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

Chris Froome wins Giro d’Italia, is 3rd cyclist to hold all three Grand Tours

AP
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Chris Froome joined Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault as the only cyclists to hold all three Grand Tour titles at once, wrapping up his first Giro d’Italia on the ceremonial ride into Rome on Sunday.

Froome, a 33-year-old, Kenyan-born, South African-raised Brit, also became the seventh rider to win all three Grand Tours in a career, joining Merckx, Hinault, Jacques Anquetil, Felice Gimondi, Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali.

Froome has won four Tours de France (2013, 2015-17) and claimed his first Vuelta a España in September. He also owns two Olympic bronze medals and a world championships bronze medal.

Froome all but clinched the Giro title in Friday’s 19th stage. With an audacious solo attack up the Colle delle Finestre, the three-week stage race’s highest climb, he went from three minutes down to three minutes up in the standings, taking the pink leader’s jersey for the first time in his career.

“I had some very, very tough moments, so to come back and win yesterday and defend the jersey [Saturday] is very, very special,” Froome said Saturday. “This was the biggest battle of my career.”

GIRO: Overall Standings

Froome raced the Giro for the first time since 2010, when he was a relative nobody in the sport and disqualified for holding onto a motorbike, also during stage 19.

Froome could become the first rider to notch the arduous Giro-Tour de France double in the same year since Italian Marco Pantani in 1998. That is, if he even starts the Tour in a little over a month.

In December, Froome was ordered to explain to the International Cycling Union (UCI) why a urine sample he provided at the Vuelta showed a concentration of the asthma drug salbutamol that was twice the permitted level. It remains unclear when the UCI will rule on the case.

“I know inside that I didn’t do anything wrong,” Froome said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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VIDEO: 17-year-old runs 3:52 mile at Pre Classic

Venus Williams upset on first day of French Open

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PARIS (AP) — Venus Williams is out of the French Open on the opening day.

The 2002 runner-up and ninth-seeded American lost 6-4, 7-5 to Wang Qiang of China in the first round on Court Suzanne Lenglen on Sunday.

Wang avenged her loss to Williams in the first round at Roland Garros last year. The 85th-ranked player was also beaten by Williams at Wimbledon a few weeks later and had never beaten Williams before Sunday.

It’s the fourth time Williams exits the French Open in the first round in 21 appearances.

She also lost in the first round at the Australian Open in January.

Reigning U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens needed less than an hour to move into the second round.

The 10th-seeded Stephens advanced with a 6-2, 6-0 victory over Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands. It was Stephens’ first win at a Grand Slam tournament since claiming her first major title in New York last September.

“I tried to do way more than I should have after the U.S. Open, and I should have just shut it down,” Stephens said when asked about her poor recent results. “My heart was there but my body wasn’t. So when the two things aren’t connected, it’s never a good thing.”

The American, who lost in the first round at the Australian Open in January, hit 17 winners and spent just 49 minutes on court on Day 1 in Paris. Rus was in the first round as a “lucky loser.”

On a sunny and warm day, Stephens was joined in the second round by fourth-seeded Elina Svitolina, who defeated Ajla Tomljanovic, 7-5, 6-3 after recovering from a 5-1 deficit in the opening set.

In the men’s draw, fourth-seeded Grigor Dimitrov found out about his opponent around 30 minutes before stepping onto Court Philippe Chatrier but had no problem adapting to the situation.

Dimitrov, a semifinalist at Monte Carlo this season, was slated to play Viktor Troicki but instead faced Mohamed Safwat of Egypt because Troicki withdrew with pain in his back. Dimitrov hit 31 winners and prevailed 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (1).

“I just needed, like, five, ten minutes to disconnect from what I had in mind to play and what I wanted to do and kind of look at the few videos of the way he was playing,” Dimitrov said. “After that, I just had to go out and do the best that I can. I think it was a good start.”

Safwat, the first Egyptian man to compete at a Grand Slam since Tamer El Sawy at the 1996 US Open, was cheered off the court.

Gael Monfils, one of six Frenchmen in action on Sunday, overcame a slow start and an upset stomach and headache to advance by defeating compatriot and wild card Elliot Benchetrit. Monfils won 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-1.

“I was stressed and even sick at the beginning,” Monfils said. “Then experience played in my favor.”

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FRENCH OPEN: TV/Stream Schedule | ScoresMen’s Draw (PDF) | Women’s Draw