Five takeaways from U.S. Track and Field Championships

0 Comments

1. The U.S. could have its best World Championships ever

The U.S. would win 36 medals at Worlds (Beijing, Aug. 22-30) if the results mirror the current world’s best lists for 2015, counting only U.S. athletes who qualified for Worlds, plus relays.

It’s not close to a sure-fire prediction gauge, but it’s the most objective option available right now and would have to be way off for the U.S. not to have a historically strong meet.

The U.S.’ previous best for medals at a single World Championships was the 26 won in 1991, 2007 and 2011.

The thread linking 1991, 2007, 2011 and 2015? Those are the only times the World Championships have been held in East Asia.

U.S. qualifiers for World Championships

2. The U.S.’ biggest strength is in the hurdles 

Many point to the U.S.’ surge in middle-distance races. No U.S. man or woman has won Olympic gold in a track event longer than 400m since Dave Wottle‘s 800m title while wearing a cap at Munich 1972. And that may change with Ajee’ WilsonJenny Simpson and Matthew Centrowitz, among others, in the early conversation for medals in Rio.

But, going by the world’s fastest times this year, the U.S. is most dominant in the hurdles. The U.S. has the three fastest in the world in the 100m hurdles and men’s 400m hurdles, plus the top two in the women’s 400m hurdles and the second fastest in the 110m hurdles. That’s nine potential medals over four events right there.

Kara Goucher: ‘People have been threatened’ at U.S. Championships

3. The track veterans are still leading the way

The U.S.’ best sprinters? Justin Gatlin, 33, and Allyson Felix, 29, whose Olympic debuts were in 2004. Tyson Gay, 32, won the 100m in Eugene. LaShawn Merritt, 29, didn’t win the U.S. 400m title, but the Beijing Olympic champion and reigning World champion is probably still the top challenger to Grenada’s Kirani James.

The highly anticipated 800m finals were won by Nick Symmonds, who contemplated retiring at 30 last year, and Alysia Montano, a six-time U.S. champion who had a baby in August.

The U.S.’ best distance runners? Jenny Simpson, 28, and Galen Rupp, 29.

The U.S. champions in the hurdles? Three of the four won medals at the Olympics, the 2008 Olympics — David OliverDawn Harper-Nelson and Bershawn Jackson.

Justin Gatlin sets another PR, but 800m finals shine Sunday

4. The NCAA system is producing the next wave

Texas A&M’s Shamier Little is world No. 1 in the 400m hurdles.

Baylor’s Trayvon Bromell was the breakout in the sprints, firing the fastest wind-legal 100m time at Nationals, albeit in the heats.

Kentucky’s Keni Harrison took second to Harper-Nelson in the 100m hurdles, arguably the U.S.’ deepest event.

Florida’s Marquis Dendy made the World Championships team in both the long jump and the triple jump.

Oregon’s Jasmine Todd made the Worlds team in both the 100m and the long jump.

5. Big names will be absent from Beijing

Olympic 400m champion Sanya Richards-Ross and the fastest 400m woman in 2014 and 2015 Francena McCorory failed to qualify individually for Worlds.

McCorory ran the fastest lap in the world this year at the U.S. Championships, but she did so in the semifinals and was 1.03 seconds slower in the final to finish fourth and miss the World Championships team by .21 (she can still go for the relay and may make it individually if Allyson Felix drops the 400m).

Both Richards-Ross and McCorory have shown great form in the last year, and with the lack of international threats in the event, are still Olympic medal contenders — should they make the Olympic team next year.

Almost as head-turning was Jasmin Stowers‘ fifth-place finish in the 100m hurdles, after she had run 12.40 or better three times this year. Only one other U.S. woman had run 12.40 or better three times in a career — Gail Devers. Stowers’ training partner, Summer and Winter Olympian Lolo Jones, also won’t be making the trip to Beijing.

Similarly, Olympic silver medalist and 2011 World champion Jason Richardson was an odd man out in a deep 110m hurdles field, finishing sixth.

Also missing out — Mary Cain, who in 2013 became the youngest U.S. track and field athlete to make a World Championships team at age 17, finished eighth in the 1500m final Sunday. Cain’s struggled this season, and in an event where the U.S. could win two medals at Worlds, her absence is not a shock.

Ryan Whiting and Duane Solomon were more surprising misses, but not too surprising. Whiting, the 2013 Worlds shot put silver medalist, and Solomon, the 2012 Olympic 800m fourth-place finisher, haven’t shown international medal-contending form in 2014 or 2015.

Then there are the veterans slowing with age. Carmelita Jeter, 35, suffered what she believed to be a torn left quad in the 100m final, ending a bid to win a Worlds 100m medal for a fifth straight time. Olympic 400m hurdles silver medalist Lashinda Demus, 32, missed making her fifth Worlds team by .03. The 2004 Olympic champion Jeremy Wariner, 31, finished 13th in the 400m, and Angelo Taylor, a two-time Olympic 400m hurdles champion, did not finish at all in the event. Bernard Lagat, 40, was 10th in the 5000m and will not compete at Worlds for the first time since 2005.

Bernard Lagat emotional after missing first Worlds since 2005

Japanese pair edges Americans for historic Grand Prix Final figure skating title

Riku Miura, Ryuichi Kihara
Getty
0 Comments

Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the biggest title ever for a Japanese figure skating pair, taking the Grand Prix Final and consolidating their status as the world’s top active team.

Miura and Kihara, last season’s world silver medalists, barely outscored world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier in Turin, Italy, in both Thursday’s short program and Friday’s free skate to win the six-pair event that is a preview of March’s worlds.

The Japanese totaled 214.58 points, distancing the Americans by a mere 1.3 points after Frazier erred on both of their side-by-side jumping passes in the free skate. Italians Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii took bronze.

“We had a very late start to our season than initially planned, so as we have been performing at each event, I see us getting stronger, improving things,” said Frazier, who with Knierim had their best short program and free skate scores of the autumn.

Knierim and Frazier didn’t decide to continue competing together this season until July.

“I feel a little personally disappointed tonight just for myself for my jumps,” Frazier continued. “I was a little all over the place and, normally, I can execute better, so I feel a little bad, but I’m very proud of us overall. We’ve done a great job of improving each competition and looking forward to the second half of the season where we can start tapping into our best skating.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Miura and Kihara, who partnered in June 2019 and train in Ontario, both waited with trepidation for their final score to be posted, worried that each’s separate mistake on jumps might cost them the title. When they learned they won, both burst into tears.

“This was the first time in eight years that I made a mistake with a Salchow, so I thought we might not get a good score, and it would be my fault,” Kihara said.

Miura and Kihara entered the competition ranked No. 1 in the world by best scores this season ahead of Knierim and Frazier, who in March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979.

Last season, Miura and Kihara became the second Japanese pair to make a Grand Prix podium and to earn a world championships medal. Their ascension helped Japan win its first Olympic figure skating team event medal in February (a bronze that could be upgraded to gold pending the Kamila Valiyeva case).

In Grand Prix Final history, Japan had won 11 gold medals and 40 total medals, all in singles, before this breakthrough.

Knierim and Frazier, already the first U.S. pair to compete in the Grand Prix Final since 2015, became the first U.S. pair to win a Grand Prix Final medal. The Final has been held annually since 1996, though it was canceled the last two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Miura and Kihara and Knierim and Frazier ascended to the top of the sport while the top five teams from the Olympics from Russia and China have not competed internationally since the Winter Games.

All Russian skaters are ineligible for international competition due to the war in Ukraine. China’s pairs, including Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, didn’t enter last March’s worlds and did not compete in the fall Grand Prix Series.

Later Friday, world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan led the women’s short program with 75.86 points, 1.28 ahead of countrywoman Mai Mihara. American Isabeau Levito, the 15-year-old world junior champion, was fifth of six skaters in her Grand Prix Final debut.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier topped the rhythm dance with 85.93 points, edging Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates by .44. Both couples are bidding for the biggest international title of their careers. None of the Olympic medalists competed internationally this fall.

The Grand Prix Final ends Saturday with the men’s and women’s free skates and free dance, all live on Peacock.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

A Winter Olympic medal still being decided, 10 months later

Fanny Smith, Daniela Maier
It's still unknown whether Fanny Smith (green) or Daniela Maier (blue) is the Olympic ski cross bronze medalist. (Getty)
0 Comments

There is a second Winter Olympic medal result still in question, 10 months after the Games.

While the figure skating team event results are still unknown due to the Kamila Valiyeva case, the bronze medal in women’s ski cross is also in dispute.

Originally, Swiss Fanny Smith crossed the finish line in third place in the four-woman final at the Winter Games in February. Upon review by the International Ski Federation (FIS) jury, she was minutes later demoted to fourth place after making contact with German Daniela Maier near the end of the course. Maier, who originally was fourth, was upgraded to bronze.

“I tried to be OK with the fourth place. I was very disappointed, I have to say, [then] the jury was like this,” Maier said then. “I am really sorry for Fanny that it’s like this right now. … The jury decided like this, so accept it and be happy with the medal.”

Smith and the Swiss ski federation appealed. FIS reinstated Smith as the bronze medalist nine days after the race and six days after the Closing Ceremony. A FIS appeals commission met four times and reviewed video and written documentation for several hours before deciding that “the close proximity of the racers at that moment resulted in action that was neither intentional or avoidable.”

But that wasn’t the end. The case ended up reportedly going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), whose rulings are usually accepted as final. The CAS process is ongoing, European media reported this week.

CAS has not responded to a request for comment. A FIS contact said Friday, “There is currently no update to provide in regards to the bronze medal in ski cross. Should there be any update, we will inform you.”

Smith said there should be news soon regarding the case, according to Blick.

Maier still has the bronze medal at her home and enjoys looking at it, according to German media, which also reported that the German ski federation expects Maier to win the case and keep the medal. Smith and Maier spoke extensively about it in recent training sessions and cleared things up. Maier said the best outcome would be bronze medals for both of them, according to the report.

For now, FIS lists Smith as the bronze medalist. The IOC lists Maier as the bronze medalist.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!