Sprint, middle distance showdowns at Monaco Diamond League; preview

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Bill it as the fastest race among U.S. sprinters ever.

Justin GatlinTyson Gay and Trayvon Bromell headline a Diamond League 100m in Monaco on Friday. It’s the first time that three Americans who have covered the distance in less than 9.85 seconds will line up against each other.

And it’s not the only showdown at the meet (full start lists here).

Here are five events to watch:

Men’s 1500m — 2:15 p.m. ET

It’ll be a gathering of distance running elite when Olympic and World 5000m and 10,000m champion Mo Farah drops down to challenge the last two Olympic 1500m champions Taoufik Makhloufi and Asbel Kiprop.

Add in the two best Americans in the event — two-time World medalist Matthew Centrowitz and Olympic silver medalist Leo Manzano — and this year’s 1500m in Monaco is arguably more mouth-watering than last year, when Kiprop had hoped to break the world record.

Last year, Kenyan Silas Kiplagat won in 3:27.64, making him the fourth fastest man of all time. Farah clocked his personal best in Monaco two years ago, a 3:28.81, when he was edged by Kiprop’s personal-best 3:27.72.

Men’s Triple Jump — 2:40

This has been the most compelling field event this season with Cuban Pedro Pablo Pichardo and U.S. Olympic champion Christian Taylor dueling and inching closer to Jonathan Edwards‘ world record from 1995.

Pichardo and Taylor go head-to-head again in Monaco and are joined by American World Championships team members Omar Craddock and Marquis Dendy. Pichardo has triple jumped a personal-best 18.08m this year. Taylor has triple jumped a personal-best 18.06m. Edwards’ world record is 18.29m.

Women’s 1500m — 3:25

Is American Jenny Simpson still the favorite for Worlds 1500m gold? Perhaps not if Ethiopian Genzebe Dibaba has something to say. Dibaba, known more as a 5000m runner, dipped down to 1500m on July 8 for the first time this season and posted the fastest time in the world in 18 years and more than three seconds faster than reigning Diamond League champion Simpson’s personal best.

In Monaco, Simpson will get her first look at Dibaba since beating the Ethiopian by .62 in a slower Stockholm race last August. Also in the field is Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan, the fastest in the world last year.

It’s unclear if Dibaba will run the 1500m and the 5000m at Worlds in August (there are two days between events) or solely the 5000m.

Women’s 100m Hurdles — 3:15

All of the World Championships medal threats will be in the same race for the first time — Americans Dawn Harper-NelsonBrianna RollinsSharika Nelvis and Keni Harrison and Michigan-born Tiffany Porter of Great Britain.

It’s been a fluctuating season, but the 2008 Olympic champion Harper-Nelson emerged to win the last two big races at the U.S. Championships on June 27 and a Diamond League meet in Lausanne last Thursday. She can cement Worlds favorite status with a win in Monaco.

Men’s 100m — 3:35

Gatlin is more and more of a favorite for the World title with every passing day, mostly because Usain Bolt hasn’t raced since a lackluster June 13 time over 200m.

This could be the 33-year-old Gatlin’s biggest test between now and the World Championships final Aug. 23. Gay is the American record holder (9.69), and Bromell, a rising Baylor junior, ran the fastest time ever by a teenager at the U.S. Championships (9.84).

Still, Gatlin is undefeated since the start of 2014 and is the only man to run 9.80 or faster in that span, which he’s done five times.

Bolt, meanwhile, is slated to return July 24 in London, where he’ll need to be much faster than any of his other races since the start of 2014 to plant any doubts about Gatlin.

Justin Gatlin can’t win IAAF Athlete of the Year

At U.S. Open swim meet, teens make a splash with Olympic trials on horizon

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While Olympic and world champions Katie LedeckySimone Manuel and Chase Kalisz notched expected victories at the U.S. Open on Thursday, a trio of teenagers lowered personal bests to further establish their Tokyo Olympic hopes.

At the top domestic meet of the winter, Alex WalshCarson Foster and Kieran Smith each earned runner-up finishes, but their performances stood out in the big picture: looking at June’s Olympic trials, where the top two per individual event make the team.

Walsh, a rising Nashville high school senior, took 2.23 seconds off her 200m individual medley best. She clocked 2:09.01, overtaken by .17 by Melanie Margalis, the Rio Olympic and 2019 World Championships fourth-place finisher.

Full meet results are here.

Walsh moved from fifth-fastest in the U.S. this year to No. 2 behind Margalis, passing Olympic and world championships veterans Ella EastinKathleen Baker and Madisyn Cox. Of those swimmers, only Eastin was also in Thursday’s final.

Walsh joined her younger sister, Gretchen, in Olympic qualifying position based on 2019 times. Gretchen, 16, ranks fourth in the U.S. in the 100m free this year. The top six in that event at trials are in line to make the Olympic 4x100m free relay pool.

The Walshes could become the third set of sisters to make the same U.S. Olympic swim team, and the second to do it in pool swimming after Dana and Tara Kirk in 2004.

Foster, 18, continued his ascent Thursday in taking second to Kalisz in the men’s 200m IM. The world junior champion lowered his personal best in the prelims and the final, getting down to 1:57.59. Foster passed Ryan Lochte, who is nearly twice his age, in Thursday’s final and in the 2019 U.S. rankings. Only Kalisz and Michael Andrew have been faster among Americans this year.

Foster is trying to become the youngest U.S. Olympic male swimmer since 2000, when a 15-year-old Michael Phelps made his Olympic debut. Foster, who has been breaking Phelps national age-group records since he was 10, committed to the University of Texas in March 2018, two years before he graduates high school in Ohio.

Then there’s Kieran Smith, now a prime candidate to fill a huge void in the 400m freestyle. Zane Grothe is the only American ranked in the top 20 in the world this year.

Smith, a 19-year-old from the University of Florida, took 2.29 seconds off his lifetime best on Thursday to jump from outside the top 10 to No. 2 in the U.S. on the year. Smith was already ranked No. 2 in the country in the 200m free.

Two more runners-up in the 50m freestyles — Erika Brown to Manuel and Zach Apple to Brazilian Bruno Fratus — lowered personal bests to move to No. 3 in each U.S. ranking list this year.

The U.S. Open continues Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. ET with live coverage on NBCSN and streaming on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

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Nathan Chen distances Yuzuru Hanyu in Grand Prix Final short program

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A brilliant Nathan Chen outscored a flawed Yuzuru Hanyu for a fourth straight head-to-head program, taking a 12.95-point lead at the Grand Prix Final in Turin, Italy, on Thursday.

Chen, the two-time reigning world champion, tallied 110.38 points going into Saturday’s free skate. He landed a quadruple Lutz, triple Axel and quad toe loop-triple toe loop combination.

It’s the highest short program score in the world this season, leading the American to say “wow” in the kiss-and-cry area. His coach, the often-gruff Rafael Arutyunyan, banged his knee against his pupil’s.

Hanyu, the two-time reigning Olympic champion, hit a quadruple Salchow and triple Axel but then stepped out of a quad toe landing. He therefore failed to include a required jumping combination and ended up in second place.

“I wanted to do a great performance and do a good competition against [Chen], but that didn’t happen this time,” Hanyu, who was without longtime coach Brian Orser, or any other coach, said through a translator. Hanyu said Orser was busy last week, so he chose to use his lone accreditation on another coach who had travel delays.

Hanyu is not out of title contention. His world-leading free skate score this season is 16.61 points better than Chen’s best free skate from the fall Grand Prix Series.

Chen is undefeated since placing fifth at the PyeongChang Olympics, but this is just his second head-to-head with Hanyu in that span. Chen defeated Hanyu at March’s world championships, where the Japanese megastar was likely affected by an ankle injury.

After Thursday’s program, Chen repeated what he said before the competition: he still feels like he’s chasing Hanyu.

“Yuzu is like the goat, he’s the greatest of all time, really,” Chen said. “So, to have this opportunity to be able to share the ice with a guy like that, someone that I’ve looked up to for a long time, someone that I’ve watched grow up through the junior ranks when I was like a baby, it’s really cool to be able see him now. It’s really cool to even just be able to see him person.”

The Grand Prix Final, the biggest annual event outside the world championships, continues Friday with the rhythm dance, women’s short and pairs’ free skate. A full TV and live stream schedule is here.

Earlier in pairs, Chinese Sui Wenjing and Han Cong took their first step toward a first Grand Prix Final title. The Olympic silver medalists tallied 77.50, leading Russians Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitriy Kozlovskiy by .85 going into Friday’s free skate.

Sui and Han were imperfect, with Sui putting her hand down on a throw triple flip landing. They are undefeated in this Beijing Olympic cycle and own the world’s top total score this season.

The U.S. failed to qualify a pair for the six-team Final for the 11th time in the last 12 years.

Grand Prix Final
Men’s Short Program
1. Nathan Chen (USA) — 110.38
2. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 97.43
3. Kevin Aymoz (FRA) — 96.71
4. Dmitriy Aliyev (RUS) — 88.78
5. Alexander Samarin (RUS) — 81.32
6. Jin Boyang (CHN) — 80.67

Pairs’ Short Program
1. Sui Wenjing/Han Cong (CHN) — 77.50
2. Aleksandra Boikova / Dmitriy Kozlovskiy (RUS) — 76.65
3. Daria Pavliuchenko/Denis Khodykin (RUS) — 75.16
4. Anastasia Mishina/Aleksandr Galliamov (RUS) — 71.48
5. Peng Cheng/Jin Yang (CHN) — 69.67
6. Kirsten Moore-Towers/Michael Marinaro (CAN) — 67.08

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