifth in the world this year.

The U.S. Championships conclude Sunday, highlighted by the men’s and women’s 200m finals featuring Justin Gatlin (NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra from 4-6 p.m. ET)

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Dominik Paris, world champion skier, suffers season-ending injury

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Italian Dominik Paris, the reigning world champion in the super-G, suffered a season-ending ACL tear in a training crash Tuesday ahead of this weekend’s speed races in Kitzbuehel, Austria.

Paris crashed in super-G training not far from the hallowed World Cup venue, slipping into a curve and damaging his right knee. He also suffered a fibula microfracture, according to the Italian federation.

“My season ends here,” he said, according to the International Ski Federation (FIS). “Unfortunately while I was sliding, the inside ski caught too much and the ligament broke. There is not much to add. In the next few days we will evaluate, together with the medical staff, how to proceed.”

Paris won his third Hahnenkamm downhill title last year and was one of the favorites for Saturday’s downhill, the most prestigious annual race in the sport. NBC Sports Gold streams live coverage for “Snow Pass” subscribers at 5:30 a.m. ET.

Paris, 30, won a pair of downhills in Bormio in December among five total podiums this season.

In his absence, Swiss Beat Feuz and German Thomas Dressen lead the podium contenders.

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It’s Nathan Chen’s time at nationals for a feat 32 years in the making

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Nathan Chen can join Brian Boitano in U.S. figure skating history this week, a decade after holding Boitano in the palm of his hands with a program set to music from “Kung Fu Panda.”

Chen seeks a fourth straight national title in Greensboro, N.C. He would be the seventh man to do so since World War II. Five of the previous six won Olympic titles — Dick Button, Hayes Jenkins, David Jenkins, Scott Hamilton and, most recently, Brian Boitano from 1985-88.

Boitano remembered the first time he met Chen. He and Kristi Yamaguchi were compelled to leave their seats to find the teeny, tiny wunderkind who performed that program to the 2008 DreamWorks film.

“He was taking off his skates, and he probably came up to our waist,” Boitano said. “We knew when we saw him back then that he was going to be something special. He was really quiet. He’s still very quiet.”

In an interview last week, Chen focused on the present — coming back from a two-week cold or flu bug — rather than the perspective.

“I don’t like to typically think about that,” Chen said when asked about his streak. “It’s just different [from year to year]. It’s not really necessarily easier or harder.”

It is also different from previous eras. The last five men to win four in a row did it all in one Olympic cycle, then stepped away from competition after the Winter Games. That was back when turning professional meant the end of an Olympic career.

“It was kind of the norm back then,” Hamilton said. “After that it was kind of back and forth a lot [until Chen]. The business of skating changed so skaters could stay in a lot more, a lot longer. With all the money they brought in, they were able to prevent skaters from turning professional. So that brought in a different approach to nationals.”

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Both Hamilton and six-time (non-consecutive) U.S. champion Todd Eldredge could think of just one name to compare Chen’s dominance in the history of U.S. men’s skating: Button, who won the first seven national titles after World War II, plus two Olympic golds.

Button earned national and world titles as a Harvard student. Chen is on a two-season win streak while majoring in statistics and data science at Yale. Button was the first skater to land a double Axel and a triple jump of any kind. Chen was the first to land six quads in one free skate.

Eldredge coaches skaters at the same rink where Chen trains when Chen visits his Southern California-based coach Rafael Arutunian. He is awed by watching Chen working out. Though Eldredge owns more national titles, he never felt the massive favorite status that accompanies Chen.

Eldredge competed in the post-Hamilton/Boitano era, when national champions began competing over multiple Olympic cycles. Eldredge ebbed and flowed from his first national title in 1990, when compulsory figures were still around, to 2002, when he defeated Timothy Goebel, then known as the Quad King.

“Physically, the demands of the sport take their toll on your body,” Eldredge said. “It’s hard to maintain that same level for that length of period of time.

“[In] 12 years [since Chen’s first national title], when he’s 29 years old, is he going to be able to continue to sustain that?”

All of the recent top U.S. men competed in multiple Olympic cycles. The last multiple national champion was Jeremy Abbott, who earned two titles each in two different Olympic cycles. Abbott finished his career in a third Olympic cycle, placing fifth at the 2015 U.S. Championships. Abbott didn’t remember that Chen made his senior nationals debut that year, finishing eighth at age 15.

“For me, winning the third and the fourth [titles] were harder because I started thinking about winning,” Abbott said. “After the second one, I was heading into a new quad and I was two-time U.S. champion. Then my focus was, oh, I’m expected to win. So that was a harder mental game rather than just focusing on making an Olympic team. The expectation now that I’ve done this twice in a row, I’m expected to win again and again and again.”

Abbott and Chen came up in the era of the points-based judging system instituted in 2004.

“Now with the way the scoring system is very different [from the old 6.0], cumulative points, if you have a bad day as a national champion, that’s it. You can’t get the points,” Eldredge said. “[In previous eras], if a certain skater was, I’ll say politically supposed to be the champion, you got a higher score, and rightfully so in most cases.”

Chen has the benefit of going into competitions knowing the kind of advantage he has in base value points from his jumping arsenal. He won last year’s national title by 58 points. This international season, he is 80 points clear of the next-highest-ranked U.S. man, Jason Brown.

“I don’t think that the try-to-push technique is necessarily my goal here,” at nationals, Chen said. “Hopefully just to maintain my body, maintain my health and try to prepare myself for the second half of the season.”

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As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season 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.